FRANCIS SCHAEFFER ANALYZES ART AND CULTURE Part 420 Responding to Dan Barker’s book LIFE DRIVEN PURPOSE (“I think the best hope, the only hope, for a peaceful world is secular government”) FEATURED ARTIST IS Janine Antoni

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Life Driven Purpose: How an Atheist Finds Meaning

I have read articles for years from Dan Barker, but recently I just finished the book Barker wrote entitled LIFE DRIVEN PURPOSE which was prompted by Rick Warren’s book PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE which I also read several years ago.

Dan Barker is the  Co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, And co-host of Freethought Radio and co-founder of The Clergy Project.

On March 19, 2022, I got an email back from Dan Barker that said:

Thanks for the insights.
Have you read my book Life Driven Purpose? To say there is no purpose OF life is not to say there is no purpose IN life. Life is immensely meaningful when you stop looking for external purpose.
Ukraine … we’ll, we can no longer blame Russian aggression on “godless communism.” The Russian church, as far as I know, has not denounced the war.
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In the next few weeks I will be discussing the book LIFE DRIVEN PURPOSE which I did enjoy reading. Here is the first assertion that Barker makes that I want to discuss:

Of course, democracy is no guarantee of morality. If a majority of people in a state lacking constitutional rights and liberties are theocratic, for example, they could vote to limit freedoms—they could use democracy to destroy democracy—not with the intention of minimizing real harm but to protect themselves from the manufactured harm of having their religious opinions challenged. That is why I think the best hope, the only hope, for a peaceful world is secular government.

Below is an article by Dan Mitchell entitled, ”Which Nations Do Best at Providing Rule of Law…and Why It Matters,” notes: 

Readers also should note that the dismal rankings of some other major nations, most notably China (#98) and Russia (#101).

So much for Barker’s secular government bringing freedom and prosperity!

Secondly, Francis Schaeffer points out in the article below that the reformation in Europe help bring forth many freedoms that many have enjoyed and the system of CHECKS AND BALANCES was set up because the Bible teaches we are sinners:

It is clear that the United States Constitution owes much to Reformation and to the basis, the authority of the Bible, upon which the Reformation was built.  It is likely with the Constitution in mind that Schaeffer concludes “To whatever degree a society allows the teaching of the Bible to bring forth its natural conclusions, it is able to have form and freedom in society and government.”

The Reformation’s emphasis on the Bible brought to light two significant items that would provide a profound impact on society and government.  The first was the idea that man does not need to be governed by consensus or by popular vote if the absolutes of the Bible provide the foundation for judgement.  In the words of Schaeffer,  “51 percent of the vote never becomes the final source of right and wrong in government because the absolutes of the Bible are available to judge a society.  The ‘little man,’ the private citizen, can at any time stand up and, on the basis of biblical teaching, say that the majority is wrong.” By practicing biblical teaching “one can control the despotism of the majority vote or the despotism of one person or group.”

The second important item that Reformation thinking helped refine was that of the need for “checks and balances in government.”  The reformer’s understanding that with the fall of man and all men are sinners the needs for a strong system of checks and balances in government, for the people in power.  While the methods and types of checks and balances differed in each Reformation country, they all adopted a system of checks and balances.  One only needs to look at the one that our founders developed for the United States as an example. “The White House covers the executive administration; Congress, in two balanced parts, is the legislature; the Supreme Court embodies the judiciary.”

These two items did much to provide a viable form of government that reduced or eliminated the chaos that comes with a society that is without absolutes, or the recognition of the corruptibility of man.

Which Nations Do Best at Providing Rule of Law…and Why It Matters

Back in 2014, I shared a video explaining why the “rule of law” is important for a just and free society.

Here’s another video on the same point.

When I discuss rule of law (generally when explaining the various components that are used to calculate rankings of economic freedom), I often use a shortcut definition – namely that rule of law exists when government officials don’t have arbitrary power.

In other words, rule of law is present when even politicians and bureaucrats have to adhere to laws and rules.

Where is the rule of law strongest?

According to the World Justice Project, Scandinavian nations are at the top, led by Denmark.

Other European nations – and European offshoot nations – dominate the rankings (there is a benefit to Western Civilization).

A handful of East Asian jurisdictions also get good scores.

And you’ll notice I had to include 27 nations in order to see where the United States ranks.

That’s depressing, especially considering that the U.S. ranked #19 when I first wrote about this report back in 2014.

But at least we’re not Venezuela (gee, what a surprise), which is in last place of the 139 nations included in the rankings.

Readers also should note that the dismal rankings of some other major nations, most notably China (#98) and Russia (#101).

Now let’s consider the economic implications.

