19th century Dutch legislator Groen van Prinsterer

19th century Dutch legislator Groen van Prinsterer

For Life: Defending the Unbornby the Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity

A Nation Founded on Rock or Sand: Groen Van Prinsterer for Todayby Hendrik Smitskamp (translated by Harmen Boersma)

Democracy 101by William Baptiste

Three recent publications tell a moral and sobering story of what happens when Christian principles and beliefs are abandoned in favour of “progressive” ideals and secular ideologies. There has always existed a basic conflict in society based on ultimate beliefs and contrasting views of human nature. The first group (conservatives) sees limits to the role of government and stresses personal responsibility versus collective actions. Their common complaint is that the State has excessively encroached on the liberties of the people, who have been subjected to the will of the elites and experts (scientists, academics, business leaders, bureaucrats, and journalists). The second group (progressives) holds a rather liberal view of man as perfectible on his own, master of his future, with the freedoms and capacity to make himself into whatever he wills, and welcomes an ever-expanding role of the state to bring about this reordering of society for the better. Their views vie for control of the state apparatus and dominance in the culture.

For Life: Defending the Unborn, published by the Ezra Institute Contemporary Christianity, explains the fundamental principles and the erroneous world view that underlie the anti-life culture that pervades western society today. The authors insist that we are facing a new cosmology, a new world view and we have to understand it in order to combat its impact on culture. The forces that are identified as both causes of and manifestation of the problem include: the emphasis on personal autonomy as the highest good; considering children today as obstacles to mobility and personal fulfilment; western civilization embracing a death-wish and with little resistance by organized religion; loss of belief in the providential Creator God, who is personal, loving, all-knowing, all-powerful, and merciful; the triumph of relativism, where man becomes the measure of all things and has no need for this God. Whereas Scripture requires an abhorrence of evil and censure of those who hate God and his creation, we approve of such people’s evil actions and thus participate in their evil. The womb, instead of being the cradle of life, has been turned into a place of death.

The secular state has run amok, becoming a god, arrogating to itself decisions over life and death, the use of resources, definition of life, family, marriage, and gender. Abortion, in all its tragic ugliness, is a return to rampant paganism, when the law simply expressed the brute power of the mighty. Some modern thinkers attempt to separate intention and action, splitting spirit and matter, essentially explaining away personal responsibility for one’s actions. But, the authors claim, the two are not separable. “Crimes do not happen without a criminal,” and abortion is no different. As they put it “sin and crime in this instance should be present together, because thoughts, words and deeds go together.” The state demands silence and approval of killing in abortuaries through repressive and unjust laws which shield those complicit “from hearing any criticism, protest, rebuke, or loving truth about the consequences of their actions.”

With respect to today’s radically changing mores, the authors note that “wives are male, husbands female, and mothers cultivate childlessness, and other than that everything is the same as it was.”

In some versions of the Big Bang scientific theory, proponents posit the spontaneous creation of the universe or multiverse out of nothing; anything could have resulted from that random burst of creation, and therefore atoms can be reconstituted ad infinituminto anything else. In the socio-cultural arena, anything goes, so we get same-sex “marriage” and gender fluidity, or something from nothing. It is simply made up. On the other hand, real marriage, actually something, is reduced to nothing. So we end up with an “infinitely plastic, malleable reality: a true nihilism”.

These concerns are echoed inA Nation Founded on Rock or Sand, echoing a basic engineering truth:if the foundation is flawed, the house will fall. The strong founding principles of society have been undermined since the French Revolution in 1789.

Groen van Prinsterer was a 19thcentury Dutch patriot who was engaged in the politics of his day, serving in the parliament of the Netherlands. He offered a conservative solution to the problems of the day. He felt that the key to ultimate positive and beneficial change in society was to be based on a proper understanding of the principles to be found in Scripture.

He held that the problem of unbelief is at the core of an ungodly society where man has become his own god. The ever-changing laws of the liberal society reflect the loss of society’s moral moorings. The violent change of a society or the problem of revolution has been playing out since the Garden of Eden. This Dutch Protestant analysis presents important insights into the origin of all authority – in the truth of the revealed God and the wisdom and teachings of Scripture. But the pluralistic liberal state will not welcome nor tolerate a return to a God-based system of constitutional rule.

According to Groen van Prinsterer, partial knowledge “leads to compromises and doubt which cause agreement with the error hidden in the phantom of truth.” Groen held that principles which uphold freedom of conscience, freedom of religious worship, and parental rights in education are Scripture-based and are worthy of serious study and emulation. Holding uncompromisingly to core principles may create a kind of isolation, but in that lies “the strength” of an organization or political party, no matter how large or small, for that same strength in turn can repel and also attract people.

