Friday, September 21, 2012

An argument from science to the existence of universals

Been working, all day, on a paper about Universals. I have been examinig the following argument which is made by at least 2 relatively unknown medieval philosophers, and, a similar argument by Albert the Great. It looks like this:

1. There is no scientific knowledge of non-existing things.
2. All scientific knowledge is of universals.
3. Therefore universals are existing things.

I think that a better argument, which would prove essentially the same thing, would be.

1. All scientific knowledge is of universals.
2. Universals do not exist.
3. Therefore all scientific knowledge is of things that do not exist.
Therefore, either 2 is wrong or 1 is wrong.
Scientific Knowledge is certain knowledge based upon rational inference (valid inductive or deductive syllogistic demonstrations - see Aquinas's commentary on Aristotle's Posteriora Analytica.). All demonstration begin with universals.( see Aristole's Priora Analytica) Therefore 1 is true. Therefore either 2 is false or all scientific knowledge is of non-existent things.
This, of course, does not say anything about HOW universals exist.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Aristotle on Substance: A Chart based on the Categories

       This chart is based entirely on what Aristotle says about substance in his book Categories. There is so much more that might be said about substance. The purpose of this chart is to be an aid in understanding the Aristotelian notions of substance, primary substance and secondary substance.

      I tried to upload it as a pdf file, and to copy and paste it in from Microsoft word, but I couldn't figure out how to do either of these functions, so, I uploaded it as a picture. If you find it useful, and would like a pdf copy of it, let me know. All the page numbers refer to The Basic Works of Aristotle, edited by Richard McKeon.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


From God to Us : How We God Our Bible. Revised and Expanded. Norman Geisler & William E. Nix. Moody Publishers, 2012. 412pp. $21.99. ISBN 978-0-8024-2882-0.

            The back cover of the newly revised version of From God to Us, by Geisler and Nix, says that this book is ideal for professors, pastors and bible students. It becomes clear, when one flips through the many charts, pictures, and indices, that this book was written with the purpose of serving as a complete resource for any person who deals with subjects concerned with the origin, compilation, and transmission of the Bible. We will begin with a brief overview of the book, followed by a critical examination of some of its contents.

            From God to Us is divided into four main sections: (1) The Inspiration of the Bible, (2) The Canonization of the Bible, (3) The Transmission of the Bible, and (4) The Translation of the Bible. In each of these sections Geisler and Nix seek to expound and defend a conservative protestant view of these subjects. With a detailed table of contents, as well as indices that help the reader to find subjects, people and authors, as well as bible references, this book is easy to use as a reference book, turning to the particular subjects required for one’s research. The many charts and pictures are also useful for study purposes, and for illustrating some of the arguments that Geisler and Nix make in the different sections. There is an apologetic spirit that permeates the entire book which means that this book should be viewed as an apologetics resource.

            In the first section concerning the inspiration of the Bible, Geisler and Nix set out to defend the orthodox view of the inspiration of Scriptures which, according to the first chapter means that “Spirit-moved men wrote God-breathed words that are divinely authoritative for Christian faith and practice.”[1] Geisler and Nix go on, in the second chapter to defend a plenary, verbal, and non-mechanical view of inspiration, contrasting it against the Modern and Neo-Orthodox views of inspiration. In the following chapters they look at claims for the inspiration of the Old Testament and the New Testament. The first section finishes with a chapter which gives a summary view of the evidences for the inspiration of the Bible. The conclusion, in light of the many dogmatic claims, is less than one might expect. We are left with the conclusion that we have good evidence for, but no demonstration of, the inspiration of the Bible. Therefore, a step of faith is required to move from the evidence to the belief that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. The second section, concerning the canonization of the Bible is set up in much the same way as the first section. They explain, first of all, what canonicity is, and then move on to look at, the canonicity of the Old Testament and then the canonicity of the New Testament.

The third and fourth sections move on to matters that are less theological and more historical or textual. The third section concerns the ways in which the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, has come down to us. They examine, in this section questions concerning languages, writing materials, writing utensils, ways of writing, the manuscripts for the Old and New Testaments, and questions concerned with textual criticism. The fourth and final section has to do with the various translations of the Bible, principles of translations, and a critical history and examination of most of the translations of the Bible into modern English (There is little or no mention of translation into other modern languages, such as the many French translations of the Bible).

Having given a rapid summary of the contents of the book, we turn now to a critique of the contents. Much of what is said in this book could be portrayed as a straight forward defense of the inspiration and faithful transmission of the Evangelical Protestant canon. The book is written for professors, bible students and pastors, however, this book only given a summary introduction to the important issues. Most of the subjects that are found in this book are given a summary exposition and defense from the perspective of an Evangelical Protestant. To the attentive reader this book brings up a lot of questions that are left unanswered, as well as a number of interesting points. In what follows I would like to point out just a couple of the interesting points, and a couple of the unanswered questions.

