Questions are an effective tool to prompt thought and discussion. However, unless they have an answer, their utility is extremely limited.

For instance, if we’re cruising down the highway and I ask you what the speed limit is, that question might spark a deep conversation on traffic laws, safety vs. freedom, and the need for radar detectors.

However, once the flashing lights are in the rearview mirror, it becomes very apparent that the question was actually seeking an answer, not a discussion.

When a lawyer asks the question “Are justice, right, and rights merely abstract concepts? Do they even exist?” it is likely to prompt a lively philosophical discussion.

But at the end of the day, this question is only useful if it actually produces an answer.

Who Cares?

Whether or not something exists has profound implications. Does this apple exist? The answer could mean the difference between life and starvation. Does the speed limit exist? The answer could mean the difference between a fun drive and jail time.

Does justice exist? The answer means the difference between safety and murderers walking freely among us.

Do right and wrong exist? The answer means the difference between having someone steal all your money and security.

Do rights exist? The answer means the difference between slavery and freedom.

So yes, the existence and reality of justice, right, and rights matters a lot.

The Problem of Existence

Philosophers from Aristotle to Kant, to Russell have debated long and hard of what constitutes existence.

What we do know is that ideas have consequences. So although concepts like justice, right, and rights have no physical existence (you couldn’t, for instance, find them on the periodic table), their conceptual existence has undeniable consequences for the world.

One way to test the existence of something in the physical realm, is to remove it and see if there’s a change. If you’re sitting on a chair and questioning its existence, have someone pull it out from under you and you’ll quickly learn whether it existed or not.

If the concepts of justice, right, and rights are removed from the world, what is the result?

If they were nothing more than abstract notions, their absence would not cause any change. But strangely enough, whether its anarchy or tyranny, the world knows exactly what the absence of justice, right, and rights looks like.

Their presence on the other hand creates such tangible effects as order, stability, and economic vitality.

One could even go so far as to say that justice, right, and rights are the eternal pillars upon which society and our legal system find a sure foundation.

A Solid Foundation

“We hold these truths to be self-evident,

  1. that all men are created equal,
  2. that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,
  3. that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
  4. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” [insure justice, which assumes the existence of right & wrong]

It’s incredible that we’ve strayed so far away from this. Our Founding Fathers saw the concepts of justice, right, and rights as “self-evident truth”. In other words, all you had to do was look around and these truths were staring you in the face.

America’s charter, the Declaration of Independence, lays out in simple, yet powerful words what was to be the foundation of America. For over 200 years this has served us quite well. America is the freest, most prosperous country in the world for a reason.

And that reason is our foundation.

Origin and Source

It’s important to note that the Founding Fathers didn’t just come up with these concepts one night off the top of their wigs. All you have to do is read a bit on the lives of these men to see that by and large, these were some seriously educated guys. Most of them knew their stuff, had studied philosophy, government, and history, and they knew what worked and what didn’t.

So if you were to ask them where they came up with these crazy abstract notions of justice, right, and rights, what would they say? If you asked them, what’s the origin of these concepts? What is their source?

Justice:

“And may that Being who is supreme over all, the Patron of Order, the Fountain of Justice, and the Protector in all ages of the world of virtuous liberty, continue His blessing upon this nation and its Government and give it all possible success and duration consistent with the ends of His providence.” – John Adams

“One of the beautiful boasts of our municipal jurisprudence is that Christianity is a part of the Common Law. There never has been a period in which the Common Law did not recognize Christianity as lying at its foundations.” – Joseph Story (US Congressman, “Father of American Jurisprudence”, US Supreme Court Justice appointed by James Madison)

“All the… evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.” – Noah Webster

“I now make it my earnest prayer that God would… most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of the mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion.” – George Washington

Right vs. Wrong:

“Sensible of the importance of Christian piety and virtue to the order and happiness of a state, I cannot but earnestly commend to you every measure for their support and encouragement.” – John Hancock

“Righteousness alone can exalt [America] as a nation…Whoever thou art, remember this; and in thy sphere practice virtue thyself, and encourage it in others.” – Patrick Henry

“The great pillars of all government and of social life [are] virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that renders us invincible.” – Patrick Henry

“The practice of morality being necessary for the well being of society, He [God] has taken care to impress its precepts so indelibly on our hearts that they shall not be effaced by the subtleties of our brain. We all agree in the obligation of the moral principles of Jesus and nowhere will they be found delivered in greater purity than in His discourses.” – Thomas Jefferson

“By renouncing the Bible, philosophers swing from their moorings upon all moral subjects… It is the only correct map of the human heart that ever has been published.” – Benjamin Rush (signer of the Declaration, Surgeon General of the Continental Army, ratifier of the US Constitution, “Father of American Medicine”, Treasurer of the US Mint, “Father of Public Schools Under the Constitution”)

Rights:

“[Governments] could not give the rights essential to happiness… We claim them from a higher source: from the King of kings, and Lord of all the earth.” – John Dickinson (signer of the Constitution, Governor of Pennsylvania, Governor of Delaware, General in the American Revolution)

“No truth is more evident than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.” – Noah Webster

Daniel Webster – “[T]o the free and universal reading of the Bible… men [are] much indebted for right views of civil liberty.”

John Jay – “I recommend a general and public return of praise and thanksgiving to Him from whose goodness these blessings descend. The most effectual means of securing the continuance of our civil and religious liberties is always to remember with reverence and gratitude the source from which they flow.”

Founding Fathers’ Premise – Will It Work Now?

Justice, right, and rights. They exist. Their existence matters. Their source is God.

They are hanging in the balance.

Simply because a truth is self-evident, doesn’t mean it’s obvious. Since our founding, there’s been a shift away from these basic, fundamental principles. The next generation is not being taught the Source of our freedom and therefore they don’t know how to protect it. Often times they don’t even know that it’s worth protecting.

A truth that you can build an enduring country on, must be timeless. The foundation that America was blessed with is indeed just that. These principles work, as we’ve seen for over 200 years.

The problem is, the self-evident truth is being smothered, rejected, derided, laughed at, ignored.

I’d like to end with a question – what can you do to insure that justice, right, and rights are preserved in America?

I haven’t done this before, but I’d like to recommend a book for you. It’s by Jordan Peterson who, if you haven’t heard him before, you need to! While I may not agree with him 100% on everything, he’s also posing some interesting questions that confront where mainstream culture wants to take us.

Give it a read, I’d love to know what you think!

Remember, questions are good for sparking discussion and thought. However, each question is only as good as its answer.

What will your answer be?

 

Jonathan Paine

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