Why what you Believe is Bound to Impact Your Marriage and Your Family
Christianity and modern liberalism are deeply in conflict. Defining modern liberalism is challenging since language is closely tied to history for meaning. History in modern education is often minimized and compressed in favor of other subjects. Teachers are spending more time on math, science, and social curriculums, shrinking the time available for studying history. Spanish philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It is true that without historical context we are more likely to make mistakes that have previously been made. Benjamin Franklin said, “Experience teaches a dear school, but a fool will learn in no other. Those who ignore history will inevitably learn lessons the hard way.
Historical context is essential to properly define liberalism. The meaning of the term “liberalism” has gradually changed since the times of our founding fathers. Men such as Jefferson, Washington, Franklin, and Alexander were liberals in the classic sense of the word. They challenged traditional views on government, the role of kings, and the relationship between religion and government. The founding fathers would never call themselves liberals in the modern sense of the term. While today, modern liberalism is almost always philosophically contrasted with conservatism, the founding fathers would certainly have more in common with modern conservatives. The founding fathers generally believed in Biblical truth and the existence of God, yet they were clearly fighting the tradition and the orthodoxy of their day about the role of government.
The online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy summarizes classic liberalism as viewed by John Locke, who’s writings on government heavily influenced our founding fathers:
“John Locke (1632–1704) is among the most influential political philosophers of the modern period. In the Two Treatises of Government, he defended the claim that men are by nature free and equal against claims that God had made all people naturally subject to a monarch. He argued that people have rights, such as the right to life, liberty, and property, that have a foundation independent of the laws of any particular society. Locke used the claim that men are naturally free and equal as part of the justification for understanding legitimate political government as the result of a social contract where people in the state of nature conditionally transfer some of their rights to the government in order to better ensure the stable, comfortable enjoyment of their lives, liberty, and property. Since governments exist by the consent of the people in order to protect the rights of the people and promote the public good, governments that fail to do so can be resisted and replaced with new governments. Locke is thus also important for his defense of the right of revolution. Locke also defends the principle of majority rule and the separation of legislative and executive powers. In the Letter Concerning Toleration, Locke denied that coercion should be used to bring people to (what the ruler believes is) the true religion and also denied that churches should have any coercive power over their members. Locke elaborated on these themes in his later political writings, such as the Second Letter on Toleration and Third Letter on Toleration.
For a more general introduction to Locke’s history and background, the argument of the Two Treatises, and the Letter Concerning Toleration, see Section 1, Section 3, and Section 4, respectively, of the main entry on John Locke in this encyclopedia. The present entry focuses on seven central concepts in Locke’s political philosophy.
- 1. The Law of Nature
- 2. State of Nature
- 3. Property
- 4. Consent, Political Obligation, and the Ends of Government
- 5. Locke and Punishment
- 6. Separation of Powers and the Dissolution of Government
- 7. Toleration
- BibliographyAcademic Tools
- Other Internet Resources
- Related Entries“
The liberalism of John Locke as defined by his writings and the ideology of modern liberals and progressives are so far apart as to be totally incompatible. Modern liberalism is corrupted to the point that it has more in common with the authoritarian religious establishments and monarchies that Locke fought against than the philosophies of government and religious tolerance that he favored. Like the corrupted religious institutions of Locke’s day, modern liberalism requires unquestioning and devoted orthodoxy to its doctrine. Modern liberals are so intolerant of dissenting views that they readily resort to the power of public disapproval and social activism to personally destroy public figures who stray from their liberal tenants. Christianity and modern liberalism are ready antagonists because Christians hold views that serve to impede the widespread adoption of modern liberal ideas in our society. Classic liberals viewed the mixture of government and established religion as abhorrent and likely to be abused by those in power. Conservatives oppose large and powerful governments because they generally hold to the Biblical view of men as prone to corruption and sin, and untrustworthy to have absolute power over other men. Our founders devised a system of government intended to check and impede government growth and change because they understood too well the natural direction towards tyranny that governmental power fosters.
To discuss the Christian’s world view, we inevitably must compare and contrast it with the prevailing cultural ideas opposed to Biblical views. Modern liberalism is one the foremost opponents of any expression of Christian views in western society. Modern liberalism does not oppose all religions equally, but is singularly fixated on removing Christian influence from the public square. In the author’s experience, the terms “liberal” or “progressive” are less political party affiliations than reflections of how a person responds to Biblical truth. Liberal beliefs express a world view based primarily on rationalism, which exalts reason as the final arbitrator of truth. Liberals generally do not believe that the Bible is divinely inspired and that God has moral authority over man and this colors the rest of their world view.
