Saturday, August 11, 2007

Thinking Like a Christian, Week 7A: Law

What is the Basis for Law?

Law comes from God alone. God is the only legislator, or lawgiver, in the universe. The Christian's concept of law should be the fruit of the realization that all law, whether natural or biblical, originates in the character of eternal God.

God has provided laws, and a means of discovering His laws, to mankind. Therefore, law is grounded on a very firm foundation and is not subject to change. Laws are needed because men are sinners, in rebellion against God; earthly laws are intended to curb that rebellion.

God established human government and the rule of law primarily to keep in check man's sinful nature and passions (See Genesis 9; week 7B will have much more to say about human governments and laws). When God's laws are obeyed, people and societies do well. We should be grateful that divine law gives a standard by which the laws of human societies can be evaluated. Furthermore, it is appropriate for Christians to attempt to restore God's order for laws in this world (more on this both in week 7B and week 8).

Human rights are based on the biblical teaching that man is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Human government was established in order that human life, rights, and dignity would be protected (Genesis 9:6). Christian law, therefore, supports specific, absolute human rights. No other worldview grants people such guaranteed, specific rights.

But mankind not only has rights—it also has duties. Christians need to believe that the Bible is the ONLY source of rights, since it is the only revelation of God's truth. The right to life is perhaps the most foundational of these rights. Every human life is meaningful and valuable. Our rights beget our duties—our legal responsibilities to obey God's laws. Failure to obey God's laws will result in our rights being taken away (a simple example is when a person is jailed for crimes: He no longer has the same rights as other citizens). Our rights also have specified limits; it is not proper for a person to claim "I've got my rights!" and then behave in any manner he pleases. Ultimately, our duty can be summed up as this: To obey governmental authority, except when it requires disobedience to God, since we must always obey God (see 1 Peter 2:13-16, Acts 4:5-20, 5:26-29).

There is a belief called "legal positivism" which postulates that law is made by man, is "flexible", and can change with changes in time, circumstances, ruling groups, etc. It is how most modern nations and the UN are ruled. (A wise man once commented that if man is an accident of evolution, are not his made-up laws, too?) In such a system, laws will be arbitrary, and the concept of an all-powerful state gains traction. Why? Because there is no absolute standard of law; there is nothing to which laws can be compared or evaluated. No one can really even explain why laws must exist, or why man cannot create a just system of laws on his own.

Man, due to his sinful nature, wants to substitute his own law for God's law. What are some of the ramifications of this? Any system that denies God as Law-giver is doomed to fail, since it does not acknowledge the truth regarding man's creation by God nor the fallen nature of man. Societies that ignore God's laws will be out of touch with reality. Arbitrary laws will be promoted, and subjects will lose respect for the legal system. Furthermore, an arbitrary attitude will likely extend to other areas of society, particularly ethics.

If law is not considered sacred, it will not be considered binding. Laws will be constantly changing to "better suit" the selfish interests of whichever groups have the power to craft them. And no surprise: If God does not exist, isn't anything permissible? We must remember that a society which consciously turns away from divine law will suffer the consequences. Read your Bible; look at how many nations were punished for violations of God's laws—immorality and lewdness, violence, idolatry, oppression of other nations, etc.

A quote to leave you with:
"It is in everybody's best interest to ground a society's legal system in divine law. Indeed, it is doubly in the best interest of all people because obedience to divine law is the only true freedom—all disobedience results in personal and/or political enslavement." David Noebel, Thinking Like a Christian, p. 111.
This post will be continued next week.

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