The View From 1776

Spiritual Disciplines

Breaking the strongholds of darkness depends upon developing spiritual disciplines in our lives.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 06/28 at 05:30 PM
  1. I recently read Tibor Machan's "Initiative" in which he defends the existence of free will. Although such a defense seems unnecessary, he asserts that the bulk of contemporary philosophical ethics and jurisprudence denies both the possibility of objective standards of right and wrong and the existence of free will.

    Of course everyone with any common sense knows that a person can pretty much do whatever he wants if he wants to enough. And it is clear that since a person's actions can be for better or worse it is essential for any orderly society that there be some discipline imposed on free will. Historically that has been one of the prime contributions of religions, so, three cheers for the teachings and moral-ethics of Christianity.

    Machan's book examines how unfortunate new ways of thinking about individual behavior have led to "the diminution of personal responsibility, guilt, culpability, blame, praise and related elements of morality and law." And he looks at how this recent move to moral relativism, multi-culturalism, and behavioral determinism, has undermined the foundation of liberty and freedom--
    Such "rights to liberty" make no sense if someone or some government that violates those rights is not at fault--just doing what they "have" to do.

    Under this "new" way of thinking (think B. F. Skinner) any such thing as "spiritual discipline" could not even exist because it presupposes the individual's ability to choose a moral or constructive path rather than a destructive or immoral path. These moral distinctions, as well as the ability to choose among them, are not even conceded by today's intelligentsias.

    Now, self-discipline and free agency is to most ordinary people fairly obvious. But, Machan warns, "When experts with good credentials (intellectuals, academicians,pundits) tell us we are controlled by genes, DNA, history, upbringing, culture, or economic forces, with no room left for our own initiative, we will often believe and act upon the idea." That siren song of Big Government has gradually split the electorate in half.

    It is possible that intellectuals and their far-Left brethren have generally opposed public Christian observances because the idea of Spiritual discipline contradicts their agenda. In order to rule from the top, and manipulate the public, they must make everyone think they are victims and in dire need of assistance from the central government bureaucracies.

    Sadly, we now see our country divided--where half are "disciplined" and they are supporting the other "undisciplined" half. And, note that it is the elites, the teachers and philosophers, that have done this to us.
    Posted by bill greene  on  06/28  at  11:09 PM
  2. Bill,

    Another interesting aspect the question of "free will" is whether it even exists for certain religions.

    Many conservative Christians believe that God already knows what you are going to do for every minute for the rest of your life. If your path is preordained, your free will to depart from that path is nonexistent. This "what will be, will be" outlook can have a real influence on behavior.

    Sometimes this outlook is expressed in "Show me a sign, Lord" searching. The individual may look for clues in the natural world for direction from above on how important decisions should be made, or even whether the directions of life should be changed.
    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  06/29  at  12:01 AM
  3. The Judeo-Christian Bible applies a defnitive to the human being as "earth's Choicemaker," and requires and holds each individual responsible for those choices - and their results.

    The Creator's fore-knowledge of every causal-chain in no way releases the Choicemaker from responsibility - or credit. Especially, in view of His supplying advantageous Criteria for value-measurement and vision. Criteria humans cannot invent.

    Abdication attempts mark the egocentric - not the intelligent.

    In the meantime, no one is smarter than their criteria. "Free-will" is a partial virtue in light of universe-sized ignorance and limited knowledge, but is not a rarely exercised ability
    and dormant. It is present and practiced by-the-minute in each individual human being throughout human history regardless of time and place.

    Abdication is a choice.
    Posted by Jim Baxter  on  06/29  at  09:51 AM
  4. JJ,

    You are right on target-- In fact, "Free will" does not "even exist for certain religions." Almost all non-Christian religions stress obedience, order, and an introspective life--fatalism, if you will--that has retarded economic progress throughout the world.

    Remarkably, it was Catholic monks who started the universities in Western European cities in the 11th and 12th centuries. They advocated the separation of science from Faith. Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, and Albertus led this revolution in thinking. Bertrand Russell praises Duns Scotus, a Franciscan monk ( 1270-1308) who also opened the breach between faith and reason. Thus, it was the Christians in western Europe who led the way for man to exercize his free will, separate from any stultifying oppression of the clerisy. And it happened almost a thousand years ago, initiating the accelerated progress that made the West supreme.

    I call this separation of faith from reason: "The secret weapon of the West." Only recently have the rest of the world aped Western thinking and scientific technical initiatives. Under Islam, everything is as Allah wills it, the clerisy's rule over public and private lives is absolute, Budhists stress introspection, meditation, Hindu's believe those who rock the boat come back as lesser beings, and Confucianism urges order, obedience, respect. There were no Sam Adamses in those nations.

    Throughout history, mental oppression from such belief systems has probably done more harm than physical oppression. Man has to be free to think and dream in order to be able to exercize his genius. The old white men of Northern Europe "won" not because they were white, but because they were Christians--with the dual advantages of free will and spiritual discipline.
    Posted by bill greene  on  06/29  at  09:57 AM
    Q: "What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son
    of man that You visit him?" Psalm 8:4
    A: "I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against
    you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing
    and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and
    your descendants may live." Deuteronomy 30:19

    Q: "Lord, what is man, that You take knowledge of him?
    Or the son of man, that you are mindful of him?" Psalm
    A: "And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose
    for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the
    gods which your fathers served that were on the other
    side of the river, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose
    land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will
    serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15

    Q: "What is man, that he could be pure? And he who is
    born of a woman, that he could be righteous?" Job 15:14
    A: "Who is the man that fears the Lord? Him shall He
    teach in the way he chooses." Psalm 25:12

    Q: "What is man, that You should magnify him, that You
    should set Your heart on him?" Job 7:17
    A: "Do not envy the oppressor and choose none of his
    ways." Proverbs 3:31

    Q: "What is man that You are mindful of him, or the son
    of man that You take care of him?" Hebrews 2:6
    A: "I have chosen the way of truth; your judgments I have
    laid before me." Psalm 119:30 "Let Your hand become my
    help, for I have chosen Your precepts."Psalm 119:173

    Genesis 3:3,6 Deuteronomy 11:26-28; 30:19 Job 5:23
    Isaiah 7:14-15; 13:12; 61:1 Amos 7:8 Joel 3:14
    Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

    Posted by Jim Baxter  on  06/29  at  09:57 AM
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