In chapter three we find two interesting points concerning the inspiration of the Old Testament. Geisler and Nix note, in making some observations concerning Jesus’ view of the Old Testament that “Jesus affirmed as historically reliable some of the most disputed passages in the Old Testament regarding Adam and Eve, Noah, and Jonah.”[2] Now, if Jesus is God, then his claims about the Old Testament are important in considering the truthfulness of the Old Testament stories. A second interesting observation is the remark that they make concerning Jesus’ view of tradition, which might be seen as an arrow sent towards Roman Catholicism. “In fact, Jesus clearly rebuked those who held to traditions rather than to the Word of God (cf. Matt. 15:1-6).”[3]

In chapter four they shoot arrows at the Catholic Church again by positing an argument against apostolic succession. “The books of the New Testament are the only authentic record of apostolic teaching that we have today. The qualification that a member of the twelve apostles must be an eyewitness of the ministry and resurrection of Christ (Acts 1:21-22) eliminates any succession of apostles beyond the first century.”[4] One wonders if such an argument is not a little too simplistic, however, it is an interesting point which warrants further study.

In the section on the canonicity of the Bible one should note the arguments that are given against the canonicity of the apocryphal (“deuteron-canonical” for Catholics) books.[5] On the question of the Old Testament canon, Geisler argues that the Jews considered that the Old Testament canon was closed in 400 BCE, and gives a number of interesting quotes to back up this claim.[6] Also of interest is the question of prophetic continuity.[7]

Other points of interest concern: (1) Geisler’s claim that in the first century the apostles of Christ served as a form of living canon, giving direction in the selection of New Testament books;[8] (2) some thoughts about the role of the Holy Spirit in the selection of the canon;[9] (3) the interesting fact that J. R. R. Tolkien helped translate parts of the Jerusalem Bible;[10] and (4) a section concerning the New World translation of the Holy Bible which is used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.[11]

Despite the many interesting points that Geisler and Nix make in this tome, there are a number of questions that are left unanswered, and some conclusions that seem a overly optimistic. First of all, they dogmatically assert, without delving into the complexities of the question, that the Bible, alone, is the only authority for all Christian doctrine and practice. This is a claim that any self-respecting Catholic would immediately contest. Geisler and Nix claim, in the very first chapter, that “The Bible is the last word on doctrinal and ethical matters. All theological and moral disputes must be brought to the bar of the written Word.”[12] Now, this may be so, however, it does seem a little early in the book to be making such claims. One of the drawbacks of the book is that they never satisfactorily address this subject.

They do make some interesting conditional claims, however. They claim that the Scriptures (the protestant canon) are inspired and, therefore, that they are authoritative for Christian doctrine and practice.[13] The conditional claim can be explained as follows:

1.        If X is inspired, then X is authoritative for Christian doctrine and practice.

This claim is a direct attack on the Catholic view of authority. However, the Catholic would easily point out that though inspiration is a necessary condition for authority it is not a sufficient condition, and, therefore, it is possible for X to be authoritative even if it is not inspired.[14] This counter would put a damper on Geisler and Nix’s arguments against the authority of the Apocryphal books, as they go on in the section on canonicity to attempt to show that the Apocryphal books were not viewed as either inspired or canonical until very late. In the following chapter they claim that “inerrancy is logically entailed in inspiration.”[15] This conditional claim gives us the following logical form:

2.     If X is inspired, then X is inerrant.

These two claims are made throughout the first section on the inspiration of Scriptures. The second claim does not seem as controversial as the first. However, it does imply that if a book is erroneous in any way, then it is not inspired. This, of course, has no relation to the first claim as it is possible, according to the structure of the first claim, for X to be authoritative but not inspired. The third conditional statement, found in the section on the Canon, is “The divine authority of Scripture is another designation of its canonicity.[16] A fourth is on the following page, “a book qualified as inspired only if it had been written by a prophetic spokesman of God.”[17] A fifth is “Rather, the same factor determining the canonicity of the Torah determined the canonicity of all Scripture; namely, the fact that all of them were divinely inspired.”[18] These three statements give us:

3.      If authoritative then canonical.
4.      If written by a true prophet of God, then inspired.
5.      If inspired, then canonical.

It might be helpful to see them all together in some sort of logical order.

1.      If X is written by a true prophet of God, then X is inspired.
2.      If X is inspired, then X is inerrant.
3.      If X is inspired, then X is Authoritative for Christian doctrine and practice.
4.      If X is authoritative, then X is canonical.
5.      If X is inspired, then X is canonical.

For our present purposes the second premise is unnecessary, and the fifth premise is the logical consequence of premises 3 and 4. However it should be noted that in and of themselves the only one of these premises that could be used to determine whether or not the apocryphal books are inspired and therefore canonical, is the second premise, and, even then, none of these premises could be used to argue that the apocryphal books are not authoritative, even if they were proven uninspired and non-canonical. Geisler and Nix claim that there are errors in the apocryphal book, but they do not substantiate their claim.[19] At a later point in the book they point out what they view as doctrinal errors that are found in the apocryphal books, however, it seems that if they are inspired, then these are not doctrinal errors,[20] but need to be understood in the light of the rest of divine revelation.[21] In order to prove that these books are not inspired they need to demonstrate satisfactorily that they, each book individually, were not written by true prophets of God (according to the conditional noted above). It seems, therefore, that this question is left unanswered, though it is frequently brought up.

