Obama on absolute truth, continued

Here is the review of Barack Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope” by my former student, Caleb Jones (a.k.a. “The Jones”). Obama’s rejection of absolute truth goes beyond the passage we discussed yesterday, and in fact seems to be a theme of the whole book. I’ll just post the entire review for our consideration. Other people who have read the book, please weigh in. Notice that the issue here is the presidential candidate’s underlying philosophy, worldview, and political theory:

Well, it happened. I was sitting in BWI airport, 2 hours before my flight left, with nothing to do or read. So I went to the mini-bookstore, a collection of New York Times bestsellers and paperback novels, and tried to pick something out. After deciding that I didn’t want to solve Sudoku until my head exploded, read a Steven King novel about a mysterious evil force coming to town, or read another Steven King novel about another mysterious evil force coming BACK to town, I decided to go with…. ….oh man, this hurts…. …The Audacity of Hope, by Barack Obama.

Now Obama’s book was being sold in a Literary Fluff Bookstore, and honestly, he delivered for a while. He talked a lot about the difficulties of running for office, how we shouldn’t have to hate people while we disagree with them (which I agree with, and why ironically, I really like John McCain), and a good bit of other heartwarming stuff. I was actually enjoying myself. He starts talking about our Constitution, however, and it got on my nerves where he explicitly agrees with Justice Breyer’s “Living Constitution” theory. But then, on page 93, he really ticks me off. He is talking about the views of the Founders and the writing of the Constitution when he says:

“It’s not just absolute power that the Founders sought to prevent. Implicit in its structure, in the very idea of ordered liberty, was a rejection of absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea or ideology or theology or “ism,” any tyrannical consistency that might lock future generations into a single, unalterable course, or drive both majorities and minorities into the cruelties of the Inquisition, the pogrom, the gulag, or the jihad. The Founders may have trusted in God, but true to the Enlightenment spirit, they also trusted in the minds and senses that God had given them. They were suspicious of abstraction and liked asking questions, which is why at every turn in our early history theory yielded to fact and necessity.”

This is very odd to me. Especially since just a few dozen pages before this, Obama sees it very important to quote the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (and although not in the book, this next phrase is important, too.) “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Now let’s seriously look at these two statements, Obama says that the Founders said and according to our American system of government, it is IMPOSSIBLE to have absolute truth and ordered liberty. But look at the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self evident,” which means that anyone, through reason, logic, and truth, can know this stuff. It says that we are endowed by our Creator, not any government or majority or human authority, with certain UNALIENABLE rights. Unalienable, it means that you can’t take them away. You can pretend they don’t exist. No matter what kind of authority you set up on earth, no matter how powerful your nation or your empire or your totalitarian state, regardless if you have brainwashed the entire population into believing that they do not have these rights and silenced every opposing voice through force, a government is still WRONG for taking these rights away. No matter what anybody says, no matter what anybody else thinks, this universal maxim holds true. “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men,” meaning the only reason government has ANY legitimacy, is because it affirms (not creates) these rights which were given by God. If a government does anything else, they are silly tyrants, moving men and armies about for selfish gain and vanity, which has no just authority under heaven.
That is the foundation of our Republic, and it is a strong absolute belief. Sorry, Obama. You’re wrong.

After reading this section, I think I figured out a lot of other things in the books. Obama says throughout the book that he “respects” opposing views. The view of original intent. The view of limited government and independence, etc, even though he disagrees with them. No, Obama. You don’t respect these views. If you respected them, you would have deference to them. You would include them in your policies and your legislation. Obviously, you respect the PEOPLE giving these views. That’s why you have deference to them. You try not to demon-ize them as you disagree. But you disagree. You totally reject the view after (hopefully) you have taken those views in and put them through an honest and thoughtful reasoning process. Once you see that they do not logically have any grounding, you reject them. That’s what disagreeing is.

But Obama has a problem with absolutes: Absolutes that derive from religion or even logic, hence the “respecting views.” You see, the non relativistic way of going about this is to appeal to something which everybody shares: logic and reason. These things exist outside of ourselves, because even if we trick ourselves into believing something that is absurd, it doesn’t mean we’re right. We just need a more logical, more reasonable, or more rightly-oriented person to correct us from our fallible human natures. An appeal to logic is an appeal to God and his order, to immutable laws that are written in the foundations of the universe and that exist outside of human thought, emotion, or inclination.

At one point in the book, Obama even says he can’t even bring himself to the absolute rejection of absolutes! (page 97) He can’t bring himself to call some someone else wrong. He has totally rejected reason based on truth. If Obama can’t appeal to that, what does he appeal to? Well, himself, for what else does he have? And that is audacious. Before, this whole thing was silly; now its getting scary. And it once again begs the question, “Who does this guy think he is?”

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Bush is attacked for overstepping the constitution, and not upholding its ideals. This is a debatable position. I think history will shine a much brighter light on him than the present has.
    However, from what I am reading here it seems as if Obama puts not real stock in it at all. He is operating on a system that would very easily allow him to ignore it all together. That is dangerous. A man operating as commander and chief with such notions is setting himself up for a disastrous presidency. I would predict that the charm would wear off quite quick if he makes it to the oval office.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Bush is attacked for overstepping the constitution, and not upholding its ideals. This is a debatable position. I think history will shine a much brighter light on him than the present has.
    However, from what I am reading here it seems as if Obama puts not real stock in it at all. He is operating on a system that would very easily allow him to ignore it all together. That is dangerous. A man operating as commander and chief with such notions is setting himself up for a disastrous presidency. I would predict that the charm would wear off quite quick if he makes it to the oval office.

  • Jonathan

    Dr. Veith, you asked readers to weigh in. OK.
    This essay is a tour de farce.
    There’s not even the pretence of objectivity (e.g., “he really ticks me off”) or the attempt to fairly discern Obama’s points (e.g., “[h]e has totally rejected reason based on truth”). It’s sufficient to assert, without proof, that Obama is intellectually dishonest, that he “has a problem with absolutes,” and that he thus is “wrong.” QED.
    Then, if such logic didn’t do its job, the author gives us the show-stopping closer, the gratuitious, ad hominem stinger that never fails to remind the faithful of why they despise Obama: “Who does this guy think he is?”
    Who, indeed? You wouldn’t know from this review.

  • Jonathan

    Dr. Veith, you asked readers to weigh in. OK.
    This essay is a tour de farce.
    There’s not even the pretence of objectivity (e.g., “he really ticks me off”) or the attempt to fairly discern Obama’s points (e.g., “[h]e has totally rejected reason based on truth”). It’s sufficient to assert, without proof, that Obama is intellectually dishonest, that he “has a problem with absolutes,” and that he thus is “wrong.” QED.
    Then, if such logic didn’t do its job, the author gives us the show-stopping closer, the gratuitious, ad hominem stinger that never fails to remind the faithful of why they despise Obama: “Who does this guy think he is?”
    Who, indeed? You wouldn’t know from this review.

