Thursday, August 30, 2007

What I Believe Lawyers Should Believe

Here is a list of the ideas I would like to see lawyers believe. They are not original, but come from the ideas of a whole host of writers and philosophers and statesmen. At Trinity Law School, an evangelical protestant Christian law school, we do our best, not only to teach the law and legal thinking as they are, but also to present these ideas to the students in a persuasive way.

a. Lawyers should be professionals whose practice improves the public perception of the profession, earns the confidence of their clients, and brings glory to God.
b. Lawyers should be collegial, and engage their peers with respect and professionalism even if they think their peers fall short of those standards. Lawyers should engage the culture of the law in the Bar, in the courtroom and in the classroom. They should not separate themselves from mainstream legal culture – instead they should reform and improve it.
c. Lawyers should engage the culture.
d. Lawyers should be professionals who serve their clients by counseling them about moral implications and human costs of conduct, not just the arguable legality of conduct. Lawyers themselves should practice law in a way that is above reproach – in contrast to the view that lawyers can do whatever is not clearly illegal.
e. It is appropriate for Christians to act as advocates in the legal system, even for parties that are guilty or in the wrong, provided that they are honest with the court and with their client, and do not knowingly participate in the offering of false testimony. In representing blameworthy clients the believing attorney, as a fellow sinner saved by God’s grace, has the opportunity to be an instrument of God’s mercy and grace. But, Christians should not file or maintain lawsuits they know to be frivolous.
f. Christians need to be loving, merciful, empathetic, and polite, as well as just, especially in the legal and political realms.
g. All human beings are created in the image of God. As such they should be treated with dignity and respect regardless of status, origin, race, or conduct. All human beings should be seen as equal before the law in the sense that the law applies in the same way to them all, all are imperfect sinners, and all are entitled to appropriate due process. Lawyers should seek real due process of law for all, but should not seek special privileges or protections for genuine evil doers. Nor should lawyers advocate laws designed to shelter real evil from the reach of the law or the disapproval of society.
h. Human laws should not impose burdens that people cannot bear.
i. Human law should not forbid all that is immoral or require all that is moral. Because we all violate God’s moral law all the time, human laws cannot be coextensive with God’s moral law. For example, God’s law deals with our thoughts and feelings. Human laws should only prohibit specific external acts or omissions – not thoughts or feelings (though wrongful intent evidenced by action may be taken into account by human law; e.g. malice).
j. Human law should have respect for victims and should require, when practical, that the perpetrators of crimes make restitution to the known victims of the crime.
k. Human laws and constitutions should be interpreted in much the same way as the Bible – to give effect to the law’s intent – not the whims and evolving desires of the interpreter or culture. Words actually have meanings and the mischiefs laws are passed to correct are discoverable. The plane meaning of a text and the purposes of the authors provide guidance which should be followed. If you want a new subjective Constitutional right, try to amend the Constitution – do not claim it says what it does not say.
l. Human laws should be interpreted with the presumption that the law is meant to work justice with mercy – not to create new harms.
m. Human government exists to promote good and punish evil. Laws to use government to promote moral evils or to seriously limit our liberty to choose among objectively moral goods are illegitimate and should be changed rather than enforced.
n. Human laws should be reasonable, for the common good, and within the limits of timeless objective moral principles known to all people through God’s general and special revelation. Such limits do not violate the First Amendment – they are part of the Natural Law that gives the First Amendment the force and authority it possesses.
o. The subjects of some human laws concern matters, that while implicating the common good, are morally indifferent. It must be recognized that while feelings and arguments on these matters may be intense, they are not in the same category as laws directly dealing with things moral or immoral. Additional deference is due to opponents in such areas of argument. There is not an inherently “Christian” position on policies concerning indifferent matters like statutes of limitation or choices of armaments even if there may be good reasons to adopt one approach over another.
p. Human government cannot solve all human problems. In trying to solve some problems government occasionally creates worse problems. But government has an obligation to protect the weak, to aid the genuinely oppressed, and to restrain evil, all through the rule of law.
q. No objective right can exist to do a moral wrong, though some real objective rights may make it more difficult to police criminal acts.
r. Even when human laws are stupid or obnoxious or illegitimate we generally obey them until we can have them changed, unless they command what God forbids or forbid what God commands, in which case opposition to the offending law is necessary. If the legal means of change are not available, in some cases civil disobedience may be necessary and appropriate as part of a concerted strategy to change bad laws that do not go so far as to command what God forbids or to forbid what God commands. But care and wisdom must be used in determining when such civil disobedience is appropriate.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Political Satire from John Mark Reynolds

