Tink, tink, tink of the still small voice

In his book Barnaby Rudge, Charles Dickens tells the story of the “Riots of 80,” a riot of Protestants against popery (Catholics) in England in the 1780s, that resulted in plundering, murders, and a general state of chaos and unlawfulness.  In the midst of such a volatile atmosphere, Dickens describes a simple scene, in which the tink, tink, tink of a humble locksmith working in his shop rises above the crowd and changes it, almost without notice — he calls it “the still small voice.”

“From the workshop of the Golden Key, there issued forth a tinkling sound, so merry and good-humoured, that it suggested the idea of some one working blithely, and made quite pleasant music. No man who hammered on at a dull monotonous duty, could have brought such cheerful notes from steel and iron; none but a chirping, healthy, honest-hearted fellow, who made the best of everything, and felt kindly towards everybody, could have done it for an instant. He might have been a coppersmith, and still been musical. If he had sat in a jolting waggon, full of rods of iron, it seemed as if he would have brought some harmony out of it.

Tink, tink, tink—clear as a silver bell, and audible at every pause of the streets’ harsher noises, as though it said, ‘I don’t care; nothing puts me out; I am resolved to be happy.’ Women scolded, children squalled, heavy carts went rumbling by, horrible cries proceeded from the lungs of hawkers; still it struck in again, no higher, no lower, no louder, no softer; not thrusting itself on people’s notice a bit the more for having been outdone by louder sounds—tink, tink, tink, tink, tink.

It was a perfect embodiment of the still small voice, free from all cold, hoarseness, huskiness, or unhealthiness of any kind; foot-passengers slackened their pace, and were disposed to linger near it; neighbours who had got up splenetic that morning, felt good-humour stealing on them as they heard it, and by degrees became quite sprightly; mothers danced their babies to its ringing; still the same magical tink, tink, tink, came gaily from the workshop of the Golden Key.

Who but the locksmith could have made such music! A gleam of sun shining through the unsashed window, and chequering the dark workshop with a broad patch of light, fell full upon him, as though attracted by his sunny heart. There he stood working at his anvil, his face all radiant with exercise and gladness, his sleeves turned up, his wig pushed off his shining forehead—the easiest, freest, happiest man in all the world. Beside him sat a sleek cat, purring and winking in the light, and falling every now and then into an idle doze, as from excess of comfort. Toby (the locksmith’s drinking mug carrying the image of a man with the same aspect as the locksmith’s) looked on from a tall bench hard by; one beaming smile, from his broad nut-brown face down to the slack-baked buckles in his shoes. The very locks that hung around had something jovial in their rust, and seemed like gouty gentlemen of hearty natures, disposed to joke on their infirmities. There was nothing surly or severe in the whole scene. It seemed impossible that any one of the innumerable keys could fit a churlish strong-box or a prison-door. Cellars of beer and wine, rooms where there were fires, books, gossip, and cheering laughter—these were their proper sphere of action. Places of distrust and cruelty, and restraint, they would have left quadruple-locked for ever.”

This scene portrays all the curious attributes of the “still small voice” in a way so beautiful, so impressive, so thoughtful.  Note how he positioned its humble tinkling in a busy street during a period of boiling inter-religious strife.  Note also the suggestion that it would “quadruply” lock up distrust and cruelty if it had its full effect.  Note the images and character surrounding the locksmith who exudes its clear unimposing ring above the foray.  Later in the book, the locksmith is abducted by the mob, and despite the terror of it, yet his character still rises above and transcends the vulgar and the debased mob that surrounds him, this time to put them to shame and incur their wrath by his shining example.


Skepticism and Cogito Ergo Sum

“Cogito Ergo Sum” is latin for “I think, therefore I am.”  Most people immediately identify with this phrase, seeing immediately the awkwardness of doubting one’s own existence. But this phrase implies much more than existence — it stands for the inherent human need to rely on principles that avoid self-refutation and self-denial.  This need, and its related presumption of cogent reality, form the basis of all human reason and of all rational human action.  Most people could easily detect hypocrisy if another should approach, point his finger, and cry out “You do not exist!”  The proper response is obviously, “Then who are you pointing at, and who are you yelling at?”  Unfortunately, however, most people fail to identify the same fallacy in its other manifestations, such as “There is no right or wrong!” or “There is no objective reality!” or “There is no truth!”  The proper responses to these assertions are “Then why are you asserting what is right?” and “Then why are you asserting an objective reality?” and “Then why are you asserting a truth?”  To say “There is no right or wrong” is to say, in effect, “I am right to believe that there is no right or wrong, and you are wrong to believe that there is a right and wrong.”  In short it is to assert a right and a wrong.  To say “There is no truth” is to say, in effect, “I know the truth, that there is not truth.”  In short it is a contradictory assertion of a truth. But these assertions do more than unwittingly refute themselves — they would deny to others the prerogative of exercising the same right that they themselves are exercising.  Once the hypocrisy is clear, namely, that they are in fact doing what they deny, then it also becomes clear that, to say “There is no right or wrong!” is also to say, in effect, “My right and wrong is the only right and wrong.”  It also becomes clear that, to say “There is no truth” is also to say, in effect, “My truth is the only truth.”  Thus we see that hypocrisy is also self-aggrandizing, whether intentional or not, and would refuse to others the very right it retains unto itself.  In essence, it is the statement, “Do as I say, but not as I do,” adding the further caveat that, “Only I can say, you just do what I say.”  Here we see the subtle but sure connection between bad reasoning, pride, and tyranny.

