The Source of Principles

“Our Constitution guarantees individual liberty, not the collective wisdom of man to redefine principles as contemporary whims of society.”

Stephen Hawking, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Saint Paul the Apostle, are great intellects who have one thing in common. They each posed a question as to the purpose of the universe and man’s place in it. The answer to each man’s question depends upon the source from which he draws his principles. And likewise today, the source from which an individual bases his or her principles will dictate the expectation on the role and purpose of government in society today.

Stephen Hawking has explored the question ‘does time have a beginning, and if so, how was it determined?’  He does not believe in God as a personal Creator. The great uncaused cause in his universe is gravity. It always existed. The beginning of the universe, does it have an end, quantum physics, and the space-time continuum, are great questions of theoretical physics. In Hawking’s belief, the universe is a cold, dark entity from which life was born as a random act of physical forces. In this reality, morality is defined by man. If we evolved through the process of survival of the fittest, then protection of the weak only came into existence through the cultural development of the ultimate species, Homo sapien. When asked once what question still haunts him, Stephen Hawking replied, “Why does the universe exist?”

Saint Paul the Apostle was dedicated to the Good News message of Jesus Christ. The purpose of time and eternity is to learn how to live in the Kingdom with God forever. Based upon the Catholic Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, “the Trinitarian love” is the origin and goal of the human purpose. That purpose is to love one another based upon the universal love of Christ. The simple question posed by Saint Paul was more a statement than a question, “Will you accept the Good News?”

In the early 19th century, Alexis de Tocqueville traveled throughout the United States to research the beliefs and practices of the people of the new nation, the United States of America. In his two volume book Democracy in America, he posed the question: will the Americans be able to avoid the yoke of despotism (no king) by not becoming a slave to the government from which they desire to be independent? He pondered what democracy would yield. He questioned whether or not people would be willing to give up all they had in exchange for what government would promise. He writes:

Our contemporaries are constantly excited by two conflicting passions:  they want to be led, and they wish to remain free.  As they cannot destroy either the one or the other of these contrary propensities, they strive to satisfy them both at once.  They devise a soul, tutelary, and all-powerful form of government, but elected by the people.  They combine the principles of centralization and that of popular sovereignty; this gives them a respite:  they console themselves for being in tutelage by the reflection that they have chosen their own guardians.  Every man allows himself to be put in leading-strings because he sees that it is not a person or a class of persons, but the people at large who hold the end of his chain.
By this system, the people shake off their state of dependence just long enough to select their master and then relapse into it again.  A great many persons at the present day are quite contented with this sort of compromise between administrative despotism and the sovereignty of the people; and they think they have done enough for the protection of individual freedom when they have surrendered it to the power of the nation at large.  This does not satisfy me:  the nature of him I am to obey signifies less to me than the fact of extorted obedience.

Tocqueville is asking the question about the application of government to man in the universal scheme of things as to whom or what should we be obedient.  And by what belief in reality are we beholden.

At the writing of this report, there is racial civil unrest in Baltimore, Maryland. It appears to be spontaneous and unexpected. Whatever course we choose for government, it must have benefits, opportunity, and hope for everyone. It is not a matter of determining winners and losers. It is a matter of providing the opportunity for each individual to pursue happiness by and through their God-given ability and talents. Violence is never a proper course of action. Understanding one’s purpose and principles is always the goal. The principles and purpose upon which we base all government policy decisions will be determined from what source those principles flow.

Today, the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on the Constitutional issue of gay marriage.  If we are to unite as a people and be a light to the world, we must respect not only human dignity, but the establishment of faith. The First Amendment to the Constitution inaugurates the Bill of Rights with these words, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It was never anticipated that the Supreme Court would rule on the constitutionality of an issue that, by its opinion, would prohibit the free exercise of religion. Religion predates the Constitution. In fact, it predates the discovery of America. The free exercise of faith without government direction or restriction was central to the theme of the Mayflower Compact and the motivation of the Pilgrims to risk their lives in establishing a colony in America.

Regardless of one’s commitment to the source of principles, it is illogical and inconsistent with the Declaration of Independence to dismiss, as a potential source for principles, an almighty Creator. If your source of principles is the random occurrence of a cold, dark universe, respect must still be given for the premise that unalienable rights come from God.

Saint Paul answers Stephen Hawking’s question about why the universe exists. Alexis de Tocqueville attempts to apply the question to the American experiment. All the great questions facing the world today in cause and effect must be addressed through principles. The source of those principles is fundamental to policy and effect.

The Constitution of the United States relies on eternal principles. These principles are not derived from the wisdom of man, but from man’s recognition of the sovereignty of God and His order. Our Constitution guarantees individual liberty, not the collective wisdom of man to redefine principles as contemporary whims of society.

Jesus Christ knew that nobody wins until we all do. I agree.

My name is Marc Nuttle and this is what I believe.

What do you believe?