Monday, March 2, 2009

Unlawful Government, Crazy Kids, and Cuba

I have been absent from this space for a while (absent in writing, not in reading), but I now make my return in a rather haphazard way. But you're accustomed to my haphazard ways, I'm sure.

I just finished reading John Locke's Second Treatise on Government. Brilliance. Locke is one of those men we're taught to revere as a great thinker, but we're never challenged or encouraged to read his writings. It's been said that history affords all great men one sentence: Lincoln freed the slaves, Washington is the father of our country, and, if I may speculate, Obama is the first black president. In such a vein, Locke may be considered the father of liberal political thought.

I cracked open his treatise ready to disagree with what I understood to be his basic premise: that all men are born free in the state of Nature (as opposed to under the law of a particular government). While Locke is an ardent defender of the basic tenet that men are equal and free, he does so on a subtle, more palatable basis: that no man has the freedom or right to exert unprovoked force on another. It is from this negative right, really, that the positive rights of life, liberty, and property flow. I wish he would have expounded on that difference a bit more---explaining that one is a corollary to the other. Oh well.

Some of Locke's most poignant observations pertain to the origin of governments. How did it come into being that men have governments? Very simply, Locke postulates that originally men would have looked to their fathers to settle disputes---some paternal chief of sorts who was regarded and revered in the local community or family group. This power would only be exerted when a dispute arose, and was more judicial than legislative in nature.

As communities grew more complex, people got together and would appoint leaders who could legislate and act in a manner to preserve the property and liberty of the polity. This is really the only end of government according to Locke---preservation of life and property. The government, then, does by consent of the governed that which each of the governed had the right to do in nature---preserve and protect life and property. Government has no right to do anything else, according to Locke.

The basic reasoning of Locke makes perfect sense: a group of people got together to form a government; what rights could that group convey to that governing body? No more rights than what the people themselves had in nature. To exert force beyond what the people themselves had right to do is to engage in unlawful governance, and the people then have a right to organize a new government because the leader they had appointed had thereby lost his position of authority by exceeding his rights.

Interestingly, Locke thought it improbable that elected legislators would take property from the people when they were only elected for a term. Just goes to show you that brilliance doesn't mean prescience.

Care for some talk about crazy kids? Really, this is more a story about crazy parents. Three weeks ago in Sunday School (middle school boys) we were discussing the fall of man and its effects on all people. I won't go into the lesson, but suffice it to say that it was orthodox. The common objection of fairness arose---a child arguing that everyone has an equal shot at getting in to heaven. (All people seem to think that the world started when they were born, and that it's essentially static. It boggles the mind of the young to think there was a day when not every soul had access to a Bible, or that even now not every soul has access to the Bible.) Anyway, I brought up the American Indian, posing the question to my students that if everybody has an equal chance of getting in, what do you do with a people group who had never heard of Jesus, or even Jehovah, until 1492. (The issue being whether everyone truly has an equal chance.) One child cocked his head back and said he knew the answer: the Indians had a copy of the Ten Commandments, you see. After I let him explain what he had just uttered, I gently told him that he was wrong.

Well, yesterday I was presented with an Internet article about how the Ten Commandments were chiseled on a wall in a cave in New Mexico, circa 1000 b.c. Barry Fell, I think, was the name of the author of the article. The article also contained an allusion to some Welsh missionary to the Indians who said that he could easily understand their language because it was essentially Hebrew. This all sounds Mormonistic to me, though I'm sure the child in my class is no Mormon and neither is his family. Perhaps it's some kooky Dispensational dogma, whereby the Indians are the progeny of the "lost tribe of Israel." Anyway, I don't imagine I'll bring this up again with this poor kid. It's not my place to tell him that his mom is nuts.

Cuba: A great man of God at my church is a missionary to Cuba. He has a church that he works with down there. Due to the governmental constraints of Cuba, and the potential for a crackdown on my friend and the church he works with, I can't say much about him. I must convey to you, however, that the Lord's work is being done in this forgotten land 90 miles off our coast.

One interesting story about Cuba: my friend works with a particular pastor in Cuba. This pastor, prior to meeting my friend, had attended seminary in Cuba and was typical Baptist Arminian (but I'm sure with a Latin flare!). One day he happened upon a book by Spurgeon, old and tattered, translated into Spanish. A few days prior he'd had a dream in which God told him he had an errant view of grace. He did not learn in the dream what the proper view of grace was, but then came upon this Spurgeon book. The Lord opened the pastor's eyes to the truths of free grace, through a dream and a book! I love that: Spurgeon's writings used by God in Cuba. My friend now teaches a class down there when he goes---essentially it's a makeshift seminary, imparting the doctrines of grace in the land of Castro. I just can't get over that Spurgeon book. Amazing.

Well, I've prattled on enough. Kudos to anyone who made it through my ramblings.


Hal Brunson said...


Surely if Spurgeon is now in Cuba, Cuban cigars must be on their way to America or England.

Indians don't need the Decalogue in a cave; even the heathen have it in their hearts.

As for the Mom, I presume she sent you the email; as a headmaster I've seen too often the ridiculous lengths to which parents will go to defend the innocence, and deny the ignorance, of their children.

As far as the missionary's dream, suspect at best, but I'll take the blessing of Spurgeon's truth over the doubtfulness of the means.

Shane said...

In fairness to my missionary friend---it was the Cuban's dream, not his.

And, yes, it was the Mom who sent me the article, using her poor child as messenger.