Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Search for Liberty; Chapter Fourteen: Natural Law: the Complication

NB: All previous chapters can be found here.

Natural Law offers both a foundation for and complications to libertarian theory and the non-aggression principle.  In this chapter, I will summarize the issues as presented until this point.

For any of this to make sense to the reader, one must buy into this idea that all beings are made with a purpose – an end, a telos.  One must buy into the idea that man has an end – an end he cannot choose, but must discover; inherently, this means an objective “end” – objective values for which humans are to aim. 

If you don’t buy into this even after what has been presented thus far, that’s fine.  But then quit talking about the objective value of non-aggression: don’t hit first; don’t take my stuff.  Without buying into the idea that there are objective values for man which we are to discover, there is no reason to buy into this objective value as one that is absolute.  Just accept that the left (including self-contradictory left-libertarians) has won (ethical values are subjective), and go home quietly.

For those who remain…it is worth spending time summarizing what has been covered regarding man’s end or purpose, the objectives that must be kept in focus when one is looking to discover natural law.  This was identified through several sources.

Aristotle and Aquinas point to happiness as the ultimate end to which human beings are to aspire.  It seems superficially silly, unless you understand what was meant by happiness: 

…There is one single ultimate human good that provides an ordering of all other human goods as partial in relation to it, namely, happiness or better in the Latin beatitudo.

This is not the modern understanding of happiness: “if it feels good, do it; I’m in it for number one.”  Instead:

Beatitudo: (happiness or blessedness). The happiness that comes from seeing the good in others and doing the good for others. It is, in essence, other-regarding action.  Think of it as the Golden Rule.

Beatitudo is about as high a purpose or end as humans can aim for.  There is an even higher end, beyond human reach: Sublime Beatitudo: (sublime = "to lift up or elevate"). It encompasses a reach for fullness and perfection of happiness. The fullness, therefore, of goodness, beauty, truth and love. We recognize in this category, those things that are, in a sense, beyond what we are capable of doing purely on our own.  Call it the Form of the Good, Plato’s perfect – disembodied – triangle.

Melissa S. Atkinson offers: “Like Aristotle, Aquinas believed that human beings live for a telos or end, which is eudaimonia.”

Eudaimonia…is a Greek word commonly translated as happiness or welfare; however, "human flourishing or prosperity" and "blessedness" have been proposed as more accurate translations.

Etymologically, it is made up of two words: “good” and “spirit.”  It appears to be something much deeper than material happiness, or “if it feels good, do it.”  It is connected to the ideas of virtue and excellence, and a body that embodies this good spirit. 

Where will man find this example, this target at which to aim?  I suggest that in Jesus we find the singular example of Sublime Beatitudo, this “good spirit.”  Here we have the ultimate Form of the Good made manifest – Plato’s God to be found in Aristotle’s physical being.

I will repeat here what I offered for thought in chapter 6:

So say this is so.  It is all in us – just as these philosophers suggest.  It is natural for us to want to act on such a basis and in such a manner.  It makes one wonder: if this is how we are intended to act, can you imagine the tension in us and in society when we purposely act otherwise – when we set our own ends, in defiance of our nature?

Take any other being on earth – say a lion, or a bee.  Condition it, through propaganda, public education, cultural Marxism, or whatever – to act toward ends and purposes contrary to its nature, in defiance of its nature.  Could you look at such a being and label it “free,” as having achieved liberty?

Consider the state of man today – certainly in the West.  In the best case, we are told that meaning – our proper end – is to be found in the accumulation of material goods: more stuff; he who dies with the most toys wins  in the worst case, we are offered unconstrained individualism – no limits on gender identification, personal expression, self-control, exhibitionism, physical satisfactions, etc.

Sure, it might sound like liberty.  But this seems quite superficial, and a superficial definition of liberty.  It is also unsustainable – what being can constantly and continuously go against its natural ends or purposes and survive as the being it was intended to be?

On the right, it is the liberty of material accumulation in place of all else; on the left, it is the liberty of the unconditioned life, any lifestyle must be allowed and acceptable otherwise freedom is being crushed.  But would you look on a lion or a bee in such a condition and consider it free?  How long would you expect lions or bees to exist if such freedom was achieved?

