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This is a Wednesday Update Archive piece.
Subject: The Age or Era of Peace, Justice, and Righteousness on Earth,
(or) The City of God on earth, Part I (the Preface),
Part X in a Series On End-Time Bible Prophecy
(Fri., Sept. 3, 2004)
(approx. 8230 words, 14 pp.)
Bible Prophecy Series, Part X
No Satire, but a little History actually,
The Classically defined "Kingdom" or "City of God"
The long (actually the "short") road to the year 2004
The Historical Nature of the Age of Peace, Justice, and Righteousness on Earth
As the saying goes, To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. We are coming to the end of our long series on Bible prophecy. No need any longer to do searing satire. In fact there is little left standing to do satire about, even if we wanted to? ("No one left to fight?")
The Kingdom of God: The Whole Thing in a Nutshell
These final comments on the Kingdom of God on earth (or the so-called "City of God") will no doubt be very anti-climatic, even disappointing for some. Why? When Jesus came he said, "Repent (or turn from your sin) for the Kingdom of God is at hand." He meant the Kingdom was "at hand" spiritually speaking, obviously. And it was a pretty simple message, one which we have still not been able to get down quite yet, again obviously, but, on the other hand, what is to be the era or so-called "thousand year age" of peace, justice, and righteousness on earth? That is a spiritual as well as practical question, is it not? Look, what is "the Kingdom of God"? Spiritually it is the truths, realities, and principles of God come to reign in our hearts. "The Kingdom of God" is wherever God reigns, no? But for prophecy "millennial era" purposes, practically speaking, these truths, principles and so forth come to serve as the foundation for governments and societies in order to establish liberty and justice for all, etc.
So, the Millennial Era is, simply, a time when truth, justice, and righteousness serve as foundational principles for governments on earth, as a "normal" condition of their existence, and, given this fact, we say Satan or spirits of evil or injustice or unrighteousness are somehow "bound." And, hence, relatively speaking to the rest of history, we will live (presumably) in an almost mythical idyllic time of peace, justice, prosperity. and happiness, etc.! End of Story. . . Everybody can go home now! That is really about all there is to this writing. . . Just joking. . .
Actually, not really joking, because that really is about all there is to all history and all philosophy. But, regardless, in this "Preface to the Kingdom of God" on earth, we will look at the historical and philosophical aspects of this age of the Kingdom on earth and in the next piece our "Conclusion" to this series we will look at the spiritual and practical aspects of the Kingdom of God. . . on earth in the so-called "City of God." Simple enough, no?
Review of the Basics: The Two Cities
There are two visions of life ultimately and, hence, ultimately two visions of society, government, law, politics, etc. Human existence is generally (as a logical and practical matter) either man based and morally relative, or truth-based (or God-based) on what is ultimately and truly Good, Right, True, Just, etc. The Hebrews got this through actual direct revelation from God, and some 1000 years later the Greeks and Romans (or at least a few of the best of their thinkers) figured this out more or less "naturalistically." This is also more or less the nature of Augustine's classic apologetic (The City of God) to the pagan Roman world, which for a variety of reasons did not see Christianity as entailing classical moral virtue (primarily because Christianity rejected the polytheistic '"gods" of the state). However, Augustine was not an atheist before finding God or giving himself over to God's service, but, essentially, a Gnostic, Manichean, Neo-Platonist, etc. He was an "intellectual," and he was "spiritual," but he was sexually promiscuous, and he was not a believer in the Christ or God of the Bible, nor a believer in the literal atoning New Covenant, but rather he believed in spiritual, higher-consciousness enlightenment (etc.) or so-called "phony baloney" spirituality (which is a technical term for spiritual nonsense and a false Jesus etc.). But he eventually, through the prayers of his mother, comes to Christ in repentance and true surrender and for true salvation, etc., and he then has this realization or understanding that God is working out His grand plan in history for truth, justice, and righteousness on earth, first through His revelation to the Jews ("the Chosen people") and then for all people through Christ.
We, here, in this writing on the Kingdom of God are in essence, speaking not just about two visions of government or world peace or two visions of politics, but two visions of human existence? Right? Classically these are called "the City of Man" and "the City of God," but that is not exactly the point here. The point here is, quite practically, we build our lives individually and personally either on self-interest alone or primarily (or own eyes "truth" or "good" etc.), or we build our lives individually and personally on (objective or absolute) truth, justice, good, righteousness, virtue, etc. It is a general existential decision of life which each and every person makes, almost in every decision you make. It is a matter of foundations and which fundamental foundation one chooses, whether it be virtue and righteousness, or self-interest and selfish desires. To accept absolute Truth, Good, Right, Virtue, and Righteousness is, in effect, to accept "God." To reject absolute Truth, Good, Right, etc. as the foundation of one's life (for self desires, self opinions, self values, etc.) is to reject "God." (Right?)
