How We Got to Where We Are (Part 2)

By Tim Dunkin

In the previous installment of this essay, we saw that the decline of morality in America has been a contributing factor in leading us to where we are today. By rejecting the objective principles governing man’s behavior with God and his fellow man, we have opened ourselves up to a sort of “ethical anarchy” where anything goes if it can be justified, and this anarchy extends to the lawlessness that we now see in our government. Having turned away from both the Bible and the Constitution, our society and our government have opened the door for socialism and the replacement of the rule of law with the rule of bureaucrat and administrator. Concomitant with this turn from morality has been a turn from reason, which will be dealt with below.

The Decline of Reason

Previously, it was noted that this rejection of morality accompanied our culture’s turn from Scottish Common Sense philosophy to the emotionalistic and anti-reason philosophy of the Romantic movement. This is not surprising, since the essence of “common sense” is reason. Reason, as the Founders and those of their generation usually understood it, says that we, as individuals and as a society, are capable of determining ways of ordering both our individual lives and our joint existence together by principles that produce objective benefits. Common sense is basically the distillation of this type of reason. Common sense tells the average man what works and what does not. Common sense tells us, for instance, that working hard and saving your money will help you to have prosperity and freedom in the future, while blowing all your money on lottery tickets is a sure way to the poorhouse and debt slavery. When applied in the realm of politics, common sense generally leads to support for the type of system that our Founders – steeped as they were in the Common Sense of their day – envisioned and set into place when they established our system of government and our Constitution.

Morality is a key component to this common sense. Indeed, one could say that morality and reason go hand in hand. Without one, you don’t really have the other. As seen previously, morality is objective because it is established from biblical standards, rather than from the subjective, mercurial passions of men. God gave us biblical morality, among other reasons, as a way of regulating our interactions with each other. Hence, God simultaneously defined what was both religiously moral and civilly rational.

Through common sense, we can understand that these standards conform to “reason” as it is rightly defined. It is both “moral” and “reasonable” to act on the principle of the Golden Rule, for instance. It is both moral and reasonable not to steal from someone else, not to kill someone else if they aren’t threatening you, not to rail upon someone, and so forth. By refraining from such behaviors, peaceable and civil society is more easily maintained, which allows for prosperity to abound, wealth to be built, families to be strengthened, education to be obtained, and everything else which makes for a healthy civilization. Morality not only informed our relationship with God, individually and as a nation, but also served the public utility of maintaining order and peace in the social system. This connection can be inferred in Paul’s instructions to Titus,

“Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work….” (Titus 3:1)

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