Time to Take a Standard Hold These Truths
We can all become busy with life, and neglect thinking much about the significance of liberty and what it means to “hold these truths”. Sadly, it is becoming obvious that we cannot assume anyone is actively watching out for our freedoms. We should never forget that our liberty came to us at great cost to those who declared and fought for our independence. Taking these natural rights for granted opens the door for some in power to trample rather than secure them.
Knowing the nature of the ideas discussed in the American Declaration of Independence brings a sense of appreciation for why people were willing to risk their lives and fortunes for them. These principles make up what is known as natural law, which is a higher law that can be discovered through observation of human nature and the application of reason. Once we have discerned these essential principles, the more we act in accordance with them, the more it naturally results in an environment where people flourish.
In light of recent events, it is time for Americans to renew their commitment and stand up and declare, “We still hold these truths to be self-evident…”.
It begins with a very basic question—what does it mean to be human? It is obvious there are certain characteristics common to all people regardless of differences in class, race, gender, or beliefs. These common characteristics make up our “human nature”. At the time of the founding of the United States, many Americans were exceptionally articulate in the principles of natural law. These ideas were essential parts of their school curriculum. The ideas of individual liberty were a normal part of conversation. In other words, they understood the nature of human beings. They reasoned from their understanding of human nature that there are certain basic principles that govern our interactions.
As Clarence Carson explains in his textbooks, these metaphysical truths have been under attack by modern academia. They have intentionally removed them or ridiculed them in textbooks written since the middle of the 20th century. Some say these principles do not even exist—that there is no such thing as human nature. A generation has grown up without ever learning about them. For these reasons, Carson left academia to begin self-publishing textbooks built on a natural law foundation.
For such a time as this, these important ideas must be kept in print. We must pass them on to the next generation if there is any hope for our children and grandchildren to live in liberty. If schools won’t teach them, we must find other ways to help our children learn them.
First, a realistic view of human nature is essential for understanding these self-evident truths. The Creator designed humans in his own image. This uniquely separates them from every other type of created being. As his only image bearers on the earth, it is self-evident that each person has great and equal value. No person should use force or fraud that harms another’s life, their liberty, or their freedom to choose how to pursue their own happiness. The legitimate boundary on one’s own individual liberties are the liberties of other people.
Natural Rights vs. Positive Rights
Some people attempt to declare new rights today. People “posit” or make up these rights and put them in place by executive order, regulation, or legislation. Positive rights include things we would otherwise purchase or earn through work. Current examples include rights to such things as education, or health care, or a guaranteed income. Governments secure these rights by forcing some group of people to pay for what they say others are entitled to.
Natural rights differ from these positive rights in that they do not require goods or services to be provided by some other person. Governments secure natural rights when they impose just penalties on people who harm someone else’s life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness. (We need to acknowledge John Locke and others would include property in this list.)
Acknowledging the value of each individual person is only part of what is needed to understand human nature. Secondly, it requires recognizing what Christians call our fallen or sin nature. Our Founders, like every other person who has ever lived (except for one) were fallible and imperfect. As such, they were incapable of constructing any perfect system. Therefore, we should expect these flaws to become visible as time goes on.
The sin nature does not mean that individuals are as evil as they could possibly be. Nor does it mean they are incapable of doing good. However, it does mean that flawed human beings are incapable of designing perfect institutions. Our aspirational goal is to build institutions on true natural law ideals. These ideals provide the basis for making institutions “more perfect” as time goes on and the flaws are revealed.
Establishing Boundary Stones
Those who cut away these foundational ideas from our society created the chaos we see. It is time to repair the ruins and reconfirm our commitment to “hold these truths”. This will only happen if we raise up a generation of students who understand natural law and its application to life situations. It is why the first quarter of our government and economics courses cover these ideas thoroughly. Too many curricula leave these topics out. We are reaping the consequences of what has been sown by this omission. Establish the boundary stones. Stand up to those who would destroy the America we know and attempt to replace it with a utopia that exists only in the minds of dreamers.