But there is yet another subtle connection that must be here observed.  If we define God as representing the embodiment of that universal and cogent reality, upon which our faith, our rationality, and our behavior so completely depend for justification, then what can we say about the assertion that, “There is definitely no God!”  In this case, the asserting party is saying, in essence, “I have searched all of existence and have not found a God,” a patently ludicrous statement.  Or how about the less absolute assertion, “There cannot be a God,” usually said to mean, “God cannot exist, because he is not acting as I believe God should act.”  In this case, the asserting party is essentially placing himself in a God-like state of knowing just how the universe should work.  Or how about the mere assertion that “I do not believe there is a God,” or “I do not believe anybody can know there is a God.”  In this case, the asserting party is essentially saying that “I can have a justified belief that there is no God, but you cannot have the justified belief that there is a God,” or “I have the ability to deduce from reality that there is no God, but you lack the ability to deduce from reality that there is a God.”  So again we see the hypocritical and self-aggrandizing nature of such assertions.  Furthermore, the believer can rationally point to a discernible, cogent reality (which the skeptic unwittingly acknowledges by even participating in the reasoned debate) as a support for his belief in a God, while the skeptic could not rationally argue his non-belief in a God, absent a survey of the entire universe to prove his absence (but even that is in question, because the skeptic, to be consistent, should doubt whether he can even survey reality).  In other words, it is more becoming of humanity to believe until proven wrong, as a believer does, then to deny until proven wrong, as the skeptic does.  Belief leads to discovery, and disbelief to stagnation; for why would a skeptic seek a God whose existence he doubts?  Indeed the skeptic is regressive, but the believer is progressive.

It is precisely this untoward level of skepticism that Descartes, the philosopher of “Cogito Ergo Sum,” was trying to refute.  Descartes began his philosophical journey by doubting everything, by assuming that some malignant devil was out to deceive him in every respect.  Descartes concluded that the only thing that he could surely know in such a condition is the following: That if he could be deceived, then he (or his thought) must exist to be deceived.  But to know this one truth is suddenly to know a lot more — it is to know the limits of skepticism.  The skeptic, like Descartes, assumes that everything is deceiving.  And yet even the Skeptic, like Descartes, cannot doubt everything while at the same time doubting the ability to doubt, which would undermine the foundation of all human reasoning and analysis, offend the laws of human thought and discernment, and leave mankind with absolutely nothing left to rely upon.  To acknowledge the ability to doubt, interestingly, is also to acknowledge the ability to reason, but reason is an act of faith that presumes a discernible existence, and that discernible existence implies truth to be discovered, not doubted.  Consider this statement by St. Augustine: “[B]y not positively affirming that they are alive, the skeptics [hope to] ward off the appearance of error in themselves, [because] one cannot err who is not alive; but that we [and the skeptics] live is…not only true, but it is altogether certain as well; [so the Skeptics still] make errors simply by showing themselves alive [while not affirming the truth of it.]“  Skeptics cannot avoid an inherent hypocrisy in using reason to doubt everything. Skeptics often fail to see, and sometimes even deny, that Faith is the a priori condition to their ability to even doubt.

The real implications of “Cogito ergo sum” are that we must realize the all or nothing proposition of our search for truth.  Either discernible reality exists and we have only yet to discover it, or everything is completely non-sensical.  But if everything is nonsensical, then so are the assertions of the skeptics, whose efforts must then be deemed to be just as useless, pointless, and meaningless as those of a believer.  But assuming that a cogent reality exists and is discernible, the believer will progress in life and truth much more quickly than a skeptic, and the skeptic will only be, at best, a hindrance to those more noble pursuits of believers.  So, believers, be proud of your faith — yours is a good and promising hope, and a boon to all mankind, while skepticism, except in small amounts more properly labeled “critical thinking, can only be a bane to human progress.


