Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Levinson on the Republican Party Platform & Misunderstanding the Declaration

At Balkinization, law professor Sandy Levinson dissects the Republican Party platform in a critical way. He writes:
I assume that Michael Pence, or for that matter Ted Cruz, has no trouble embracing this part of the Republican Party platform, which clearly subordinates any laws passed by legislatures or any other governmental institution to "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God."  We could, of course, get into long debates about the difference between the "laws of nature," which could be Aristotelian, and non-dependent on any belief in God, in contrast to subordination to "Nature's God," which sound more in Revelation and divine sovereignty than in Reason.  In any event, we have a clear hierarchy of norms, with Divine commands at the top and everything else beneath.

We might compare the Republican platform, in this respect, to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran: ...
I think the Christian nationalists who helped write this part of the platform might agree with what Professor Levinson wrote in the first quoted paragraph (not the comparison to Iran). However, the analysis is wrong. As I wrote in the comments section, the term "Nature's God" DOES NOT ground belief in special revelation. That's what the Christian nationalists revisionists argue.

The point Levinson makes on the laws of nature and Aristotle is correct. As the term was used, "nature" defines as discoverable by reason unaided by special revelation. As it were "Nature's God" is God insofar as we can discover and understand Him through our reason unaided by revelation. "Laws of Nature and of Nature's God" is a double invocation of reason.

I think they added God because, as America's Founders understood the natural law, they needed a God of some sort to make it binding in an "ought" sense. The quotation below by John Adams perfectly sums up this point of view.
To him who believes in the Existence and Attributes physical and moral of a God, there can be no obscurity or perplexity in defining the Law of Nature to be his wise benign and all powerful Will, discovered by Reason.

– John Adams to Thomas Boylston Adams, March 19, 1794. Adams Papers (microfilm), reel 377, Library of Congress. Seen in James H. Hutson’s, “The Founders on Religion,” p. 132.

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