The question of authority for church doctrine and practice is a deep and important question for all Christians; it is also inseparable from the questions of inspiration and canonicity. Unfortunately Geisler and Nix do not give this question any consideration, and content themselves with dogmatic, and unfounded, claims. The argument that they seem to be developing in the first two sections (the first 10 chapters) is that only the protestant canon is inspired and authoritative for all questions concerning doctrine and practice. The argument looks something like this:

1.      If X is inspired, then X is authoritative for Christian doctrine and practice.
2.      Only the 66 books of the protestant canon are inspired.
3.      Therefore only the 66 books of the protestant canon are authoritative.

They bring a great amount of evidence to the table, but in the end their arguments are not as strong as they seem to believe. It seems that, in order for them to demonstrate the truth of their conclusion, they will have to make “inspiration” into a necessary and sufficient condition for “authority”. It is unfortunate that they are not only incapable of demonstrating this conclusion, but they also entirely ignore the fact that the Bible is open to interpretation, so that, even if they could prove that the 66 book of the protestant canon are the final authority for all doctrine and practice, they would still have to answer the following question: “Whose interpretation of the 66 book canon is authoritative for all Christian doctrine and practice?” This is a question that is not even asked.

Some other questions that are left unanswered are the following: (1) How does the fact that a New Testament author quotes (approving what is said), or alludes to, an Old Testament author prove that the Old Testament author is inspired?[22] After all, Paul quotes, approvingly, a number of pagan authors, and Jude seems to quote, approvingly, some apocryphal or pseudepigraphical works. (2) How did the early church fathers treat the apocryphal books as compared with the other biblical books?[23] Were apocryphal books ever read in the churches?[24] Reading attentively, we find out that books such as The Shepherd of Hermas was “read publicly in the churches and used for instruction classes in the faith.”[25] Furthermore it this same book “was quoted as inspired by Irenaeus and Origen.”[26] Geisler also notes that the Didache was quoted as scripture by Clement of Alexandria.[27](3) If it is true that the church did not determine which books were canonical, but simply discovered which ones were canonical,[28] what if it was “discovered” that the apocryphal books were inspired? If the books were recognized to be canonical, is it possible that certain books weren’t recognized to be canonical which should have been, or were recognized to be canonical which shouldn’t have been recognized? After all, as fallible humans we quite frequently think that we have discovered something, only to find out later that our conclusions were totally wrong. Furthermore, cases of mistaken identity are all to frequent. (4) Where did the “principles for discovering canonicity” come from?[29] (5) It seems that he gives too much importance to some arguments from silence concerning the canonicity of the apocrypha (Jesus never cited any apocryphal book, and neither did the apostles.). Did Jesus quote every single book of the Old Testament? If not, did he consider the unquoted ones to be non-canonical? All of these questions have answers. However they are not easily found, if they are there, in this book.

We have given a brief summary and critical analysis of the contents of Geisler and Nix’s recently revised book, From God to Us. This book has many positive aspects, including the charts, images and highly organized, and easy to follow, format. Furthermore, it is useful as a complete introductory summary and defense of the Conservative Evangelical position on the inspiration, canonicity, and transmission of the Bible, by two scholars who have been extremely influential in contemporary evangelical theology and philosophy. In my humble opinion the advanced student or scholar will find it to be too shallow to be of much help in forming one’s ideas on the subjects. The lack of a bibliography, and the small amount of footnotes, leads one to think that it is written more for popular audiences then for the professor or graduate student. It would, however, be quite useful in an undergraduate introduction to the Bible, for the lay-person, or as a pastoral tool, as it is an easy read and easy to use as a resource book.

[1]Norman L. Geisler & William E. Nix, From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible, 2nd ed. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2012), 17.

[2]Ibid., 47.

           [3]Ibid., 48.

[4]Ibid., 55.

[5]Ibid., 89, 106-7, 111-114, 120-9.

[6]Ibid., 106-7, 111-114, 128.

[7]Ibid., 108-111.

[8]Ibid., 134.

[9]Ibid., 160.

[10]Ibid., 354.

[11]Ibid., 372-4.

[12]Ibid., 18.

[13]Ibid., 16, 17, 18, 30, 66, 101.

[14]It would be a logical fallacy to claim “If X is inspired, then X is authoritative. X is not inspired, therefore X is not authoritative.” One could claim that X is not authoritative, therefore X is not inspired, but, this will not help the argument that is being built.

[15]Ibid., 32, 66.

[16]Ibid., 88.

[17]Ibid., 89.

[18]Ibid., 90.

[19]Ibid., 94-5.

[20]If inspired, then inerrant.

[21]Ibid., 127.

[22]Ibid., 44, 116.

[23]Ibid., 61.

[24]Ibid., 59.

[25]Ibid., 155. This needs to be compared with their claims on pages 59-61.

[26]Ibid., 155. This needs to be compared with their claims on pages 34, 66, 88-92.

[27]Ibid., 156.

[28]Ibid., 92.

