Saturday, January 29, 2011

On the Duties of Man - To God

I am working through Samuel Pufendorf's On the Duty of Man and Citizen (1682), and now reach beyond the introductory material and into the actual duties of Man.  I am doing my best to understand as I go and will try to keep personal commentary to a separate piece as the logic and reasoning behind this work are of paramount importance to western civilization based on the Treaty of Westphalia and the reconciling of having a secular State as a separate but dependent domain from the Faith of Christianity as practiced in that time.  This is critical as Pufendorf creates much of the logic and lexicon that will be utilized all the way to the present day, and to understand where we have gotten to we must understand the roots that allowed us to draw sustenance for the creation of the modern world.

The section is: On man's duty to God, or on natural religion.

The basis of man's duty to God is seen to come from:

1) To have right notions of God.

2) To conform our actions to His will.

Natural religion, that is religion derived from the basis of Man's duty to God which creates the areas of theoretical propositions and practical propositions.

I must note that this formulation of knowing a system correctly, in this case man's duty to God, creates the necessity of having a theoretical understanding of the system (which is to say its underpinnings, axioms and other known systemic outlays like given interactions) and then extending those concepts into practical applications by utilizing that knowledge and working out what such a practical application will look like. This also leads to a saying attributed variously from computer scientist Jan L. A. van de Snepscheut all the way to Yogi Berra:

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is.

This is a critical understanding of systems and how this is dealt with at the beginning of the modern Nation State is critical, and the basis starts out with God but, as seen later, not limited just to God for from the prime mover comes many effects to be dealt with.  Yet it is vital that the concept of theory put into practice for the formulation of natural religion guided by Scripture and the necessity of salvation that is so well explicitly stated in this work.

To understand what Pufendorf is looking at it is necessary to examine the axioms, or basis, of the foundations of Moral Law and the duties of man to God.  Thus I will try to paraphrase and condense so as to outline the structure of what is seen to be, what is our duties to what is seen and why that matters.  Do remember the year this was created and that this book is, itself, a condensation of a multi-volume work examining what the three realms of Law are.

From Paragraph 2 we get the axioms or givens:

1) Everyone must hold that God exists.

2) There is a supreme and first being upon which the universe depends.

3) The first two are true due to there being beginnings and ends to events and this is reflected by the very nature of the universe.

4) Claiming not to understand 1-3 is no excuse for atheism.

5) Anyone claiming the non-existence of God must not only come through with better arguments and reasoning against God's existence, but better and more convincing set of reasons for our existence.

6) The salvation of the human race depends upon worship of God.

7) Impiety stemming from those who do not agree with support of the worship of God must be punished.

These are the first, vital statements of where and how man's duty to God come about.  It is a concern that puts forth the universality of God (indeed God is beyond the universe as the universe is a creation of God as seen in 8, following) and that understanding that creations of any sort have a beginning and an end creates the pre-conditional support for God existing.  Absent better arguments against such a God coupled with a better set of reasoning and rationale for how we are in our present circumstance within such a pre-defined universe (that is it has beginning and end), the worship and support of worship of God is necessary for the salvation of mankind.

Do note that this is not just the formulation of man's duty to God but is the basis for the natural sciences.  In the natural sciences for a hypothesis to shift previously understood theory (that is a theory is more widely accepted than a fresh hypothesis) the hypothesis must do more then explain things the old theory cannot explain but must, as a pre-condition, better explain what the actual ordering of events or phenomena are and offer predictive ability so as to validate its claims.  Thus Newtonian physics was used even when it was falling apart when speeds greater than 0.5 c were reached as it offered a experimental and theoretical framework within which one got valid results.  Relativity replaced Newtonian physics by explaining all that happened within Newtonian physics and then offering a testable and verifiable framework for future experiments that then validated the hypothesis.  This same framework of not only better explain, but offer a framework for validation is laid at the feet of those wishing to replace God with something else, and it is a very, very high hurdle to pass just as it has been in the natural sciences.

It is next put down that:

8) God created the universe.  The universe, having been created, will end while God is eternal, thus nature is derived from the order of God.

9) God exercises control over the universe and human affairs which is demonstrated by the order of the universe, itself.  Having a start the universe will have an end, its order is that which is created by God.