Paramount Moments

In the classical novel Jane Eyre, Jane and Mr. Rochester are walking up and down an avenue when, as Jane explains, “[as] [w]e were ascending the avenue he thus paused…[l]ifting his eye to the battlements, he cast over them a glare such as I never saw before or since. Pain, shame, ire, impatience, disgust, detestation, seemed momentarily to hold a quivering conflict in the large pupil dilating under his ebon eyebrow. Wild was the wrestle which should be paramount; but another feeling rose and triumphed.”  Later Mr. Rochester explained:  “During the moment I was silent, Miss Eyre, I was arranging a point with my destiny.”  Mr. Rochester had just experienced what Jane called a “paramount” struggle — the kind of struggle that sets destiny one way or another.

When I was up late one night in a bit of a gloomy mood and pondering over my seemingly troubled life, I began brooding over all the ill effects that seemed to arise from two particular choices that I had made many years earlier, at moments of great import but also of great weakness.  I began to question how almighty God could have left me at those moments to fall into such great error, even when I was at those times seeking guidance that never came.  I admit that at one of those moments I was tired and seeking escape, and I turned to loved ones for support and justification for that escape, but heaven was silent.  I also admit that at the other moment I was getting what I asked for, although I did not realize at the time how much I would suffer for getting it so easily.  In both of these instances, I reasoned, the slightest bit of providence or enlightenment could have significantly altered my life for the better, and saved me years of grief and suffering.  So heavy upon my mind was the burden of these mistakes, and so overwhelming was their ramifications, that I fell into despair and lifted my voice to heaven and asked how a loving God could neglect me so much at those moments of enduring consequence.  At this point in my life, I wasn’t asking it perniciously, as I had done before, but in earnest.  And in answer I received a surprising response.  I was suddenly filled with an overwhelming sense of peace — one so strong that it seemed to smite into oblivion the gravity of my concerns.  So unexpected was this response!  The mistakes weighed so heavily on my mind and caused me such desperate grief in their contemplation that I could not fathom feeling any peace about the matter.  So incongruent was this answer to all that I was feeling that I laughed in my heart that heaven could treat so lightly errors so great and so painful, not only for myself, but for others.  I was utterly baffled and although I fell asleep that night somewhat at peace concerning my mistakes a new confusion was clearly left in its place.

The next morning I awoke still troubled, and I immediately set my mind to untangling the mystery of how I could feel peace (which I was sure was from God, the feeling being so powerful, so absolute, and so unexpected) about such disconcerting matters.  This peace had a strange and twisted effect upon me.  It filled me with this desire, then, to simply not care any more about what was good or bad, or what consequences might follow, if in a moment all the apparent evil that followed such poor decisions could be swept away in a feeling of profound peace.  Something inside of me told me to resist this effect, however; but I was struggling terribly to do so and was on the verge of failing when all of a sudden the peace came to me again, and the words popped into my head “Peace, and Good Will to All Men!”  But with these words came the understanding that I sought, in a way inexplicable to Reason alone.  As these words came into my head I knew that they were an affirmation that God gives Peace not because I [we] deserve it but because he wants to show his Good Will [to all Men].  I suddenly recognized that I indeed made those decisions and that I was responsible for them, and that God did not intervene on those decisions for some wise purpose as of yet unknown to me.  But God does not leave us comfortless!  I realized as I thought on this experience that the burdens and benefits of my decisions belonged to me, and would remain with me throughout this life, but that God could, and did, forgive me for those fateful mistakes, even if He would not remove their temporal consequences altogether from me.  Although I felt the peace of God, yet I could not ignore the many years that I had not felt peace, nor could I ignore the real impact that those years had on those around me.  I realized that if I wanted a better life, and to have a positive effect on others, I still had the responsibility to continue trying to learn from my mistakes and to make better decisions.  I also realized that I would make a mockery of God’s forgiveness and peace, if I should use it as an excuse to persist in erroneous attitudes, behavior, and choices rather than to learn and grow and become a better influence in the world.

All of this seemed so novel to me, as I learned it from my own experience, but it also reminded me of the words of St. Paul, who attempted in his own way to tell us the same thing that I had now learned for myself at this “paramount” moment of my life.

30 And God has overlooked the times of such ignorance; but now commands all men everywhere to repent:

31 Because he has appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained [Jesus Christ]

Acts 17:30,31

23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

27  Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what principle? Of works? Nay: but by the principle of faith.

31  Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we [still] establish the law.  [We still repent and bring good works as we are able.]

Romans 3:23, 27, 31

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ

2 Through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the Glory of God.

3 Not only so, but we rejoice in our sufferings

4 Because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

5 And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who he has given us.

Romans 5:1-5


On Libertarianism and Christianity

Libertarianism is a powerful movement with great potential.  But it, like so many other things, is subject to certain dangers.  This post would warn libertarians to avoid falling into the same false concepts and ideas into which relativism, moderation, and neutrality have fallen.