I am reminded here of C.S. Lewis, from The Abolition of Man:

They are not men at all.  Stepping outside the Tao, they have stepped into the void.  Nor are their subjects necessarily unhappy men.  They are not men at all: they are artefacts.  Man’s final conquest has proved to be the abolition of Man.

Freed from the being of humanness.  Certainly freed from aiming at beatitudo.  It is not a road to freedom; it is a dead end.

So, how do we properly seek as the proper ends which then point us to natural law.  Thomas offers reason as the tool man has been given to discover this law.

For Thomas, the answer is reason, and to the extent humans act according to reason they are partaking in the Natural Law.

How should we consider reason?  Is it also to be unconditioned?  In John 1:1, Jesus us referred to as the logos – the Word, reason.  To understand reason without understanding the author of reason offers a reason without foundation – a reason left to the Übermensch to decide for the rest of humanity.

Through reason conditioned by the logos, Thomas has identified four primary ends for humans:

·         Protect and preserve human life.
·         Reproduce and educate one’s offspring.
·         Know and worship God.
·         Live in a society.

According to St. Thomas, the natural law is "nothing else than the rational creature's participation in the eternal law" (I-II.91.2). The eternal law is God's wisdom, inasmuch as it is the directive norm of all movement and action. When God willed to give existence to creatures, He willed to ordain and direct them to an end.

Are we to believe that all other beings have an end, yet humans – the most complicated and advanced beings of creation – do not?  An acorn is gifted with an end to become an oak, but a human is left as a meaningless drifter?

Aquinas, like Aristotle, leaned on reason as the means through which ethics can be discovered; Aquinas, unlike Aristotle, places love in a higher place than reason when searching for ethics.  Jesus, being the embodied Form of the Good, offered:

Matthew 22:36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  38 This is the first and greatest commandment.  39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’

Aquinas leaned on reason; his foundation, however, was love: beatitudo – other-regarding action, the Golden Rule. It isn’t merely that love is higher than reason.  Reason, properly channeled, leads us to love: beatitudo.

Man’s reason without this foundation is unstable.  According the C. S. Lewis, it places man in the position of both judge and judged:

…the judge cannot be one of the parties judged; or, if he is, the decision is worthless and there is no ground for placing the preservation of the species above self-preservation or sexual appetite.

For Lewis, natural law – the Tao – must be accepted as given:

A dogmatic belief in objective value is necessary to the very idea of a rule which is not tyranny or an obedience which is not slavery.

Unless you accept these without question as being to the world of action what axioms are to the world of theory, you can have no practical principles whatever.  You cannot reach them as conclusions; they are premises.  …If nothing is self-evident, nothing can be proved.  Similarly, if nothing is obligatory for its own sake, nothing is obligatory at all.

Man tries to look beyond this, thinking he will find true freedom; beyond this, there is only nothingness – the void:

It is no use trying to ‘see through’ first principles.  If you see through everything, then everything is transparent.  But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world.  To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see.

If this is way too Christian or Catholic for you, and you want to look beyond Aristotle, Aquinas, and Lewis, Murray Rothbard has joined in.  When it comes to objective truth regarding human values, Rothbard is quite firm:

Philosophically, I believe that libertarianism — and the wider creed of sound individualism of which libertarianism is a part — must rest on absolutism and deny relativism.

I have long struggled to explain and develop my thought that libertarianism is not sufficient for liberty.  This is the entire purpose of this book, for goodness sake.  Yet, here it is, from Rothbard:

What I have been trying to say is that Mises's utilitarian, relativist approach to ethics is not nearly enough to establish a full case for liberty. It must be supplemented by an absolutist ethic — an ethic of liberty, as well as of other values needed for the health and development of the individual — grounded on natural law, i.e., discovery of the laws of man's nature. Failure to recognize this is the greatest flaw in Mises's philosophical worldview.

If one is after “a full case for liberty,” one must include an “absolutist ethic” as well as “other values” – values grounded in “the laws of man’s nature.”  These values are to be “discovered,” not invented.

