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Society’s Proper Foundation: Love

Eve sought equality and freedom. You could say she fought and died for them. Fought God and sacrificed her life. She sought equality with God and an illicit freedom to do whatever she wanted.

The world is plagued not so much by a lack of freedom and equality but by two different ideas of it. The world still seeks equality with God and freedom from His laws. But the Christian knows that freedom is only found in obedience to such laws, and disobeying them makes us no longer like our Creator in a real sense, thus destroying a kind of equity.

In man exists the union of reason, will, and desire, reflecting the imago Dei.

But Nietzsche enthroned the will, with his Ubermensch. Paine elevated reason, writing his Age of Reason. Both made choice central to the social fabric. The post-Enlightenment West has disintegrated man.

But these are all integrated properly in love, as Augustine understood. Society is not some kind of crass and cold business contract. What unites the members of society is love. This view has been defended by Paine’s great opponent Edmund Burke. It was carried down and passed on through the great legal theorist Friedrich Julius Stahl.

Scripture teaches the same thing about love and man. Is it an accident that we are to love God with all our mind, all our strength (will) and all our heart? Broken relationships tear apart while love unites all three.

The mistake is in confusing a contract-like relationship with an actual contract. But no contract actually exists. All relationships are contract like, because all relations are ontologically ethical, thus being governed by rules, and containing obligations and benefits.

Suggesting that society is based on a contract and not love is as repulsive as saying that love is not the basis of marriage. Marriage is more than a mere contract, though not less. F.J. Stahl wrote in his Philosophy of Law about marriage, how it is “a bond of necessitous, fulfillment-seeking, yearning love” (p. 135).

Society too, is a “bond of necessitous, fulfillment-seeking, yearning love.” To a lesser degree, true.

No pre-society civilization ever existed. All sentient moral beings are by definition relational. Also we know that relationships are governed by the laws of ethics, imposing obligations and providing benefits (called “rights” by most). These obligations and benefits are not enforced from outside of relationships, but from within. Aristotle was correct. Our ultimate end in life determines our ethics. Thus, the ethics of relationships is determined by the essence of relationships.

Thus ethics of relationships, and thus all of society, is love — the true, contract-like bond that unites.

Daniel Mason

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Daniel Mason studied theology in his undergrad, and currently pursuing graduate studies, with a particular interest in the Dutch statesman, Groen van Prinsterer. Daniel Mason is the co-founder of The Reformed Conservative.

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