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What It Means to Be Conservative Part III

Written on Thursday, June 28, 2012 by

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NOTE: If you are reading these articles, please consider reading all the parts. They are not written to be stand-alone columns. You will get more out of them if you read each one and don’t skip any. If you missed one, I encourage you to take a quick look back and catch up. Thanks.

For the purposes of this discussion, let us stay focused on the single right of property ownership. In part II, we stated that a liberal mindset would be one that says not everyone deserves the right to own property and to own in in whatever amounts can legally be obtained by use of honest wages.
Modern day liberals would surely protest my characterization. But modern day examples abound. Why on earth you might ask, would ANYONE have a problem with someone owning property? (And remember, our focus here is to define liberal and conservative.)

In my opinion it really goes all the way back to two primary core principles. And these two will seem totally opposite:
• The depravity of man
• The Imago Dei – man made in the image of God

Now don’t stop reading and don’t “freak out”. I am not saying that every conservative must be deeply religious but we must acknowledge that modern day conservatism is built upon a foundation of objective moral absolutes. In terms of the two concepts listed above, if you search through all the things that conservatives and liberals fight about, they all ultimately come down to a fundamental difference on these two core doctrines. For you they may not be directly religious doctrines but your personal belief system addresses them in one way or another no matter what.

The fundamental disagreement in the way conservatives see these two doctrines versus the way liberals see them ultimately lead to all other disagreements. And yes there is a bit of Calvin present here but that is because there must be. Calvinism is where modern day liberalism and modern day conservatism historically began to define themselves as such.

The Depravity of Man
The reason that this is a part of a largely political discussion is that these two groups, Liberals and Conservatives, really began to distinguish themselves after the reformation.

Now you say…WHAT? Skates is off his rocker here. What does the Reformation have to do with Politics in 2012? Answer… a whole bunch.

You can trace the roots of modern day liberalism and conservatism to two movements that occurred at nearly the same time, the reformation on one hand, and the enlightenment on the other. These two movements represented, not contrasting viewpoints but COMPLETELY OPPOSITE viewpoints.

Calvin and the reformers believed the Bible when it said that man had a sin nature, ALL men had this sin nature. And that by our nature we do not love God we actually have enmity towards God. (By the way, Calvin didn’t invent this concept but he helped spread it throughout Europe). Hold this thought and we will come back to it.

On the other hand, the Enlightenment elevated man to high heights. Enlightenment thinkers believed that man, from within his own power of reason was inherently good and completely capable (that last part-completely capable- is going to become very important as we go forward). Ultimately, this thinking led Enlightenment thinkers to believe that man was perfectible. That if men thought about it long enough and hard enough that man could become perfect. There are a bunch of philosophical variations of this but let’s keep it short and leave it there.

As these two thought processes developed over decades, they naturally filtered in to theories of government.

Rather than trace the whole history, let’s contrast two very different historical events, the American Revolution and the French Revolution.

One, was based on those reformation principles we discussed. The other (the French Revolution) was based on the humanistic Enlightenment principles.

The American Revolution led to the Declaration of Independence which has survived strongly for over 200 years. The French Revolution led to the Declaration of the Rights of Men which lasted about a year.

So this leads us back to that principle of property ownership that we discussed in our earlier columns. Remember that we discussed the concept that liberals would form a committee (or a federal department, or a government) to dictate who can own property and how much, etcetera?

Well, the reformed minded people (conservatives) recognized that due to the depraved nature of ALL men, that no committee could be trusted with that level of power and authority. Their sin nature would take over and they would become tyrannical in their rules.

The Enlightenment minded people (liberals) believed, that if the committee were just made up of the right people in the right combination, that they would make fair determinations about property ownership. Not only that, the liberal mind believes that these selected people will not only rule fairly, but will make infinitely superior determinations to all the “regular” people.

And this has led us into our second core difference that we mentioned earlier, a complete difference in the way the two groups view the Imago Dei. Man being made in the image of God.

We shall discuss that next time.

Chris Skates is the author of the novel, Going Green: For Some It Has Nothing To Do With The Environment. He has been published in dozens of national magazines and has authored multiple technical articles in his field of Chemistry. You can follow his blog at www.chrisskates.com

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