. . . which is foundational to the civilisation which has come down to us. In effect, the Christian synthesis of the heritage of Jerusalem, Athens and Rome framed what became Christendom and has come down to us today, now usually styled Western Civilisation. The just linked also discusses through Schaeffer’s framework,
. . . how for hundreds of years, there has been a growing push in thought, culture and general society to split apart “grace and nature” or reason and revelation,
. . . leading to a breakdown of the unifying core in both worldviews and cultural agendas. This reflects the classic problem of the one and the many.
In our time, there has been a longstanding push of dechristianisation and radical secularisation, culminating in a situation where, if one lists Christians by denom, “none” now comes out at the top of the list, alongside Catholicism and Evangelicalism. As a previous OP noted:
“‘Religious nones’ as they are called by researchers, are a diverse group made up of atheists, agnostics, the spiritual, and those who are no specific organized religion in particular. A rejection of organized religion is the common thread they share,” CNN reports.
“It is the first time we have seen this. The same questions have been asked for 44 years,” political scientist and Baptist pastor Ryan Burge told CNN. Timothy Meads, “ICYMI: ‘No Religion’ Now As Popular As Catholicism, Evangelicalism” at Townhall
Of course, this is a grab-bag category and a bit of an anomaly as a result. However, it does surface serious questions on how we form our worldviews and how we respond to readily accessible — but increasingly marginalised and often disdained — evidence that the gospel core of the Christian faith (thus the integral gospel ethics of turning from a sinful lifestyle through repentance) is actually strongly warranted. In turn, this is driven by the consideration that our thought-life is under moral government i/l/o duties to truth, right reason (thus warrant), prudence, justice etc.
So, in part, the study tracks the degree to which many have been led to doubt or dismiss that warrant, in the teeth of its actual strength.
Which, is not a healthy sign for the state of our civilisation (not to mention, our souls).
That’s why the already linked has in it a provocative remark, i/l/o the significance of serious explanatory alternatives given the twelve minimal facts about Jesus of Nazareth:
This, then, is the guilty secret at the heart of today’s hyperskepticism toward, dismissal of, apostasy from and hostility against the historic Christian faith: the evidence that warrants that faith is not only credible but strong. (I add: especially, once blatant question-begging through anti-supernaturalistic prejudice is off the table . . .
We need to soberly deal with this matter. Through, prophetically insightful intellectual and cultural leadership:
It is time for a fresh conversation, including on how the logic of being points to a necessary being world root, and how our existence as morally governed creatures leads to the need for a root of reality capable of grounding ought. Where, there is precisely one serious candidate . . . if you think not, kindly provide an alternative: ________ and warrant on comparative difficulties: ________. (Much harder to do than to dismiss rhetorically or studiously ignore.)
Namely, the inherently good, utterly wise creator God, a necessary and maximally great being. One, worthy of our loyalty and of the responsible, reasonable service of doing the good that accords with our manifest nature. This last, pointing to the significance of the natural moral law that is attested by functional consciences.
In this context, we can see the significance of Cicero’s observation in de Legibus, c. 50 BC:
—Marcus [in de Legibus, introductory remarks,. C1 BC]: . . . the subject of our present discussion . . . comprehends the universal principles of equity and law. In such a discussion therefore on the great moral law of nature, the practice of the civil law can occupy but an insignificant and subordinate station. For according to our idea, we shall have to explain the true nature of moral justice, which is congenial and correspondent with the true nature of man. We shall have to examine those principles of legislation by which all political states should be governed. And last of all, shall we have to speak of those laws and customs which are framed for the use and convenience of particular peoples, which regulate the civic and municipal affairs of the citizens, and which are known by the title of civil laws.
Quintus [his real-life brother]. —You take a noble view of the subject, my brother, and go to the fountain–head of moral truth, in order to throw light on the whole science of jurisprudence: while those who confine their legal studies to the civil law too often grow less familiar with the arts of justice than with those of litigation.