I do not always agree with the brilliant Biola Professor John Mark Reynolds, but his political satire pieces on the new movement for "political nonalignment" by Christians are very very funny and very to the point. The articles are and

Hat tip to Contrarian Views and Evangelical Outpost.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What to think about Universal Health Care?

Health care is an important issue. Cancer Doctor Vance Esler deals with some of the issues involved with universal coverage at his blog This Wasn't in the Plan. See for example and

Book Review: Cyril Barber's The Dynamics of Effective Leadership: Learning from Nehemiah

I recently had the very happy experience of reading Cyril Barber’s commentary on the book of Nehemiah, the title appearing above in the heading for this blog article. Barber’s book is both a superior commentary on Nehemiah and a superior leadership primer.

Barber fails to fall into the pitfall that many pastors fall into with respect to the book of Nehemiah. He does not see Nehemiah as an allegory of church building programs or an allegory of improvement of the soul. Instead, he takes the book at face value and sees the quite literal leadership style and characteristics of Nehemiah as something we can learn from. His insights into what makes a good leader are excellent and not your run-of-the-mill trendy stuff.

Barber comes to the discussion of leadership with a biblical worldview instead of the dominant secularist worldview. He is open to the lessons the Bible actually teaches rather than overlaying upon it what Harvard Business School or Madison Avenue might think. But that is not to say that Barber’s views are not practical. They are extremely practical and noteworthy.

Barber lays out the profile of Nehemiah verse by verse and then summarizes in the end the major conclusions that he has reached from the biblical example. Barber notes that an effective leader needs to have integrity. “He must possess a brightness of character and soundness of moral principles. He must know and stand for what is right—even in the face of popular disfavor.”

Barber notes that a good leader also needs conviction. He analyzes and shows that this conviction is founded on our faith in God and requires both confidence in ourselves and courage. Loyalty, stability, and concern for others are the other major characteristics that Barber identifies. Rounding out the characteristics of a good leader are discernment, motivation, and tact. But Barber does not see tact as the notion of telling people what they want to hear, but rather he notes that true tact must be founded upon truth.

Barber also analyzes the principles of sound leadership including knowledgeability, ability to maintain moral, and setting an example.

We also have some interesting observations along the way. For example he notes this about freedom: “Political freedom is based on spiritual freedom. When spiritual freedom is sacrificed through the toleration of evil, it inevitably results in oppression and the demise of moral standards. To counteract these trends, we need a return to the Word of God (see Nehemiah 8), then by submitting ourselves to it, and confessing our failures and shortcomings, we can begin to walk in a path of obedience, righteousness, and true holiness. Out of a spirit of genuine renewal, there comes a spiritual, social, and national freedom.”

In other passages that provide practical advice for leaders, Barber discusses how Nehemiah dealt with the task faced by middle managers—how to deal with criticism, how to deal with gossip, and how to deal with opposition from both within and without.

Nehemiah is a model leader and Barber has done a model job in expounding that model to us through his book, The Dynamics of Effective Leadership: Learning from Nehemiah.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Jesus Divinity

At Cranmer an apparent Muslim has inquired about my claim that Jesus is God. She says he did not claim to be God. I replied that He did, both in word and deed. Apart from the many passages in the New Testament where others identify him as God, Jesus himself did make such a claim.

Here are my elaborations on Jesus claims to divinity in word and deed.

Here is a link with lots of articles on Jesus divinity:

Also let me lay out a few of the many passages that support Jesus claim to be God.