  • Michael the little boot

    Bror @ 1,

    “Bush is attacked for overstepping the constitution, and not upholding its ideals. This is a debatable position.” Cool. Care to debate it, then? I’m not saying Obama is better (he’s just the left’s answer to “same-old, same-old”). But Bush has overstepped the constitution on numerous occasions. Not the least of which was the warrantless wiretaps he authorized.

    And that’s just for starters. Got anything to refute it?

  • Michael the little boot

    Bror @ 1,

    “Bush is attacked for overstepping the constitution, and not upholding its ideals. This is a debatable position.” Cool. Care to debate it, then? I’m not saying Obama is better (he’s just the left’s answer to “same-old, same-old”). But Bush has overstepped the constitution on numerous occasions. Not the least of which was the warrantless wiretaps he authorized.

    And that’s just for starters. Got anything to refute it?

  • Michael the little boot

    Jonathan,

    Out of the park! Kudos.

  • Michael the little boot

    Jonathan,

    Out of the park! Kudos.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Michael the little boot,
    Actually, no. At this time, I don’t care to debate it. Wasn’t the point I was trying to make.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Michael the little boot,
    Actually, no. At this time, I don’t care to debate it. Wasn’t the point I was trying to make.

  • Michael the little boot

    Bror,

    Fair. Sorry about that. I agree Obama doesn’t seem to care about the constitution, I would just add “any more than Bush cares about it.”

  • Michael the little boot

    Bror,

    Fair. Sorry about that. I agree Obama doesn’t seem to care about the constitution, I would just add “any more than Bush cares about it.”

  • The Jones

    Hey guys, I wrote this essay, so I think I should respond.

    Jonathan @2, I don’t think it’s unobjective to get ticked of AFTER reading, or BECAUSE of what I’m reading. Is it? It would be un-objective if I hated the book before I even started reading it. I have to tell you, as a life-long Republican, I had a gut reaction against it. But I remind you like I said in the second paragraph: I was actually enjoying it for a while. It was a good read, until of course, I found things I disagreed with. How is that unfair to react harshly to things I disagree with?

    And about the show stopping closer, “Who does this guy think he is?” I actually think it’s a very important point. The whole essay before outlined the manner of thinking that Obama carried out in his book. He does NOT say “This is wrong and here’s why,” on almost ANYTHING. He does say its bad to be mean and derogatory, and he does say its bad to be corrupt. But that’s small potatoes. I’ve never found somebody who will flat out say “Being mean is a virtue. Corruption is a legitimate way to get your own.” But other than, this, he really makes no arguments. It’s all, I understand, but that’s not the way I’m going.

    Like I pointed out in the last paragraph, on page 97, he says he can’t bring himself to the absolute rejection of absolutes. Here’s the full quote:

    “I can’t summarily dismiss those possessed of similar certainty today – the antiabortion activist who pickets my town hall meeting, or the animal rights activist who raids a laboratory – no matter how deeply I disagree with their views. I am robbed even of the certainty of uncertainty – for sometimes absolute truths may well be absolute.”

    So, if he can’t say “you’re wrong,” but he can still legislate and vote against me, what does he rely on? Reason? Logic? An argument? No, it’s opinion. Arguments affirm one thing and reject another. He’s not in the business of rejection. It’s just his inclination. His form of understanding and deference. His view on what is the best way to navigate through all these convictions. In that case, “Who does this guy think he is” is a very important question.

  • The Jones

    Hey guys, I wrote this essay, so I think I should respond.

    Jonathan @2, I don’t think it’s unobjective to get ticked of AFTER reading, or BECAUSE of what I’m reading. Is it? It would be un-objective if I hated the book before I even started reading it. I have to tell you, as a life-long Republican, I had a gut reaction against it. But I remind you like I said in the second paragraph: I was actually enjoying it for a while. It was a good read, until of course, I found things I disagreed with. How is that unfair to react harshly to things I disagree with?

    And about the show stopping closer, “Who does this guy think he is?” I actually think it’s a very important point. The whole essay before outlined the manner of thinking that Obama carried out in his book. He does NOT say “This is wrong and here’s why,” on almost ANYTHING. He does say its bad to be mean and derogatory, and he does say its bad to be corrupt. But that’s small potatoes. I’ve never found somebody who will flat out say “Being mean is a virtue. Corruption is a legitimate way to get your own.” But other than, this, he really makes no arguments. It’s all, I understand, but that’s not the way I’m going.

    Like I pointed out in the last paragraph, on page 97, he says he can’t bring himself to the absolute rejection of absolutes. Here’s the full quote:

    “I can’t summarily dismiss those possessed of similar certainty today – the antiabortion activist who pickets my town hall meeting, or the animal rights activist who raids a laboratory – no matter how deeply I disagree with their views. I am robbed even of the certainty of uncertainty – for sometimes absolute truths may well be absolute.”

    So, if he can’t say “you’re wrong,” but he can still legislate and vote against me, what does he rely on? Reason? Logic? An argument? No, it’s opinion. Arguments affirm one thing and reject another. He’s not in the business of rejection. It’s just his inclination. His form of understanding and deference. His view on what is the best way to navigate through all these convictions. In that case, “Who does this guy think he is” is a very important question.

  • Michael the little boot

    The Jones @ 7,

    Isn’t your question “Who does this guy think he is?” a rhetorical one, in this case? You answer it in your essay. At least, you answer who YOU think this guy thinks he is. How is it an important point if it’s just a way to restate your argument?

  • Michael the little boot

    The Jones @ 7,

    Isn’t your question “Who does this guy think he is?” a rhetorical one, in this case? You answer it in your essay. At least, you answer who YOU think this guy thinks he is. How is it an important point if it’s just a way to restate your argument?

  • Clayfoot

    Jonathan,

    Speaking of ad hominem stingers, while you’re pointing that one finger, there are four pointing back:
    “This essay is a tour de farce.” “…the faithful of why they despise Obama…(Presuppositions? Now that’s putting words in The Jones’ mouth. Where’s the objectivity you question in him?)”

    I would be interested in hearing your critique of the points he made on topic.

  • Clayfoot

    Jonathan,

    Speaking of ad hominem stingers, while you’re pointing that one finger, there are four pointing back:
    “This essay is a tour de farce.” “…the faithful of why they despise Obama…(Presuppositions? Now that’s putting words in The Jones’ mouth. Where’s the objectivity you question in him?)”

    I would be interested in hearing your critique of the points he made on topic.

  • The Jones

    Michael @ 8

    No, I don’t think I answer the question. I give a survey of his reasoning pattern, but I don’t tell who he is. I think his reasoning pattern gives a great deal MORE importance to the question, though.