Groen also believed in a certain flexibility within the political context. As he put it, when the most desirable goal is not immediately attainable, we should not reject the second best solution – after fighting for the best solution. A person or a party should seek ways and means “to unite with all the well-disposed, based on the free choice and cooperation of these people or groups as guided by their own position, own belief and insight in regard to godliness, morality, basic rights, and sense of patriotism.” One must also keep in mind that at times there may be great tension between rational arguments of the mind and the passionate feelings of the heart.

The author, Hendrik Smitskamp, recommends a series of activities to facilitate the study of the principles espoused by Groen van Prinsterer. The final pages include questions helpful in the application of these ideas to the Canadian experience. The booklet could contribute to a fuller understanding and appreciation of some important principles for governing in a civil, tolerant society. If respected those true conservative principles would stand that society very well indeed. The current foundational principles of Canada, and indeed those of most western nations, have strayed far from their scriptural roots.

The third book,Democracy 101by William Baptiste is a large ambitious project. Its formatting may be problematic, but the content itself is excellent and there are flashes of intellectual brilliance interlaced in this thick, dense book.

Baptiste’s premise is that we are living in a period of “creeping totalitarianism” when governments in every jurisdiction of the Western world seem to be proposing policies and laws inimical to life, family and democratic principles. Baptiste cites chapter and verse listing developments that bear this out: bubble zone legislation; free speech restrictions on campuses; pro-life clubs denied membership on university campuses; parental rights in education ignored or restricted; indoctrination of children via sex education; pursuit of a gender fluidity agenda; the insistence on the attestation requirement for summer job grants; the charitable status of organizations under increasing scrutiny; rigged nomination process for candidates; elimination of pro-life candidates for political parties like NDP and Liberals; denial of conscience rights to doctors and nurses and other health personnel; medical schools demanding that students participate in abortion; biological and genetic research including embryonic stem cell research;  and of course, the basic secular mentality shared by all the political parties, to the point that there is no real difference among the major contenders in Canadian politics.

The author assumes that the erosion of traditional Western democratic principles is largely made possible by the ignorance of voters and politicians alike, not properly educated about true human rights and from where these derive. Because they are in this sense ignorant about real rights and their real origins, these voters and politicians, according to Baptiste, are dupes for sharp political manipulators who persuade them to accept policies and practices derived from Soviet and Nazi philosophy.

If a branch is cut off from the tree or vine, then it has effectively cut itself off from the sap, the nutrients that sustain life. The plant itself will ultimately die and bear no fruit. By rejecting the spiritual and philosophical roots of Western civilization, Canada and other modern Western nations are condemning themselves to death.

Rather than creating a society whose environment is safe for all humans (regardless of race, religion, class, language, culture, size, age, or state of health) the Canadian state has become primarily a “social engineering” entity intent on expanding false notions of needs and rights. For example, Baptiste asserts that reproductive rights cannot replace the primary right to lifebecause every human life without exception is equal and precious. All human beings have intrinsic human rights that their government did not give them. These were endowed to them by God, their creator. Government must respect and protect the supreme and equal dignity of all human beings. There must be an uncompromising legal recognition of this right. Moreover, every human being must be free from government coercion in matters of religious or philosophical belief. These democratic ideals must be served and upheld at all times, not usurped by government in any way. These principles should be fundamental and not be tied to a particular political party or ideology. In order for policies and laws to be declared as constitutional they must respect and be in harmony with those principles that hold human life as sacred, precious, worthy of protection at all times.

Baptiste argues that governments today are totalitarian-oriented and cannot be trusted long-term. This holds also on the international level where for many years there have been efforts at the United Nations to get certain language and certain rights approved denoting an expansion of human rights. Most recently, in October 2017, a draft statement was floated to redefine the Universal Declaration of Human Rights so that abortion would be declared a human right. In the same document, they were trying to declare “normal’ all kinds of sexual and mental disorders (long known to be and accepted as abnormal) pertaining to genderism, homosexuality, and pedophilia.

Baptiste outlines the causes for how we have arrived at this sad situation. Three developments account for this: decriminalization of abortion, the sexual revolution, and the spread of atheism. These have led to the abortion license, the radical transformation of education and sexualisation of children, and the totalitarian approach to government. These serve to harm society and the individual family by undermining parental authority, desensitizing children, weakening religious faith and making possible the spread of indifference and unbelief. But pro-lifers must not give up hope. William Wilberforce’s campaign to outlaw slavery in the British Empire teaches us to be persistent and prepared for the long haul.

Regarding the nature of democracy itself, Baptiste concludes that it cannot be sustained forever if it is tied to an abortion philosophy and practice. That democratic system will “deteriorate into more and more totalitarian actions and laws to sustain the unsustainable.” It may well result in a sort of civil war within the state, as pro-choicers will be fighting for the continued right to kill human beings and fighting to take away the freedoms of people opposed to their madness. The pro-choicers would have to take ever harsher measures to keep the truth from spreading: ban books, control all communications, insist on certain language and enforce a form of self-censorship. We are almost there.

Dan Di Rocco is the chair of the business board ofThe Interim and a long-time educator in the Greater Toronto Area.