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Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes, Part Three: Ordered Liberty Rests on Absolute Truth




Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes, Part Three: Ordered Liberty Rests on Absolute Truth


By B. Nathaniel Sullivan


“In a free society that honors virtue, you have 270 million policemen; in a society that mocks virtue, you can’t hire enough policemen.” Charles Colson and Ellen Vaughn1


A Jewish rabbi on a plane bound for Israel soon discovered he was seated next to one of the leaders of Israel’s socialist labor movement. After the plane became airborne, one of the rabbi’s students, a young man seated several rows back, approached the rabbi and offered him his slippers. “Here are your slippers, sir,” he said. “You’ll feel more comfortable in them since your feet swell terribly on the plane.” The same young man returned shortly and offered the rabbi several sandwiches. “Maria fixed these for your lunch, sir. We know you’ll prefer them to the food you could get on the plane.”


The young man returned several times to check on the rabbi to see if he could make him feel more comfortable or assist him in another way. Amazed, the socialist leader exclaimed, “Wow! I’m so impressed with your son! I have four grown sons, and none of them ever has offered to serve me as your son has waited on you. Why is he so attentive?”


“This young man is not my son but my student,” responded the rabbi. “His service, as good as it is, is nothing compared to the assistance my own son would give me if he were here.”


The rabbi continued, “To be honest, the reason the members of the next generation, including members of our own families, treat us as they do is quite simple. They are living according to the principles we’ve taught them. You’ve believed and taught your students and family members that you—and they—descended from apes. They know intuitively this means that you are one generation closer to being a monkey than they are, so it’s only natural for them to expect you to serve them and for them to feel they have a right to live as they please. I, on the other hand, have taught my children and students God created all people. They understand this puts me one generation closer to the Source of Ultimate Truth, and they treat me in accord with this general understanding. I’ve tried as well to make them aware of their own responsibility to obey God’s moral law, including the Ten Commandments. We reap what we sow.”2


Beliefs Have Far-Reaching Consequences


In Part One of this series, we explored the utter futility of relativism, which says each person can make up his or her own moral truth. Evolution and relativism fit together because without God (evolution assumes He is unnecessary), absolute moral truth cannot exist. No wonder so many people who’ve been taught they descended from animals behave like animals!3


In Part Two, we examined the internal consistency of Christianity to showcase the strong foundation it provides—moral and otherwise—for all of life. The tenets we highlighted include the Old Testament teachings about God and morality the rabbi embraced and taught his children and students.


Here, in Part Three, we will demonstrate that Christianity—with its affirmations of God, absolute truth, and inherent rights—offers the only foundation strong enough to maintain both order and freedom in society. 


While the exchange between the rabbi and his seatmate neither proves nor disproves God’s existence, it does demonstrate that a belief in God is conducive to civil behavior and, ultimately, to a civil society. True freedom can thrive only in a society grounded in virtue and absolute truth. Without virtue, freedom unravels into chaos, which leads increasingly to bigger government and, finally, to tyranny.


Consider the sterling quality traits upheld in the rabbi’s perspective. These include generosity, gratitude, selflessness, humility, a sense of responsibility and accountability, and respect for others, especially one’s elders. All of these align with the truth that every human life is priceless because God creates each one in His own image.


Moreover, virtues enhance human relationships. While selfishness and the pursuit of personal pleasure tend to foster conflict, timeless virtues promote significant benefits, including stronger and more fulfilling associations, trust, and a greater sense of satisfaction and happiness.


Rights and Responsibilities Are Interwoven


America’s Founding Fathers understood this and saw rights as inextricably linked to duties.4 John Adams declared, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.”5


Especially significant is the definition Noah Webster gave the term education in his 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language: “The bringing up, as of a child, instruction; formation of manners. Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, and form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. To give children a good education in manners, arts and science, is important; to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.”6


Virtue, let us not forget, flourishes in the soil of a belief in God and an awareness of one’s accountability to Him. A recognition of absolute truth has to be a part of this mix. Just as trains are designed to travel on railroad tracks and can’t move efficiently without them, God designed and created people for a purpose that finds its fulfillment only when individuals align their beliefs, behavior, and lives to what their Creator has revealed about Himself and the rest of reality in His Word.7 This is confining in some ways but liberating in many more.