If Rothbard is not enough, Hans Hoppe has also joined in:

“…the full six mentioned commandments can be recognized as even an improvement over a strict and rigid libertarianism – given the common, shared goal of social perfection: of a stable, just and peaceful social order.” (Emphasis added)


Citing Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, from the Introduction to this work:

I have spent all my life under a Communist regime and I will tell you that a society without any objective legal scale is a terrible one indeed. But a society with no other scale than the legal one is not quite worthy of man either. A society which is based on the letter of the law and never reaches any higher is taking very scarce advantage of the high level of human possibilities.

To which I offered:

In an attempt to provide purely objective law – and only objective law – pure libertarian law applied, without some statement regarding culture and tradition, will never allow us to reach the highest levels of human possibilities, as Solzhenitsyn suggests.  And, after all, can you offer a better definition of liberty than reaching our “highest levels of human possibilities”?

Do Rothbard and Hoppe sound so different from this – from either Solzhenitsyn or my summary?  The non-aggression principle – purely objective law…and only objective law – does not bring us to liberty.  Rothbard suggests that there is an “absolutist ethic” beyond this that is necessary if one wants to establish a full case for liberty; Hoppe offers this as “an improvement over a strict and rigid libertarianism.”

The Complication

Is libertarianism sufficient for liberty?  Clearly not.  It sounds silly, perhaps, when I ask it; as if I have dumped the project and jumped the shark.  Does it sound as silly when Rothbard or Hoppe say the same thing?

This is the complication then, isn’t it?  Where does this leave the non-aggression principle?  Where does this leave libertarianism?  Do we dump it, trash it?  Would you ask Rothbard or Hoppe this question given what they have written?

Well, thus far I have written not a word about the proper use of violence or punishment – which, after all, is the only object of the non-aggression principle.  I have merely offered an examination of man’s ends and how these offer an understanding about the meaning of liberty.

In other words, next chapter.


  1. BM, I found where Mises denies objective values. He even goes beyond that. On page 752 in Human Action he writes"There is, however, no such thing as natural law and a perennial standard of what is just and what is unjust. Nature is alien to the idea of right and wrong. "Thou shalt not kill" is certainly not part of natural law. The characteristic feature of natural conditions is that one animal is intent upon killing other animals and that many species cannot preserve their own life except by killing others. The notion of right and wrong is a human device, a utilitarian precept designed to make social cooperation under the division of labor possible."

    He contradicts himself what he has said in other areas of Human Action where he scolds socialists and interventionists for treating the behavior of humans as equivalent to that of animals. He shows how Malthus and other economists were wrong in applying his theorem of, population will increase to maximum amount possible coupled to food supply, to humans. It is a theorem that does accurately explain animal population growth and reduction.

    I think Mises errs here because he is in the middle of a section explaining how socialism and interventionism don't work economically. At the heart of his argument is that these groups idolize the state. Then they add their opinions of what state should be or do, assuming that their political science is infallible.

    He is emphasizing human frailty and fallibility against the arrogant and dangerous claims of statists.

    But his assumption is one of pure materialism, so his "reason" is consistent but he has a big error in his presumption. Rothbard identified this error on natural law, but without God, he places philosophers back in the position of proposing that their ideas are eternal and infallible as they describe the eternal and infallible state.

    Maybe Rothbard would have arrived at Lewis's Tao ultimately if given the time.

    1. Mises, actually gives the way to determine how natural law is discovered. By observing which law and system promotes "the good". He calls it expediency or that which support social cooperation.

      Of course by using those things as his criteria for judgment he belies the fact that he himself has an objective value. Social cooperation, division of labor, material progress, etc. He just hasn't tried to fit that into a more general, absolute type value.

      But as we can see those things can fit into what BM has presented as beatitudo or sublime beatitudo. The things I listed which Mises values are not the sum total of beatitudo but important parts of it.

    2. RMB, thank you for this; it helps to bring focus.

      It seems to me that as soon as one makes a statement of proper ends - even one proper end ("do not aggress"...or, "promote social cooperation"), one has begun the journey of discovering natural law.

      It isn't the law of nature - we already know that man is capable of doing evil against his fellow man. But this does not make for natural law.

    3. Yep. My thoughts too. The belief of original sin, or the fall of man, helps distinguish between natural law and law of nature too.

    4. RMB, please expand on this point.

    5. Mises points to nature to say that there is no natural law operating that constrains the behavior of men to the good. He says the law of nature is what we see in the animal kingdom. Animals kill to survive. People kill each other in the same way.