In a new working paper from the University of Rome, Esther Acquah, Lorenzo Carbonari, Alessio Farcomeni, and Giovanni Trovato estimate the impact of rule of law on economic outcomes.

We estimate the impact that our measures of institutional quality have on the level and the growth rate of per capita GDP, using a large sample of countries over the period 1980-2015.…Institutions matter especially in low and middle-income countries, and not all institutions are alike for economic development. For this group of countries, we find: i) a positive correlation between our main institutional index and the GDP growth and ii) that improvement in the reliability and fairness of the legal system leads to a higher long-run per capita GDP level. We also document non-linearities in the causal effects that different institutions have on growth, and the presence of threshold effects.

For what it’s worth, I sometimes state in my speeches that rule of law is akin to the foundation of a building.

It needs to be solid in order for the rest of the building (fiscal policy, trade policy, regulatory policy, and monetary policy) to be livable.

One final point is that you don’t necessarily get more rule of law by enacting additional laws. Indeed, that may actually reduce the rule of law because politicians and bureaucrats then can engage in capricious enforcement.

As pointed out back in the 1800s by the great Frederic Bastiat.

Simply stated, over-criminalization is not a good thing.

P.S. In the are of economic development, there’s a big discussion over whether there needs to be more “state capacity” if we want more growth.

I’ve criticized some advocates because they use “state capacity” as an excuse to push for bigger government.

But it is true that very weak and incompetent governments do a poor job of providing rule of law, so it’s also true that there are instances where it would be good to boost state capacity. Assuming the term is properly defined.

Image result for francis schaeffer roman bridge

Francis Schaeffer noted:

In the French Revolution, human reason was made supreme and christianity was pushed aside. In 1789, with the French Revolution at its height, the members of the National Assembly swore to establish a constitution: The Declaration of the Rights of Man. To make their outlook clear, the French changed the calendar and called 1792 the “year one,” and destroyed many of the things of the past, even suggesting the destruction of the cathedral at Chartres. They proclaimed the goddess of Reason in Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris and in other churches in France, including Chartres. In Paris, the goddess was personified by an actress, Demoiselle Candeille, carried shoulder high into the cathedral by men dressed in Roman costumes.
 Like the humanists of the Renaissance, the men of the Enlightenment pushed aside the Christian base and heritage and looked back to the old pre-Christian times. When the French Revolution tried to reproduce the English conditions without the Reformation base, but rather on Voltaire’s humanistic base, the result was a bloodbath and a rapid breakdown into the authoritarian rule of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821).

Image result for Napoleon Bonaparte
 In Sept. 1792 began the massacre in which some 1,300 prisoners were killed. Before it was all over, the government and its agents killed 40,000 people, many of them peasants. Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794), the revolutionary leader, was himself executed in July 1794. This destruction came not from outside the system; it was produced by the system.
 The influence of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, as seen within the context of the French Revolution, can hardly be overestimated. Within a period of two years, an extreme form of democracy had been established and all titles of privilege abolished. In subsequent decades, based on the achievements of the revolution, political theorists began suggesting even more dramatic changes in government–changes that in the 20th century are called socialism, Communism, and anarchism. It is no exaggeration to say that subsequent revolutions in Europe, especially the Russian Revolution of 1917, had their antecedent in the ideas and practices that were spawned by the French Revolution.

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December 09, 2007

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Janine Antoni: Milagros | “Exclusive” | Art21

Janine Antoni

Janine Antoni was born in Freeport, Bahamas, in 1964. She received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College in New York, and earned her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1989. Antoni’s work blurs the distinction between performance art and sculpture. Transforming everyday activities such as eating, bathing, and sleeping into ways of making art, Antoni’s primary tool for making sculpture has always been her own body. She has chiseled cubes of lard and chocolate with her teeth, washed away the faces of soap busts made in her own likeness, and used the brainwave signals recorded while she dreamed at night as a pattern for weaving a blanket the following morning.

In the video, Touch, Antoni appears to perform the impossible act of walking on the surface of water. She accomplished this magician’s trick, however, not through divine intervention, but only after months of training to balance on a tightrope that she then strung at the exact height of the horizon line. Balance is a key component in the related piece, Moor, where the artist taught herself how to make a rope out of unusual and often personal materials donated by friends and relatives. By learning to twist the materials together so that they formed a rope that was neither too loose nor too tight, Antoni created an enduring life-line that united a disparate group of people into a unified whole.

Antoni has had major exhibitions of her work at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; S.I.T.E. Santa Fe; and Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin. The recipient of several prestigious awards, including a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship in 1998 and the Larry Aldrich Foundation Award in 1999, Janine Antoni currently resides in New York.

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