Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | August 14, 2019

Judging a Chief Justice

(5 Minute Read)

Chief Justice Fred Vinson

For the most part, Americans have been taught to respect and honor judges. We are told that they are very intelligent people who know how to think clearly and can properly decide complex issues under dispute.

But is this true? Can judges always be trusted to render correct decisions? Are judges infallible on the bench?

I think not. The very fact that we have so many 5-4 and 6-3 decisions by the Supreme Court is evidence against the idea that judges can routinely decide cases correctly.

Chief Justice Fred Vinson

Frederick “Fred” Moore Vinson (1890–1953) served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States for seven years (June 21, 1946 – September 8, 1953) till his unexpected death of a heart attack. Harlan F. Stone preceded Vinson, and Earl Warren succeeded him.

Vinson was nominated for Chief Justice by President Harry Truman. He was confirmed by the US Senate exactly two weeks later. During Vinson’s tenure on the Supreme Court, he wrote 77 opinions and 13 dissents.

Fred Vinson is one of only a few people who served in all three branches of the federal government. In addition to his service in the judiciary, he also served in the legislative branch in the US House for 12 years as a representative from Kentucky (1924-1928, 1930-1937). He was Secretary of the Treasury for one year in the executive branch under Truman (1945-1946).

Vinson is the last Chief Justice to have been appointed by a Democratic president. He is also the last Chief Justice to lead a court whose justices were nominated solely by presidents of one political party. The Supreme Court justices in the Vinson Court were all appointed by Democrats Roosevelt and Truman.

What Did Chief Justice Vinson Say?

Chief Justice Fred Vinson wrote the majority opinion in Dennis v. United States. With this 6-2 decision, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Smith Act (1940). This law made it a crime to advocate the violent overthrow of the government or to organize or be a member of any group committed to such. The Court said the First Amendment does not protect speech that seeks to overthrow the United States government.

In his majority opinion, Chief Justice Vinson wrote this:

“Nothing is more certain in modern society than the principle that there are no absolutes. . . . All concepts are relative.”
(Fred M. Vinson, Dennis v. United States, Section III, June 4, 1951.)

What an absolutely astonishing statement!!!

Did Chief Justice Vinson realize that by saying, “There are no absolutes,” he was making an absolute statement? Didn’t he realize that “All concepts are relative” is an absolute statement delineating a non-relative concept? His statements are inherently self-contradictory and therefore false.

Vinson believed there were no absolutes. I wonder if he was absolutely sure about this.

In Vinson’s Dennis v. United States decision, he also wrote,

“Overthrow of the Government by force and violence is certainly a substantial enough interest for the Government to limit speech. Indeed, this is the ultimate value of any society, for if a society cannot protect its very structure from armed internal attack, it must follow that no subordinate value can be protected.”

Here Vinson talks about an ultimate value despite saying shortly before in the same decision that there are no absolutes and everything is relative.

Vinson’s “Nothing is more certain . . .” statement is fundamentally a denial that truth exists. Such a denial is inherently self-contradictory and therefore false.

Upholding a stable government is important, and it is a legitimate concern of the Supreme Court. But a judge must not use self-contradictory statements and fundamentally illogical thinking to uphold any precept, no matter how valued.

Judging Chief Justice Vinson’s View

This was the chief jurist of the United States making these illogical and contradictory statements! Amazingly, apparently, no one noticed — not the other justices on the Supreme Court, not the Court’s law clerks, not the media. In fact, five other Justices on the Supreme Court concurred with Vinson’s opinion.

Every man did what was right
in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6)

Apparently no one said,
“Hey, wait a minute — if there are no absolutes, and if all concepts are relative, then what you just described as certain … cannot be certain!”

The reason no one noticed is that this fallacious worldview,
“No absolutes — everything relative,”
had been widely accepted by 1950. This wide acceptance is evident from Vinson’s own words describing this worldview as, “Nothing is more certain in modern society.”

The job of a judge is to decide right from wrong. How is that possible if the judge believes there are no absolutes? How can he decide that anything is wrong? If there are no absolutes, then there is no standard for deciding right from wrong. Decisions are made based on a judge’s personal preference.

What about today? Compared to 70 years ago in Vinson’s day, this view of “No absolutes — everything relative” is even more widely accepted now! In his decision Vinson proclaimed a self-contradictory falsehood as truth. This lie has become the fundamental belief of American society today.

When one starts with a false worldview, the consequences are predictably disastrous. Swallowing “There are no absolutes and everything is relative” has caused the devolution of American society and culture.

If There Are No Absolutes

If there are no absolutes, then nothing can be judged as wrong. Also, without absolutes, nothing can be deemed right.

If there is no absolute standard for right and wrong, how can you say mass shootings are wrong?
If there are no absolutes, how can you say racism is wrong?
If there are no absolutes, how can you say adultery is right or wrong?
If there are no absolutes, how can you say child abuse is wrong?
If there are no absolutes, how can you say abortion is right or wrong?
If there are no absolutes, how can you say stealing is wrong?
If there are no absolutes, how can you say murder is wrong?
If there are no absolutes, how can you say drug abuse is wrong?
If there are no absolutes, how can you say gender confusion is right or wrong?

There Are Absolutes

But we do know these things are wrong. The reason we know these things are wrong is because there is a standard of right and wrong. Contrary to Vinson’s opinion, truth does exist. There are absolutes. Contrary to Vinson’s opinion, all concepts are not relative.

For example, the laws of mathematics & physics & chemistry are not relative. Bank statements and traffic lights and tax assessments are not relative. The reality of the real world proves truth and absolutes exist.

People who deny absolutes as Chief Justice Vinson did are simply suppressing the truth they fundamentally know.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)

The Great Creator, the God of the Bible, is the source and definer of truth. It is impossible to define Truth without reference to God.

Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and Creator of the universe, claimed not just to know the truth, but to be truth. He said,
“I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6)

Therefore, the greatest Man who ever lived, believed in absolutes. He believed truth exists. And He wants His followers to know the truth. According to Jesus, the way to know truth is to live in His Word. He said,
“If you continue in My Word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32)

The moral law of the Great Creator given in the Bible is the standard for right and wrong. This is the authoritative standard for morality specified by our Great Creator. And He imprinted that standard on each human heart. It’s a non-relative absolute.
They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.
(Romans 2:15 ESV)

That’s why humans instinctively know that acts like theft and murder are wrong.

Morality and absolutes are not a matter of personal opinion — whether it’s the opinion of the Chief Justice, the opinion of the President, or the opinion of any private citizen. Following personal opinion instead of God’s absolutes leads to death.
There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.
(Proverbs 14:12)

Absolutes are set by the Great Creator. We defy them to our own peril.

Questions to Ponder

1. Is your worldview philosophically and logically consistent?
2. How can you uphold the Great Creator‘s truth in your sphere of influence?

Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

For Christ and His Kingdom. Soli Deo Gloria. Alere Flammam Veritatis.

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday August 14, 2019 A.D.

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2 ESV)

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  1. I think it’s lost on many today that science, for all it makes possible, does not define right and wrong. Perhaps, one day, science will be able to explain morality, but that seems a very long way off. It may be an understatement that a relative worldview, with no concept of absolute right and wrong, combined with an unquestioned “faith” in science, is a terrible union of philosophies.


    • Thanks for reading and commenting. Good points! The terrible union of philosophies you describe is also self-contradictory. How can you trust scientific “truths” if you reject absolutes?

      Liked by 1 person

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