      If you don't believe in a Fall of Man, you look at the world as it is today and believe that is it. If you do, you understand that the world does not operate as it was designed by God to do. Sin corrupted nature. So the idea of a good natural law which isn't so obvious is understandable. You have to discover it through reason, thinking through what is good.

      So there is the way things work in the world (law of nature) and the way things should work or were designed to work (natural law).

    6. Animals act instinctively according to their nature. They cannot do otherwise. To be sure, they can be trained to do things which are not natural for them, but this is due to fear or reward. Once the fear factor or the reward is removed, they will inevitably revert back to the normative.

      Animals have no knowledge of good and evil. A weasel in a chicken coop may slaughter all the hens out of blood lust or a pod of killer whales may rip out the tongue of a blue whale and never eat anything else, but there is no evil in them. The weasel and the orcas are acting normally according to their nature.

      Humans act consciously. They know what they are doing. They are aware that their actions are good or evil. They choose to do good or evil, sometimes deliberately, sometimes without thinking, sometimes uncontrollably, but every human action is done on a continuum between the extremes of total good and total evil.

      This is the main difference between animals and humans. Animals know nothing about good or evil, human existence is driven by the knowledge of good and evil.

      I have to say I agree with Mises' position as it is described above. There is no natural law operating which constrains man's behavior to the good, neither is there any natural law which constrains man's behavior to the bad. Man and man's laws operate according to revealed Law, spiritual Law, which informs each and every one of us as to the rightness or wrongness of our actions.

      Man was created to be like God, naturally good, but at the Fall chose to be like Satan, with this difference. Satan is naturally evil, man must be unnaturally so. For man, good is natural, evil is unnatural. We must discover how to leave the unnatural and journey toward the natural.

      We may be able to discover this through reason, but ultimately it is the Spirit of God drawing us back to our natural state of good.

      Am I wrong?

    7. No. I think Mises was wrong when he equated the law of the jungle to humans as an argument against the existence of a Thomistic or Aristotelian natural law. He actually mentions Aquinas in his attempt to refute natural law.

      Mises denounces Socialism and government interventionists earlier in Human Action for treating humans as animals or mere factors of production in their philosophy or economic ideology. Then he does the same thing in his denunciation of natural law.

      You rightly point out that humans are not beasts.

      The point where Mises made the most sense on this topic though was to point out that humans too have animal-like desires and impulses. But their existence does not refute natural law.

      My point was that acknowledgement of the fall explains the simultaneous existence of both.

    8. There's the 'Law of the Jungle', in whatever guise it assumes (socialism, democracy, statism in general), or there's the Natural Law. If we choose the latter, we have chosen a path that assumes God has provided a general end or purpose for us that must be discovered rather than invented by man.

      If we choose the former, we have chosen a path suitable for any other organism on this planet: take from others what you can, and keep what you have from being taken - by any means necessary.

      The second path is irreconcilable with the Christian conception of God. Any Christian who rejects the Natural Law is bound up in a fatal contradiction (logically speaking).

      As for Mises, the more I actually read him, the more I am a bit disappointed in his pronouncements on anything other than economics. Chief among my disappointments is his rejection of the natural law in favor of utilitarian relativism.

    9. ATL, what are you reading of Mises?

      I am reading human action and I am amazed at the breadth of real understanding he has of humanity and society. As long as he is observing humans on the earth, he has very well formed thoughts and understanding. Therefore, he can comment on human desire, nature, society, economics, politics, etc.

      His one blind spot is religion. He treats it as a purely materialistic endeavor, man creating gods in his own image. That leads to several other logical errors, one of the biggest being his rejection of objective truth and natural law. But everywhere else I find he understands human nature very well.

      Have you read his chapter on the disutility of labor? His insights on basic human motivation are extremely important.

    10. RMB, thank you for clarifying.

      “So the idea of a good natural law which isn't so obvious is understandable. You have to discover it through reason, thinking through what is good.”

      Where I am headed is that the path to discovery of natural law is not merely in our head, but that Jesus gave us the target at which to aim. All discoveries of natural law must be tested against Jesus.

