"Quarry the granite rock with razors, or moor the vessel with a thread of silk, then may you hope with such keen and delicate instruments as human knowledge and human reason to contend against those giants, the passion and the pride of man." -John Henry Newman
Everyday we make decisions about the paths we will take in life. At times we find ourselves conflicted beyond the normal level of simple decisions making. What we often desire is obviously in direct conflict with our inner knowledge of right and wrong and no matter how we try to rationalize our decisions, taking the wrong path brings us immense internal conflict and emotional pain.
We lose our sense of peace and become filled with chaotic desires. Frustrated with our decisions we try to find self-satisfying justifications for our unethical behavior. Breaking a general precept of the natural law carries the penalty of guilt. As human beings, we find this to be a constant struggle between what we want and need, what we should do and should not do.
When our conscience accuses us of these facts, we either change the path we are on or smother the knowledge written on our hearts and keep right on walking, rationalizing to ourselves that the pleasure we will gain from this path is greater than the pain of the thorns of conscience we keep stepping on repeatedly.
"The good of a human soul lies in the activity of using and following reason, and its highest good lies in the activity of using it and following it excellently."
Sometimes the only way off a path we have chosen is a decision to just do the right thing. The conflict that leads up to that decision can at times make us set up road blocks on paths we don't ever want to take again. Even J. Budziszewski lived through this process and if he could hear God's voice through the cacophony of voices in the modern world calling us in so many directions, anyone can find their way back to the inner knowledge of ancient truths.
J. Budziszewski became a Christian at the early age of ten. He the fell away from his faith after becoming caught up in radical politics. He tried to find ways to believe that God didn't exist. While earning his Ph.D. at Yale, he was convinced he had found plenty of reasons for atheism and moral relativism.
He came to believe that humans were not responsible for what they did and yet he came to feel a greater and greater horror about himself and an overpowering sense that his condition was terribly wrong. Finally his self-deception collapsed. He is now a defender of the natural-law tradition.
He believes there are universal moral principles that are knowable to everyone and if they are followed, they bring good into the world instead of evil. This belief has roots all the way back to the rabbinical tradition of the Noachian commandments forbidding sexual immorality, idolatry, blasphemy, bloodshed and theft.
In this "textbook-like" discussion, he presents an intellectual evolution of thoughts from the beginning of time to the present. It shows how the Human consciousness perceives God's moral law and how we can inherently understand divine truth. The challenge is to listen to what we know to be true. To seek truth in all its beautiful forms and develop a discipline of mind strong enough to resist the temptation not to listen to what we know to be true in order to avoid evil. While we might know what is good or evil, character is not inborn and is acquired. The author shows how our human souls are designed for two things. To understand and to love. When there is a defect in one, there is a defect in the other. He describes "love" as a "constant will to the true good of another person."
Chapter Four was especially interesting as he expounds on the beliefs of Thomas Aquinas, a thirteenth-century Dominican Monk who is regarded as the greatest of all medieval philosophers. The beliefs of Aristotle, John Locke, C.S. Lewis and John Stuart Mill make this a fascinating read.
There are discussions about "Why Government is Necessary?" and why we are born with human rights. Why a government that denies natural law is so terrible and why a state of liberty is not a state of license. He also gives the seven criteria for when a country can go to war and explains that for the first time in American history, political leaders committed themselves to following the principles of a just war during the War in the Gulf. The discussion on private property is enlightening and leads into more discussion about Tyrannical rulers and revolution, which is discussed earlier in a chapter on Human Law & Regime Design.
You will find some horrifying ideas that are balanced with sanity, so beautiful you cannot help but desire within your very being to choose truth. This book will awaken within you all that you know to be true.
The deepest part of you will recognize truth when you see it. Making the right decisions
once you awaken to the truth is the real challenge. After reading one of his books you will find yourself hungering to read everything he has written.
While most modern secular thinkers reject the natural law and are constantly having discussions on such fundamental issues as morals, there does seem to be a desire to go back to the idea that there is a moral standard known by all. The Moral Sense by James Q. Wilson is a book the author also recommends. If you are new to the works of J. Budziszewski, I would recommend "The Revenge of Conscience" as the first book you read as it deals with moral neutrality, liberalism and conservatism.
Everyday we are faced with paths that will lead us to a more enlightened human existence or a path that will cast a shadow over the laws written on our heart. This book will show the way to more enlightened thought and shows why our civilization is in an advanced state of decay.
~The Rebecca Review