"So what?" you ask. . .
"What in-the-world does this have to do with good government and society," you must be asking? The normal response is to say if everyone is virtuous, the cumulative effect is a good, just, righteous, and virtuous society, and there is a lot of truth to that. As an American founder said we have staked the whole future of our Republic on the idea that we will each act in accord with (the moral law or virtue of) the Ten Commandments (unless we remove them from the classroom and courthouse?). The government cannot really "make" one be a good person. Right? (Though it certainly can and should punish wrong-doers, etc.) However, there is more to The Good Society and to good government than just having a society of good or virtuous individuals. The government itself (as the individual himself) must be founded on the principles of goodness, justice, true rights, liberty, and righteousness, etc. Right? All on the same page here? I believe so.
You might say, as we have argued (successfully?) elsewhere, that in a philosophical and practical sense, not in a 'religious' sense, as such, ALL true and successful Republics (in theory and in practice) have been morally theist, that is, in a philosophical sense. However, America went even further, and the founders talked not just about Nature and Nature's God (and Nature's moral Law etc.) but "the Sovereign of the Universe," which is to say a conscious, ruling Supreme Being God of all history. This is not just a moral theistic philosophical "God" or concept (to establish the Republic upon), but rather a statement of faith (about God literally in history), and one which almost makes Moses look like an atheist? (Just joking.)
But, again, Was ancient Israel a "Republic"?
But, as we asked last time, Was ancient Israel a "Republic"? In a foundational sense, I would say so, at least for our purposes here, which are of course Bible prophecy and the literal millennial time or era of peace, justice, and righteousness on earth. Why was ancient Israel a "Republic"? Or, at least, why is it reasonable to suggest that it was for our purposes here? Again, it all has to do with foundations, no? I am well aware of the fact that ancient Israel was not a "democracy," and we would not see the particular rights and details of their law to be applicable today, but these things are not the point.
Ancient Israel, and ultimately Judah, did not have a monarch with absolute power. Though ancient Israel eventually had a king with executive power, theirs was essentially a nation under the rule of just law given by God for their time and place, etc. People, according to their place in society, had delineated "rights," but they did not have a legislative assembly as we usually think of it (they already had their law, right?), but they did have judges over different groups of people to resolve matters, etc. You do not want to read too much into this, but we are doing Bible prophecy here, are we not? And we are looking at ancient Israel, the promises made to Abraham, and their spiritual fulfillment in Christ, and their literal fulfillment in a time or prolonged "thousand" year era of governments or Republics based on righteousness and justice, or as we say today based "upon liberty and justice for all." And, of course, absolute monarchies or tyrannies have no such foundations in theory or practice, nor essentially do governments of merely man's perceived "goods" or "balance of power interests," etc. Hence, we, here, are looking at the possibility of a state or condition of the world at peace in righteousness, justice, and prosperity where each sits in security in his own home under his own vine and fig tree, etc., and people are able to do so because the normal condition of governments is that they are based on sound principles of truth, good, justice, and righteousness, etc.
And this is, in essence, at least in principle, in Christian theology anyway, "God-based" republican governments as seen in the Declaration of Independence, and it is the prophecy promises given (more or less) to the whole world through the spiritual descendants of Abraham, is it not? And, again, Abraham was looking for or seeking this City of God (by faith) or this City on a Hill, etc. And, of course (as we have said before) this is pretty standard fare with the American founders (and, of course, more or less with our good ole buddy Mr. Augustine). Is this complicated? I don't think so. And it is all prophesied from the beginning of the Bible that this era or time or worldwide system of government, indeed condition of human existence, will come to pass literally on earth. Right? However we have had some "problems," shall we say, getting here! (Do tell?)
How may we go astray. . . in the City of Man?
If we all agree on where we are going, or trying to go, and on what has been prophesied, we must ask where can we go astray in not getting there, in not having governments based on principles of truth, justice, and righteousness, etc. It is not as if some people have not sought with their wars and revolutions to have a good, just, and righteous society, but in truth, most wars or revolutions fail which seek these truly noble ends and not mere power. So, what are the two primary ways (logically speaking) the government of "the city of man" not based on true principles of Truth, Justice, and Righteousness can go astray? Certainly this is a fair question is it not?