      Of course, this is no simple task – the Jesus of the Beatitudes and the Jesus of John’s vision on Patmos take some real reconciling. It is here where reason – with a strong dose of humility – must play the part. In other words, we use reason in our attempt to ensure that our natural law discoveries are sound.

    11. RMB,

      I'm currently reading "Omnipotent Government". I'm still formulating my thoughts on Mises and his analysis of the rise of Nazism, so I don't feel comfortable going much further than I've said already. I want to give Mises, above all people, a fair shot. I need time to digest and reflect. But I will say a few things tentatively.

      I can't help fighting the feeling that there's a bit of 'neocon' in Mises that I never would have guessed. In this book he basically trots out the opinion that WWII was the fault of the European powers not enforcing the rearmament ban on Germany. It seems like he places sole blame for the conflict on Germany. A preemptive war on Germany would have solved the issue apparently.

      He then explains that we can't learn anything from the rise of Nazism in Germany because it was a unique historical event.

      In doing so he refutes the idea of a 'national character', which I can't help but think means culture. From that it follows that he discounts the idea that culture is important in the history of world events. There is also a quote in there that claims the outcome of the American 'Civil War' benefited not only America but Western Civilization. Mises' high regard for democracy is also highly misguided (perhaps that's much easier to say in hindsight - but the horrible effects of the democratic overthrow of monarchism in Europe should have been apparent in his lifetime).

      On top of all this, I agree his main blindspot was religion (his disdain for it), but almost equally big is his blindspot for the failings of democracy and for the importance of culture in world events.

    12. BM,

      I must admit, I have a hard time accepting Jesus as a seven horned and seven eyed Lamb. To be honest, I don't put much stock in Revelations. It sounds like the fever dream of someone secluded on an island without much to eat or drink. I suppose that makes me a bad Christian.

      Historically, it doesn't seem like much good has come from focusing on Revelations. The apocalyptic vision seems to distract people from Jesus' message when he was here on earth. Many of the most dangerous heresies were born of John's Apocalyptic vision as Norman Cohn detailed in his book "Pursuit of the Millennium".

      I'd rather focus on His Beatitudes and His parables. I have some measure of control in incorporating these into my life. I'll leave the bigger stuff to come, concerning the war between Heaven and Hell, in His capable hands.

    13. ATL, I think there is plenty in the Gospels that presents a more complex figure than the Jesus of the Beatitudes. In any case, doing battle with Satan is no task for the soft and gentle.

      I might write about this as an appendix to the book - I keep suggesting Jesus as the manifest Form of the Good; I should probably spend a few words describing His character and actions.

      As to the Evangelical focus on Revelation (and Israel), you will recall I wrote on this a couple of months ago; perhaps one of the most evil corruptions of Christianity. But it doesn't mean I dismiss the book.

    14. ATL, Revelation is a hard book to interpret. I agree, but dismissing whole cloth carries significant consequences.

      Revelation 22: "18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book."

      There are some basic things we can all agree with as Christians too. Jesus' divinity. Jesus holiness and role of Judge of Creation. His bodily return to the earth. His physical rule on the earth (some difference of opinion of when that happens chronologicially). The nature of the eternal state.

    15. "I should probably spend a few words describing His character and actions."

      Now we're talkin!

    16. ATL, about Mises. He is not an anarchist or ancap or whatever label some use today. He was a European liberal through and through. Meaning a democrat. He viewed the market as the most pure democracy and political democracy a very limited copy of market democracy. Therefore, his political ideas will reflect that. He wasn't around when the current US Libertarian anarchism was developed ideologically. In terms of the American political system he would have been a part of the old Right.

      I am sure he is correct that enforcing disarmament on Germany would have prevented the war. He is also correct that Germany is responsible for starting the war in an absolute sense. Of course factors led the Germans to adopt Nazism and then start aggression. But Germany decided to act the way they did. No one forced them into it. They could have under the same circumstances, decided to act differently as a nation. They chose aggression.

      He also is basing his opinion on the events after WW2, where Germany was denied the ability to rearm more forcefully and they have yet to be militarily aggressive. So he is right as he is assessing the current events of his day.

      Also bear in mind that Mises' criticism of neoclassical economics came from a rejection of the notion that you can model the economy into abstract terms, that you can mathematically calculated what an economy should do from a desk. His thinking focused on observable human behavior, self evident truth from it, and logical deduction. He claimed even economically that economic data was only useful for historical analysis. Very empirical. Very individualistic.