A fallen notion of Relativism says that all things are relative except this one thing, viz. relativity is absolute.  The Ancient Greek philosophy said that a person should be “moderate in all things” except by all means “be extremely moderate.”  A fallen notion of Neutrality says that all things moral must be limited, except for the new moral of Neutrality.  These philosophies are generally blind to the fact that they prohibit to all others that which they allow only for themselves.  I call them the “blind hypocrite” philosophies.  The False Neutrality philosophy is the best for showing what is really happening within all of these philosophies.  Neutrality was originally understood to exist for the purpose of aiding opposing moral views in their progress and development by mediating to find common ground and generally unify diverse understandings.  The neutral mediator of course had his own moral point of view (as we all do) but restrained himself from imposing that view in order to become the servant of the two oppositional moralities, because he wanted to see them ultimately succeed in their own way and in their own time.  The neutral mediator probably even hoped that the two opposing views would become more unified with his own and other moralities through the experience, and that Truth overall would be strengthened.  The reverse is true today.  It is as though Neutrality, as a concept (and as the person), became more proud of its “neutrality” than it was of “morality.”  In its mind, it would seem, neutrality became the virtue, and morality the vice.   And rather than serving morality and seeking a unification of moral ideas and goals, it began to see its role as ensuring that no single morality should become more strong, or more powerful, than any other, and in so doing raised itself in power and importance far above morality and truth.  Ironically, in taking on its own independent meaning and existence, Neutrality became a morality itself, although it yet believed, and still took pride in the fact, that it was, as it foolishly believed, still somehow “neutral.”  A similar transformation has occurred with the concept of relativity, moderation, and, I fear, if we are not careful, with Libertarianism.

Libertarianism properly advocates for a government that is subject to self-restraint in order to protect liberty.  Similarly, Neutrality is supposed to exercise a self-restraint (but not abandonment) of its own moral point of view in order to contribute towards a healthy, voluntary progress towards Truth on its own terms in its own time.  But even libertarianism can become the evil that Neutrality has become.  The “blind hypocrite” philosophies know no self-restraint.  They are all extreme in that one hypocritical point on which they are so blind.  For False Relativity, it is extreme in its denial of any absolutes, and therefore acts absolutely in its opposition to absolute propositions.  For the Ancient Greeks, they were so extreme in moderation, that a complete devotion to any thing was an offense to the sensitive jealousies of diverse Greek Gods and men.  For False Neutrality, since I have already elaborated on this concept, I will simply point to the current Establishment Clause jurisprudence, which holds that no religion can become too powerful, because the value of Neutrality is greater than the value of any other morality.  (Nebuchadnezzar’s Golden God to which all religious knees must bow.)  False Neutrality acts absolutely to prevent the unification of ideas into a powerful moral force, even if unified by entirely voluntary means, and even before it would ever attempt to “establish” itself against opposing moral views by altering the laws of the land.  False Neutrality, in fact, has already established itself as the ultimate morality of the land, and has already altered the laws of this land to prevent its own ousting, thereby violating the very thing it proclaims to protect.  Again, I reiterate these points to emphasize that a government operating on these philosophies cannot and will not restrain itself.  It will impose relativity, moderation, and neutrality, or libertarianism with an energy and enthusiasm consistent with the words of C.S. Lewis when he said “Of all the tyrannies a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”  And a bare libertarianism, that is, one separate from morality, one that would remove moral and religious motives for government action or restraint, will also fail to effectively restrain itself, and will bear those same ill fruits as its hypocritical counterparts, because it will become equally blind to its own truly moral nature.

As I consider the above failings of social concepts and institutions, I cannot but help think of the words of Christ, “O ye hypocrite, first pull the beam out of thine own eye, then you will see clearly to pull the mote out of they brother’s eye.”  We must ask ourselves, “Why did Christ exercise restraint?”  Was it because he was “neutral” or a “libertarian”?  What was his primary object?  Was it mere non-violence?  Was it the mere absence of extremes?  Was it “neutrality” among opposing views?  No.  We know that Christ advocated for one morality, one God, and one Truth.  We know that he alone above all other men knew the proper way to accomplish that one Ideal, and he above all others knew how to exercise self-restraint.  Apparently, the exercise of self-restraint is a requirement for achieving the morality for which Christ advocated.  Indeed, I would submit, that his is the only morality conducive of the kind of restraint necessary for a free society.  It was in the womb of such a Christian morality that this nation was born, and only in that same spirit do I think it can live to maturity.  If only it would not deny its moral nature and turn a blind eye!  We must pull the beam of moral hypocrisy out of our own eye, and see that there is no avoiding our moral nature.  Morality is with us always, and it is only a question of which morality we ultimately choose: the one true morality, or the blind and false moralities of the world.  Likewise, Government cannot be neutral.  Some morality always controls it, and it is only a question of which morality ultimately predominates.  We must see that the only true and honest government is the unabashedly moral government.  We must see that the only free and limited government is the government that chooses the morality consistent with Christ’s freedom.   And I believe that the only morality powerful enough to withstand the temptation of power is the Christian morality, just as Christ was the only one strong enough to withstand the wiles of the devil.  I am not proposing that Christianity is established as a state religion, any more than Christ attempted to forcibly establish a state religion.  I am proposing, however, that if we truly understand the power of the Christian morality, our primary efforts will be to ensure and strengthen its place and influence in the public square, because we know its influence will best ensure a self-restraining and righteous government.  An amoral Libertarianism is incapable of producing that effect.  We must come to see that amoral government is ultimately a hypocritical and immoral government (and incapable of enlightened self restraint) — a terrible compromise from the greater ideal for which we ought to be striving.

