Retired Supreme Court Justices David Souter and Sandra Day O'Connor foresee the rise of dictatorship here in America. They believe that ignorance is enslaving Americans. While ignorance is a definite culprit, the other is moral degeneracy, or lack of virtue: "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom..." Benjamin Franklin
The framers of our Constitutional Republic were learned men. Their intimate knowledge of history together with their classical understanding of why freedom never lasts led them to understand that the challenge is not just to win freedom but to sustain freedom over time, an achievement that is never finished because it is the challenge not of years but of decades.
From classical writers such as the Roman statesman Cicero and the Greek historian Polybius, they learned of three menaces to sustaining freedom: external menaces from hostile powers and two internal menaces which together are the accumulative effects of moral corruption over time.
The American experiment was designed to counteract all three with the distinctive separation of powers in the Constitution together with the enduring triangle of freedom. In his book, "Unspeakable," Os Guinness describes this three-part concept:
"...freedom requires virtue, virtue requires faith of some sort, and faith requires freedom. Only so can a free republic hope to remain free." (p. 101)
The enduring triangle of freedom together with the organic life, the institutions, laws, and official action of the government, is in accordance with the principles of Christianity:
"The Christian religion is the religion of our country. From it are derived our prevalent notions of the character of God, the great moral governor of the universe. On its doctrines are founded the peculiarities of our free institutions." (William McGuffey, d. May 4, 1873, professor at the University of Virginia, president of Ohio University, and author of McGuffey's Readers; http://www.earstohear.net/Separation/warnings.html)
"No people will tamely surrender their Liberties, nor can any be easily subdued, when knowledge is diffused and Virtue is preserved. On the Contrary, when People are universally ignorant, and debauched in their Manners, they will sink under their own weight without the Aid of foreign Invaders." (Samuel Adams, Founding Father; http://www.earstohear.net/Separation/warnings.html)
The Bible clearly shows that God ordained the state to administer justice and to promote the general welfare of the people, all to prevent a world in rebellion from falling into moral degeneracy and chaos (Rom. 13:1-7, 1 Pet. 2:13-14, 1 Tim. 2:2) This is part of what John Calvin called the 'generalum Dei gratium' (general grace of God) through which the post-flood world is preserved from the chaos and desperate wickedness that characterized the days of Noah:
â€œBarbarismâ€¦prevailed from the days of Adam down through ten generations to the time of Noah. It is called barbarism because of the fact that in those times men had no ruling authority or mutual accord, but every man was independent and a law unto himself after the dictates of his own will.â€ (John of Damascus, â€œThe Fount of Knowledge,â€ cited in Political Apocalypse, Ellis Sandoz, p. 131)
Why are only virtuous people capable of individual freedom? In simple terms, all men are compound mixtures of strengths and weaknesses and good and evil. In short, all men are both kindly Dr. Jekyll and evil Mr. Hyde.
Virtuous people are those who, over time and with great self-sacrifice, personal suffering, and perseverance, have learned â€” however imperfectly â€” to restrain their Mr. Hyde appetites. In attainment of self-control, virtuous people are by consequence capable of clear, rational thinking and self-governance. This means that they are able to live and work within an atmosphere of limited government, or just enough government to protect liberty, rights, and property but not too little that anarchy ensues. Without virtue, liberty degenerates into the madness that now characterizes America and the West:
"What is liberty without virtue? It is the greatest of all possible evils...madness without restraint. Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites." (Edmund Burke, 1791 at the National Assembly, http://www.earstohear.net/Separation/warnings.html)
Ignorance, which is often due to willful intellectual laziness and/or hatred of truth, together with moral degeneracy is the default position of self-centered children notes Reb Bradley, author of "Born Liberal Raised Right." Bradley notes:
Sexually, today's America is "a nation ruled by its passions." "Heinous acts of casual disregard for life, unheard of fifty years ago, have become a familiar item on the evening news; students killing classmates, children murdering their playmates....these gruesome crimes are merely symptomatic of a breakdown of moral fiber..." (ibid, pp. 2-3)
The human heart "is desperately wicked, "(Jer. 17:9) and when a majority of citizens (already at about 47% here in America) are self-centered adolescents in adult size bodies--- whining, nasty narcissists full of the pride, hate, and unrestrained appetites that brazenly define obscenity, pornography, blasphemy, covetousness, hedonism, sodomy, lesbianism, pederasty and pedophilia, sadomasochism, laziness, and envy as "Constitutional rights" and further demand that anyone who hurts their brutish, depraved feelings be charged with hate---then Caesar draws nigh:
"If God did not thus moderate and restrain the natures of men, but suffer them to break out to the full, all societies and commonwealths would be turned upside-down, because every man by the universal corruption of his nature, would break out into every sin." (William Perkins, "An Exhortation to Repentance: Sermon on Zephaniah," in Perkins Workes, 1604, Vol. III, p. 416)
As the framers knew, individual freedom is always a function of man's moral state, a revolutionary concept attributed to St. Augustine.
Writing at the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire, St. Augustine both revolutionized and brought to a close antiquity's idea of freedom by connecting it with morals. Nature does not determine man's fate, it has nothing to do with whether a man is a king or a physical slave as pagan sages thought. Nature does not cause men to sin. Sin begins with pride, covetousness, greed, lust, hate, and envy, and when acted upon is a manifestation of man's abuse of moral choice. "Thus," he wrote in the City of God,
"...a good man, though a slave, is free; but a wicked man, though a king, is a slave. For he serves, not one man alone, but, what is worse, as many masters as he has vices." (Libido Dominandi, E. Michael Jones, p. 57)
Given the morally debauched, lawless, spiritually impoverished condition of America and the West, it is clear that Western society and the days of Noah have much in common. This being the case, Francis Schaefferâ€™s book, â€œDeath in the City, seems disturbingly prophetic. His central theme is that â€œtrue truthâ€ is revealed in the Bible by the living â€œGod Who is there,â€ but men have turned away from Him, the living fountain of life, and now there is â€œdeath in the city,â€ meaning in the minds of ignorant people (death of conscience and morally-informed reason) as well as their souls and by extension, Western civilization.
The death Schaeffer writes about is the moral and spiritual death that subtly suffocates truth, meaning, morality and purpose, leaving behind only a spiritually impoverished void characterized by barbarism, cruelty, pathological lying, lostness, meaninglessness, and â€˜nothingnessâ€™â€”death. Thus Schaeffer concludes that our age is the age of Jeremiah, Lamentations and Romans 1:21-22 which relates to the original fall but also speaks of any period when,
â€œmen knew the truth and deliberately turned away from itâ€ (p. 29) and fell into unrestrained madness.