Well, the first and most obvious answer is in tyranny, which does not even purport to be a free society based on true liberty and justice for all, but the second way to go astray is in false or foolish notions of Truth, Justice, and Righteousness which simply cannot and will not "work." Is this complicated? I do not think so. What was wrong with the Communists killing everyone and setting up their "perfect" and "just" utopian "classless" society? Well, now, listen up and pick one of the following two answers, please. . . Was Communist totalitarianism a false justice and false entire worldview which ruled much of the world for almost a century? Or, Was Communist totalitarianism an overt effort to establish tyranny without seeking justice (as the Communists understood it)? I think the answer is obvious. The Communists were clearly well-intentioned but misguided, shall we say, in their efforts for "good" and "justice"? The Jihadists of today of course have their own misguided problems, but the point for here is that we tend to say that the Communists were wrong because they had no "freedom," whether economic, personal, religious, or political, etc., and that is true, but in truth the more fundamental question of politics and government is justice (even the Communists knew that), not freedom. In truth, the Communists had no "freedom" because they had not real "justice," if you see what I mean. Quite simply put, their lack of freedoms was unjust (or not-right). By contrast the Superman Nazis were not even claiming to be seeking justice (or right) but rather tyranny or subjugation of others (because the rest of us were supposedly so inferior, etc.).
How may we go astray. . . let us count the ways in history? Not exactly. . .
The point of the above comments is that there are essentially two ways that man can go wrong or astray in his quest for "good" government. First, you can have simply a quest for self-interest power for one's self or group, or second, one can have misguided or faulty notions of "good" or "justice" which must be imposed on everyone! God help us!
So, in the big picture of history what happened? To do a quick history lesson here. . . God gave rights and law for a particular time and place in history to the ancient Israelites, etc., based on notions of absolute good, truth, right, justice, etc., (on getting one's so-called "just deserts," and doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, and so forth). And, the point here is not simply history nor the historical limitations of that law (for that time and place) but that philosophically it was based on right or good or justice, and not on the mere might or power, etc., of a king or one group over another, etc. Some thousand years later, though (most would argue) the ancient Greeks and Romans were never really able to establish such a society, they in their democratic and republican efforts became aware of working foundational or fundamental notions of Truth, Justice, Good, etc. (philosophically) as opposed to tyranny by one individual or a group or class of individuals, etc., over another. And the very best of their scholars would write treatises on the Good or Just Society or Government, some quite good or at least interesting to this very day. In fact, many of the notions of modern rights in modern society as seen in the Declaration or American Constitution go back to thinking of the later Stoics on the universal rights of man and on Nature and Nature's God, etc.
The problem was, of course, Rome went from a Republic to an Empire with a "divine" Emperor, which was hardly the just, ideal or desirable society! And even the earlier Republic was not exactly "justice" or "good" based etc., but, regardless, the empire certainly was not, and when it fell due to moral decadence within and invaders from without, Europe went into the so-called Middle Ages before what we call "the modern era" began. And of course these Middle Ages with kings with absolute divine rights, etc., were not based on political truth, good, justice, rights, etc. but on absolute power, more or less, and on heredity, and on the blessing of the Church, which indeed for a awhile served as a certain moral restraint on abuse of power. But as we re-discovered the Light of the Bible and its truths and the God-given rights and dignity of the individual, and as absolute monarchies became more corrupt, and as a modern commerce and industry flourished, everything began to change. The Middle Ages, and the Feudal System, and Catholic Church were not "evil" as often portrayed, much of that time was actually quite wonderful, but those times (those "1000 years" more or less from 500 to 1500, give or take a few centuries) were hardly ideal, and those years were not exactly "republican," and based on universal rights, truth, good, and justice and so forth. I think we can say all of this as a broad statement, and I think almost everyone would agree with such a broad summary, for the most part. (And Mr. Cromwell was not happy with this situation and cut the King's head off, but we digress.)
History and its evolution, or quest for justice, march on? More or less. . .
Look at history this way: So long as those with "limited" absolute power rule justly, there is little problem with it? (The good side to the Feudal system, as it were.) And certainly the social conditions of that time did not make for the practical reality of modern democracy! But over time absolute power tends to corrupt the best of men and certainly their descendants, I do believe. And, eventually, almost inevitably, court intrigue and corruption, lavish lifestyles and burdensome taxes become the order of the day, do they not, with most monarchies or even totalitarian societies? And this is so with or without a "Church approval" of some sort to legitimize one's power. In short, absolute monarchy tends toward both tyranny and injustice, and certainly perceived injustice and resentment. (Even in the totalitarian "classless" Communist society, the common goal of many was to join the elite, privileged, corrupt Communist Party, was it not?)