Marcus. —Your observation, my Quintus, is not quite correct. It is not so much the science of law that produces litigation, as the ignorance of it, (potius ignoratio juris litigiosa est quam scientia) . . . . With respect to the true principle of justice, many learned men have maintained that it springs from Law. I hardly know if their opinion be not correct, at least, according to their own definition; for “Law (say they) is the highest reason, implanted in nature, which prescribes those things which ought to be done, and forbids the contrary.” This, they think, is apparent from the converse of the proposition; because this same reason, when it is confirmed and established in men’s minds, is the law of all their actions.
They therefore conceive that the voice of conscience is a law, that moral prudence is a law, whose operation is to urge us to good actions, and restrain us from evil ones. They think, too, that the Greek name for law (NOMOS), which is derived from NEMO, to distribute, implies the very nature of the thing, that is, to give every man his due. [–> this implies a definition of justice as the due balance of rights, freedoms and responsibilities] For my part, I imagine that the moral essence of law is better expressed by its Latin name, (lex), which conveys the idea of selection or discrimination. According to the Greeks, therefore, the name of law implies an equitable distribution of goods: according to the Romans, an equitable discrimination between good and evil.
The true definition of law should, however, include both these characteristics. And this being granted as an almost self–evident proposition, the origin of justice is to be sought in the divine law of eternal and immutable morality. This indeed is the true energy of nature, the very soul and essence of wisdom, the test of virtue and vice.
It is time for a fresh, sober-minded conversation.
So, we may now freely set out to frame how that natural moral law may be drawn out, by using a first principles approach, for instance:
1] The first self evident moral truth is that we are inescapably under the government of ought.
(This is manifest in even an objector’s implication in the questions, challenges and arguments that s/he would advance, that we are in the wrong and there is something to be avoided about that. That is, even the objector inadvertently implies that we OUGHT to do, think, aim for and say the right. Not even the hyperskeptical objector can escape this truth. Patent absurdity on attempted denial.)
2] Second self evident truth, we discern that some things are right and others are wrong by a compass-sense we term conscience which guides our thought. (Again, objectors depend on a sense of guilt/ urgency to be right not wrong on our part to give their points persuasive force. See what would be undermined should conscience be deadened or dismissed universally? Sawing off the branch on which we all must sit.)
3] Third, were this sense of conscience and linked sense that we can make responsibly free, rational decisions to be a delusion, we would at once descend into a status of grand delusion in which there is no good ground for confidence in our self-understanding. (That is, we look at an infinite regress of Plato’s cave worlds: once such a principle of grand global delusion is injected, there is no firewall so the perception of level one delusion is subject to the same issue, and this level two perception too, ad infinitum; landing in patent absurdity.)
4] Fourth, we are objectively under obligation of OUGHT. That is, despite any particular person’s (or group’s or august council’s or majority’s) wishes or claims to the contrary, such obligation credibly holds to moral certainty. That is, it would be irresponsible, foolish and unwise for us to act and try to live otherwise.
5] Fifth, this cumulative framework of moral government under OUGHT is the basis for the manifest core principles of the natural moral law under which we find ourselves obligated to the right the good, the true etc. Where also, patently, we struggle to live up to what we acknowledge or imply we ought to do.
6] Sixth, this means we live in a world in which being under core, generally understood principles of natural moral law is coherent and factually adequate, thus calling for a world-understanding in which OUGHT is properly grounded at root level. (Thus worldviews that can soundly meet this test are the only truly viable ones. If a worldview does not have in it a world-root level IS that can simultaneously ground OUGHT — so that IS and OUGHT are inextricably fused at that level, it fails decisively.*)
7] Seventh, in light of the above, even the weakest and most voiceless of us thus has a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of fulfillment of one’s sense of what s/he ought to be (“happiness”). This includes the young child, the unborn and more. (We see here the concept that rights are binding moral expectations of others to provide respect in regards to us because of our inherent status as human beings, members of the community of valuable neighbours. Where also who is my neighbour was forever answered by the parable of the Good Samaritan. Likewise, there can be no right to demand of or compel my neighbour that s/he upholds me and enables me in the wrong — including under false colour of law through lawfare; usurping the sword of justice to impose a ruthless policy agenda in fundamental breach of that civil peace which must ever pivot on manifest justice. To justly claim a right, one must first be in the right.)