10) God is perfect in all things and no limited set of feelings or attitudes can be attributed to God for they imply a temporal limitation upon that which is eternal.  When Scriptures speak in the way of God wanting something, it is our limited and nature oriented views that are imposed upon the message: our minds cannot conceive of the actual message and, thusly, must put it into terms that we understand.  The God of the infinite in all things is not limited, in any way, by how we must address what happens in the limited universe as we cannot come to grips with the infinite as finite individuals.  God exists in no given place, at no given time, nor at any reference point as all such are under the domain of God.

11)  There is only one God, for many Gods would only exhibit finite powers while God is unlimited in all respects.


Those are the givens of our universe and our place in it that we must contend with.  From these the duty of man to God is both internal and external, and honor unto God must be in both.  In our honor we must revere that which is most majestic who has created this universe and acknowledge that we act within that order to that supreme will which has brought it about.  Above all God is the greatest good within our universe, and is thusly deserving of honor and appreciation from us for that great goodness.

From this our duties follow:

- To give thanks to God for the benefits we receive from Him.

- To express His will and obey Him in all things.

- To admire and celebrate His greatness.

- To offer up prayers for goodness and to ward off evil, and to seek His signs of hope and acknowledge those as an expression of the goodness and greatness of His power.

- To swear by God's name and to keep one's oath scrupulously as that is demanded by God's omniscience and power.

- To speak respectfully of God as that is a sign of fear which is a confession of His power.  Thus we do not use God's name in vain or speak rashly about God as that is to show a lack of respect.  One is not to swear when there is no need to do so.  One is to not speak curiously and insolently about the nature of God's government as this is an attempt to limit the unlimited.

- To offer only what is excellent to God as this is to show Him honor.

- To worship God privately and openly, for it would be in shame to not show open worship and obedience to Him.

- To make every effort to observe the laws of nature as they are the creation of God and not to do so is an insult to God and His creation. 

These are the duties of Moral Law that must temper Natural Religion so as to put the basis of fear of consequences in the next life for actions taken in this one.  This is the basis for religion amongst men.

Without religion and fear of God man reverts to his natural state of being and would act in a less civil manner towards other men.  Religion is thusly seen as a civilizing method for man to treat his fellow man better through Scriptural teachings.  Man without the self-restraint necessary to worship will see himself fit to rule other men to his own pleasing and that, in turn, will displease other men who will seek to overthrow their current rulers.  Conspiracy would flourish as it would be seen as profitable for those engaged in it.  This erodes good will and trust amongst individuals as they come to fear each other as they no longer fear God.  Rulers would rule without conscience, see conspiracy about them at every turn and never fear that their actions would be punished in the next life for such ill treatment of their fellow man in this one.  Citizens would come to fear the oppressive nature of government unbridled by any inhibitions of those running it.

From this view atheism is not seen as merely misguided but the pathway to losing one's conscience and moral underpinnings as they no longer fear God.  It is the lawless nature that atheism puts forward that then creates the decline of justice and orderliness of the civil law as laws are put in place by rulers to safeguard themselves against their fellow man and impose tyrannical rule over man.


Thus ends the overview of man's duty to God.

To properly appreciate the arguments that Samuel Pufendorf puts forward it is necessary to understand the context and overview the the system his is enlightening.  Agree or disagree with the overall system view, as you will, but this served as the first generation of thought upon which all later Western Civilization would form.

Thus I present it dispassionately so as to outline the system, its underpinnings and outlook.

What is presented is foundational and a major shift from how the order of society worked leading up to the 30 Years War as it puts the onus upon keeping civil society not with the rulers nor even with the Church, but upon you as the individual and your relationship to the Divine.  As our civil law is based upon the moral precepts of man as he understands religion when applied to himself, then he will govern himself (singularly and in plural) differently than when it is a top-down affair.  Here, at the review of this new order promulgated from the Great Peace of Westphalia we are given the greatest understanding of our role in the world: we self-govern to create a just moral order.

You are the point of God's creation.

And it is upon You that the very foundations of society, civil law and our understanding of each other as natural beings resides.  Heaven will not help you if you seek to have government do what is necessary to be civilized for you.

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