[29]Ibid., 93.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Le Langage et la Préservation de la Culture



            La Charte de la Langue Française nous explique que la raisonne pour lequel la française est « la langue de l'État et de la Loi aussi bien que la langue normale et habituelle du travail, de l'enseignement, des communications, du commerce et des affaires »[2] est que «  la langue française permet au peuple québécois d'exprimer son identité. »[3] Ce qui est implicite dans la raison qu’on nous donne pour la loi 101 est l’idée que la langue française est primordiale pour la préservation de la culture (voir « identité » dans la citation ci-haut) Québécoise. Dans ce léger pensée je veux simplement noter comment cet argument peut être décortiqué logiquement, et j’aimerais suggérer que l’argument est faux. Plus précisément j’aimerais suggérer que la loi 101 ne fais rien pour préserver la culture Québécoise, et que les parties politique qui sont la plus passionné pour la préservation de la culture Québécoise (et la renforcement de la loi 101 comme moyen primordiale) sont, en même temps, ceux qui sont en train de détruire les fondations de ce qui est la plus important dans la préservation de n’importe quel culture – la famille.[4]

            Premièrement, le raisonnement derrière la loi 101 est, essentiellement, ceci :

1.      On doit préserver la culture Québécoise.
2.      Le langage est la moyenne la plus sûr par lequel une culture est préservée.
3.      Donc, la loi 101.

Pour qu’un argument soit logiquement valide tout les prémisses doit être vrai. Pour que la première prémisse soit vraie on doit, premièrement, accepter que le terme culture puisse être appliqué à plusieurs affaires qui correspondent à la définition de « Culture ». Deuxièmement on doit assumer qu’il existe, en réalité, plusieurs des affaires qui corresponde à la définition du terme « Culture ».[5] Troisièmement, on doit assumer que c’est bon pour la société d’une nation de préserver, à l’intérieur d’elle, plusieurs cultures. Finalement, on doit assumer que la culture Québécoise est une bonne culture qui mérite préservation. Si chacun des quatre suppositions que la première prémisse présuppose ce trouve être bon, alors, la première prémisse est vrai. Il faut noter que chacun des quatre présuppositions est hautement discutable. Les deux premières présuppositions, par exemple, sont débattues dans la philosophie depuis Platon, Aristote, et les autres philosophes Grecque. Je vais, avec le but de garder cette réflexion relativement courte, assumer que les quatre présuppositions sont vrai. Personnellement, ayant vécue au Québec depuis environ huit ans, je crois que la culture Québécoise mérite, autant que n’importe quel autre culture, à être préserver. Donc, la première prémisse est présumé vraie.

La deuxième prémisse est la rationalisation principale derrière la loi 101. Je crois que cette prémisse est faux, et alors, que la conclusion – l’instauration de la loi 101 – est aussi une erreur. Mais, si la première prémisse est vrai, on doit trouver une deuxième prémisse et, alors, une autre conclusion. On va revenir à ce problème, avançons à notre critique de la deuxième prémisse. La deuxième prémisse est ceci : Le langage est la moyenne la plus sûr par lequel une culture est préservée. Autrement dit, si on préserve la langue française, Alors on va préserver la culture Québécoise. Ce qui peut être redit, plus générale, comme ceci : si on préserve un langage, on préserve une culture. On parle ici des moyens d’actions pour arriver à quelque chose qui est aperçue comme un bien. Donc, c’est sûr qu’il pourrait avoir plusieurs moyens pour arriver à la préservation de la culture Québécoise. La proposition sous considération est ceci :

            Si on préserve un langage, on préserve une culture.

Cette proposition peut être interprétée, logiquement, comme ceci :

A = préserver un langage
B = préserver une culture

Il faut noter que, selon cette formulation logique, on affirme que si A arrive, alors B va arriver nécessairement. Implicite dans cette formulation logique est que le fait que B est actuel ne peut être utilisé comme preuve que A est aussi présente.[6] C'est-à-dire, le fait qu’une culture à était préserver n’est pas la preuve que son langage était aussi préserver. Donc, selon cette proposition il est possible, il me semble, de préserver une culture sans préserver son langage. Alors il pourrait y avoir d’autres moyens, même des meilleurs moyens, pour préserver une culture. Je vais argumenter ce dernière point en bas, mais, il faut regarder une autre expression de la deuxième prémisse.

 Je pense qu’il y a beaucoup de politiciens Québécois qui pense que la proposition doit être exprimée d’une autre façon. Ils aimeraient qu’on affirme ceci : « On va préserver la culture, si, et seulement si, on préserve le langage. » Dans ce deuxième type de proposition logique le première partie est nécessaire et suffisante pour que le deuxième partie à lieu. Ce qui veut dire que si on préserve le langage, on va préserver la culture; et, si la culture était préserver, alors le langage était préserver. Cette deuxième prémisse à l’aire comme ceci :

A = préserver un langage
B = préserver une culture

Selon cette structure logique, si A arrive alors B va arriver nécessairement, et si B arrive, alors A va arriver nécessairement. A est nécessaire, et suffisante, pour B, et le contraire est aussi vrai. Si A, alors B; et si B, alors A. Pour démontré la fausseté de cette proposition il s’agit de démontré une culture qui existe aujourd’hui dans lequel il aurait eu un changement de langage, sans que la culture soit perdue. J’aimerais proposer que la nation d’Israël soit l’exemple qu’on cherche. La culture Juif existe toujours, aujourd’hui, partout au monde, mais, ceux qui font partie de la culture Juif ne parlent pas, nécessairement, ancien Hébreu – le langage d’origine pour la nation d’Israël. La réalité est que l’ancien Hébreu est considéré une langue morte, mais la culture Juif est extrêmement vivant. Dans le temps de Jésus le lange d’affaires, et de tous les jours, était Aramaique, pas Hébreu. Malgré ceci la culture des Juifs était extrêmement vivante.

