Monday, October 15, 2012

God's Law: Who Needs It? pt. 4

We now conclude the discussion concerning theonomy versus autonomy.

Does God care whether or not civil government is just? Should punishments fit crimes? Has God provided an objective standard for justice or is this left up to dictators and democracies?

A Christian once said to me: “Jesus never told Herod, Caesar or any other civil authority that the pagans should be disciplined by said civil authority. Paul only says their very actions described in Romans 1 are DESERVING of death but he doesn't say the state should ACTUALLY put them to death.”

Dear reader, do you—like me—find "Jesus never told . . ." or "Jesus never said . . ." to be an unacceptable premise when used in support of any argument or position?

It is my belief that God requires the State to ACTUALLY be just. That is, the State SHOULD govern according to God's moral Law--as it relates to behavior--and the State should ACTUALLY punish law-breaking as God clearly says it deserves (so that the State is neither lenient nor cruel).

For the State to biblically and ACTUALLY punish evil and praise good, is for the State to establish justice. 

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. (Romans 13:3-4)

Clearly, the Apostle Paul upholds the civil magistrate’s authority to ACTUALLY execute those who deserve to die.

In fact, Paul says to Festus (the civil magistrate) concerning his own person, “If I am an offender, or have committed anything deserving of death, I do not object to dying . . .” (Acts 25:11).

I see no dichotomy or disconnect between what a crime deserves and what the actual punishment for the crime should be, in either Paul’s letter to the Romans or in his testimony in Acts 25. The Apostle is consistent.

Does God require the State to ACTUALLY be just? Does God require the State to ACTUALLY establish justice for its populace?

I think God does require this. Here are a few reasons why I think this:

Deuteronomy 16:20, “Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the LORD your God is giving you.”

Psalm 106:3, “Blessed are they who maintain justice, who constantly do what is right.”

Isaiah 10:1-2, “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice . . . .”

Isaiah 51:4-5, “Listen to me, my people; hear me, my nation: The law will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations. My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations.”

(What? God is concerned to “bring justice to the nations”?)

Isaiah 61:8, "For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity.”

Zechariah 7:9, “This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Administer true justice. . .’”

(Doesn’t the demand for “true justice” entail a justice which is actualized?)

I conclude that the civil magistrate OUGHT to legislate according to God's moral Law as it is codified in the 10 Commands and insofar as said commands pertain to or manifest in outward behavior. Consequently, the civil magistrate, under God, is duty-bound to uphold outward conformity to the moral Law of God. 

No one is to be compelled to profess the faith, but no one must be allowed to injure it. . . . Even unbelievers should be forced to obey the Ten Commandments, attend church, and outwardly conform. (The Life and Letters of Martin Luther, p. 218)

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