By Mason Mohon | USA
This article was originally an essay on the first part of Bastiat’s “The Law” titled “Life is a Gift from God.” It has since been edited to fit the format of an article, with a specific goal of explaining why the gifts from God emphasize individualism and the ideas of liberty. At the same time, this article is primarily aimed at those of the Christian faith, but hopefully, important lessons can be found in it for those of other faith or no faith at all. Non-Christian liberty-lovers are urged not to disregard this article simply because of its target audience, for its goal is still one of liberty.
Life is a gift from God. From most religious perspectives this is undoubtedly true, but this article will focus on the perspective of the Christian faith. In the book of Genesis God’s creation is clearly outlined. He made man from dust and gave him His breath, proceeding to create woman from the rib of man.
One thing taken for granted often is that God is all powerful and all good. He has fulfilled everything He needs and will ever need. He did not need to make us. If a God required human subjects, He would be subject to humans for His existence, and He would be a slave, not God. This shows that God did not need humanity, but humanity now exists. The details as to why God would make humanity shall not be delved into, but He did make us, and He made us as a gift to us. Our life is a gift because God has fulfilled all He needs, so there was no benefit to our creation that He needed. That makes our life a gift out of the good of His own heart.
Life is not self-sustaining alone. The word alone is very important. We are not merely our life, and that is not all of us that exists. There has to be something else to control the life, which is our consciousness. (There are many other parts of humanity, such as the soul, that are not as important in this context.) Because the life is not self-maintaining, the Creator (God) gave us (our conscious selves) the responsibility of maintaining this life. And not just maintaining, but developing and perfecting too. Human consciousness has been entrusted with furthering humanity.
This idea of entrustment, though, seems to be a warrantless claim. Not so! The warrant for this claim is the next claim – God gave us all the earthly resources to maintain this. We were made in the image of God, and God is creative as can be seen with his creation of the universe, so we are necessarily creative, if only to a much lesser degree. This is why we have artists, philosophers, and entrepreneurs. God endowed us with this creativity, and earthly resources, knowing what we could do. If our creativity did not come from our creator, then where did it come from? Humans have been entrusted with furthering humanity because we have been entrusted with the resources here at our disposal.
Human creativity has caused us to use these to our advantage – we apply our faculties (liberties) to these natural resources and run humanity on its appointed course. Man rose very early in history and created massive structures to glorify themselves (the Tower of Babel), but God did not like this, so He took it down. Humanity began to lose its stronger connection with the Lord, so our lifespan began to fall, and it was very low across the ancient times, all the way until the industrial revolutions. Humanity, with the resources at its disposal, has finally lengthened its life and began to use resources more efficiently. This has given way for the thinkers to attempt to perfect, while human creators have done the excellent job of maintaining. Humanity has furthered itself using its gifts from God very far.
But what are the specific gifts from God? They must be outlined. They are life, faculties, and production, which are also termed as individuality, liberty, and property respectively. God gave us these gifts, but what does each of them necessarily mean?
Life and individuality are the first one. God gave us life, but how does that equate to knowing that we are individuals? Can we not have a collective life? No! When one man loses his life, his life is gone, no matter what any other human does, and no matter what group he was part of. Life is exclusive to each of us. I have my life, and it is only mine. Stirner shed light on this issue when speaking of owness. You own your life, and only you ever can. If someone were to cut off your arm, it is no longer your arm, because it has lost your life. It is still biological, and it may still have nerve endings acting within it, but it is not yours in that it is part of your individual. It has lost its life. Life is the first gift from God because it is the floor, in a sense, for all other gifts of humanity to stand on. When you lose your life, you lose you. This does not account for the soul, but that is not as important in this context. The soul isn’t necessarily part of your life as a human or a biological being. If it has not been made clear, your life makes you an individual because it is non-transferrable. Your life is distinct to you, and that is all it will ever be distinct too.
Next is liberty, also termed as faculties. Faculties are defined as “an inherent mental or physical power.” Power is the ability to choose, and that goes the same with liberty. Liberty over the body and mind, and extends to property, which we will get into later. Is this a gift from God? Yes, liberty is a basic part of humanity, and one of the greatest gifts God gave us. God gave us liberty because He wanted us for a relationship. He wanted to know his creation. He gave us liberty, and that is why He speaks to us instead of rocks. The liberty, of course, extends to this physical and mental power because it is the power to obey or disobey. It is the power to lose to temptation and to choose the wrong path. This was first seen in the Book of Genesis when Eve disobeyed in the garden. She mentally disobeyed through liberty by listening to the snake in the garden and by choosing to believe it when it went against God’s commands. Furthermore, she physically disobeyed when she took the fruit from the forbidden tree and gave the fruit to Adam too. Liberty means the ability to disobey, as well as obey God. Why did God give us this liberty, though? Is it a flaw in our design? No. God could not have had a relationship with us if we were only able to choose Him. Choice is critical to any relationship. Rape is not sex because it is forced, and for the same reason, our knowing God would not be a relationship if it were forced. This would defeat the entire purpose of a relationship with God.
Finally, we get to production and property. Humans can not produce without the right to property. The right to own things is integral to our liberty and our ability to do our God-given task of furthering humanity. Without property, one does not have physical power they can justify, which defeats the point of physical power as a faculty. Property rights are integral to a system of capitalism, the best system of human development, because owning property adds value to the property. Collectivists speak of one group or another seizing the means of production, but the means of production must be owned by the individual. That is how God designed us, and that is how we do what he entrusted to our consciousnesses, the responsibility of development. Property is necessary for us to live on and carry on what God has told us to do.
These gifts from God preclude any human legislation and any political leader that has ever existed. This is the core of what exists. These are human rights. Legislation does not define these – nature and nature’s God has. In the garden in Genesis, there was no government. It was anarchy in the truest sense there has ever been, no coercive governing entity. There was only a loving and gift giving God. Clearly there was no legislator dictating how Adam and Eve live their lives through the coercive stroke of a pen. Human legislation cannot ever get underneath this core, but it can restrict it. Restricting it has no benefit though, for any restriction of freedom will stifle economic growth. God set it up this way, to make it the most beneficial for everyone to be free to use their faculties as they wish.
Men did not make laws to create these rights – God created them, how could men make what God has already made. It already existed. On the contrary, man has the ability to make laws because of God’s gifts.