Conclusions? L’utilisation, et la préservation, d’un langage n’est ni une condition nécessaire, ni une condition suffisante, pour la préservation d’une culture. Il faut noter, d’ailleurs, que si la préservation d’un langage était une condition, nécessaire ou suffisante, pour la préservation d’une culture, alors il n’y aurait pas une culture Québécoise. Au contraire, il y aurait, ici au Canada, la culture française de France, vivante et fière de l’être.

Alors, c’est quoi la moyen la plus probable d’être efficace pour la préservation d’une culture? Peut-être qu’on devrait regarder, rapidement ce que les Juifs, un des seuls cultures de l’antiquité qui existe toujours, ont fait pour préserver leur culture. Il me semble qu’il y a deux aspects de la culture Juif qui ont aidé à préserver la culture Juif.

Premièrement, et l’aspect la plus importante, est l’importance attribuer à la famille et le fait que les parents passe aux enfants les symboles et les fêtes, ainsi que les raisonnes pour les symboles et les fêtes. C’est la transmission de la culture à travers l’institution d’une famille qui reste ensemble (donnant un lieu de sécurité dans lequel les enfants peuvent apprendre et grandir) qui était la cause principale de la préservation de la culture Juif. Si on veut que la culture Québécoise continue à exister dans l’avenir alors on doit combattre pour la préservation de la famille. Ce qui implique qu’on ne change pas la définition classique (depuis plus que 4000 ans) du mariage et de la famille. Ca veut dire qu’on doit valoriser et récompenser des parents qui se marie et qui reste ensemble, et condamner, et combattre, la rupture des familles. Ca veut dire qu’on doit aider, et enseigner, les parents dans l’éducation de leurs enfants. Ce qui implique que ce n’est pas le rôle de l’état d’éduqué nos enfants, mais de facilité l’éducation des enfants, et de supplémenté l’éducation qui est donner par les parents. Finalement on doit combattre n’importe quelle tendance qui s’attaque à la famille, comme : la procréation à l’extérieur du mariage,  l’avortement, qui est devenu la moyen pour s’échapper aux conséquences de la procréation hors mariage, le mariage homosexuel,[7] la notion que c’est l’état qui est responsable pour l’éducation religieux et morale de nos enfants, etc.

Deuxièmement, on doit préserver les symboles et les fêtes Québécoises, expliquant leur importance et ce qu’ils signifient. La famille est le lieu dans lequel on est plus apte, et plus capable, de faire ce deuxième devoir. C’est en famille qu’on célèbre les fêtes. Lorsque les enfants sont jeunes ont peux les enseigner l’importance des fêtes, et leur signification, et, en fait, les fêtes deviens les opportunités pour revoir la famille et passé du temps ensemble. En plus, c’est dans les unités familiales que les fêtes prendre toute leur importance. Ceux qui n’ont pas la famille proche, sont, d’habitude, ceux qui ne célèbrent les fêtes.  

J’aimerais suggérais que, si on veut préserver la culture Québécoise on doit commencer par la préservation de nos familles. D’ailleurs, si on réussi à préserver nos familles, et, par les familles, la culture Québécoise, c’est vraiment possible, qu’on va, aussi, préserver la langue française.

[1]La loi 101 exige que si on à un nom anglais pour notre compagnie on doit, aussi, avoir un nom française, et que le nom française doit être plus grand et au-dessus du nom anglais. J’espère que vous êtes capable d’apprécier mon sarcasme.

[2]Charte de la Langue Française, (mis à jour le 1 Septembre 2012, accéder le 8 Septembre 2012).


[4]Il faudrait mentionner que j’étais née en Ontario et que je suis résident de la province de Québec depuis 2004, environ.

[5]Le fait qu’il y a un terme qui, par définition, peut être appliquer à une multitude d’affaires n’est pas la preuve qu’il y a une multitude des choses (correspondant à cette définition) qui existe.

[6]C’est un faut de logique de dire ceci : A→B, B, alors A.

