Friday, September 15, 2006

Foundational Law Quotes XIX

"A good man will temper civil constitutions with right and justice, that is, with both the divine and natural laws. Anything that is enacted contrary to divine or natural laws cannot be just. . . Divine laws are those which have been established by God through the canonical Scriptures. They have been divided into three categories: moral, judicial, and ceremonial. The moral laws are those which are prescribed in the Decalogue; the student will relate to them all laws concerning morals that are given forth in the entire Scripture. For how often is the same law repeated in the Scriptures! We must beware here, however, of explaining the Decalogue with regard to external acts only and of dividing the commandments into precepts and counsels in the Scholastic fashion.

. . .

For the duty of civil magistrates and laws is nothing else than to punish and prevent wrongs. For this reason, laws are passed concerning the division of property, forms of contract, and penalties for crimes. For the magistrate is a minister of God, a wrathful avenger of the one who has committed a crime. Furthermore, a magistrate is not permitted to make decrees contrary to divine law, and he ought not to be obeyed contrary to divine law . . . "

- Philip Melanchthon

4 comments:

Benjamin Bush Jr. said...

Mr McConnell,
Is it possible for God to give a nation laws which violate divine law. If so, under what circumstances?

Dean McConnell said...

No. Divine law flows from God's own nature. He does not command people to do things that are inconsistent with His own nature and will. If a nation has laws contrary to Divine law, those human rules are acts of sin and violence rather than true laws.

Benjamin Bush Jr. said...

Mr McConnell,

Ezekiel 20: 24-25 states the following: "Because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers' idols.
Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live;"

Please explain!

Dean McConnell said...

When God "gives" bad laws in judgment he is sovereignly allowing the sins of a people to bear the bitter self destructive fruit of pain and death. But that does not make those bad human laws normative. The bad laws referenced were still sinful acts of violence. God did not want the Israelites to have bad laws. But in judgement He allowed them to have bad laws. God did not want the occasional good kings of Israel to "cooperate" with his judgement by enacting bad laws.

A distinction exists between what God describes as normative and what He sovereignly allows. God wishes that all would be saved, but He does not elect everyone. He allows some people to freely reject Him. God wants people to obey the Ten Commandments, but He allows a world in which they do not do so.

When we plan human action we must act based on what God has identified as normative and good in the scriptures. If you allow that evil deeds should be done because you think evil deeds are a judgment from God you will have more evil deeds. God says in scripture "It is inevitable that offenses should come, but woe to him by whom they come." In a fallen world, evil will happen, and we may be the source of it, but we should never advocate evil, allow evil, or teach others to do evil. The Bible is full of injunctions to help others and deliver others. If we take the fatalistic view that people are enslaved or sick or suffering or oppressed because God wills it as a judgement, and then do nothing about it, we are violating the commands of God.

In the gospels the pharisees were at odds with Jesus because they thought sickness was a punishment from God, and Jesus not only healed people, He healed them on the Sabbath.

It is never God's will for his people to do evil or allow evil so that grace may abound. We should never tire of doing good. If God truly wants to bring judgement on a nation, that judgment will fall no matter how we try to help people. And God will still be pleased that we fought the good fight even though people did not respond. But who knows? If we preach the gospel and act as salt and light in society God may bring revival instead of judgment just as he did through the preaching of Jonah.