First, we have claims made by action. Jesus did many things only God can do. You could say he did them in the power of God, but they are the sort of things that testify to who Jesus was. The similar miracles done by Jesus followers have been done “In Jesus Name” – in other words through Jesus authority. Jesus raised the dead (Matthew 9:18 – 26, Luke 7:12 – 17, John 11:1 – 44), made or healed human eyes out of mud (John 9:6 – 7), forgave sins (Mark 2:5 – 12, Luke 5:17 – 26), and created bread and fish to feed thousands (Mark 6:30 – 44).

Jesus accepted Peter’s statement that he was the “Son of the living God”, a statement that made Jesus divine if true. See Matthew 16:16 – 17. Jesus also accepted worship (Matthew 14:33, 28:9, 17, 16 – 20, Luke 19:35 – 40, John 9:38). Only God has a right to do this. You cannot claim Jesus is not God, but is a nice holy man if he accepted the worship due only to God alone.

Jesus claimed to be God’s son, as well as to be God. See John 1:49, 3:10 – 21, 5: 16 – 47, 8:12 – 36, The Jews of the time clearly understood that sonship implied being the same thing as the father – so Jesus claim to be God’s son was a claim to be God. See John 5:18.

Jesus also referred to himself by the term that only God spoke of himself. It was forbidden to utter the name in Hebrew culture. Yet Jesus says I AM – YHWH – of himself. See John 8:58 – 59. The Jewish leaders knew what this meant and tried to stone Jesus for claiming to be God.

Jesus also claimed to be God through riddles. Jesus implied he had lived from eternity. Job 19:25 already said there would be a “redeemer” who was alive in Job’s time and who would stand upon the earth at the resurrection. Jesus said he existed before Abraham. See John 8:49 – 59. He also pointed out that David called the Messiah “my Lord.” See Mark 12:35 – 37, Luke 20:41 – 44. How could this be since the Messiah would be David’s son? Only if the Messiah was the incarnate God/Man of the Christian trinity.

Before any of this happened, the Old Testament predicted that a man, the Messiah, would also be God – “mighty God, everlasting father.” See Isaiah 9:6 – 7. So none of this should really be a surprise to anybody really paying attention.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Jesus and Islam

One of my favorite blogs, both for content and style is the English blog Archbishop Cranmer (found at

This week, among other interesting articles, His Grace deals with a television program on the what Muslims think about Jesus. Cranmer's points are good: The Muslim view of Jesus is false and unhistorical, yet no counter view is likely to be presented (Muslims reject the divinity of Jesus and deny that he was crucified or resurrected). He points out how no one worries about offending Christians, but many are deferential to Islam. No TV station would make an honest film on the "Christian view of Mohamed." And, Christians should be upset by this sort of blasphemy that proselytizes for a false religion that is causing the world unbelievable grief.

Cranmer says: "There will, of course, be nothing objective about the historical evidence for the crucifixion and resurrection: the documentary will unashamedly portray Jesus as Muslims see him, and use the Qur’an as its primary source material, completely and conveniently ignoring the fact that it was ‘revealed’ centuries after Jesus lived and the Gospels were penned. The accounts of the real primary material are thereby rubbished, and Jesus’ divinity is denied. It is both blasphemous and offensive to Christians the length and breadth of the country, but as long as it’s not blasphemous for Muslims, everything’s alright."

In a way, this television special is shocking, because just when the world needs to convince Muslims to stop believing in Islam, and preferably to believe in the real and divine Jesus, not only for their eternal salvation, but for the survival of our own freedom and civilization, so many elites in the UK and Europe are out doing the opposite to their own hurt. I suppose it is more empirical evidence for the reality of evil. Only the devil could get Muslims, on the one hand, and liberal non-believing "christian", secularists, atheists, and socialists on the other, on the same page. But then "liberal Christians" (i.e. those who do not really believe the bible) believe something similar to the Muslims in that they always had trouble with Jesus death, atonement for our sins, resurrection, eternality, identity as the Logos, and divinity. At least the Muslims do not have trouble with miracles and the virgin birth, the early stumbling blocks of the "liberals."

