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      Absolutism v. Objectivism and Justice Patterson

      Wednesday, September 29, 2010

      My blog posts have gone way down in frequency.  I'm completely aware of that.  One reason (the main reason) is because I'm in law school.  So, for what it's worth, I came up with an idea... Why not post a few of the pieces I've been writing for law school that pertain to matters within in the church (in at least some degree)? So with that, here's a brief paper I wrote a couple weeks ago for Constitutional Law... again... for what it's worth.




      Absolutism v. Objectivism and Justice Patterson

      Last week, Professor Radcliffe shared with us a quote from Justice Patterson regarding the Vanhorne’s Lessee v. Dorrance case from 1795. The quote reads as follows:

      “What is the Constitution? It is the form of government, delineated by the might hand of the people, in which certain fixed principles of fundamental laws are established. The Constitution is certain and fixed: it contains the permanent will of the people, and is the supreme law of the land; it is paramount to the power of the Legislature, and can be…altered only by the authority that made it.” (italics mine)

      Out of this entire quote, I’d like to focus in on the parts that are italicized for the purposes here. First, however, I’d like to make a distinction. This distinction involves the two words “objectivism” and “absolutism.” By “objectivism,” I mean the essence or quality of something to not be subservient to subjectivism. In other words, it is fixed and unchanging regardless of the extemporaneous circumstances. On the other hand, by “absolutism” I mean the tendency of an individual to hold something (that could very well be subjective) in an objective light regardless of what evidence is presented contrary. Fundamentalist Christians (“fundamentalist in the modern pejorative term employed by such writers as George Marsden in his famous work “Fundamentalism and American Life”(1)) tend to think in an absolutist way whereas Biblical Christians hold to objectivist views. The tendency to employ absolutism in our everyday thought is not a rare temptation. It’s completely understandable to want objective truths to “hang our hats” on, but, in our quest for objectivism, it’s quite easy to interpret something in an absolutist way just for the sake of having some sense of objectivity. That is what I believe Justice Patterson did in this quote with phrase, “it contains the permanent will of the people,…”.

       The will of the people changes. We all know that. The will of the people at one time will elect a Republican President and at another a Democratic President. To say that it is a “permanent will” is, in my estimation, wishful thinking and a pretty clear example of the definition of “absolutism” that I enunciated above. However, when Patterson says, “The Constitution is certain and fixed:...” in a sense, I believe he may be right in an objectivist sense. It’s no secret that today there are many interpretations of many portions of the Constitution floating about. However, regardless if we know that interpretation, there can be a “certain and fixed” interpretation in the grand scheme, and with the Constitution, in all probability there may be.

      To end, I’d like to briefly talk about “objectivism” and “absolutism” in terms of people’s belief systems. Post-modernism is a philosophy that has many different variations, but the common theme seems to be an endorsement of the statement “There are no absolute truths.” Of course, that statement would have to be absolutely true in order for it to be valid which would make it self-refuting. Aside from that, I believe that (as far as many church folk go anyway) post-modernism is the equally erroneous and polar opposite reaction to the absolutism that many young Christians are indoctrinated with at an early age. Because absolutism is so forced on these people at a young age, they erroneously connect “having absolutes” with “absolutism.” Objectivism can have absolutes, like said above, but the hostility comes from confusing objectivism with absolutism. I really do care for my post-modern friends even though there is rarely something we can find that we agree upon (other than movies and music).

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      (1) http://www.amazon.com/Fundamentalism-American-Culture-Twentieth-Century-Evangelicalism/dp/0195030834

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