[7]Mettant de coté la question de si l’homosexualité est bon ou mauvaise, parce que ce question n’a aucun impacte directe sur la famille, on doit, si on veut préserver les familles, combattre pour préserver la définition d’une famille classique. Pour la propagation de la culture Québécoise, les Québécois doivent donner naissance, et élever (dans un milieu de sécurité), des enfants Québécois. Un couple homosexuelle n’est pas capable de procrée. Ce qui empêche la propagation de la culture Québécois par le moyen de la famille, qui est, je propose, la moyenne la plus sûr pour préserver la famille. Donc, notre société, doit, au moins, garder la définition classique du mariage et d’une famille, et combattre n’importe quelle tendance qui détruirait la famille.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


            The purpose of this short essay is to attempt to explain the place that a Christian is supposed to take in society. Many Christians seem tempted to latch on to the notion that we are not of this world, or that our citizenship is in heaven, as an excuse to escape all political responsibility. Others excuse themselves from all public forums, elections and activities by arguing that our purpose, as Christians, is not to be involved socially but to preach the Gospel. However, as I will argue here, it seems that the Bible teaches that Christians should be active members of society. Though our citizenship is, ultimately, in heaven, and though we are not of this world, and though we should be actively preaching the gospel, we are still in the world and are to be active members of the earthly society in which we find ourselves.[1] Our commission, to go into the entire world and preach the gospel does not mean that we are freed from all responsibilities to be active members of society. The two activities, preaching the gospel, and being actively involved in society and government, are far from contradictory. Rather they should go hand in hand. I will begin by arguing that man is, by nature, meant to live in a community, society, or country. I will also note some of the types of government. Then we will look at what the Bible teaches about the Christians role in society and I will note what this means today, and what responsibilities a Christian has towards their country regardless of their government.

Man as a Social Animal

            In the Politics Aristotle notes that man is not self-sufficient, and, therefore, needs to live in community. The first sentence in his Politics says, “Every state is a community of some kind, and every community is established with a view to some good; for mankind always act in order to obtain that which they think good.”[2] A couple paragraphs later Aristotle claims that “he who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must be either a beast or a god: he is not part of a state. A social instinct is implanted in all men by nature.”[3] Every person who is born finds themselves, immediately, in a number of different communities. They are born, generally, into a family unit of some sort. The family unit is the smallest form of community. Aristotle gives an argument based upon how the state was eventually formed. “The family is the association established by nature for the supply of men’s everyday wants…But when several families are united, and the association aims at something more than the supply of daily needs, the first society to be formed is the village. And the most natural form of the village appears to be that of a colony from the family.”[4]  

If, I have argued in other articles, the end of any thing is its proper good; and, if the good of a thing is to fully actualize its nature; then human beings, who are by nature rational animals, in order to be virtuous - good, must become fully human. There are some human virtues that cannot be actualized without a community (i.e. – hospitality, generosity, loving one’s neighbor, etc.). Therefore, if men, by nature, require a community in order to be fully human, then, humans, by nature, are social animals. Therefore, the main purpose of any community should be the development of the human virtues, both practical and intellectual, in the constituents of the community. Humans, therefore, are, by their very nature, meant to live in community, and living in community is necessary for the development of Human virtue.

            Communities, by their very nature, are in need of direction; and, or so it seems, if the upright leave communities without direction, then evil men will take control of the state. We need, therefore, to consider, briefly, the different types of government. Communities, as Aristotle notes, are formed as follows, “the members of a state must either have (1) all things or (2) nothing in common, or (3) some things in common and some not.”[5] These three options are exhaustive. The second option, as Aristotle notes, is impossible, as a community, by definition, has at least one thing in common – place.[6]

            There are many types of governmental structures that correspond to either of the other two options. I will briefly outline some of the more common and well-known government structures. Communism is the political view that could be summed up by the phrase, “share and share alike”. The idea is that all the citizens of the community receive equally from the community regardless of their contribution to the community (ideally all citizens of the state should contribute equally to the state).  This type of government is often applauded as truly treating all people equally, yet the focal point of this type of government is not the people, but the state itself. The community is more important than the individual members of the community. However, Aristotle’s critique of this type of government still applies today, "Such legislation [making all men have all things in common] may have a specious appearance of benevolence; men readily listen to it, and are easily induced to believe that in some wonderful manner everybody will become everybody's friend, especially when someone is heard denouncing the evils now existing in states, suits about contracts, convictions for perjury, flatteries of rich men and the like, which are said to arise out of the possession of private property. These evils, however, are due to a very different cause - the wickedness of human nature."[7]

            Socialism is very similar to Communism in its attempt to render all of the members of the community equal, and is easily confused with Communism. In fact, “socialism will transform itself into communism when most of the work that people perform in society becomes its own reward, making differential monetary reward generally unnecessary.”[8] According to the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, “socialism takes equality to be the basic ideal and justifies coercive institutions insofar as they promote equality. In capitalist societies where the means of production are owned and controlled by a relatively small number of people and used primarily for their benefit, socialists favor taking control of the means of production and redirecting their use to the general welfare. According to Marx, the principle of distribution for a socialist society is: from each according to ability, to each according to needs.”[9] Some forms of socialism take on a democratic flavor, and we saw Obama attempting to make the United States into a Social Democracy. A Social Democracy maintains a form of representation, but maintains that all the members must be kept on the same level of equality, regardless of how hard they work.