    Perhaps the question should be more of a “what is Obama’s opinion on all of the pertinent social issues of the day, on America’s role in the world, on the nature of different classes and traditional socio-economic populations, etc., etc.” Because only by knowing what he thinks will we know they way he goes about it. But, since that really doesn’t flow, I shortened it to the borrowed phrase “Who does this guy think he is?”
    So I guess it might be rhetorical, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an important point. Until I know everything about the man, and I don’t, I won’t know the answer to that question. I think from policy proposals and stuff, we can get a good idea on specific issues. But answer the question FULLY? I think that’s impossible. That’s kinda the way I was hoping it would go in everybody’s head.

    If you want a different way of approaching the kind of relativistic thinking that I’m talking about, read Chapter 1 of C.S. Lewis’ _The Screwtape Letters_. In it, the devil Screwtape is telling how you can get people away from argument by instead of thinking of things as “true” or “untrue,” think of them as “theological, modern, contemporary, or strong.” The goal, according to Screwtape, is to have several inconsistent and self-contradicting philosophies all swimming around in someone’s head. When the “true” one can’t cancel out the “untrue” one, then what you get is a flimsy response.

    This chapter of this book is exactly what I thought of when Obama was questioned by Rick Warren on the time that a baby receives human rights. Obama responded “well, if you’re theological perspective or a scientific perspective…” Can anybody say inconsistent and self-contradictory philosophies creating a flimsy response?

  • The Jones

    Michael @ 8

    No, I don’t think I answer the question. I give a survey of his reasoning pattern, but I don’t tell who he is. I think his reasoning pattern gives a great deal MORE importance to the question, though.

    Perhaps the question should be more of a “what is Obama’s opinion on all of the pertinent social issues of the day, on America’s role in the world, on the nature of different classes and traditional socio-economic populations, etc., etc.” Because only by knowing what he thinks will we know they way he goes about it. But, since that really doesn’t flow, I shortened it to the borrowed phrase “Who does this guy think he is?”
    So I guess it might be rhetorical, but that doesn’t mean it’s not an important point. Until I know everything about the man, and I don’t, I won’t know the answer to that question. I think from policy proposals and stuff, we can get a good idea on specific issues. But answer the question FULLY? I think that’s impossible. That’s kinda the way I was hoping it would go in everybody’s head.

    If you want a different way of approaching the kind of relativistic thinking that I’m talking about, read Chapter 1 of C.S. Lewis’ _The Screwtape Letters_. In it, the devil Screwtape is telling how you can get people away from argument by instead of thinking of things as “true” or “untrue,” think of them as “theological, modern, contemporary, or strong.” The goal, according to Screwtape, is to have several inconsistent and self-contradicting philosophies all swimming around in someone’s head. When the “true” one can’t cancel out the “untrue” one, then what you get is a flimsy response.

    This chapter of this book is exactly what I thought of when Obama was questioned by Rick Warren on the time that a baby receives human rights. Obama responded “well, if you’re theological perspective or a scientific perspective…” Can anybody say inconsistent and self-contradictory philosophies creating a flimsy response?

  • Don S

    I would think that both liberals and conservatives would be very, very afraid of a leader who does not believe in absolute truth or an absolute moral standard. Such an attitude is the root of tyranny.

    Let’s take Michael’s statement: “I agree Obama doesn’t seem to care about the constitution, I would just add “any more than Bush cares about it.” OK, let’s assume that he is right that Bush overstepped the 4th Amendment (unreasonable search and seizure) by authorizing the wiretaps of certain domestic communications between U.S. residents and overseas parties. This does not mean that Bush does not respect the 4th Amendment, or that he does not regard it as an absolute standard for governmental conduct. Rather, it means that he has interpreted that standard as permitting limited wiretaps in the name of national security. That interpretation is subject to court challenge and can be struck down as incorrect.

    On the other hand, if the government no longer acknowledges absolute standards, but rather a relativistic code that can (and should) be constantly adjusted to suit the times, there is no effective recourse for a citizen or minority who is wronged by government action. The standards have, in essence, disappeared, and there is no basis for even challenging government action. History is full of these types of governments. Rome, the medieval Catholic Church, King George, China, Japan, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Cambodia, North Korea, etc., etc.

    Absolute and unchanging standards are the guarantors of our inalienable rights.

  • Don S

    I would think that both liberals and conservatives would be very, very afraid of a leader who does not believe in absolute truth or an absolute moral standard. Such an attitude is the root of tyranny.

    Let’s take Michael’s statement: “I agree Obama doesn’t seem to care about the constitution, I would just add “any more than Bush cares about it.” OK, let’s assume that he is right that Bush overstepped the 4th Amendment (unreasonable search and seizure) by authorizing the wiretaps of certain domestic communications between U.S. residents and overseas parties. This does not mean that Bush does not respect the 4th Amendment, or that he does not regard it as an absolute standard for governmental conduct. Rather, it means that he has interpreted that standard as permitting limited wiretaps in the name of national security. That interpretation is subject to court challenge and can be struck down as incorrect.

    On the other hand, if the government no longer acknowledges absolute standards, but rather a relativistic code that can (and should) be constantly adjusted to suit the times, there is no effective recourse for a citizen or minority who is wronged by government action. The standards have, in essence, disappeared, and there is no basis for even challenging government action. History is full of these types of governments. Rome, the medieval Catholic Church, King George, China, Japan, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Cambodia, North Korea, etc., etc.

    Absolute and unchanging standards are the guarantors of our inalienable rights.

  • Michael the little boot

    The Jones @ 10,

    I see what you mean. I wonder if we can ever really know what a candidate will do, though. Seems most of them have said one thing in the running, then done another once the election came down in their favor. Both sides can be called flip-floppers. (Not that flip-flopping is always a bad thing! I’m glad when a person is big enough to change her/his mind if shown he/she is wrong.)

    I find this funny: “Can anybody say inconsistent and self-contradictory philosophies creating a flimsy response?” I think politics – as practiced now in the US – causes these responses. I don’t think it really comes down to personal philosophies, but to the desire to please the “base” while appealing to “undecided voters” and “the opposition.” Basically, trying to please everyone all the time, which the rest of us seem to know can’t be done. Modern politics is pretty impossible! :)

  • Michael the little boot

    The Jones @ 10,

    I see what you mean. I wonder if we can ever really know what a candidate will do, though. Seems most of them have said one thing in the running, then done another once the election came down in their favor. Both sides can be called flip-floppers. (Not that flip-flopping is always a bad thing! I’m glad when a person is big enough to change her/his mind if shown he/she is wrong.)

