Natural Law and the Christian
If you are like me, you hear the news and wonder. Maybe you get angry. My next novel, A Fallen Sparrow: A Novel of the American Revolution, August 2022, was written during a difficult time--Covid, the election, and subsequent political turmoil.
But there is nothing new under the sun, and so the 21st century mind eased into the 18th quite nicely. My characters sympathized with my own angst. Even J. R. R. Tolkien may have been influenced by current events. It was a dark time for Britain in WWII when his characters went into the Mines of Moria. Tolkien hesitated, his soul troubled. If you've read the books, it's a nasty place, complete with a Balrog.
"Flee, you fools!" shouts Gandalf, then he is lost to sight. Nooo! Not Gandalf!
Finally Tolkien picks up his pen, and in the end, we have a beautiful picture of the resurrected Christ in Gandalf the White on Shadowfax, galloping to the rescue.
My characters deal with tyranny under George III. The Founders were either Christian or influenced by a Christian worldview, and my characters are too. Interestingly, the Founders' views on government aligned more closely with a Scottish minister's--Samuel Rutherford--than with John Locke's, whose name is more widely recognized today.
They believed that resistance to tyranny was proper only under the authority of a lesser magistrate. God established government, and Rutherford uses the example of King David in his treatise, Lex, Rex, to argue his points. He maintains that to flee is preferable to resistance, and active resistance can occur only under authority.
The Scots-Irish of the backcountry had educated Presbyterian ministers who were undoubtedly familiar with Lex, Rex. These Scots-Irish made up a third of Washington's army.
The Congregationalist ministers of New England had similar beliefs. Rev. Jonathan Mayhew preached an influential sermon on the anniversary of the execution of King Charles I. The text: Romans 13. His conclusion: all human authority is limited. A servant must obey his master, unless his master is trying to kill him. Then he may flee or resist.
We see here a tacit appeal to natural law. Some "laws" are codified in the human heart. One of these is the right to self-defense. These types of laws seem universal. The English jurist William Blackstone is famously known for elucidating natural law, and his writings became primers for early American law schools.
"For as God, when he created matter, and endued it with a principle of mobility, established certain rules for the...direction of that motion; so, when he created man, and endued him with freewill to conduct himself in all parts of life, he laid down certain immutable laws of human nature, whereby that freewill is in some degree regulated and restrained, and gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purport of those laws."--William Blackstone
Natural law and Christian thought are friends. But as Blackstone explains, these principles are natural to the human condition, not imposed from without.
The writers of our Constitution held to these principles. Thomas Jefferson was not an orthodox Christian, but here he explains his view of natural law:
"Man has been subjected by his Creator to the moral law, of which his feelings, or conscience as it is sometimes called, are the evidence with which his Creator has furnished him .... The moral duties which exist between individual and individual in a state of nature, accompany them into a state of society. their Maker not having released them from those duties on their forming themselves into a nation."
When a Bill of Rights was suggested, some hesitated. “Our rights are not yet all known," said Dr. Benjamin Rush. These men all understood the Bill of Rights to be a formal codification of rights already possessed. Natural rights.
So when aspects of the Bill of Rights come up for debate today, including the Second Amendment, ask yourself the question--what natural right is embodied here?
Why self-defense, of course. The Second Amendment is applicable to more than just personal self-defense, but it is not less.
And no tyrant can take away natural rights.