In any case, in the modern era, after the Reformation, and certainly by the 1600s, Biblical and even classical notions of "rights" began to emerge in very good political theory based on the just rule of law. The law is "king," not kings (sounds like ancient Israel?), and this was to be achieved by representative government or representative "rights" for the people. As is well-known America saw these rights both practically and theoretically to be from God and had a successful Republic on a sure foundation, and the French did not so see their rights and justice. The French saw their rights or goods or justice to be a mere will of the people, in theory and practice (oh, me, oh my! "city of man" foolishness!), and this (foolishness) proved to be a wobbly or weak foundation for that government or society. (No kidding?) We had people in that revolution seeking not power, but "justice," BUT foolishly! Or, you might say, they were seeking foundationally and fatally flawed "justice" and "rights." And these pillars of their Republic, these faulty foundations would only, in the long run, support a guillotine and not a just society! After the City of Man French Revolution for "justice" failed (several of them in fact?), the Bolshevik Revolution did for similar reasons of faulty notions of justice and humanistic foundations, both in theory and practice. The Russian Revolution is most known for its gulag and not its guillotine, of course. Really in Communism you had one group "the workers" trying to lord it over everyone else in a "dictatorship of the proletariat" (by their own admission), which is hardly "justice," and it did not "work" either. (Talk about lousy cars?) And we have now gone full circle in history with where we began this historical discussion, theoretically, that is, with the two ways man and man's cities (or the city of man) can go wrong in unjust might of overt tyranny and in misguided actions for false "justice" and "rights."
The Classical Natural Law: God-given Justice, Rights, and Jefferson
Without any question America and her Revolution and her Republic were based on classical notions of God-given rights, that is, philosophically classical as well as Biblically classical notions of good, right, and true. And clearly, in theory and practice, the French Revolution and Russian Revolution were not, though they also sought a "justice" and "rights" for all, just not classically or Biblically defined rights, freedom, and justice. Everybody on board here? However, even the great scholar Allan Bloom in his modern classic The Closing of the American Mind does not see there to be a significant difference in the French and American Revolutions, hard as that is even to imagine. By contrast Francis Schaeffer gets this right in How Should We Then Live? In a slightly different confusion, I believe it was the somewhat infamous Bertrand Russell who argued that the American Revolution was not founded upon our Judeo-Christian heritage but rather on classical Stoic philosophy, but this is not only factually false for essentially evangelical colonial America, but theoretically irrelevant. Right? For this point, forget the Bible, throw it out, "burn" it, whatever, it doesn't matter. . .
What Russell and his fellow secularists or humanists want to say (which is factually false but we will concede the point) is that Jefferson was the real or even sole driving intellectual force behind the American Revolution, and he was not an evangelical Christian but a deist "Christian," and in fact this made him primarily or mostly a Natural Law philosopher, speaking of "Nature and Nature's God" and "the rights of man" (like the French?) and so forth. Wrong . . . or at least, so what? The fact is abortion was considered wrong, extremely so, no less, in the original Hippocratic oath, was it not? Further, pretty much no society I am aware of, forget the ancient Greeks and Romans, has ever held adultery or marital infidelity to be "good," or marriage not to be, no? And pretty much the same can be said of promiscuity, stealing, lying, homosexuality, and pretty much all of the hot button "moral" issues of our time! (These were not so-called "hot button issues" in Jefferson's day, nor classically!)
All of these "moral" things in almost all societies with slight variations have been considered not only "wrong" for the most part, but "foolish" and "destructive" to the Good life or a perversion of it. That is, "perversion" to "the Natural (moral) Law," no? It is not "sexually" but "generally" that we speak of, say, a "perversion of Justice"? Or a "travesty of Justice," no? In relationship to what? The understood Natural Law of an implicitly understood theoretical "Right" or "Good" or "Justice," etc. Also as is well-known, the abolitionist movement appealed to the Natural Law of history, Stoics, the Declaration of Independence, etc. as much as to Scripture, as does the Right to Life movement. The whole point of the classical Natural Law is that it represents a traditional God-given morality of human existence. (Hello?)
One final point on Jefferson. . .
One final point and we will move on. If I am not mistaken Jefferson not only attended Bible believing Evangelical church regularly or faithfully but in government office buildings, no? But more than this practical fact (if true), Jefferson was a strong advocate or believer in the Bible as an outstanding book of "moral" instruction, personally and for a good education, public or otherwise. Why? The Bible was for Jefferson good Natural Law moral instruction. That is why he cut the miracles in (or "against") Nature out of his Bible, right? The laws of Nature and the Natural Moral Law of God were Supreme for Jefferson, the latter perfectly expressed in Jesus and the Bible he would say, and that is why he cut the miracles out, so as not to detract from the moral law of the Bible or confuse the two points of natural science and natural moral law! That is, he cut the miracles out to show the Bible as the perfect expression of the Natural (moral) Law. And this was to bring out or establish the Moral Law of God as the perfect Natural (moral) Law of Nature, as discussed by the classical Greek and Roman philosophers. And Blackstone of Jefferson's day would hold the same view, let alone all the other figures of the time who are conceded to be almost all (evangelical) Christians, of one sort or another. (And of course Catholic theology is even more known for its identification with traditional Natural (moral) Law theory.)