    I find this funny: “Can anybody say inconsistent and self-contradictory philosophies creating a flimsy response?” I think politics – as practiced now in the US – causes these responses. I don’t think it really comes down to personal philosophies, but to the desire to please the “base” while appealing to “undecided voters” and “the opposition.” Basically, trying to please everyone all the time, which the rest of us seem to know can’t be done. Modern politics is pretty impossible! :)

  • The Jones

    You bring up a good point about the flip floppers, Michael. And I want to tie that back to something that Nemo (@17) said when he was crossing out words and replacing things in the big quote yesterday. (By the way, Good job, Nemo) He said that ” at every turn in our early history theory *reflected* fact and necessity.

    Now this is one of the reasons I’m liking John McCain and his reasoning ability. John McCain has a consistent pro-life record. If you go to NRLC website, and you can see the breakdown of his “anti-abortion” votes (McCain Feingold campaign finance, McCain-Kennedy Medicare reform, and the stem cell research vote). The one I want to hone in on is the stem cell research vote.

    This is how I saw McCain go about his reasoning on the Stem Cell research vote. The bill was to allow federal funding for research on stem cells from embryos that were frozen in petri dishes. McCain’s line of reasoning was “Wait, aren’t these embryos already dead? We’ve got bigger fish to fry in the Senate. I want to pick a different battle.” The *absolute* *truth* still stayed the same: “Life is sacred and must be protected.” The vote was consistent because he came to the conclusion that “this is not life.” It might have, as NRLC would definitely argue, given a foothold to those who wanted stem cell research, but also in McCain’s reasoning was the fact that “We’ve got bigger battles to concentrate on.”

    Later came the revelation that these embryos could actually be UNFROZEN, and brought to term. Crazy, I know, but it’s possible. So this put McCain in a sticky situation. If he were to remain consistent, he would have to do an about-face and renounce his vote. But soon afterward, (and politically lucky for McCain) came the scientific breakthrough that you can get Adult stem cells to act the same as embryonic stem cells. Therefore, McCain’s conclusion changed to “we shouldn’t even have to worry about this anymore. There are no competing interests.” Instead of renouncing, as he would have had to do (and kind of has done to social conservatives in this campaign), he can just drop the issue. A culture of life is still promoted and the political viability of McCain is saved.

    That’s a “flip flop” based on new information that stays consistent and reflects absolute moral truths. I like that kind of flip flop.

    But have we ever heard Obama say “a baby in the womb is not life.” If that were true, well, you could justify just about the entire democratic platform on abortion. But they don’t go there, ever. They bypass dealing with absolute moral truths because of inconsistent and self-contradictory philosophies.

  • The Jones

    You bring up a good point about the flip floppers, Michael. And I want to tie that back to something that Nemo (@17) said when he was crossing out words and replacing things in the big quote yesterday. (By the way, Good job, Nemo) He said that ” at every turn in our early history theory *reflected* fact and necessity.

    Now this is one of the reasons I’m liking John McCain and his reasoning ability. John McCain has a consistent pro-life record. If you go to NRLC website, and you can see the breakdown of his “anti-abortion” votes (McCain Feingold campaign finance, McCain-Kennedy Medicare reform, and the stem cell research vote). The one I want to hone in on is the stem cell research vote.

    This is how I saw McCain go about his reasoning on the Stem Cell research vote. The bill was to allow federal funding for research on stem cells from embryos that were frozen in petri dishes. McCain’s line of reasoning was “Wait, aren’t these embryos already dead? We’ve got bigger fish to fry in the Senate. I want to pick a different battle.” The *absolute* *truth* still stayed the same: “Life is sacred and must be protected.” The vote was consistent because he came to the conclusion that “this is not life.” It might have, as NRLC would definitely argue, given a foothold to those who wanted stem cell research, but also in McCain’s reasoning was the fact that “We’ve got bigger battles to concentrate on.”

    Later came the revelation that these embryos could actually be UNFROZEN, and brought to term. Crazy, I know, but it’s possible. So this put McCain in a sticky situation. If he were to remain consistent, he would have to do an about-face and renounce his vote. But soon afterward, (and politically lucky for McCain) came the scientific breakthrough that you can get Adult stem cells to act the same as embryonic stem cells. Therefore, McCain’s conclusion changed to “we shouldn’t even have to worry about this anymore. There are no competing interests.” Instead of renouncing, as he would have had to do (and kind of has done to social conservatives in this campaign), he can just drop the issue. A culture of life is still promoted and the political viability of McCain is saved.

    That’s a “flip flop” based on new information that stays consistent and reflects absolute moral truths. I like that kind of flip flop.

    But have we ever heard Obama say “a baby in the womb is not life.” If that were true, well, you could justify just about the entire democratic platform on abortion. But they don’t go there, ever. They bypass dealing with absolute moral truths because of inconsistent and self-contradictory philosophies.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Obama is honest about his (to me evident) consistent post-modernism. Is McCain a modernist? I don’t know enough to say. Personally, I’m neither.

  • http://www.scyldingsinthemeadhall.blogspot.com The Scylding

    Obama is honest about his (to me evident) consistent post-modernism. Is McCain a modernist? I don’t know enough to say. Personally, I’m neither.

  • Jonathan

    Clayfoot, I refer you to comments made yesterday by several people, including me, on the post about this same paragraph from Obama’s book.
    In the main, I object to the criticism that Obama is somehow bereft of reason because he (apparently) refuses to justify his views by saying that they are based on “absolute truth.” As I understand him, Obama does not believe, as some argue he does, that nothing at all can be true, only that he recognizes that it takes more to justify a political idea than simply saying that it’s “true.”
    Senators solve political problems; they do not interpret the Word of God or otherwise handle “truth.” Political solutions demand compromise and the occasional change of mind. Our Founding Fathers were not God-inspired; no one knew that better than they did. We therefore aren’t bound to accept anything they wrote, including the Constitution, as “absolute truth” on par with Scripture. The Constitution, for example, is a brilliant, practical document; yet its meaning must be debated by reasonable people who may well differ. This doesn’t make one side evil for thinking that Justice Breyer makes sense and the other “true” for agreeing with Justice Thomas. I don’t think Obama is saying more than that.
    “Who does he think he is?” He realizes he’s a fallible man who does not have all the answers. God bless him.
    Contrast that with McCain, who told Rick Warren simply that “evil” must be destroyed. That comment drew lots of applause from the evangelical right when it should have caused us to gasp in disbelief. How in the world can a US president – unless he’s has godlike powers – destroy evil? How does he define and identify evil? How does he destroy it? And who is he to destroy it? To the believers in original intent, I ask is that task recognized by the Constitution?
    Well, who cares? It was a manly, forthright statement that rang of “absolute truth,” though even McCain probably knew it was red-meat hyperbole. So we all cheered and then blasted Obama for failing to promise us “absolute truth.”

