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A Fair Criticism of My Approach to PCUSA

Over at the Captain’s Journal. He believes that gun control is a spiritual battle, as the right to bear arms is granted by God, and that the battle to preserve it is a matter of religion, morality, and righteousness.

I can’t really answer his criticism, because I think it’s correct. Spending enough time in a single issue to tends to make you think more practically about things and less religiously. I agree the right is granted by God, but it has to be protected by men, and for most of our struggle that’s been done through the political process.

Though, in terms of arguing the case from within the context of within a Church, I think the Captain’s approach is probably smarter.

19 Responses to “A Fair Criticism of My Approach to PCUSA”

  1. Gary Foster says:

    As a member of a PCUSA affiliated church I of course detest the uber liberals that get that pulpit to fight against my rights and priviliges granted by God and recognized by our Constitution. Our particular church does not go along with this or other even worse actions by our national church. This is actually not the worst thing they are doing recently.
    The denomination is dying a slow death and I could care less.
    I don’t like it that our church is in that group but there are good reasons I am not in a more conservative group that are as important to me as gun rights.
    Our church is beginning to loosen the ties and I hope in time we loosen them all the way. Hard to tell on that one.
    Belief it or not, there are more than a few Jesus loving, Scripture believing, Christians in the PCUSA.
    We hope to make a difference. Maybe we will. Maybe we will not. I personally put it in God’s hands.

  2. Ash says:

    You may as well argue how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. As a wiser man than me once said:

    “The study of theology, as it stands in the Christian churches, is the study of nothing; it is founded on nothing; it rests on no principles; it proceeds by no authority; it has no data; it can demonstrate nothing; and it admits of no conclusion.”

  3. DirtCrashr says:

    Deists and Theists and especially Atheists will probably not agree, and Ben Franklin (who many believe authored Paine’s Common Sense) had his own opinion of Paine’s Age of Reason, in which he rejects all but the most palpable and immediate discoveries of the senses – he recommended burning it. :-)

  4. Sebastian,

    Thanks for the post and the dialogue. You make a good point, viz. that even if rights are in some sense deontological, they are yet defended and applied by man. That point occurred to me as I wrote my post, but alas, one doesn’t have time for a full essay every post.

    Again, thanks for the dialogue.

    Ash,

    Silly quotes notwithstanding, God exists because of the impossibility of the contrary. The existence of universal, invariant, abstract entities proves his existence. See Greg Bahnsen v. Gordon Stein debates (Google it or they are all up on YouTube now – at least the audio). You would have flunked logic, or geometry.

  5. ecurb says:

    Fundamental rights are not granted by anyone or anything–they are inherent in the laws of nature as we have discovered them.
    Thus, the constitution of a free people will guarantee such rights, and their religions recognize them as works of their creator.

    That’s the TL;DR version, anyway, as far as I understand period political philosophy.

  6. Well, ecurb, you can go back to John Locke and Scottish common sense philosophy if you want to, but as best as I understand it (from my training) that school has pretty much been discredited. No one believes it.

    The so-called “laws of nature” need a foundation. You need to press back to the axiomatic irreducibles, as it were. Where do these laws come from? The term “nature” means nothing, philosophically speaking. It cannot confer rights.

    Be more inquisitive.

  7. ecurb says:

    In all fairness, I did say “period” philosophy, which was undeniably influenced by precisely those men. Locke, Montesquieu, Adam Smith, and many others were referenced constantly by the writers of the founding era.

    Could you suggest some reading in post-enlightenment philosophy? As an economics student my knowledge of the subject never even reached sophomoric, and I would enjoy learning when, how, and by whom these giants were “discredited”.

  8. To be fair, I understand your point. But they did speak of “nature and nature’s God.” They understood that they had to ground their beliefs in something.

    As for discrediting, that’s a pretty wonkish thing. I’m sorry that I brought it up. It has to do further evolutions in philosophy where Locke, Hume and others were rejected and supplanted with other views. Nothing is accepted as “given.” Your system must be examined and proven to be logically coherent from within. It must be self-referentially coherent. I’m sorry, but this has devolved into a complex discussion, and I didn’t want it to.

    See Alvin Plantinga and his online papers (and to be honest, his atheist detractors, which whom I disagree).

    Let’s get back to the main point. Unless you ground your rights in something other than politics, popular vote can decide something capricious like everyone named David will suffer public death on every other Tuesday by means to be determined by the local mob. Someone has to grant your rights other than the state for this not to obtain. You don’t want popular vote to determine what your rights are, do you?

    Write me for more discussion.

  9. Sebastian says:

    Let’s get back to the main point. Unless you ground your rights in something other than politics, popular vote can decide something capricious like everyone named David will suffer public death on every other Tuesday by means to be determined by the local mob

    It’s a difference between philosophy and reality. The fact of the matter is rights are subject to popular vote. The only thing that prevents that is the indoctrination that our constitutional system is superior philosophy, which I strongly believe.