The Bible says that the mind of man is hostile to the truth of God and that without the revealed truth of God we would be unable to find or know God. A Biblical world view does not reject the role of reason in understanding the universe but begins by acknowledging that our ability to reason is hampered by our individual sinfulness and moral rebellion. There is ample evidence that man is sinful and needs moral redemption. This view is found woven into Biblical doctrine throughout the Old and New Testament writings. Modern conservatives tend to believe in Biblical revelation and acknowledge that mankind has moral defects and needs redemption. This cannot be accomplished through education since education is unable to alter the tendency towards sin and evil that is found in every human heart.
Modern liberalism and conservatism are traditionally viewed as being opposed, for background, we provide below the Merriam Webster online definition for conservatism:
: belief in the value of social and political change in order to achieve progress
Full Definition of LIBERALISM
: the quality or state of being liberal
a often capitalized : a movement in modern Protestantism emphasizing intellectual liberty and the spiritual and ethical content of Christianity
b : a theory in economics emphasizing individual freedom from restraint and usually based on free competition, the self-regulating market, and the gold standard
c : a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of the human race, and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties; specifically : such a philosophy that considers government as a crucial instrument for amelioration of social inequities (as those involving race, gender, or class)
d capitalized : the principles and policies of a Liberal party
: belief in the value of established and traditional practices in politics and society
: dislike of change or new ideas in a particular area
Full Definition of CONSERVATISM
a : the principles and policies of a Conservative party
b : the Conservative party
a : disposition in politics to preserve what is established
b : a political philosophy based on tradition and social stability, stressing established institutions, and preferring gradual development to abrupt change; specifically : such a philosophy calling for lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense, and individual financial responsibility for personal needs (as retirement income or health-care coverage)
: the tendency to prefer an existing or traditional situation to change
Modern liberalism has an incautious and undeserved confidence in government’s ability to improve the plight of the human condition. Historically, governments have almost always militated against personal freedom. Against this historical backdrop our constitutional form of government is as a rarity, as few governments are characterized by freedom. The Biblical view of the human condition is that we are fallen sinners in need of spiritual redemption. This led our founding fathers to conclude that the best government was a limited government. Against this skepticism towards big government the modern liberal’s belief that government’s coercive power is best used to establish a Utopian society on earth ignores a long history of governments that gained absolute power only to become absolutely tyrannical. What makes modern liberalism frightening is that it has no enduring moral compass to anchor their beliefs. Biblical Christianity teaches man is accountable to God. Liberals believe man is accountable only to his own self, they do not believe in God or His moral authority over men. When we look at the leaders remembered for leading the most evil governments we will discover that the most evil men were almost without exception men of liberal ideas who rejected the Bible and believed there was no God. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and a long list of other modern tyrants rejected Biblical morality and tried to implement utopian societies using the force of government at great cost in human pain and suffering. Liberals won’t learn the lesson from history, there is always an emerging leader who is eager to take their turn at harnessing the power of government to reshape our society, and there is always a group of elite intellectuals who believe that this time around they are going to get it right, and succeed where there has never been previous success.
Liberals plot conservatives as resisting their grand new ideas. The modern media deeply reinforces the stereotypical image of conservatives as resistant to change and anything new when it comes to both morality and politics. Resistance to change is not necessarily a bad thing when there is no good reason to make a change. If you hold a principled position based on truth and reality, a change in view is not a positive choice, but falling away and a moral departure. The Apostle Paul said in 1st Thessalonians 5:21, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” This is the essence of conservatism, that we carefully test truth claims and hold fast to the good. We should not be eager to let go of the truth for untested and unproven ideas. When it comes to morality there are no ideas that have not already been tested, no new discovery will pave the way for utopia. The Bible accurately describes the human condition and provides the remedy for sin. No government will succeed in educating sin out of man’s heart, no matter how great and powerful. Jesus acknowledged inequality in human existence would continue until the establishment of His kingdom on earth. He said, “For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me.” (Mark 14.:7 ESV) Every attempt to eliminate poverty and equalize wealth and social status fails because the root cause of inequality in living conditions is man’s sinfulness. No government can make men unselfish and virtuous. Our founders understood that a powerful government always becomes an oppressive government; only if men live in consciousness of God’s moral authority and are accountabile to Him can they enjoy freedom. Your Biblical view is the framework for the rest of your life. If you do not have a Biblical world view it is very unlikely that your family and marriage will be in harmony. We must see the world as God sees it and look to him to address the whole issue of sin in this life. The governments based on worldly wisdom will never succeed in bringing men to live in peaceful harmony. It will take the righteous action of God to make all things right.