We must lift our vision higher.  Samuel Adams was a radical and visionary man.  He was motivated long before, and far more deeply, than the other founding fathers to separate America from Britain.  Many historians credit him for nearly single-handedly bringing the colonies to the point of crisis that pushed them off of the fence and into the revolution that would change the world.  Why was he so dedicated?  What was his vision?  He believed that America could not achieve its destiny tied to the fallen ways of the old world.  He remembered and believed what his Puritan ancestors had told him, namely, that American would become “a city on a hill” and the residing place of a future Zion.  He knew that could only happen if 1) the colonies were freed from the tyrannical influences of the old world, and 2) the colonies remained firm in their liberty-enlightened religious convictions.  He was called “The Last Puritan” because he, like his ancestors, believed in an openly moral government.  He understood, as I am asserting in this post, that the only good government had to be a moral one, and one imbued with a morality that inherently implied restraint over force, viz. as only the new world Christian morality, enlightened by a history of persecution and intolerance, could do.

To the degree libertarianism advocates a separation of morality from government, I believe, it will only aid in the corruption of government, and effectually prevent the very ends which it hopes to achieve.  Government must be moral, because it must be good.  Libertarianism cannot pretend to be an amoral creature any more than Relativity, the Ancient Greeks, or Neutrality, or else, like them, it will become a blind and hypocritical tyrant of an empty and fundamentally immoral doctrine.  Libertarianism must see this truth  and understand that liberty is to be found in promoting true morality, not in avoiding it.  Enlightened restraint only exists as a product of a true morality, not the absence of it.

Overcoming Our Infirmities

A fundamental Christian belief is that this world is a fallen world. This fall means that the world and its inhabitants are subject to opposing forces vying for dominance.  Thus, negative forces are actively working to sow infirmity in the heart, mind, and body of mankind.  The Christian is taught to overcome negative, destructive forces by calling upon the name of Christ, believing in the power of his redemptive atonement.  A predominant theme in the ministry of Christ was his ability to heal those who came to him with faith, believing that they could be healed of their vice or infirmity.  Christ not only healed spiritual, but also mental and physical infirmities in ways that most of us would find unbelievable.  And yet if this power is real, then we, like those before us, can have hope of deliverance and ultimate salvation from an infirmity that is evidently limiting eternal potential.

But most in the world no longer believe in this healing influence, and this causes them to simply turn off their spiritual and mental faculties and simply deny the problem, because it is too painful to acknowledge infirmity when there is no hope of redemption.  Instead they turn to 1) a rejection that what ails them is truly an infirmity, leading them to simply define themselves by the infirmity and to seek justification, both internally and externally, for their problems, or to 2) incorrectly conclude that the diversity and blessing of our imperfections is not that we can share with others our strengths and gradually overcome the weaknesses, but that we can continue in our weaknesses without shame by plundering others’ strengths.  The first is poisonous in that it turns the soul against anyone who would bring them into the light and help them achieve even greater happiness than they already have, and the second is poisonous in that it pulls its believers into a sense that they are victims who are entitled against the rest of the world for their support.  One must ask whether Christ came and paid the ultimate price in order to merely protect us and preserve us despite our weaknesses, or to also deliver us from our weaknesses and take us to greater heights.

“Be ye therefore perfect, as our Father in Heaven is perfect.” –Jesus Christ

In my faith we have a saying: “Christ came to save us from our sins, not in our sins.”  He wants us to become more like Him, for it is in the becoming that deep and abiding happiness is found.  He did not come to make us a race of dependents, but a race of independents, much like welfare services are meant to be temporary succor while the recipient works to get back on their feet.  If you were Christ, which would you prefer to give to your children by your sacrifice?  Eternal dependence, or, ultimately, Independence?