    But it the majority no longer believes that, it’s not worth much.

  10. Carl from Chicago says:

    Some will view gun control as a spiritual issue. Nothing wrong with that as far as it goes. However, I suspect that successful second amendment litigation won’t be based on spiritual arguments.

  11. Carl from Chicago says:

    Mr. Smith, please look for information on “first cause” argument.

  12. Dann in Ohio says:

    One problem we are having in contemporary times is semantics and dilution of meaning. The term “right” is applied folks to just about everything… trees have rights, dogs have rights, education is a right, owning a home is a right, healthcare is a right, and it goes on and on…

    Our founding fathers determined the Bill of Rights based on quintessential rights that each individual could assert. I think you have a right to education in as much as you are able to educate yourself, but not in a way that requires others to educate you…

    It’s the same for self defense… you have a right to defend yourself, and your family… but that doesn’t mean others are required to defend your life for you at the risk of theirs… hence the court’s ruling that police don’t have individual liability with regard to protecting or defending you…

    I think it is most admirable that we have so many who volunteer in the all-volunteer military, police, fire and other entities to serve their fellow man… but my right to self defense should never be required of them… and I don’t want anyone infringing on my right unless they are willing to take on the individual responsibility they are denying me… which they are not – especially politicians…

    I carry a gun not because a cop is too heavy, but because I have the right of self defense… NOT the right to a cop to defend me…

    Dann in Ohio

  13. johnnysquire says:

    The Captain’s posting is silly. If the only way to “win” the gun rights debate over time is by appeal to vague “God said so” argumentation, the rights are already doomed.

    The Constitution guarantees our freedom – it gives (due) credit to the creator, but that isn’t necessary so long as the governed agree that freedom is fundamental. A necessary part of governing is the process of better desscribing the limits of our agreed-upon inherent freedom. Gun rights are NOT so fundamental that no discussion is appropriate – no rights stated so broadly are. Therefore, politics are required, and tactical resort to God-based argument is dependant on the majority, who will at some point be anti-religious.

  14. Lucky Forward says:

    Many of our Founders were religious themselves, and relied on religious principles to craft our Constitution and laws.

    Secular arguments can be made to justify any legal position, but to do so in the case of the Second Amendment is not only counter-historical, but weakens gun-rights arguments, as they derive their origin and strength, in great part, from Judeo-Christian faith and thinking.

  15. johnnysquire says:

    Lucky – How does ignoring religous principles weaken any gun-rights argument based on the 2A? If an understanding of religious thought is required to interpret “keep and bear arms”, then a future anti-religious majority view will (and should, by your view) prevail against the plain text.

  16. Lucky Forward says:

    A partial understanding of the Second Amendment is the best you’ll get if you filter out the faith-based element and the Judeo-Christian-influenced philosophy that goes with it. Yes, some people insist they are secular, and will cover their ears at the first sign of any moral argument; perhaps for these people, a secular argument of some kind, a “practical” argument, if you will, can be stop-gap means of partial persuasion, although, for many reasons, it is the “Good News” that would really help.

    I think the secular people are kidding themselves, if they think our society can sustain all the good fruits of traditional American culture without cultivating the faith-based philosophies that brought it to life. At least since WWII, self-styled intellectuals have tried to kick God out of the public forum, and replace Him with moral relativism; and where has that gotten us during that time? Can you say, “Detroit”? Or how about, ‘more gun control’? We’ve taken a Corvette, dumped in a Yugo engine, and we’re surprised the car won’t run. That some people are content to sit behind the wheel and pretend they’re going anywhere astounds me.

    Judge Scalia just gave a speech at Duquesne law school over the weekend, where he talked about the moral imperative behind law and and a just society. (I’m working on getting the text of his speech.) Coming from him, maybe those skeptical, or hostile to, keeping morality in the law will re-think their position.

  17. johnnysquire says:

    Lucky – I’ll agree that a moral basis is required for the Constitution to work, but religious morality is not the only socially-beneficial morality.

    I’m a weekly attender and hold leadership positions in my congregation. God works for me, but I think we need to acknowledge that there are good, moral “secularists” and bad, immoral religious folk.

  18. Lucky Forward says:

    I agree, as a recent Gospel reading in my church said, that there are those who say they will follow the Lord, then don’t, and those who say they won’t follow Him, but do!

    But I think for many reasons, not least of all that we are acknowledging our Lord and Savior, that the religious arguments are the best of many that can be made.

  19. Ash says:

    Poor old Plato is rolling in his grave. To paraphrase Euthyphro’s dilemma:

    Is self-defense loved by God because it is good, or is it good because it is loved by God?

    If the former, then the ‘right’ of self-defense is an independent moral standard which does not require God. If the latter, then this ‘right’ is simply arbitrary and not based on reason.

    For the full concept – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthyphro_dilemma

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