8] Eighth, like unto the seventh, such may only be circumscribed or limited for good cause. Such as, reciprocal obligation to cherish and not harm neighbour of equal, equally valuable nature in community and in the wider world of the common brotherhood of humanity.
9] Ninth, this is the context in which it becomes self evidently wrong, wicked and evil to kidnap, sexually torture and murder a young child or the like as concrete cases in point that show that might and/or manipulation do not make ‘right,’ ‘truth,’ ‘worth,’ ‘justice,’ ‘fairness,’ ‘law’ etc. That is, anything that expresses or implies the nihilist’s credo is morally absurd.
(Thus, we see here our sense of justice for the weak, inarticulate and defenseless; starkly manifest in the difference between luring and catching a fish to become lunch and luring and despoiling then destroying a child. Such a child has not the wit nor words to plead his case, nor the strength to defeat his attacker nor yet the speed to outrun him. Where, that some take pity on the fish and will go out of their way to eat only vegetables is itself further eloquent testimony on the point. [Notice, there is no “people for the ethical treatment of fruit, root starches, grains and vegetables” movement.]
10] Tenth, this entails that in civil society with government, justice is a principal task of legitimate government. In short, nihilistic will to power untempered by the primacy of justice is its own refutation in any type of state. Where, justice is the due balance of rights, freedoms and responsibilities. (In Aristotle’s terms as cited by Hooker: “because we would take no harm, we must therefore do none; That since we would not be in any thing extremely dealt with, we must ourselves avoid all extremity in our dealings; That from all violence and wrong we are utterly to abstain, with such-like .”) Thus also,
11] Eleventh, that government is and ought to be subject to audit, reformation and if necessary replacement should it fail sufficiently badly and incorrigibly.
(NB: This is a requisite of accountability for justice, and the suggestion or implication of some views across time, that government can reasonably be unaccountable to the governed, is its own refutation, reflecting — again — nihilistic will to power; which is automatically absurd. This truth involves the issue that finite, fallible, morally struggling men acting as civil authorities in the face of changing times and situations as well as in the face of the tendency of power to corrupt, need to be open to remonstrance and reformation — or if they become resistant to reasonable appeal, there must be effective means of replacement. Hence, the principle that the general election is an insitutionalised regular solemn assembly of the people for audit and reform or if needs be replacement of government gone bad. But this is by no means an endorsement of the notion that a manipulated mob bent on a march of folly has a right to do as it pleases.)
12] Twelfth, the attempt to deny or dismiss such a general framework of moral governance invariably lands in shipwreck of incoherence and absurdity. As, has been seen in outline. But that does not mean that the attempt is not going to be made, so there is a mutual obligation of frank and fair correction and restraint of evil.
* F/N: After centuries of debates and assessment of alternatives per comparative difficulties, there is in fact just one serious candidate to be such a grounding IS: the inherently good creator God, a necessary and maximally great being worthy of ultimate loyalty and the reasonable responsible service of doing the good in accord with our manifestly evident nature. (And instantly, such generic ethical theism answers also to the accusation oh this is “religion”; that term being used as a dirty word — no, this is philosophy. If you doubt this, simply put forth a different candidate that meets the required criteria and passes the comparative difficulties test: _________ . Likewise, an inherently good, maximally great being will not be arbitrary or deceitful etc, that is why such is fully worthy of ultimate loyalty and the reasonable, responsible service of doing the good in accord with our manifestly evident nature. As a serious candidate necessary being, such would be eternal and embedded in the frame for a world to exist at all. Thus such a candidate is either impossible as a square circle is impossible due to mutual ruin of core characteristics, or else it is actual. For simple instance no world is possible without two-ness in it, a necessary basis for distinct identity inter alia. (I add: as the God of ethical theism is a serious candidate necessary being, if he is possible he exists in at least one world and so also in all possible worlds as framework for a world to be. Those who infer or assert that God does not exist take up the burden to show that God is impossible of being; one that we may confidently hold, they cannot carry out successfully.)
So, we can see how a stable community can be built, framed on responsible, reasonable principles, many of them manifestations of the sort of natural law that Cicero and many others have discussed. In this framework, responsible government may then extend through civil law framed on justice and good community order. END