The light of Christ within us also gives us the ability to apply faith and reason to see with our spiritual eyes what we cannot see with out physical eyes.  The physical world is only the surface of many living, unseen forces at work.  These forces can be seen only by humble faith and active reason.  Christ does not ask us to set aside these gifts of faith and reason, but to apply them diligently to come to know him even better.

“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” — Jesus Christ

With these gifts we can come to see clearly what is truly in our best interests, what will truly bring us the greatest happiness, and, if we see any obstacle in our way, what we must do to receive the miraculous healing of Christ so that we can achieve those things that we have come to see with an eye of faith and a mind of reason.

….everything after that was a pleasant surprise.

My grandpa once told me that he didn’t expect to survive his service in the Korean War, adding that “everything after that was a pleasant surprise.”

I have been having a hard time feeling “blessed” in my life, because I am the type of person that is a perfectionist and idealist in many ways, and therefore tend to see what is lacking before I see all that is working.  In Sunday School last Sunday, however, I was struck by a verse in Deuteronomy, chapter 8, verse 4, which reads: “Thy raiment waxed not old upon thee, neither did thy foot swell, these forty years.”  You can probably deduce that this statement was made to the Israelites after wandering in the wilderness for 40 years.  After all that God had done for them during their self-imposed wanderings in the wilderness, Moses points out these additional blessings.   Why?

I reasoned that it was because the Israelites so completely took these two trifles for granted that they didn’t even think to complain and doubt whether God would preserve their feet or their clothes.  We look back and wonder when we observe the Israelite capacity for complaining, because we see that they were delivered miraculously from slavery, even by passing through the parted Red Sea on dry ground, and that they ate manna provided daily from heaven, but we ought to look more closely at our own complaining and murmuring.  Are not many of us also so focused so much on what we think we need, and what we doubt that God will provide, that we have not realized all that God has already been continually providing?  Relating all this back to my grandpa’s statement, perhaps we should feel that we ought not to have survived the Fall, and that “everything after that was a pleasant surprise.”  Should we feel entitled to anything more than the already inestimable and transcendent gift of life and a chance at happiness that we could not otherwise have had (a chance ultiimately provided by Christ)?  If we viewed life from this perspective, how could we not see that all that we have is already a miraculous gift from God, and so much more than we could ever come to deserve on our own?  And how could we not come to suspect, therefore, that God’s mercy is far greater than we initially thought, and that he very well might, even probably would, provide water from a stone, manna from heaven, and protect our feet and clothing from the wear and tear of 40 years?  If we viewed life from this perspective, why would we not keep the commandments and requirements imposed on us by God and his appointed prophet?

To believe in a Fall and in Christ, therefore, should be the same as being eternally and unconditionally grateful for all that we have already been given, and for all that we might hope (but not demand) will yet be given to us if we will humbly and gratefully pursue and receive it.  The Israelites, because of their ingratitude and resulting disobedience, delayed their entrance into the promised land for 40 years.  We might hope for the same patient providence in our wanderings, and we might even hope that if we bear our burdens in faith, we might enjoy an early arrival to the promised land.

Despite Imperfection – Of Marriage and Politics

The ways I show my love for the Constitution are not influenced to any great degree by the fact that the document is [im]perfect. I am able to love my wife — to serve, protect, and provide for her — even though she, like I, has plenty of flaws. I have many goals and aspirations, and though I often do not live up to them, my wife still loves me. Similarly, we as a nation have repeatedly fallen short of the lofty goals the founders had in creating the Constitution. Though many might argue that this increasing separation is cause for a proverbial divorce, I contend that loving the Constitution–promoting it, defending it, and doing whatever is in our power to see it succeed–can once again restore its intent and realize its goals to secure for each of us the blessings of liberty.

The above is an excerpt from a blog post by Utah political activist Connor Boyack, founder of the Libertas Institute.  We should follow Connor’s example and not get too discouraged when faced with imperfection.  We are surrounded by imperfect systems, imperfect governments, imperfect churches, imperfect political parties, and imperfect people.  Yet we should not be any more discouraged with these than we are with our less-than-perfect spouse, nor any less committed to finding a way to make it work, for the benefit of ourselves, and our families, and our future posterity.

Some people resist working within imperfect systems or organizations, or among imperfect people.  May I recommend that we look upon the imperfections of our life much as a goldsmith would look upon finding some useless ore, interlaced with traces of Gold.  To extract the Gold, the work of the Smith will be slow and tedious, the heat will reach seemingly unbearable limits, and the hammer will have to fall again and again before the dross is expelled and only the pure gold remains…but it will be worth it.  If we roll up our sleeves and persist in purging a fallen society, stroke by stroke, from the dross of ignorance and deceit, then I personally feel that we are fulfilling virtuous lives, even if we find ourselves covered with soot upon leaving the fiery forges of public debate and moral contest.