      I think that is what made him such a great economist. Maybe his approach didn't lend itself so much to the study of politics.

  2. Then I found this article that I think illustrates both the need for law based on discovering natural law and the fear that Mises had in adding to law the certainty of infallibility.

  3. RMB,

    One part of the article you cited which I think has relevance to our conversation is this quote.

    “The point of law is to encourage human flourishing. It is, properly understood, a utilitarian concern. We could get by perfectly well without it, if we didn’t mind living in a world in which there was a great deal of uncertainty, in which disputes were settled by bonking one another on the head, and in which the main deterrent to antisocial behavior was ad hoc violence.”--Kevin D. Williamson

    Allow me to paraphrase this. We create and use ‘law’ so that humans can safely interact with each other without resorting to violence. This allows human society to prosper. Without that safeguard, we would live in a world where any dispute, however small, would be solved by an act of violence, which would be retaliated against by a greater act of violence, etc., etc., ad infinitum, until only the strongest and most violent persons were left.

    This is probably true, but, then, what do we do about the people who use ‘law’ to impose their opinions, viewpoints, and preferences on everyone else? Can’t this be applied to our society and culture today? Law, by itself, is inherently violent in nature since the use of force is required to impose anything on anyone who does not want to comply with the “rules.” Unfortunately, all that has happened is that we have traded a Stone Age mentality in which disputes were settled by a ‘bonk on the head’ with one which is more suave, urbane, and "civilized". And it appears that the more modern one is becoming increasingly violent in the imposition of its power.

    How can this be changed? It comes back to the question of ethics. What is right? What is wrong? How is this determined? How is it applied? Who does the application?

    I am firmly convinced that law, in all its forms including the NAP, must follow an absolute ethical standard of right, which is determined by something or someone outside of and greater than man’s influence. Otherwise, all we are left with is a world in which those most willing to use violence will destroy everyone and everything who gets in their way.

    1. There were several things that were relevant. One of them you point out.

      But he also invoked natural law and the need to live by it.

      He also highlighted how law of any kind is a grim subject. He stressed humility. Which has been a topic on this blog for a while. The Reformation happened one reason being there wasn't much theological humility.

      That is also the issue that Mises is stressing in the Human Action passage I placed above.

      Everyone thinks that they are right. But we must all be aware of our fallibility and therefore very humble in how we proceed with others who undoubtedly will disagree with what we (I) believe to be true.

  4. I love the idea of connecting libertarianism with the summum bonum. However, I’ve always thought that identifying happiness as our telos/highest good was a category mistake. It seems more accurate to say happiness (even defined as eudaemonia) is an effect of possessing the highest good—which, of course, we can be mistaken about. I take it as axiomatic, however, that humans will be truly happy if we know and possess what is truly the highest good. This means we need to reason together about what the highest good actually is and how we can obtain it. Just some food for thought.

    Also, I point you to a blog that explores libertarianism from a Thomistc perspective, as it may be of interest to you:

    Zack W.

    1. Zack, Jesus demonstrated a high enough "good" for me. I am not sure what is higher than the most perfect and innocent man being willing to die in order to save the corrupt.

  5. I know there isn’t a single person who was waiting for me to reply to comments made way back in Chapter Seven, but I finally have a few minutes and want to thank everyone for what they had to say.

    First, to Mr. M, thanks for your reply. If I may make a few comments re your reply.

    “In such services (Catholic / Orthodox), it is difficult to forget the object of the worship and the place of those doing the worshipping.”

    You mean like Mary and the statues? (Mostly a joke with a little sarcasm mixed in.)

    “In many Protestant services, it isn’t clear to me who – or what – is the object of worship.”

    I can go along with that.

    “I went from being compelled to believe that Enlightenment brought us freedom to almost the exact opposite.”

    I have to be honest and say I don’t know enough on that subject to comment, but I find this series of posts quite interesting.

    ATL - thanks for your comments as well. I know BM doesn’t want us arguing theology here, so I’ll mostly leave it at that.

    “Read also Hans Hoppe's "From Aristocracy to Monarchy to Democracy" for the sociological progression of the State. Fritz Kern... "Kingship and Law in the Middle Ages"... Martin van Creveld has a book on this idea that Bionic has reviewed.”