I am well aware of problems to be found in Natural Law theory, but ultimately and practically, that is not the point here. The point is quasi-Christian figures like Jefferson and Franklin are some of the best, not the worst, advocates for the traditional Natural (moral) Law, which is also the moral law of the Bible, because they are quasi-Christian. Traditionally the quasi-Christian or even anti-Christian did not argue the morally depraved position that the morality or justice or rights of the Bible were false, but rather simply they were not "God-given," since such people were not believers in a direct revelation. Traditionally the non-believer tended to say, "Moses was simply a very clever fellow to figure out these 10 points which will make a society work with absolute truth, justice, and righteousness for all, when nothing else will!" It is not until the post-modern era that all of this changes, and we have no real truth, good, justice, or morality, in nature or revelation, supposedly. (Indeed, that is the very definition of post-modernism, that is, no real truth, good, justice, or morality, in nature or revelation!)
The point here is: to say that Jefferson was responsible for everything in the American revolution is not only a little bit silly really, especially when you get to the entire social and political reality of it all and the countless others involved, but, regardless, to say he was apparently, for the most part, a classical Natural Law theorist and not a Christian is irrelevant since he, for all intents and purposes, saw the Bible or Jesus etc. to be the perfect expression of the moral Natural Law, but not of the modern laws of Nature found in Newton since the miracles of the Bible were such obvious "exceptions" to them, as it were.
What does this all have to do with us today, and a Millennial Era of course?
What does this all have to do with us today? And to our points here, what does all of this have to do with the City of God or governments based upon principles of true justice, rights, and good, and to where we are trying to get as a planet and so forth? The answer is EVERYTHING. Jefferson simply cannot carry the load for the modern secularist or humanist, liberal, or postmodern thinker even if you give him total preeminence among all the founders, and even if you concede he was not a Christian but only a Natural Law philosopher or theorist. What does this mean for us today? The idea behind "judicial activism" is to do "good," "justice" and enforce people "rights," etc. Yes? BUT, What is "good"? What is "justice"? And what are "rights"? (This should all be making some sense about now, but if it isn't, better go back and re-read a little.)
It is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful thing to do good, to do justice and righteousness, indeed to establish and enforce people's rights and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with God (as the Good Book says). Again these are wonderful, wonderful, wonderful things! And by definition, Court activism is based on "rights" or "God-given rights," if you wish to say it that way, or "human rights," or "universal rights" for all, etc. Praise God! No Problem!
However, in order to do court activism based on "rights," or "God-given rights," or "human rights," or "universal rights" for all, etc., one must say what these "rights" really are. Correct? That is, you cannot do "Justice" with Court activism if a "real" Right is not being violated, no? And one appeals to that "Right" when one does one's activism, of course. AND further it must be an explicitly Constitutionally stipulated "right" or one directly implied by the Constitution, OR one does not have the right as a judge according to one's oath of office to impose it. All of this was pretty clear in America and with America's best and brightest in the legal community until the 1960s when things went "crazy"? Why? This is one of THE questions of our time, is it not? The answer is we went from a traditional Natural Law or Biblical moral law worldview as foundational for our culture and society (and rights and justice) to a non-traditional "Natural Law" which was morally relative, liberal, and even libertine, humanistic, and anti-Biblical and, correspondingly, anti-classical Natural Law moral theism. (My Goodness.) BUT it still called itself a "Natural Law" of sorts. Why? Because it was imposing the newly minted "Rights" of this amoral or libertine atheist worldview and, by its own concession, it was doing this in order to do "Good" and "Justice," etc. What a mess?
The 1960s, Court Activism, and trouble in America
Of course, historically, by contrast, to the (almost) utterly failed French and Russian Revolutions and virtually all other revolutions to do "Good" and "Justice," things in America went well, unbelievably well in fact, with our Revolution, especially if you exclude the horrible problems of slavery and of the American Civil War, one of the worst ever? I think a good case can be made that the American experience and results, no less, for a Good or Just Society were rarely even closely approximated in history prior to recent years? The country, the Revolution, the government, the laws, and indeed the entire society and culture were explicitly founded on, not faulty Natural Law notions of Rights and Justice, but rather classical, moral theistic, even Biblical concepts of Natural (moral) Law. And things went very well in America so long as we were all on the same worldview foundation page, and so long as we all agreed we should play by the same (original intent) rules of the game of that given moral reality.