So enter the debate, don’t give up, and  you will have forged something valuable.

Regulation: The Greatest of all Temptations

The greatest of all temptations is to eliminate evil by resistance, regulation, and compulsion, rather than by virtue; this is to become that which we seek to destroy.  To undertake the regulation of another is to engage in a form of slavery; it is to say that our brother lacks reason enough to be taught and persuaded, it is to lower him to the level of the irrational being and subject him to our “superior” judgment.  Is this not that very crime which we originally set out to destroy?  Do we not violate the dignity of our brother by such behavior?  Rather, we should place the dignity of our brother on level with our own, by trusting that he can be brought to choose good for himself, if given the opportunity, and by restraining ourselves from selfishly preempting his virtue.

But some think appealing to virtue is irrational.  But why would we say so?  Is it because we really believe our neighbor is incapable of virtue?  Or is it really because we find it too inconvenient and too demanding for us to commit ourselves to the greater cause?  It is so much easier to hire “peace” officers and create new rules and regulations.  Where is our patience, diligence, long-suffering, self-sacrifice, and love? Which approach will work best in the long run?  Which approach will require the least work in the long run?

Consider the following words of John Milton –famous poet and writer, and a strong advocate of Christian Virtue:

We ourselves esteem not of that obedience, or love, or gift, which is of Force: God therefore left him [Adam] free, set before him a provoking object, ever almost in his eyes herein consisted his merit, herein the right of his reward, the praise of his abstinence.  They are not skillful considerers of human things, who imagine to remove sin by removing the matter of sin; for…though some part of it may for a time be withdrawn from some persons…yet the sin remains entire. Though ye take from a covetous man all his treasure, he has yet one jewel left, ye cannot bereave him of his covetousness. Banish all objects of lust, shut up all youth into the severest discipline that can be exercised in any hermitage, ye cannot make them chaste…Suppose we could expel sin by this means; look how much we thus expel of sin, so much we expel of virtue: for the matter of them both is the same; remove that, and ye remove them both alike. This justifies the high providence of God, who though he command us temperance, justice, continence, yet powers out before us even to a profuseness all desirable things, and gives us minds that can wander beyond all limit and satiety.


…God uses not to captivate under a perpetual childhood of prescription, but trusts him with the gift of reason to be his own chooser; there were but little work left for preaching, if law and compulsion should grow so fast upon those things which heretofore were governed only by exhortation.


Yet if these things [Regulations] be not resented seriously and timely by them who have the remedy in their power… such iron molds as these shall have authority to gnaw out the choicest [spirits] …the more sorrow will belong to that hapless race of men, whose misfortune it is to have understanding. Henceforth let no man care to learn, or care to be more then worldly wise; for certainly in higher matters to be ignorant and slothful, to be a common steadfast dunce will be the only pleasant life, and only in request….this obstructing violence [Regulation] meets for the most part with an event utterly opposite to the end which it drives at: instead of suppressing sects and schisms, it raises them and invests them with a reputation: The punishing of wits enhances their authority.


Were I the chooser, a dram of well-doing should be preferred before many times as much the forcible hindrance of evil-doing. For God sure esteems the growth and completing of one virtuous person, more then the restraint of ten vicious.


(Speaking on the Regulation of Books)

If it be true, that a wise man like a good refiner can gather gold out of the drossiest volume, and that a fool will be a fool with the best book (or without book), there is no reason that we should deprive a wise man of any advantage to his wisdom, while we seek to restrain from a fool, that which being restrained will be no hindrance to his folly.

What do the below words of Christ have to do with what John Milton is trying to explain?

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.

And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

Give ve to him that asketh thee, and from him that would bborrow of thee turn not thou away.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt alove thy bneighbour, and hate thine enemy.

But I say unto you, aLove your benemies, cbless them that dcurse you, do egood to them that fhate you, and gpray for them which despitefully use you, and hpersecute you.

How wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

– Jesus Christ

The true pursuit of justice and righteousness will begin when we finally understand why Christ counsels as he does in the above scriptures.  Let us no more try to regulate our neighbor and say until him or her “let me pull out the mote that is in [your] eye” while we ourselves, by so saying, make clear that we still have the greater beam in our own eye.”   If we truly have virtue, as Christ did, we will exercise patience, diligence, long-suffering, love unfeigned, and we will come to see that the fruits of that behavior will far exceed and outlast the bitter fruits of regulation.  We will finally learn to acts as Christ did, and we will finally find the world that be promises to us, but that we have been unwilling to seek according to his way.

Love and Law

The finest of friends must sometimes be stern sentinels, who will insist that we become what we have the power to become.  The “no” of such stern sentinels is more to be prized than a “yes” of others.

