Founding Fathers Quote Friday

Favorite Founding Father's Quote Day

 

The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time.
–Thomas Jefferson
Quoted in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. 1919.

Jefferson was right, but I don’t think it means what he thought it meant. When we receive life, we receive the liberty to be what we are, that is, a natural man who is subject to the world.

In that sense, evolutionary psychology is absolutely correct: our natural behavior is not much different from that of animals. This understanding also dovetails with Jefferson’s political liberty, in that an animal is not subject to any “social contract,” but only to its physical instincts and the conditions it is born into. The newborn animal may learn that it will be nurtured by its mother or that it will be attacked by a jealous rival, but either way it reacts from instinct rather than some abstract obligation.

Human societies, on the other hand, attempt to impose prior constraints on people that may be counter to their instincts. Children learn, for example, that even though they want to just take whatever they desire, they should not. Law is imposed so that they can use reason to avoid unnecessary suffering. 

Inevitably, people take some things for granted, and they assume that they are entitled to exemption from suffering, since they always have been, at least under certain conditions. The belief that there is some loophole by which one can follow instinct and yet not suffer is the obvious conclusion from a superficial understanding of law.

At a certain age (commonly called the age of accountability), children realize that all of their experiences have been the result of their choices interacting with their circumstances. The circumstances of physiology, social structures, political events, and so forth all start to seem overwhelming, as does the enormity of the existential responsibility to choose a course of action. This is the source of “teenage angst.”

At this point it is possible for one to appreciate the significance of this verse:

 

1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

1 John 2:16

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.

And these verses:

2 Cor 3:12-18

Therefore having such a hope, we use great boldness in {our} speech, and {are} not like Moses, {who} used to put a veil over his face so that the sons of Israel would not look intently at the end of what was fading away. But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ. But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, {there} is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

 And with an understanding of the gospel one can see that the law is for lawbreakers; but when we are free of the belief that we are animals and that all our thoughts and behaviors are determined, we don’t need the law to tell us what is right or wrong. Liberty then means freedom to not be what we are, but rather to be like Jesus, going into the world to do the Father’s will.

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