“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. That among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers form the consent of the governed.”
These words from the Declaration of Independence are some of the greatest ever penned outside of the Bible. Yet in our day, and for at least a century before, these eternal Truths have been despised by a certain segment of our society who think they are smarter than the Founders and who want control over what their (less-smart) fellow citizens think, say, and do.
I’m just finishing a book, We STILL Hold These Truths, by Matthew Spaulding (Heritage Foundation (2009), that calls on Americans to rediscover their historic and constitutional roots and begin to teach, act, and vote according to them. That, and an article in www.wsj.com “Truth Isn’t the Problem–We Are.” by Rebecca Goldstein inspired me this week.
Today, Truth is up for grabs. The 70’s college cliché, “Well, that’s just your value judgment!” is an example. The first problem in dealing with truth is that “people want to do what they want to do”, and never mind the consequences. God says that’s not true. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but it’s end is the way of death.” If the Bible teaches anything, from Genesis to Revelation, it is the FACT of personal responsibility for our moral choices and their consequences. “Fools mock at sin, but among the upright is favor of God.” Prov. 14:9.
Human nature being what it is, not only do we deny responsibility for our actions but there are plenty of people out there in academia, law, religion, and culture who will excuse our bad behavior and support it. We can’t know where we are or where we’re going without looking at where we’ve been. History shows us how we got in this mess and how we can get out of it.
Until the 19th century, most philosophers tried to find truth that stand for all humans, at all times. (God gave us all that in the Bible.) In the 19th century, though, they gave up, saying there is no absolute Truth. An atheist philosopher named Hegel came along and proposed a new way to look at things. He said, “People look at things in black and white, but actually, nothing is all good or bad; so the thing to do is take the best from two opposing viewpoints and call THAT the truth-until some better idea comes along.”
What he did was this: he took white (truth, which he called “thesis”) and black (falsehood, which he called “antithesis”) and took points from BOTH to make a new, grey version of truth, called “synthesis”; which becomes the new white. The synthesis becomes THE new truth we act upon until some idea contradicts it. Thereupon, the old grey, now white “truth” synthesizes with a new black, opposite “truth” to make a new grey “truth”. Whatever was the Truth to begin with becomes increasingly watered down until it’s cast aside as meaningless.
It is no coincidence that Karl Marx, another atheist, adopted Hegel’s philosophy to create his theories of Communism. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness; because that which is known about God is evident within them, for God made it evident to them.” Rom. 1:18-19.
Adopting Hegel, and secretly loving Marx, American intellectuals in the 1890’s, calling themselves “Progressives”, proposed that industrialism, urbanization, and immigration had destroyed the social order upon which the Founders based the Constitution. Therefore, they argued, the Constitution could no longer guide us in this New Age. Following Hegel and denying absolute standards and truth, they held that America was too big to run by following the Constitution. On the Bicentennial of the Constitution (1987) Associate Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall said he couldn’t celebrate it because, “I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever ‘fixed’ at the Philadelphia Convention.” It was “merely a product of it’s times…and defective from the start.”
Marshall thus summed up the Progressive/Liberal view. This view means that the Constitution has no actual meaning! We STILL Hold These Truths, ld at 187. “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened.” Rom. 1:21.
This Hegelian view reached the Supreme Court by the early 1900’s, when Justice Charles Evans Hughes stated, “The Constitution is what the judges say it is.” Id at 209. The text no longer matters. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes said that “the law was nothing more than experience, and the most crucial factor in its development and interpretation was the felt needs of the time.” Id.
This attitude turns judges from those who say whether a law is in line with the Constitution or not, into a legislative body that says what law should be, and then makes it so. They simply make up new rights by reading between the lines of the Constitution to “discover” new rights.
To find a right to privacy, Griswold vs. Connecticut, and Roe vs. Wade, they called on “the penumbras (shadows) and emanations (emissions, “smells”)” of parts of the Bill of Rights. That reasoning is NOT jurisprudence; it’s nine robed men in the dark, huddled around a Ouija board waiting for Aunt Naomi to speak from the Infinite! However, Justice Samuel Alito said, “The Constitution is a statute. It must be interpreted according to its writers’ intent and construed according to its text, like any other law.”
Abandoning Truth, Progressives made sure that professors sympathetic to their views convinced new generations of intellectual and social elites that America should be run by them while maintaining a pretense of Democracy. They thought they could change human nature. Prohibition was a Progressive idea. “Professing they were wise, they became fools.” Rom. 1:22. John Dewey said that schools should take an active part in “social change” and “reform” and recruit students to work for social progress, starting with molding teachers to Progressivism in college. They taught that there are NO fixed truths or moral standards, except for what the State approves, e.g., Evolution. “Liberalism,” said Dewey, is committed to the idea of historic relativity.” Id. at 193.
If everything is relative to the current time and ideas, how can one “know” something, or anything? Traditional subjects were “deconstructed” so that they might mean anything. Talk of “self-evident truths” was to be laughed at and squelched. Dewey said that Liberty can only mean “the autonomous pursuit of personal self-realization, but within the context of national social ideals and goals.” Id.
Instead of unalienable rights and self-government, moral principles and absolute values, kids were taught secular knowledge to stop the influence of moral and religious institutions. Control was to move farther away from the ordinary citizen and into the hands of a ruling bureaucratic elite.
Today we see Congress write huge bills without knowing what’s in them and leaving the implementation of law to bureaucrats who then write regulations with the force of law in any way they wish. The Founders believed in progress, but held that change must made in the light of unchanging standards.
Progressive president Woodrow Wilson said, “In fundamental theory socialism and democracy are almost…one in the same. They both rest on the absolute right of the community to determine its own destiny and that of its members. Men as communities are supreme over men as individuals. Limits of wisdom and convenience to the public control there may be: limits of principle there are, upon strict analysis, none.” Id. at 205.
This is the same totalitarian ideal from the French to the Russian revolutions. One progressive thinker put the goal as “subordination of the individual to the demand of a dominant and constructive national purpose.” Id. So when Hillary said, “I am a true Progressive!” She meant, “I am a true Marxist- Leninist!”
The Founders limited the Federal Government to a few, defined powers to protect and keep a wide domain of individual liberty. It fostered independent living, free markets, and self-governing citizens. The result was the most powerful, yet freest nation in earth. Government was to defend life, not fund abortion; to encourage families, not destroy them with no-fault divorce and the welfare state, it was to uphold opportunity, not strangle it with taxes, licensing, and regulation.
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is Liberty.” 2Cor.3:17. “Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.” 2 Pe.2:16.
Those who would have a powerful government in the hands of a few don’t progress forward, they regress backwards to the days of kings and nobles controlling and keeping down the vast majority. Those who cling to the Bible, the Declaration, and the Constitution don’t look backwards, but instead use them as the basic, root foundations upon which people may live, grow, and prosper into the future.