Spoken by Neal A. Maxwell, an leader in the LDS church.  Another LDS church leader (and former Utah Supreme Court Justice), Dallin H. Oaks, speaks on the relationship between God’s love and law:

The love of God does not supersede His laws and His commandments, and the effect of God’s laws and commandments does not diminish the purpose and effect of His love.

Some seem to value God’s love because of their hope that His love is so great and so unconditional that it will mercifully excuse them from obeying His laws.

Joseph Smith taught that God “institute[d] laws whereby [the spirits that He would send into the world] could have a privilege to advance like himself.” God’s love is so perfect that He lovingly requires us to obey His commandments because He knows that only through obedience to His laws can we become perfect, as He is. For this reason, God’s anger and His wrath are not a contradiction of His love but an evidence of His love. Every parent knows that you can love a child totally and completely while still being creatively angry and disappointed at that child’s self-defeating behavior.

If a person understands the teachings of Jesus, he or she cannot reasonably conclude that our loving Heavenly Father or His divine Son believes that Their love supersedes Their commandments. Consider these examples.

When Jesus began His ministry, His first message was repentance.

When He exercised loving mercy by not condemning the woman taken in adultery, He nevertheless told her, “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).

Jesus taught, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

“That which breaketh a law, and abideth not by law, but seeketh to become a law unto itself, and willeth to abide in sin, and altogether abideth in sin, cannot be sanctified by law, neither by mercy, justice, nor judgment. Therefore, they must remain filthy still” (D&C 88:35).

The above is from a talk Love and Law by Dallin H. Oaks, former Utah Supreme Court Justice, and leader in the LDS church.

The advent of Christ allows for the fulfillment of both of love and law, of mercy and justice; things which otherwise must have been eternal adversairies.  In fact, the whole purpose of Christ’s atonement seems to be to reconcile these apparent opposites, and to fulfill both to the utmost.  Therefore any attempt to use the atonement as justification to disregard or destroy one of these principles at the expense of another is an attempt to pervert Christ’s offering into something that it is not.

See also this article, Is Love a Spectator or a Mover? and this article, Parenting, by Keri Tibbets.

Full text of Dallin H. Oaks Love and Law may be found here.  Also, see a related talk by Dallin H. Oaks, “Judge Not” and Judging.

Hypocrisy of Neutrality

Those who try hardest to fight truth-seeking philosophies adopt philosophies such as “nothing matters” or “everything is relative” or “everything is good” or “we are born perfect” or “there is no real wrong” or “we are environmentally controlled” philosophies.  But these neutral philosophies run into the embarrassment of trying to explain why, if any of those things are true, they care so much about convincing everyone else to believe as they do (i.e. to believe their truth).  If nothing matters, or if everything is relative, or if everything is good, or if we are all merely products of uncontrollable environmental variables, then why try to persuade anybody else of anything?  Why not just accept that people arbitrarily believe things?  If they try to persuade someone to believe as they do, doesn’t that suggest that something matters, that something is absolutely true, that their idea is better and others are worse, or that they think they can influence “environmentally controlled” individuals?   In other words, by the very act of opening their mouths to support their position they become something of the hypocrite.

For truth-seekers (someone who believes in Truth vs. Lie, Justice vs. Injustice, and Good vs. Evil), the neutral philosophies must appear as little more than philosophical scapegoats by which their believers hope to mentally escape from the social responsibilities imposed by such concepts.   Also, for truth-seekers, the neutral philosophies must appear to be especially  intolerant in their hypocritical blindness, even more than a truth-seeker could ever become.  Because Neutralists are so blind to their own moral hypocrisy (of judging right and wrong without realizing it, and condemning others for engaging in wrong behavior), they find themselves on a moral high-horse to be exceeded by no other, whereupon they look down from their ostensible position of “neutrality” and judge ALL “moral” philosophies as the greatest wickedness of all.  Now, although the truth-seekers may become proud and sometimes contend with other truth-seekers on some or another point of truth, and although the neutralist will more often be part of a cohesive group (easily accomplished where the only detail of opinion required by the philosophy is to hate truth-seeking philosophies), yet only the truth-seekers will be able, if they remain humble and meek, to make exceptional progress in the furtherance of truth, understanding, knowledge, and wisdom.   The Neutralist is a specialist only in antagonizing truth-seekers.


Please see this interesting video on “The Secular Church” by Neal A. Maxwell.

“Why, really why, do the disbelievers watch so intently what the believers are doing?  Surely there must be other things for the scorners to do, unless deep within their seething disinterest (i.e neutrality) there is interest (i.e. hypocritical judging of others).”

Download video here: The Secular Church – Neal A. Maxwell

Read full text here.  From A More Determined Discipleship, Elder Neal A. Maxwell,Of the Presidency of the First Quorum of the Seventy, an address delivered at Brigham Young University, 10 October 1978.

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