  • Jonathan

    Clayfoot, I refer you to comments made yesterday by several people, including me, on the post about this same paragraph from Obama’s book.
    In the main, I object to the criticism that Obama is somehow bereft of reason because he (apparently) refuses to justify his views by saying that they are based on “absolute truth.” As I understand him, Obama does not believe, as some argue he does, that nothing at all can be true, only that he recognizes that it takes more to justify a political idea than simply saying that it’s “true.”
    Senators solve political problems; they do not interpret the Word of God or otherwise handle “truth.” Political solutions demand compromise and the occasional change of mind. Our Founding Fathers were not God-inspired; no one knew that better than they did. We therefore aren’t bound to accept anything they wrote, including the Constitution, as “absolute truth” on par with Scripture. The Constitution, for example, is a brilliant, practical document; yet its meaning must be debated by reasonable people who may well differ. This doesn’t make one side evil for thinking that Justice Breyer makes sense and the other “true” for agreeing with Justice Thomas. I don’t think Obama is saying more than that.
    “Who does he think he is?” He realizes he’s a fallible man who does not have all the answers. God bless him.
    Contrast that with McCain, who told Rick Warren simply that “evil” must be destroyed. That comment drew lots of applause from the evangelical right when it should have caused us to gasp in disbelief. How in the world can a US president – unless he’s has godlike powers – destroy evil? How does he define and identify evil? How does he destroy it? And who is he to destroy it? To the believers in original intent, I ask is that task recognized by the Constitution?
    Well, who cares? It was a manly, forthright statement that rang of “absolute truth,” though even McCain probably knew it was red-meat hyperbole. So we all cheered and then blasted Obama for failing to promise us “absolute truth.”

  • Michael the little boot

    Don S @ 11,

    “Absolute and unchanging standards are the guarantors of our inalienable rights.” Do these exist outside our defense of them? What I mean is, this statement might better reflect our responsibility as citizens if it were amended to say “Our refusal to relinquish absolute and unchanging standards is the guarantor of our inalienable rights.” But I think it’s fairly clear our government is not interested in maintaining these standards for us, and I think that’s reflected across party lines.

    As for the warrantless wiretaps, Don, your inability to admit this was a loss of liberty for the average citizen fills me with deep concern. The evidence is clear. The Bush Administration was even hard pressed to support its’ case without consigning certain facts to the “state secrets” bin so they could not be brought up in court. While I agree with you that a government which does not acknowledge absolute standards is dangerous, you seem to think the left are the only people capable of this. Or, at the very least, that the Bush administration has only the best interest of the citizens at heart. I think you’d be hard-pressed to show that to be true.

  • Michael the little boot

    Don S @ 11,

    “Absolute and unchanging standards are the guarantors of our inalienable rights.” Do these exist outside our defense of them? What I mean is, this statement might better reflect our responsibility as citizens if it were amended to say “Our refusal to relinquish absolute and unchanging standards is the guarantor of our inalienable rights.” But I think it’s fairly clear our government is not interested in maintaining these standards for us, and I think that’s reflected across party lines.

    As for the warrantless wiretaps, Don, your inability to admit this was a loss of liberty for the average citizen fills me with deep concern. The evidence is clear. The Bush Administration was even hard pressed to support its’ case without consigning certain facts to the “state secrets” bin so they could not be brought up in court. While I agree with you that a government which does not acknowledge absolute standards is dangerous, you seem to think the left are the only people capable of this. Or, at the very least, that the Bush administration has only the best interest of the citizens at heart. I think you’d be hard-pressed to show that to be true.

  • The Jones

    Jonathan @ 15

    Isn’t it true that “evil should be destroyed”? If that is not true, you would have to say “evil should NOT be destroyed.”

    Now, what I definitely think you’re going at are questions like “what is evil?” “how do we differentiate between good and evil mingling together, sometimes in the same place, sometimes in the same being?” “are people evil or are the things they do evil?” These are all good questions which are asked to oneself in a reasoning process. Many theologians have already done a great deal of it. But the basic assumption that we should destroy evil, why should I gasp at that?

    We all should, including the president, proceed to do good “with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.” If we see what is right, we are bound to do it. We should not close our eyes to the truth, whether it be the truth of factual observances or moral imperatives. We should not let “theological or scientific perspectives” get in the way of firmness in the pursuit of what is TRUE and GOOD.

    We can argue all day about what is the case or isn’t the case regarding factual observances relating to abortion, war, the economy, or whatever. We can even talk about the specifics of the moral imperatives behind our reasoning. Those are good questions to have.

    But to say that we cannot know anything. That we cannot have absolutes or the rejection of absolutes. To give up on the pursuit of what is True, Good, and Beautiful, that is not understanding and deference. That is moral weakness.

  • The Jones

    Jonathan @ 15

    Isn’t it true that “evil should be destroyed”? If that is not true, you would have to say “evil should NOT be destroyed.”

    Now, what I definitely think you’re going at are questions like “what is evil?” “how do we differentiate between good and evil mingling together, sometimes in the same place, sometimes in the same being?” “are people evil or are the things they do evil?” These are all good questions which are asked to oneself in a reasoning process. Many theologians have already done a great deal of it. But the basic assumption that we should destroy evil, why should I gasp at that?

    We all should, including the president, proceed to do good “with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.” If we see what is right, we are bound to do it. We should not close our eyes to the truth, whether it be the truth of factual observances or moral imperatives. We should not let “theological or scientific perspectives” get in the way of firmness in the pursuit of what is TRUE and GOOD.

    We can argue all day about what is the case or isn’t the case regarding factual observances relating to abortion, war, the economy, or whatever. We can even talk about the specifics of the moral imperatives behind our reasoning. Those are good questions to have.

    But to say that we cannot know anything. That we cannot have absolutes or the rejection of absolutes. To give up on the pursuit of what is True, Good, and Beautiful, that is not understanding and deference. That is moral weakness.

  • Nemo

    Jonathan, you write “I object to the criticism that Obama is somehow bereft of reason because he (apparently) refuses to justify his views by saying that they are based on “absolute truth.” It is not the language that he uses, as if we think that “absolute truth” is some sort of mantra, but rather the concept that we see Obama espousing by such language. What he means in the paragraph we were discussing yesterday is somewhat ambiguous, which is why I broke it down line by line and then rewrote it in an attempt to see what would have to be changed for your interpretation to work with the text. However, the additional quote provided by Caleb sheds more light on the matter, as well as explaining the “above my pay grade” comment very well:

    I can’t summarily dismiss those possessed of similar certainty today – the antiabortion activist who pickets my town hall meeting, or the animal rights activist who raids a laboratory – no matter how deeply I disagree with their views. I am robbed even of the certainty of uncertainty – for sometimes absolute truths may well be absolute.

    I hear remorse here. Obama wants to cling to something, to know with certainty that there is a cause that is right. He is envious of the certainty of both the abitabortion activists and the animal rights activists. They have a cause they believe in. Does he?