            A Democratic state is governed by the people. Normally representatives are chosen, or elected, by the people to represent them in the government of the entire nation. In a democratic community all of the members are considered equal, and all are, theoretically at least, given equal say in the decisions made by the community. This means, of course, that all the decisions made by the community are binding, equally, upon all of the members of the community.

            A Monarchy is a state that is governed by a single ruler. All of the members of the community are morally bound to obey the decisions of the monarch who is supposed to make the best decisions for the community.

            An Oligarchy is government of the many by a few elite leaders. Ideally the leaders of an oligarchy should be the most virtuous, independently wealthy, well-educated and wise. If such is the case then the leaders will not succumb to bribery (as they are independently wealthy), they will not succumb to lies (as they are well-educated), they will not be tempted towards evil (as they are virtuous), and they will make the best decisions for the community (as they are wise). The fact that there is a group of leaders, rather than a single leader (as in a Monarchy, or quite often in Communist or Fascist states), means that there are checks and balances against the corruption of one of the individual leaders. I would argue that the government of the early church was organized as a type of Oligarchy. The universal church, spanning the ages, is, according to the New Testament, somewhat of a Monarchy, with Christ as its sole leader, but the church government of the earthly church is an Oligarchy (the leadership of the many by the qualified few – elders).[10]

            Returning to Aristotle’s critique of Communism, no human government will ever be perfect due to the corruption of human nature. Man corrupts everything he touches, and putting a bunch of humans together doesn’t tend to diminish the corruption. The question as to which form of government is best is a question for another publication. We turn now to the claims of the Bible about a Christian’s role in society and government.

The Christian in Society

            There are two points that need to be presented when we discuss questions about the Christian in society, and the biblical view of man in society. First of all we need to understand some very basic principles about God’s role in the establishment of society and government. Secondly we need to look at what the Bible explicitly says about how Christians are to interact with society and with the governments of the countries in which they find themselves.

God and Government

            The Bible presents a paradox when it discusses Gods role in the establishment of society and government. A paradox is not a contradiction, though it may be hard to understand and harder to explain. There are a couple of points that we need to consider when we discuss God and human governments.

            First of all, God created men to live in community. In Genesis 2:18-25, after having created man, God says that it is not good that man be left alone, rather he needs a friend, so to say. What we noted above as an observation of Aristotle about the nature of man, is revealed to us in God’s word – namely, that man is by nature a social animal. God created humans to live in communion with other humans, and with God.

            Secondly, human governments find their authority and their beginnings in God himself.[11] In a sense, God is the architect of human society, politics and governments. Insofar as God created man to live in communities, he also created man to be a political animal.

Thirdly, as far as the Christian is concerned, the authority of any government is derived directly from God.[12] Therefore, when the government acts to reward or punish the people that are living in its community, its actions are authoritative because they derive their authority from God. Therefore, whenever a government justly punishes an evil person they are acting as God’s ministers.[13] As we mentioned above, the role of a community, and therefore of its government, is to facilitate the formation of the human virtues. Any government that facilitates the formation of human virtues by justly punishing the unjust, and justly rewarding the just is a righteous government and it acts with the authority of God. Any government that does the opposite, is, therefore, an unjust government, and should only be obeyed insomuch as it does not oppose the law of God (natural law not Mosaic Law).

Fourthly, God sovereignly rules over all of the nations.[14] This point brings up an important issue for Christian theologians - the problem of the sovereignty of God and the free-will of man. I have already addressed this question in many other blog posts so I will not take the time to address it here. I will simply note that God’s sovereign rule does not remove from man his responsibility. We are held responsible for what we could have done, that was right to do, but didn’t do (I think that in a society where we can cast our vote for the least unjust government we are morally obligated to vote.), as well as for what we did do that was wrong. Christians, therefore, are morally obligate to be as involved in politics – defending justice and combating injustice - to the extent that they are permitted by the society in which they find themselves.

The Christian in Society and in Relation to Government

            There are a number of points that should be noted concerning how a Christian is supposed to interact with the society in which he/she finds themselves. The Bible leaves much unsaid, but, the principles that are made explicit should be noted. Most of these principles could be arrived at through reasoning, without divine revelation, as they are principles that all humans should abide by, not just humans, and could be, arguably, deduced from human nature. Due to the nature of these principles they will not follow any conceivable order.

            First of all, it is wrong and considered rebellion against God to disobey just laws that are established by the Government of the Society in which one finds oneself.[15] If, as was noted above, all human institutions receive their authority from God himself, then disobedience to the human authority is disobedience to God’s authority.

            Secondly, we are morally obligated to pay our taxes.[16] Jesus paid not only the Roman taxes, but the temple taxes as well. We can discuss whether or not the taxes are appropriate, but we are expected to pay them whatever they may be. When we reside in a government were we are legally permitted to use certain measures of change, such as demonstrations, petitions, running for office, etc., we may even be morally obligated to pursue those legal measures in an effort to change that which is unjust.