That is things went very well in America until the 1960s when our society, government, and legal system threw out classical notions of the Natural Law or the "City of God" or "City on Hill," etc. with its true and historical notions of rights, liberty, and justice for all as found explicitly in the Declaration and Constitution. (This was in 1962 specifically, was it not?) And we at that time, "officially" by Court decree, adopted a "new" morally relative, City of Man new "Natural Law," in effect with its "new" notions of "Rights," "Liberty," and "Justice," which have for 40 years served, more or less, as the basis of our society and of our Constitutional law in order for the Court to do "Good" and to do "Justice" and establish "Rights" and so forth. This worldview shift in the society generally to humanistic and morally relative, city-of-man notions to do "good" (or Good) and establish "justice" (or Justice, etc.) and to serve as foundations for our society is almost identical, philosophically speaking, to misguided and faulty notions of the French and Russian Revolutions, sad to say. Flag burning, bra burning, draft card burning, pornography, homosexuality, no-theism-God-prayer, abortion for convenience, all became not only "goods" but fundamental foundational "human rights" of all humanity, no less, AND in the Constitution, more or less, supposedly, at least if you wore special humanistic, morally-relative colored glasses to read the Constitution for the purpose, of course, of doing supposed "good" and "justice" (or Good and Justice, etc.) (Sounds all very city of man and European to me?)
Philosophical or grammatical note:
Philosophical or grammatical note: It is not necessary to capitalize Good or Truth or Justice, etc., and the history on this varies. One tends to see the capitalization to emphasize these things (like good, truth, right, justice, etc.) are real or true, or ultimately even "absolute" by their very nature. The postmodernist, relativist-positivist, etc. would in accord with modern grammatical usage never capitalize these notions since for the postmodernist, relativist-positivist, etc. there is no real or actual or meaningful truth, good, justice, etc. (That is the very point of such positions philosophically.)
But before the postmodern era these notions were frequently capitalized for obvious reasons. To say something is "true" or "just" means there is Truth or Justice, etc. This is much like today we often do not capitalize "the Church" when we speak of the whole Body of Christ, though sometimes we do. I am not grinding a philosophical ax here, but clearly our current grammatical standards of never capitalizing Truth, Justice, Good, and Right reflect a certain philosophical bias. I really do not know what the rule should be, always, never or sometimes? Beats me, but I will tell you one thing for damn certain: if you are doing "Rights" court activism, you are, by definition, doing some sort of Natural Law philosophy at least as you perceive it (and not postmodern philosophy) about Good, Justice, Truth and Rights, etc. And about this, there can be no dispute.
Two Conditions are necessary for Court Activism against Original Intent
Two Conditions are necessary for Court Activism against the original intent of the founders and against classical Natural Law theory. One must not only throw out the original rights of the Constitution (or the Natural Law meaning of those rights, which amounts to the same thing), one must also throw off a moral sense of honor or duty to uphold or enforce the rights as originally intended, whether you feel like upholding them or not. Hence, modern activism should never have occurred and would never have occurred unless we had shed as a society a traditional moral theistic worldview with it "rights" because the new rights were not classically or Biblically understood Natural Law of traditional moral theism, AND it is not really the role of the Judges to find new "Rights" which are not in the Constitution or implied by it, even if they are real ones! Further, "activism" by its very nature and practice is overturning the will of the people and keeping them from determining their own destiny, through their Constitutionally ordained legislatures and Congress, etc. I'm not sure, but I think this might be why we have 3 Branches of Government, and it is the very reason we have substantive legislative due process for complicated substantive issues which in fact are not "rights"! (Just a thought) (Note: It was most famously in Plato's Republic and the Communist Politburo that we have had a few judges making substantive laws for everyone, without legislative due process, based on supposed notions of Good, Right, and True, etc. And it is Mr. Popper or is it Mr. Sowell who is most famous for pointing all of this out in our time? Or Mr. Bork? Though some of this tends toward excessive positivism?)
The point is activism is something which should be used very sparingly and in only very specific circumstance and only in relationship to very specifically violated rights, very clearly delineated in the Constitution or reasonably seen to follow from such rights, no?
In short, both Honor and original intent (and, perhaps, fear of impeachment) work on judges to prevent activism against original intent. But the judicial activists, of course, hold that it is because there are such important new "rights," never known before in our history, that these new rights "need" to be in the Constitution or "need" to be so understood to be there now (implicitly), and hence these "new" rights must be imposed on the society against the will of the people in order to do this new "Good" and "Justice," etc.! Without ANY doubt this is all very well-intentioned by the Liberals, and their Humanist allies (to do "Good," of course).
So, for 40 years we have had 5 guys (and gals no doubt) "in black robes" (as the expression goes) running the whole society and establishing its very foundational principles, no less, in order to do "good," no matter what the will of the people and no matter what the Constitution says, and no matter what historical concepts of justice and rights hold to be the case (in the worldview of classical Natural Law or moral theism). And what is even more ludicrous if not outrageous is these 5 turkeys (along with one of our major political parties) think it is their job to do all of this nonsense, which is the very opposite of what their role in government is to do! Shall we call them "misguided"? "No way!"