    Call it “absolute truth”, call it “truth”, call it “certainty”, the question before us is not just did the founders have it but does Obama have it? You say, “Obama does not believe, as some argue he does, that nothing at all can be true, only that he recognizes that it takes more to justify a political idea than simply saying that it’s ‘true.’” On the one hand, you are correct. He appears to hold out hope that there may some things that are absolute and can known with certainty, yet at the same time clings to his open-mindedness. Chesterton wrote “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” The question this leaves me with is what is the threshold for Obama? What will Obama shut his mind on and hold to unwaivering? Can a man with such a view take a stand on principle?

    Michael, not to interrupt on the little discussion you and Don are having, but does Obama have any solid grounds to criticize the use of warrantless wiretapping (other than seeking popularity)? Would warrantless wiretapping not be—as with his view of the the founders—another example of “theory [of privacy] yield[ing] to fact and necessity [of security]”? Once you allow for theory yielding to necessity, any outrage or tyranny can be justified, or so Machiavelli advised his prince.

  • Nemo

    Jonathan, you write “I object to the criticism that Obama is somehow bereft of reason because he (apparently) refuses to justify his views by saying that they are based on “absolute truth.” It is not the language that he uses, as if we think that “absolute truth” is some sort of mantra, but rather the concept that we see Obama espousing by such language. What he means in the paragraph we were discussing yesterday is somewhat ambiguous, which is why I broke it down line by line and then rewrote it in an attempt to see what would have to be changed for your interpretation to work with the text. However, the additional quote provided by Caleb sheds more light on the matter, as well as explaining the “above my pay grade” comment very well:

    I can’t summarily dismiss those possessed of similar certainty today – the antiabortion activist who pickets my town hall meeting, or the animal rights activist who raids a laboratory – no matter how deeply I disagree with their views. I am robbed even of the certainty of uncertainty – for sometimes absolute truths may well be absolute.

    I hear remorse here. Obama wants to cling to something, to know with certainty that there is a cause that is right. He is envious of the certainty of both the abitabortion activists and the animal rights activists. They have a cause they believe in. Does he?

    Call it “absolute truth”, call it “truth”, call it “certainty”, the question before us is not just did the founders have it but does Obama have it? You say, “Obama does not believe, as some argue he does, that nothing at all can be true, only that he recognizes that it takes more to justify a political idea than simply saying that it’s ‘true.’” On the one hand, you are correct. He appears to hold out hope that there may some things that are absolute and can known with certainty, yet at the same time clings to his open-mindedness. Chesterton wrote “Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” The question this leaves me with is what is the threshold for Obama? What will Obama shut his mind on and hold to unwaivering? Can a man with such a view take a stand on principle?

    Michael, not to interrupt on the little discussion you and Don are having, but does Obama have any solid grounds to criticize the use of warrantless wiretapping (other than seeking popularity)? Would warrantless wiretapping not be—as with his view of the the founders—another example of “theory [of privacy] yield[ing] to fact and necessity [of security]”? Once you allow for theory yielding to necessity, any outrage or tyranny can be justified, or so Machiavelli advised his prince.

  • Nemo

    One additional thought. Obama cannot share the certainty of the antiabortion activist or the animal rights activist (left and right examples). Does he share certainty with the abolitionist?

    As I stated before, the doctrine of truth and necessity he espouses is the very same one used to justify slavery for so long.

    (No, I am not accusing Obama of being pro-slavery. I hope he does share the certainty of the abolitionist. He may be, and probably is, better than his theory. But can he justify such beliefs?)

  • Nemo

    One additional thought. Obama cannot share the certainty of the antiabortion activist or the animal rights activist (left and right examples). Does he share certainty with the abolitionist?

    As I stated before, the doctrine of truth and necessity he espouses is the very same one used to justify slavery for so long.

    (No, I am not accusing Obama of being pro-slavery. I hope he does share the certainty of the abolitionist. He may be, and probably is, better than his theory. But can he justify such beliefs?)

  • Michael the little boot

    Nemo @ 18,

    I have to wonder why you asked this question at all, and especially why you asked it of me: “[D]oes Obama have any solid grounds to criticize the use of warrantless wiretapping (other than seeking popularity)?” I hope you’re not simply assuming I support Obama. I do not. I don’t really see what that has to do with the things Don and I have discussed. If you can go into more detail, I’d appreciate it. As it stands, I’m lost. I don’t want to answer something I don’t quite grasp.

    I would ask you, though: can you show a substantive difference in how ANY of the administrations in the past thirty or forty years would treat this question? I think they’ve all used this to their advantage. It’s the same reasoning behind things like the Patriot Act. They appeal to our fear, and we cheer them on, all the while losing our liberties, little by little.

    Also, there’s some recent scholarship that shows Machiavelli was a satirist. I don’t know if that really changes your use of his words, but just in case, I thought I’d throw that in…

  • Michael the little boot

    Nemo @ 18,

    I have to wonder why you asked this question at all, and especially why you asked it of me: “[D]oes Obama have any solid grounds to criticize the use of warrantless wiretapping (other than seeking popularity)?” I hope you’re not simply assuming I support Obama. I do not. I don’t really see what that has to do with the things Don and I have discussed. If you can go into more detail, I’d appreciate it. As it stands, I’m lost. I don’t want to answer something I don’t quite grasp.

    I would ask you, though: can you show a substantive difference in how ANY of the administrations in the past thirty or forty years would treat this question? I think they’ve all used this to their advantage. It’s the same reasoning behind things like the Patriot Act. They appeal to our fear, and we cheer them on, all the while losing our liberties, little by little.

    Also, there’s some recent scholarship that shows Machiavelli was a satirist. I don’t know if that really changes your use of his words, but just in case, I thought I’d throw that in…

  • Don S

    Michael @ 16: I think we are very close to agreement :)

    I think your restatement of my proposition is a fair one. And I also agree that our government, across party lines, has generally refused to adhere to its own absolute Constitutional standards in its governance. This is particularly egregious in the case of the courts, which have adopted the concept of a “living, mutating” Constitution in their desire to avoid bright line rules. Every case is decided on its individual facts, and there is little assurance to any citizen that the rights appearing on paper in the original Constitution will be applied to protect them in the manner originally intended by the Founders. This is very unfortunate, because it largely turns the Constitution inside out, from a document which protects the individual citizen from the government into a document which protects the government, and collective rights, in favor of the individual.

    Regarding the wiretapping issue: I conceded, for the purposes of my post, that the wiretapping program had been overly ambitious and had overstepped Constitututional bounds, so I’m not sure as to the thrust of your question. I certainly acknowledge that the right, as well as the left, is perfectly capable of infringing on individuals’ rights. That’s why we need absolute standards, not malleable ones.

