Sunday, January 2, 2011

Charles J. Reid on Brian Tierney Part 3- From American Creation

Hello My Name Is Gratian And I Think I Have Something To Add To This Discussion

Hello again American Creation family! I hope you all remember me in that I do not think I have posted here since Summer. This was due to the time consuming re-launching of my real estate business after it turned out that the oil had not ruined the part of the Gulf Coast I live in forever after all. Anyway, I am going to dive in and pick up right where I left off: Charles J. Reid's review of Brian Tierney's book, The Idea of Natural Rights: Studies on Natural Rights, Natural Law, and Church Law 1150 to 1625. Before doing so, I think it wise to summarize where we were in the discussion 4 months ago, the first two parts in this series, and the concept of a "zone of autonomy" being at the core of the Christian argument for natural rights.

Four months ago we were involved in a debate over my challenge to the idea articulated by Ed Brayton, Gregg Frazer, and Jon Rowe that, "that the Bible nowhere speaks to the concept of unalienable rights, especially an unalienable right to religious and political liberty." I pointed to the work of Brian Tierney and his contention that the pre-Aquinas development of Canon Law heavily impacted the evolution of the Western Legal Tradition which in turn had great influence on our founding era idea of natural rights. Then I followed that general overview of Reid's book review with a post that began to sort through some of the details. I started with Reid's brief summary of the contributions of Justian, Gratian, and the "decretists" as he follows Tieney's account of the evolution of the idea of natural rights.

The "decretists" were the Canonists that sifted through the works of Gratian per Justinian and attempted to address some of the inherent contradictions they saw in his work. In the process they began to articulate a coherent case for natural rights that I think is summed up best by Rufius,

Rufinus began, "'a certain force instilled in every human creature by nature to do good and avoid the opposite.' ' This force, he continued, "'consists in three things, commands, prohibitions, and demonstrations. . . . It cannot be detracted from at all as regards the commands and prohibitions . .. but it can be as regards the demonstrations, which nature not command or forbid but shows to be good."'

The "demonstrations" alluded to above are actions that the Bible neither commands nor prohibits and leaves to each man's own discretion as to whether "nature" shows it to be "good". It is my contention that our discussions of the differences between "Classically Conservative" vs. "Classically Liberal", "Enlightenment" vs. "Christendom", and "French Revolution" vs. "American Revolution" should all start with the question of, "Liberty" or "License" per Locke via Hooker.

Thus, my question to Brayton, Rowe, Frazer, is how we can even begin to have this conversation about the "Christian" idea of rights until we enlarge the historical discussion to include the men I have mentioned above and their contributions to the Western Legal Tradition?