But, of course Liberalism, or its worldview, is NOT a traditional (Natural Law) moral theism (nor Biblical one) but rather a non-traditional so-called "Natural Law" of "rights" based on moral relativism, license for liberty, and ultimately humanism, and even New Age in recent decades. In short, Liberalism is ultimately a humanism and part of the City of Man, though by its very nature (in doing its own "Natural Law") it claims not to be this. (Do tell?)
I do not want to hit this too hard, but . . .
I do not want to hit this too hard, but the point is, What are we talking about here? We are talking about two basic types of foundations for human societies and government, are we not? Truth, Good, Justice, Righteousness, etc. (philosophically known as the City of God) on the one hand, and on the other, what is known as the City of Man, which either ignores completely Rights, Liberty, Justice, Truth, etc. or it adopts faulty, man-centered notions of these things in order to do "Good," no doubt, but in a misguided fashion. In short, for a Judge, "the Good" he is to do is to uphold the Constitution as written and intended. Very simple. "But," you ask, "what if he or the department at his university, thinks they have found a new universal human right?" Let's be honest, there may be one or any number, right? Fair enough? And, further, what if he or his university wants to dedicate their lives to this cause completely? I would say, "Great! Fine! How noble! How wonderful! How inspiring!"
He, or she, or her university department should start a movement, and eventually it might result in a call for a Constitutional amendment (remember the ERA?), and it may eventually come to a vote in Congress, and it might even be thrown out to the states, and it might even eventually pass in 3/4s of the states. Good Luck. But the Liberals almost NEVER do this of course for their new anti traditional-moral-theism agenda, right? Why? Because anti-moral theism (or anti traditional moral theism, Natural Law, Biblical moral Law, etc.) is not the will of the people, for the most part. So, all you need to do is get 5 judges to change either the meaning of terms involved or to change the proper role of the Constitution in order to do new "Good" and new "Justice" for everyone. How noble?
There is a similar, somewhat misguided, idealism and seeming lust for power in the World Court, is there not? "Why (that Court asks) does not everyone agree that we should be given full power to try all cases of 'crimes against humanity,' no matter what we define them to be, and then enforce our 'judgments' on the world?" Gee, I'm not sure what to say to that tough question. Let me think a little bit on it. . .
There are "interesting questions" and there are "important questions"
Look, I believe it was Mae West who was in Court once (in a movie), and the Judge said to her, "If you don't stop doing so-and-so, I am going to cite you for showing contempt of Court" And she responded, "But, Judge, your Honor, I'm trying not to 'show' it." The truth is atheism or humanism, moral relativism, Liberalism, Post-modernism, "new" theories of Natural Law, and so forth, are not very interesting, intellectually speaking, though they are important. But there are interesting questions in this particular topic as well as important questions, and these are not always the same questions. In fact, rarely are they? I would say for example, that World War II and the War on Terrorism are extremely important issues, and in such cases millions of lives are potentially at stake. Not to offend anyone, but let's be honest, World War II and the War on Terrorism are not very "interesting," intellectually speaking, unless you are a nazis or jihadist, in which case it is all very "profound," but for no one else.
Communists actually sought, also, to conquer the world, bless their souls, but they offered, or at least attempted to offer, a serious intellectual justification for their actions (with an entirely new "moral" atheist worldview, no less), and it had some interesting and serious academic aspects to it, and it is said some intellectuals, and atheists, and even university professors found Communism (and its entire worldview) not only "interesting" but "true." So, there are "interesting" questions, and there are "important" questions, everybody following this? Again, do not want to be a wise guy here, but we are talking about world peace, justice, prosperity, etc., are we not? AND, we are talking about what such a world entails in having societies founded on true Liberty, Justice, Good, Righteousness, and so forth, are we not? AND, we are talking about whether this much prophesied Era in the Bible is really going to happen, and so forth, right?
Why have we all killed each other. . . The "humor" and irony of all of this. . .
Why have we all killed each other in wars and by other means these many centuries now? The "humor" and irony of all of this is perhaps in the fact that it is all just one of those things which is right in front of us, and we just can't see the answer or answers? Maybe, some day, we will stop killing each other in wars for no really good reason? Is there a good reason? Think of the wars, major and minor, we have had in the world in the last 100 years! It is a very common claim of humanist historians to say throughout history more people have died because of religion or religious wars than anything. That is a very common claim in higher education today, but factually false in spades. James says (James 4:1-2) we fight and war as people primarily because we want other people's stuff (more or less), and so, we "war and fight" in lusting, murdering, and coveting, and so forth. You might say, this is something of the fallen human condition, as it were, playing itself out. (Even many lawsuits seem to follow this same pattern, according to Paul anyway?)
