May 13, 2013

Law, Truth, and Freedom

Continuing the discussion I started earlier this week on pluralism and public justice, I'll move to my second proposition.

Human beings ought to be free to pursue what is good unhindered by state-sponsored barriers.  As a result, “plural”—conflicting—visions of the Good will co-exist and interact in society.

This seems compatible with a Christian view that holds—as a fact, not an opinion or a personal value (see Thursday’s post)—that the Creator God and His Son are owed our love and worship, and that coercion de-natures love and worship. So while politics and religion are perhaps inseparable, freedom of worship and robust religious liberty are possible.

(Note here the stark difference in commitments to religious liberty in Western societies—rooted in Christian thinking—and those rooted in Islam).

Yet the fact remains that the law itself makes truth claims, and civil institutions must choose between conflicting visions of the Good, the nature of the human person, the nature and purpose of law, and a wide variety of other foundational presuppositions which reflect—and require—moral knowledge.

What is the purpose of punishment?
Why compensate victims and on what grounds?
What is a judge?
What does it mean for a state to “do justice”?

Different answers to these simple—but foundational—questions result in widely divergent practices, laws, and even institutions.

Even on basic presuppositions, we are faced with plural conceptions of the Good, and the choices that must be made in this regard in areas of public justice are certainly within the authority of the civil government.

Some resources on this topic:

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