    Thanks for the recommendations. I haven’t read enough Hoppe. I just started reading his Getting Libertarianism Right, and it’s great. The first chapter was ausgezeichnet, to use my favorite German word.

    Re your comment to Sherlock, “The bible was written and compiled by fallible men (like all other men), so it most likely was not transcribed from the mouth of God or His angels with perfect fidelity.”

    I’m sure you know there are about four bazillion articles on Wikipedia regarding biblical inerrancy. You might consider The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy:

    Lastly regarding your statement, “Wondering whether God has a God is the type of fractal thinking that will ultimately undermine faith, truth (the kind that matters to us), and liberty.”

    "I am the LORD, and there is no other; Besides Me there is no God” Isaiah 45:5

    In addition to that verse, there are at least 20 other verses that tell us there is only one God.

    Besides answering your hypothetical, those verses alone destroy Mormonism, btw.

    1. Mr. Spock, if CS Lewis could decide to leave the Virgin Mary out of bounds for debate in polite company, well, that's good enough for me!

    2. I’m a fan of Lewis. I read Mere Christianity, The Problem of Pain, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, all of the Narnia books, and the space trilogy. But Lewis was not a theologian. He had quite a few aberrant beliefs (some in common with the Catholics – like praying for the dead and belief in purgatory.) So…when it comes to his advice re the formerly virgin Mary, I’ll pass. And please don’t take this as being harsh – it’s not. Just a comment.

    3. Mr. Spock

      I recall I conversation I had with someone who I would describe as an elder in a very fundamentalist denomination. His first target in the discussion was the Catholic and Orthodox view of the Virgin Mary. He said “you know this is wrong.”

      I offered that I haven’t yet found a denomination or sect with many beliefs and actions that I might consider wrong – and can demonstrate such Biblically. He then did something that absolutely did not surprise me: he did not ask what I found incorrect in HIS denomination. Why would he? He knows that there is nothing wrong in his.

      I recently heard a funny joke, regarding Reformed Christians. Christians of other denominations are whispering among themselves in Heaven: “Shhh, be quiet. They think that they are the only ones here.”

      Lewis sad something very simple regarding the Virgin: “…there is no controversy between Christians which needs to be so delicately touched as this.” He made no theological claim one way or the other; it might be the most accurate thing he wrote in that book.

      To your earlier comment, I replied: “…if CS Lewis could decide to leave the Virgin Mary out of bounds for debate in polite company, well, that's good enough for me!”

      So maybe if I used the word “non-theological” instead of “polite” my meaning would have been better made. This isn’t a theological blog, and my reason for posting on Lewis’s Mere Christianity was to make that point. At this blog, we live in the hallway.

    4. BM: maybe if I used the word “non-theological” instead of “polite” my meaning would have been better made. This isn’t a theological blog, and my reason for posting on Lewis’s Mere Christianity was to make that point.

      I think I understand your wishes re arguing theology here. It's why I kept my comments brief and said a) (Mostly a joke with a little sarcasm mixed in.), b) ATL - thanks for your comments as well. I know BM doesn’t want us arguing theology here, so I’ll mostly leave it at that, and c) And please don’t take this as being harsh – it’s not. Just a comment.

      I wasn't trying to start an argument, or even discuss theological differences between Protestants and Catholics. But I will end comments on this subject by remembering that Vernon McGee once said something to the effect that we will all have to amend our theology a bit when we get to Heaven.

  6. I have found this entire conversation to be thoroughly enjoyable, uplifting, and educational. Thank you all. You have been helpful.

    Natural law is something I've only started thinking about quite recently. I readily understand the concept as easily applicable to animal behavior. I'm not so sure about human action. I sense that I am missing something. Coming to grips with this is an exercise which will occupy a large percentage of the time I have left.

    Bionic, I have made numerous attempts to explain how much working through this series has enhanced the way I think about my relationship with God and the liberty that brings me. The best I can come up with is that your efforts and influence have been invaluable. I am grateful.

    1. Roger, this means a lot to me. Thank you for this. As I have mentioned before, working through all of this has been invaluable for how I think about God, Christianity, liberty, etc., also.