Authentic Liberty


How is it liberating? Think of the Ten Commandments,8 which are foundational for civil laws. Typically thought of as a list of moral guidelines, they are also a list of inherent, God-given rights.


  • Commandments 1–4 establish the right of individuals to worship God and the right to worship Him as He directs.

  • The Fourth Commandment affirms a person’s right not only to worship God and enjoy periodic rest from regular work but also to work and, by implication, to keep or own the wealth generated from the labor performed. We’ll soon see that two more of the Ten Commandments explicitly uphold property rights.

  • The Fifth Commandment places on sons and daughters the duty to honor and respect their parents; in doing so, it affords parents the right to be honored by their children. By extension, the Fifth Commandment also calls for society to respect parental authority in the home. This does not give parents a right to abuse their children physically, emotionally, or otherwise, but rather establishes that parents—not the state or any other entity—have God-given authority to lovingly discipline, train, and guide their children into responsible adulthood.

  • By forbidding murder, the Sixth Commandment upholds people’s right to life.

  • By prohibiting adultery, the Seventh Commandment upholds the right of every married man and woman to have their marriage respected in society.

  • By forbidding stealing, the Eighth Commandment upholds personal rights to property ownership and stewardship, including rights to control the assets owned.

  • Like the Eighth, the Tenth Commandment also affirms property rights, directing them to be honored with attitudes as well as actions.

  • The Ninth Commandment against lying affords people the right to a reputation based on the truth.


Absolute Freedom Leads to Bondage


Mark it down! When people abandon morality in pursuit of freedom, they will lose authentic liberty because citizens no longer will be able to enjoy the inherent rights foundational to that liberty. Francis Schaeffer explains, “In our own country we have enjoyed enormous human freedom. But at the same time this freedom has been founded upon forms of government, law, culture, and social morality which have given stability to individual and social life, and have kept our freedoms from leading to chaos. There is a balance here between form and freedom which we have come to take as natural in the world. But it is not natural. . . . [This should be] clear [to us] when we read the daily newspaper and see half the world locked in totalitarian oppression.”9


Because unbridled freedom in society can never last, the choice is ours—tyranny or ordered liberty. Our choice ought to be a no-brainer, but as we have said, ordered liberty is not automatic. It requires the citizenry to respect objective standards of right and wrong. Let us do all we can to help our society understand the futility of relativism and the stabilizing yet liberating qualities of absolute truth.10




B. Nathaniel Sullivan is a writer whose work appears regularly at wordfoundations.com and discoverbedrocktruth.org.


ENDNOTES

1. Charles Colson and Ellen Vaughn, Gideon's Torch (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1995), 217.

2. Rabbi Daniel Lapin, America’s Real War: An Orthodox Rabbi Insists that Judeo-Christian Values Are Vital for Our Nation’s Survival(Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 1999), 51-52.

3. E. V. Hill, quoted in “Contending for the Recognition of Absolutes, Part 3,” https://wordfoundations.com/2017/01/20/contending-for-the-recognition-of-absolutes-part-3.

4. B. Nathaniel Sullivan and Jon Harris, “Discover and Apply the Founders’ Perspective on Rights,” Discover Bedrock Truth, 2021, https://discoverbedrocktruth.org/discover-and-apply-the-founders-perspective-on-rights.

5. John Adams, AZQuotes.com, accessed September 8, 2023, https://azquotes.com/quote/375271.

6. Noah Webster, “Education,” Webster’s Dictionary 1828, quoted in https://design-your-homeschool.com/Definition-of-Education.html.

7. Psalm 100:3 states, “Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” This verse also can be accurately translated this way (emphasis added): “Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”

9. Francis Schaeffer, quoted in “Liberty Is Fragile,” Word Foundations, https://wordfoundations.com/liberty-is-fragile.

10. See John 8:32.



Copyright © 2023 by B. Nathaniel Sullivan. All rights reserved.


1 Comment


Put it in writing! People will lose true liberty when they give up morality in the name of freedom because they will be unable to enjoy the inalienable rights that are the cornerstone of that liberty. geometry dash

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