            Christians are, thirdly, to be submitted to their governments in every just demand.[17] This means that insomuch as the government does not ask a Christian to deny Christ, or require sinful behavior of its members, a Christian is biblically required to obey every ordinance of the government of the country in which they live. In a state where it is possible to change laws, a Christians is morally obligate to use every lawful means to change unjust laws and to institute just laws. Interestingly enough, Paul upheld the Roman laws and customs concerning slavery, not because they were right, but because that was the law.[18] However, he taught that if it was possible for a slave to legally obtain freedom, then that slave should pursue freedom.[19] It seems that we can logically apply this to our contemporary situation such that we are taught, by Paul’s example, to uphold the laws of our country insomuch as they are just and humane, but, whenever the opportunity presents itself we should always seek to better the conditions of those around us, using whatever means are lawful in the society in which we live (insomuch as they are also acceptable in the eyes of God)[20]. For example, in societies where the government tends towards democracy one of the ways in which a Christian can make his voice heard, legally, is by voting for the best leader (or representative). It would even be possible for a Christian to run for office in the hopes of bringing about a positive change to society.[21]

            Furthermore, Christians are implored, by the biblical authors, to be model citizens, the best members of the Country that they are living in.[22] We are to love our neighbors, do good to all men and especially other Christians, and to live peaceably with all men. Our life should be so blameless that the only reason that we could be persecuted is due to our faith in Christ. In certain societies, with certain governments, it is almost strange to see one citizen helping another, but Christians should be setting the standard, not worrying about their own lives, and helping out those around them.

            Fifthly, laziness is forbidden. Interestingly enough, Paul would have been dead-set against any state that encourages laziness by being overly generous towards those who do not work. Paul tells the church in Thessalonica that he who does not seek (desire, or wish) to work, thus remaining idle when he is capable of work, should not eat.[23] Those who work, on the other hand, have earned their salary, and should be allowed to rejoice in the fruits of their labors.[24] I would argue that these comments demonstrate that Paul would be dead-set against the economic situation of the Canadian Socialist government in which those who have a higher salary (frequently demonstrating either a greater education, or a greater need for the service rendered) are obligate to give a higher percentage of their salary in taxes than a person with a lower salary. It seems unjust to apply higher taxes to a person who makes more money, and fewer taxes to a person who makes less money. The person who works for his money has earned it. Regardless of the type of government in which a Christian finds himself, he should be a tireless worker at whatever task he has before him. Christians are to be contributing to society as indefatigable workers who do all for the glory of God. Regardless of whether we receive that wages that we have earned, or lose half of them to socialist taxes, or are given the same benefits as everyone else regardless of how hard we work (as in a Communist society), we should complete whatever task is before us as if it is for God and not for our own glory.

            Finally, Christians are called upon to be active members of society, participating in any social event that is not sinful.[25] This means participating in festivals, social gatherings, and public forums. For a Christian living in a State that allows him to have a say in how the country is run this means that a Christian should use whatever means are open to him to raise up every just cause and extinguish every unjust cause.

            There is so much more that could be said on this topic, and, in fact, much has already been said which I did not have the space to reference in this short thought. My purpose in writing this thought on Christians, Society and Politics, is to start a dialogue, to get people thinking about these issues.

[1]Paul rebukes the Corinthians for misunderstanding one of his instructions. He had told them to have nothing to do with “sexually immoral people (1 Cor. 5:9)”, but, he was talking about people who claimed to be followers of Christ and yet were sexually immoral, not non-Christians, “not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. (1 Cor. 5:10)” We are still in the world, and, therefore, have a responsibility as active members of society.

[2]Aristotle, “Politica,” in The Basic Works of Aristotle, trans. Benjamin Jowett, ed. Richard McKeon (New York: Random House, 1941), 1127.

[3]Ibid., 1130.

[4]Ibid., 1128.

[5]Ibid., 1146.


[7]Ibid., 1152.

[8] The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 2nd ed., Ed. Robert Audi (1999; repr., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), cf. “Political Philosophy”.


[10]Cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-7.

[11]Cf. Rom. 13:1.

[12]Cf. Rom. 13:1.

[13]Cf. Rom. 13:2-5.

[14]Cf. Dan. 4: 17, 25, 34-5; 7-8; 11.

[15]Cf. Rom. 13:2.

[16]Cf. Matt. 17:24-27, Mk. 12:13-17, Rom. 13:6-7.

[17]Cf. Rom. 13:1, Tit. 3:1, 1 Pet. 2:13-15.

[18]Cf. 1 Cor. 7:20, Philemon 13-18.

[19]Cf. 1 Cor. 7:21.’

[20]It is not the case that just because a certain means of attaining a desirable end is lawful, that that means is also virtuous and God –honoring. We need to be discerning in how we go about changing the society in which we live.

[21]It seems advisable to stay away from a Christian state, as most experiments with such a notion have been detrimental to society.

[22]Cf. Rom. 12:18, 13:8-10, Gal. 6:10, 1 Thess. 4:11-12, 2 Thess. 3:6-12, Tit. 3:2, 1 Pet. 2:12, 3:13-17.

[23]Cf. 2 Thess. 3:10.

[24]Cf. 1 Cor. 9:4-14, 2 Thess. 3:6-12.
[25]Cf. Rom. 14:1-4, 1 Cor. 8:1-13, Col. 2:20-23.