Thursday, January 26, 2006

BreakPoint | Milling About

BreakPoint Milling About

Here is a link to a break point article about the influence of J. S. Mill on the law. I agree with the linked article. So often today when people talk about "freedom" they mean license to be free from law, morality or criticism when they engage in immoral actions. They seek protection for what they subjectively label "good."

The Christian world view of the Bible takes a different view - the view that there are objective moral principles and goods. Proper civic freedom is the freedom to choose among objectively good goods - not the ability to force the state to recognize and support the mislabeling of evil or detrimental activities.

Behind this debate is the question of whether objective goods and morality are accessible to fallen sinful human beings. Again the classic Christian view, based on the inferences taken from the Bible, is that objective morality and objective goods are accessible through general and special revelation - what God has communicated to us through various means, with the Bible as the last word.

Some Christians have questioned our ability to understand revelation because humans are so good at ignoring, suppressing, and lying about it. They then either join the skeptics or expect a central authority like the papacy or the academe to sort it out for them. But classical orthodox biblical Christianity, that of Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and others, has believed we all can understand what we need to know in revelation (including morality and the means to be saved from our immorality through Christ) based on the divine light - the general revelation God gives to all, and the special illumination he gives to those who believe in him. In short, God makes knowledge of moral principles and ideas like justice, truth, and beauty accessible to all who are willing to understand.

Human government, while free to do many things in many ways, should observe the limits created by God's objective moral principles. It should encourage good and discourage evil. It cannot of course require all good, or punish all evil because humans are all sinners. But it can restrain some evil and facilitate some good. But it should never publicly label evil as a good or require actions contrary to God's moral law, as is now happening in the areas of abortion law, homosexuality, and some kinds of actions that have wrongly been labeled as protected "speech."

In short, I believe true Christianity takes issue with Mill and his views. Government should be based on objective goods and morality as we can best see them, not idiosyncratic wills and appetites. To paraphrase Lincoln, government should do the right as God gives us to see the right.

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