  • Don S

    Michael @ 16: I think we are very close to agreement :)

    I think your restatement of my proposition is a fair one. And I also agree that our government, across party lines, has generally refused to adhere to its own absolute Constitutional standards in its governance. This is particularly egregious in the case of the courts, which have adopted the concept of a “living, mutating” Constitution in their desire to avoid bright line rules. Every case is decided on its individual facts, and there is little assurance to any citizen that the rights appearing on paper in the original Constitution will be applied to protect them in the manner originally intended by the Founders. This is very unfortunate, because it largely turns the Constitution inside out, from a document which protects the individual citizen from the government into a document which protects the government, and collective rights, in favor of the individual.

    Regarding the wiretapping issue: I conceded, for the purposes of my post, that the wiretapping program had been overly ambitious and had overstepped Constitututional bounds, so I’m not sure as to the thrust of your question. I certainly acknowledge that the right, as well as the left, is perfectly capable of infringing on individuals’ rights. That’s why we need absolute standards, not malleable ones.

  • Michael the little boot

    Don @ 21,

    My goodness! Wonders never cease! :)

    I, for one, am glad we’ve finally come this close to agreeing on something! Seems you are, as well.

    I do apologize for missing your concession about wiretapping. I am definitely overeager…

    The only thing I have to say about the transformation of our Constitution, which you discuss in your first paragraph, is that it’s sad. I think it’s one reason the Founders kept pointing out it’s our responsibility to hold our government to account. Now that it’s as powerful as it is, I wonder if our ability to do that has decreased to the point where we’re powerless. I’m not too hopeful, as BOTH mainstream candidates are not promising.

    Not that I agree with everything he says, but I wish more people would listen when Ron Paul speaks…

  • Michael the little boot

    Don @ 21,

    My goodness! Wonders never cease! :)

    I, for one, am glad we’ve finally come this close to agreeing on something! Seems you are, as well.

    I do apologize for missing your concession about wiretapping. I am definitely overeager…

    The only thing I have to say about the transformation of our Constitution, which you discuss in your first paragraph, is that it’s sad. I think it’s one reason the Founders kept pointing out it’s our responsibility to hold our government to account. Now that it’s as powerful as it is, I wonder if our ability to do that has decreased to the point where we’re powerless. I’m not too hopeful, as BOTH mainstream candidates are not promising.

    Not that I agree with everything he says, but I wish more people would listen when Ron Paul speaks…

  • Jonathan

    Some rambling thoughts. Please bear with me.
    I’ve long thought that Christians (and I am one) are of all Americans the most easily moved (fooled) by political rhetoric. We love to have our ears tickled, which is why, I think, we’re most susceptible to manipulation, particularly by the Right, which has our number cold.
    I suspect that it’s mainly because we don’t insist that deeds match words. We don’t do it in the political realm because we don’t do it in our churches. I, for example, attend a WELS church where the greatest sin one can commit (verbally speaking) is to question someone’s faith, even when someone’s actions or words indicate a decided lack of faith. We make excuses for each other constantly, and many times we should, while recognizing that we all have faults. (But we’re still sane enough, I hope, in most cases to not allow a paroled child molester to babysit our children, rhetoric notwithstanding.)
    But we carry our habit of loving words over deeds into the political realm, where an office holder like McCain tell us (when he sees Christians in the audience) that evil must be destroyed. He scared the daylights out of me, though I suspect that deep down McCain knows that he’s jiving us. He scared me, not because, as some surmise, I am pro evil, but because I know that he can’t destroy it, though he may cause a lot of it by trying. So do withhold judgment until we ask him how he defines evil? Or what evil he already has destroyed? What evil can a US president really destroy? Is it more than a Canadian prime minister can?
    For the moment, let’s just limit evil to brown people living across the oceans who say or do bad things to the United States. We can kill such people, but not all of them. Why is killing somone destroying evil? Why do we think of detroying evil in military terms?
    Christ, whom we profess to follow, said that evil comes from our hearts. What’s McCain going to do about that? Why couldn’t he just have said that he would do what he could to limit or contain evil? Even that’s a tall order, but he, seeing Christians in the audience, vowed to “destroy” evil, and we love him all the more.
    Meanwhile, we spend two days dissecting a paragraph by Obama as if it were a scrap from a Dead Sea scroll, trying to find out from a few sentences what he means by “truth.” And we righteously conclude that, unlike McCain, he doesn’t believe in it at all! He doesn’t believe in truth!
    He gets no benefit of the doubt. No possibility that we could be wrong or that his words are not as clear as perhaps they could and should be. No reading anything else he wrote to put that one paragraph in context, and no, God forbid, judging him by his subsequent actions or even by anything he’s said since he wrote that one paragraph. Nope, Obama’s a truth-denying liberal, he’s a Democrat, and that means that Communism is just around the corner. The old Red scare, just as effective today.

  • Jonathan

    Some rambling thoughts. Please bear with me.
    I’ve long thought that Christians (and I am one) are of all Americans the most easily moved (fooled) by political rhetoric. We love to have our ears tickled, which is why, I think, we’re most susceptible to manipulation, particularly by the Right, which has our number cold.
    I suspect that it’s mainly because we don’t insist that deeds match words. We don’t do it in the political realm because we don’t do it in our churches. I, for example, attend a WELS church where the greatest sin one can commit (verbally speaking) is to question someone’s faith, even when someone’s actions or words indicate a decided lack of faith. We make excuses for each other constantly, and many times we should, while recognizing that we all have faults. (But we’re still sane enough, I hope, in most cases to not allow a paroled child molester to babysit our children, rhetoric notwithstanding.)
    But we carry our habit of loving words over deeds into the political realm, where an office holder like McCain tell us (when he sees Christians in the audience) that evil must be destroyed. He scared the daylights out of me, though I suspect that deep down McCain knows that he’s jiving us. He scared me, not because, as some surmise, I am pro evil, but because I know that he can’t destroy it, though he may cause a lot of it by trying. So do withhold judgment until we ask him how he defines evil? Or what evil he already has destroyed? What evil can a US president really destroy? Is it more than a Canadian prime minister can?
    For the moment, let’s just limit evil to brown people living across the oceans who say or do bad things to the United States. We can kill such people, but not all of them. Why is killing somone destroying evil? Why do we think of detroying evil in military terms?
    Christ, whom we profess to follow, said that evil comes from our hearts. What’s McCain going to do about that? Why couldn’t he just have said that he would do what he could to limit or contain evil? Even that’s a tall order, but he, seeing Christians in the audience, vowed to “destroy” evil, and we love him all the more.
    Meanwhile, we spend two days dissecting a paragraph by Obama as if it were a scrap from a Dead Sea scroll, trying to find out from a few sentences what he means by “truth.” And we righteously conclude that, unlike McCain, he doesn’t believe in it at all! He doesn’t believe in truth!
    He gets no benefit of the doubt. No possibility that we could be wrong or that his words are not as clear as perhaps they could and should be. No reading anything else he wrote to put that one paragraph in context, and no, God forbid, judging him by his subsequent actions or even by anything he’s said since he wrote that one paragraph. Nope, Obama’s a truth-denying liberal, he’s a Democrat, and that means that Communism is just around the corner. The old Red scare, just as effective today.