In any case, though no doubt since almost all peoples have been "religious" throughout history, they seek the help of their "God" or "gods" in wars, or even fight in the name or names of their God, or gods, and so forth (or even "justice" as they see it), but in truth "religion" or "theology," as such, is rarely the motive for wars, no? But, regardless, the early church, as a practical moral matter, came up with "the just war theory" to say when war primarily as self-defense is morally justified or, that is, in effect, when it is not simply a taking of other people's stuff in a state of lust, murder, and coveting, and so forth. Not complicated really, in theory anyway.
The question is when are you justified in using violence and force in self-defense, and what are the limits and so forth? And this rather obviously is a question of true or real Truth, Justice, and Righteousness, overtly, is it not? And "just war" is a very important, but often not a very interesting question? When Genghis Khan or Attila the Hun is coming over the horizon, don't reach for your philosophy book? But the important and interesting question is, Will we ever reach the prophesied time or era where we do not wage war as a natural part or normal part of national and international affairs, or not? And clearly this has NOT been the case over almost all history, and certainly not in the last 100 years, which have been by far the bloodiest and most humanistic of all history, no? Again, by far and away the most bloody and humanistic?
The bloody, very bloody humanistic 20th Century
Not only historically are most wars in history not "religious," as such, the major wars of the 20th century were overtly humanistic wars of atheism or of mere national power and had a scale of violence, death, and destruction unimaginable in previous more "religious" centuries. One does not want to be too critical of Europe, of course, but it had literally centuries of "so-called" balance of power or territorial wars that culminated in the by far most horrific war (til then) ever, namely, World War I, which was clearly a classic European, secular, nationalistic, balance-of-power turf war on an unimaginable scale, and it continued in World War II as the atheist "Superman" was going to conquer the lesser races of the world, and settle matters once and for all, and so forth. This war was "religious" all right. Religiously "nuts"! But millions upon millions died! But that proved in many ways to be almost minor compared to Communism, which was an entire atheist worldview or "religion" of supposed "justice" which also had to kill or at least imprison millions upon millions in order to do their "Good" and supposed "Justice." None of this unimaginable death and destruction was caused by people believing in God and going out in killing people in their millions because of that. Indeed just the opposite. The major wars of the 20th century were for national conquests and/or humanist-atheist ideologies. Today we have people blowing themselves up, and others, "for God," of course, but no one outside their relatively small bands of fanatics think they have any moral or religious credibility whatsoever, but let's not digress.
What is the point?
Look, what is the point? I think maybe James was right? (Really?) Maybe we have a practical carnal lust problem or even a spiritual selfish or humanistic problem? "No way, man! Not me! You got to be joking!" Well, let's try this from a different angle, shall we? Maybe, just maybe, Jesus had it right, when he said, "My Kingdom (of Truth, Good, Justice, Righteousness, etc.) is not of this world"? Maybe, just maybe, we can say "The Kingdom of God" is a spiritual thing? (Perish the thought!?)
Really, what the Era or Age of Peace, Justice, and Righteousness on earth is all about is ultimately "spiritual," which, you might say, we now know, as a "practical" fact, from the last 4000 years or so of history and human existence. "So, what?" Well, when Jesus comes and says, "You must be born again (spiritually speaking)" or, "The Kingdom of God is within you (spiritually speaking)" or, "Where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name I am in your midst (spiritually speaking)" or, "My Kingdom (spiritually speaking) is not of this world" maybe, just maybe, he knew what he was talking about? (Just a thought.)
Bottom-line: Two reasons for no "City of God," . . . to date anyway!
Why do we not have the Kingdom of God, the practical City of God, on earth, right now? Why have we (we, human beings) not had it for 6000 years? The answer goes back to the 2 ways the City of Man tends to go wrong, no? 1.) I do believe, that we humans either want other people's stuff or power for ourselves or group alone, unfairly, or over others, etc. Or, 2.) We are often misguided (just a little, you might say?) in our efforts to establish true Justice, Truth, Good, Righteousness, Liberty, etc. No? And, both of these are spiritual problems, as well as practical ones, are they not?
I wish to tell you, my dear readers, I am laughing so hard I can hardly type as I sit here on my couch at the coffee table and peck away. . .
Why do we not have the Kingdom of God on earth? Quite simply, we lack the will and the wisdom, and . . . that's about it? And, of course, this corresponds to our (above) one and two reasons or ways (of being lustful or misguided) which cause the City of Man to go astray. . . My Goodness! End of Problem, of all History!!! But, further, this is also "the end" to Part I or this Preface to "the City of God" on earth, that "City on a Hill" Jesus talked about, which we will, well, "do" next time in its spiritual as well as practical aspects having looked at it historically and philosophically so far. Until then, may God richly bless you. Yours, truly. . .