Notes From Babel

Society and Order

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Man is rational; but also man is rebellious and depraved, and his evil impulses cannot be controlled by the Law Rational alone.  If men are to live in society, there must be provided checks upon their wills and appetites.  Scripture, though unerring, does not furnish a complete set of rules by which men may govern themselves in all circumstances and ages.  Therefore men have developed, and submitted themselves to, what Hooker calls the Law Positive—enacted law, that is, law enforced by the commonwealth.  To set aside that positive law would be to ruin all civil social order.

. . . .

So Hooker is a convincing exponent of the idea of continuity—of the principle that in concerns of both church and state, we must seek to link generation with generation.  Churches and states are immortal corporations: if we break down established laws, thriving customs, and beloved ceremonies, we rashly ignore the lessons of the past and endanger society’s future.  Our religion, our culture, and our political rights all are maintained by continuity: by our respect for the accomplishments of our forefathers, and by our concern for posterity’s well-being. Just as the individual human body can survive only if its vital continuity is maintained during its processes of organic change, so the Church and the civil social order must perish unless law and custom remain the same from year to year, decade to decade, century to century.  Any man is foolish who disregards the beneficent incorporation of society, which goes on though individuals perish; for it is not in the power of anyone to create a new church or a new society out of whole cloth.

Russell Kirk, The Roots of American Order.


Written by Tim Kowal

September 18, 2010 at 1:04 am

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