  • JPW

    Jonathan,

    Caleb did read the book, not just that one paragraph. Besides, in multiple paragraphs Obama either questioned or denied absolute truth (we’re still debating what he said, I guess).

    I do agree that McCain has the wrong idea about defeating evil. But we ought also to read McCain’s comments in the right context. McCain seemed to only consider the question within the context of the war on terror, rightly or wrongly. He didn’t consider it in the abstract.

    One more point about the Red Scare: There were Communist spies in the US Government! Why does no one remember this? Read “Witness” by Whittaker Chambers. Communism really was a threat! McCarthy went a little nuts, but Alger Hiss was a criminal.

  • JPW

    Jonathan,

    Caleb did read the book, not just that one paragraph. Besides, in multiple paragraphs Obama either questioned or denied absolute truth (we’re still debating what he said, I guess).

    I do agree that McCain has the wrong idea about defeating evil. But we ought also to read McCain’s comments in the right context. McCain seemed to only consider the question within the context of the war on terror, rightly or wrongly. He didn’t consider it in the abstract.

    One more point about the Red Scare: There were Communist spies in the US Government! Why does no one remember this? Read “Witness” by Whittaker Chambers. Communism really was a threat! McCarthy went a little nuts, but Alger Hiss was a criminal.

  • Nemo

    Jonathan,

    You’ve baited us several times with the McCain comment on evil at the Saddleback Forum, and you are correct in that we should subject both candidates to scrutiny. Here is your argument against McCain’s response, pulled from two previous posts.

    Contrast that with McCain, who told Rick Warren simply that “evil” must be destroyed. That comment drew lots of applause from the evangelical right when it should have caused us to gasp in disbelief. How in the world can a US president – unless he’s has godlike powers – destroy evil? How does he define and identify evil? How does he destroy it? And who is he to destroy it? To the believers in original intent, I ask is that task recognized by the Constitution?

    [W]e carry our habit of loving words over deeds into the political realm, where an office holder like McCain tell us (when he sees Christians in the audience) that evil must be destroyed. He scared the daylights out of me, though I suspect that deep down McCain knows that he’s jiving us. He scared me, not because, as some surmise, I am pro evil, but because I know that he can’t destroy it, though he may cause a lot of it by trying. So do withhold judgment until we ask him how he defines evil? Or what evil he already has destroyed? What evil can a US president really destroy? Is it more than a Canadian prime minister can?
    For the moment, let’s just limit evil to brown people living across the oceans who say or do bad things to the United States. We can kill such people, but not all of them. Why is killing somone [sic] destroying evil? Why do we think of detroying [sic] evil in military terms?

    First of all I think it is important to note that this (as with Obama’s writing) is to be taken in the context of the civil government. Or, to put it another way, the reaction to evil may be different for someone speaking from the vocation as a civil leader than as, say, a citizen, a father, or a pastor.

    So, then, what is the role of the civil government when it comes to evil? Both Paul and Peter can instruct us here. Romans 13:3-4 reads For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad [KJV translates it “evil”]. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. and 1 Peter 2:13-14 reads Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.

    Now there have been many debates in Christianity as to whether we should submit to governments that reverse this—that punish good and reward evil. But that is beside the point here. The point is that, in Christianity, the government has a specific role in identifying and punishing evil, even including a military component (“the sword”).

    I think that one can also draw from these passages that the type of evil the government is supposed to punish is different from the evil that is necessarily inherent in everyone (Romans 7:21-23). Otherwise the civil government would be justified in punishing all people, since even the redeemed have evil within them.

    So, will the government be able to destroy evil? Nope. Not going to happen. Only Christ’s return will do that. Do I want a civic leader who, recognizing this truth, throws up his hands in surrender? Nope.

  • Nemo

    Jonathan,

    You’ve baited us several times with the McCain comment on evil at the Saddleback Forum, and you are correct in that we should subject both candidates to scrutiny. Here is your argument against McCain’s response, pulled from two previous posts.

    Contrast that with McCain, who told Rick Warren simply that “evil” must be destroyed. That comment drew lots of applause from the evangelical right when it should have caused us to gasp in disbelief. How in the world can a US president – unless he’s has godlike powers – destroy evil? How does he define and identify evil? How does he destroy it? And who is he to destroy it? To the believers in original intent, I ask is that task recognized by the Constitution?

    [W]e carry our habit of loving words over deeds into the political realm, where an office holder like McCain tell us (when he sees Christians in the audience) that evil must be destroyed. He scared the daylights out of me, though I suspect that deep down McCain knows that he’s jiving us. He scared me, not because, as some surmise, I am pro evil, but because I know that he can’t destroy it, though he may cause a lot of it by trying. So do withhold judgment until we ask him how he defines evil? Or what evil he already has destroyed? What evil can a US president really destroy? Is it more than a Canadian prime minister can?
    For the moment, let’s just limit evil to brown people living across the oceans who say or do bad things to the United States. We can kill such people, but not all of them. Why is killing somone [sic] destroying evil? Why do we think of detroying [sic] evil in military terms?

    First of all I think it is important to note that this (as with Obama’s writing) is to be taken in the context of the civil government. Or, to put it another way, the reaction to evil may be different for someone speaking from the vocation as a civil leader than as, say, a citizen, a father, or a pastor.

    So, then, what is the role of the civil government when it comes to evil? Both Paul and Peter can instruct us here. Romans 13:3-4 reads For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad [KJV translates it “evil”]. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. and 1 Peter 2:13-14 reads Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.

    Now there have been many debates in Christianity as to whether we should submit to governments that reverse this—that punish good and reward evil. But that is beside the point here. The point is that, in Christianity, the government has a specific role in identifying and punishing evil, even including a military component (“the sword”).

    I think that one can also draw from these passages that the type of evil the government is supposed to punish is different from the evil that is necessarily inherent in everyone (Romans 7:21-23). Otherwise the civil government would be justified in punishing all people, since even the redeemed have evil within them.

    So, will the government be able to destroy evil? Nope. Not going to happen. Only Christ’s return will do that. Do I want a civic leader who, recognizing this truth, throws up his hands in surrender? Nope.

  • Michael the little boot

    JPW @ 24,

    There were US spies in the Soviet government as well. That’s why they call it “international espionage.” The Red Scare, as it was characterized, was propaganda.

  • Michael the little boot

    JPW @ 24,

    There were US spies in the Soviet government as well. That’s why they call it “international espionage.” The Red Scare, as it was characterized, was propaganda.

  • leviathan

    go RON PAUL!!

    see milton friedman

  • leviathan

    go RON PAUL!!

    see milton friedman


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