The Fear of God and the Law

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is prudence.

Proverbs 9:10


Traditionally in English criminal indictments this formula was used “not having the fear of God before his eyes, but being moved and seduced by the instigation of the devil”.  This of course contained a great truth that used to be embodied in Western jurisprudence, that human laws could do only so much to prevent evil and that the eternal battle waged in every human heart and mind between good and evil was the true determinant of whether men would commit terrible acts against, not merely the momentary statutes of Man, but the eternal Law of God, as partially represented in the Ten Commandments given to humanity by God on Mount Sinai.

In the wake of the appalling evil of the murder of the innocents at the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut yesterday, there are cries for legislation, usually from advocates of gun control, to purportedly aid in preventing this type of tragedy from happening again.  There is also, inevitably, endless commentary.  One piece of commentary I found striking was that by John Podhoretz at Commentary:


The connection between the protection of children and the practice of monotheism dates back to the beginning. After Abraham becomes the first Jew, the first monotheist, he is tasked by God to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac, the miracle child of his and his wife Sarah’s old age, and he takes up the task without complaint until God stays his hand. The story of Isaac’s binding, the akedah, is one of the most challenging of the Bible and is often taken to mean God was testing Abraham’s faith with the ultimate demand. But one might also say that at the very dawn of the worship of the One God, the Bible was placing the sacrifice of children outside the realm of the thinkable for the first time.

The idea that civilization is dedicated to the protection and preservation of the weak and the innocent, and not about fulfilling evil impulses to defile and destroy innocence, is the root and core of the West. One cannot conceive of anything more monstrous than a person or persons who could look small children in the eye and systematically shoot them dead. Which is why this crime, among the worst crimes in American history, is not just an assault on the children, or their families, or the town of Newtown—though it is all those things.

What the killer(s) did today was nothing less than a contemporary sacrifice to Moloch, in whatever form Moloch manifests himself today—the appeasement of a voice in the head, most likely. Evil, even if it is loosed due to mental illness, is an effort to destroy the common good by making good appear powerless, ineffectual, weak. Today saw a horrifically effective effort to give evil a victory. It has opened a portal and brought Hell to earth.

Gehenna is real again.

Go here to read the rest.  I certainly agree with the sentiments this commentary contains but it does not truly reflect our contemporary society.  It simply isn’t true anymore that:  The idea that civilization is dedicated to the protection and preservation the weak and the innocent, and not about fulfilling evil impulses to defile and destroy innocence, is the root and core of the West.  For the past three centuries the West has gone through a process of secularization, with brief periods in which the secularization process has been partially reversed or retarded for a time, and we live in a period where this process is almost complete.  A society that truly wishes to protect the weak and innocent would not tolerate abortion on demand, let alone celebrate it as a constitutional right.  As we have ceased to look to God for Law we have looked to ourselves and, unsurprisingly, those laws tend to reflect the desires of the strong against the weak.  The weakest among us tend to be kids, and the hand of Man’s law has been raised against them harshly in the past few decades.  We see this in abortion, in easy divorce where the need for kids to be raised in stable families is not even given lip service, in schools where incompetent teachers, members of politically powerful unions, are given endless protections for their jobs, in sex education where the innocence of the young is trampled into the dust, in the sewer that goes by the name of popular entertainment, etc.  Without God as the ultimate arbiter of right and wrong, Man will determine what is “appropriate” and “inappropriate” and, mirabile dictu, what is “appropriate “is what pleases the powerful in our societies.

None of this would have come as any surprise to the Fathers of the Church or to the Founding Fathers.  As John Adams said:

While our country remains untainted with the principles and manners which are now producing desolation in so many parts of the world; while she continues sincere, and incapable of insidious and impious policy, we shall have the strongest reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation, while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candour, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world. Because we have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

Human law is of little utility when what ails us is a fundamental inability to recognize good and evil and to act in accord with our knowledge.  As appalling and heart-rending as the elementary school slayings were yesterday, that is the true mortal threat to our children and to all of us.