This morning I was sharing with friends, Denny Hartford and Pat Osborne, a revelation I had last night while taking an on-line course with our church small group. Negative Rights are a good thing and something that is well founded in the history of western culture.
Maybe you are already asking, why are you studying the history of negative rights (what are the anyway) in western culture in a church small group? They are very good questions, but instead of answering them here, I will leave them hang – at least for now.
What I would rather talk about is the woeful lack of understanding that I have of our western culture (what does that even mean?) and how we got to where we are today. I would rather talk about what we can see in history and what we can learn from it. I would rather talk about what I have learned about Moses and his impact on culture, on Plato and Aristotle, Rome and the Roman Empire, Jesus and His influence on society (His mission to seek and save the lost is well understood), the church and it’s interaction with governance in the Middle Ages and on and on. I would rather confess that as a Christian I do not have a good context to process the claims of Christ and that I don’t have a good context to argue for one form of government over another.
I believe that the Bible is completely true, but I have also known that it is not all that is true. The trick is to sift through all the ideas floating around and to “buy truth, and do not sell it” Proverbs 23:23, and to hold it tight and to know it is true with the same assurance that I know the Bible is true. That gets me back to my discussion this morning with Denny and Pat. As I was sharing my “revelation” which clicked while watching Hillsdale College’s on-line class on the History of Western Culture, Denny challenged me to write a blog post to encourage others to take some of the Hillsdale courses. You see, the lessons I have been learning from these courses have often been part of our Thursday morning conversations and they challenge each of us to see and understand our world, our history and our responsibility as Christians in a more clear way. The lessons have sharpened each of us as we have discussed and digested the ideas presented. We have often thought that the ideas presented would be of great benefit to all of us as we wrestle with how we should react and think about some of the very difficult issues of our day, whether they be political or social, domestic or international. These are the days we are born into and it is incumbent upon us to understand the times and to know how to speak and act with wisdom and truth.
How do we do that? Well I would heartily endorse the Hillsdale College on-line courses as one source of truth that can inform and challenge us and help us to be the men and women that God is calling us to be in these times. I would challenge church small groups to go through the courses together and see if God does not visit your group and instruct you through stimulating conversation. You may get push back from some who say it is not appropriate for a church small group, don’t let that deter you – it is not true. We can and should act from our heart to reach out to the hurting all around us, but it is equally important that we act in truth and wisdom so as to not be sidelined as we run our race.
Oh I almost forgot that revelation on negative rights. I have known what negative rights are, restrictions on the powers of government and that they are what our Bill of Rights are. What was a revelation to me was that the idea of negative rights has been around a long time prior to the founding of our country. They go back at least as far as 1215 AD with the signing of the Magna Carta a document designed to restrict the powers of King John of England who was becoming increasingly tyrannical in his reign. Negative rights have been part of western culture for centuries, so when certain leaders disparage the idea of negative rights, their opinion flies in the face of centuries of the understanding that negative rights are what protect the citizens from over reaching government. They disqualify themselves to lead in this republic. Any Constitutional law professor would know that. So if you hear them tell you that negative rights are a problem, run, they mean you no good and probably harm.