What we really need today are whole seasons and collections of films that will be shown in the middle east and in Muslim markets in the West that explain the truth about Christianity and western civilization in subtle sophisticated ways. The Jesus film and Mel Gibbson's film about Jesus have had some success in changing hearts and minds. We need much more. We need to at least win their "tolerance" and "understanding." But if we really want peace Islam will need to be discredited and the truth believed in its place. This is a tall order when so many in the west doubt the truth. But we can pray and we can make a start. Doing nothing good only makes failure more likely.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Why I still have doubts about Romney

A moth or so ago I drew a lot of fire by suggesting a candidates religious beliefs really do matter because government policy if affected by what we believe about morality, human nature, justice, etc. Since that time, on of the Presidential candidates, Romney, has given a number of interviews and answers clearly explaining that his beliefs as a Mormon will have no affect on public policy. For example, Romney explained that even though he is personally opposed to alcohol, he did not believe that belief should support legal prohibition. But all that did not make me feel better.

Irrelevant to public policy, then they must be using some other world view or set of ideas in deciding public policy. Based on his history, I strongly suspect Romney of being a pragmatist or opportunist (of course most of the other candidates probably have similar views). Why is that a problem? Because it means that for public decisions Romney has no principled understanding of objective moral truth, human nature, and the way things work. Instead he will do whatever he thinks will keep him in office or please “important” people. We have been running government that way most of the time since 1930 and it creates and sustains problems and errors. For example, a pragmatists running for office in 1825 would have no reason to oppose slavery or work for abolition. Today most of the pragmatists in Washington have done little of what they could do to end abortion on demand, prevent cloning, save marriage, or expand religious freedom of expression despite the fact that the majority of Americans favor these things. They just don’t think those positions “work” and they have no principled moral insight to guide them. Self interest is most of what they think about.

What could a candidate say instead of what Romney said? If he were a Christian he could have said “my faith believes a relationship with God cannot be formed as a result of human laws or force. We also believe all people commit sins. The government cannot require all virtue or punish all vice because humans cannot handle that kind of legalism. Instead, government should only regulate external acts that cause fairly serious and direct harm to the public or individuals and can be deterred much of the time. Government should only make laws that are within the capacity of most people to obey. And by the way, the moderate use of alcohol is not immoral. My faith believes that not all people will become Christians, but all people are entitled to be treated with dignity and due process. My faith believes in love and mercy and justice. My faith believes all people have been given rights to life, liberty, property, and freedom to choose among real moral goods. My faith believes that its practitioners are human, make mistakes, and are not always faithful to the principles of my faith even though they should always strive to be. My faith believes that the government is there to restrain evil and coordinate and encourage good – not to try to solve all human problems (it can’t) and not to be a source of loot for those with power and influence. Government is supposed to work for justice with mercy.” He could have said all of that if he were a Christian – and if his faith did affect his political views.

Friday, August 03, 2007

HR 1592 - the Hate Crimes Bill

HR1592 is a bill ostensibly designed to prevent hate crimes. It allows federal law enforcement agencies to assist local officials when a crime has been committed “motivated by prejudice based on actual or perceived race, color, origin, natural origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim, or is a violation of state, local, or tribal hate crime laws.” The law also prohibits similar violent acts motivated by such hatred within certain federal jurisdictions involving interstate commerce.

On its surface, the hate crimes act would appear to be somewhat non-controversial. Nobody should be in favor of crimes of violence against anybody, let alone crimes of violence based on the kinds of prejudice listed in the act. The act even has a rule of construction which provides “nothing in this act, or in the amendments made by this act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal protection by or any activities protected by the free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment to the Constitution.” It was introduced on March 20th of this year, scheduled for debate on April 25th and passed the House by a vote of 237 yes, 180 no, and 16 not voting.

The bill was passed by the House on May 3, 2007. But during the debate on the bill, Congressman Gohmert asked a simple question: “If a minister was giving a sermon, a Bible study, or any kind of written or spoken message saying that homosexuality was a serious sin and a person in the congregation went out and committed a crime against a homosexual, would the minister be charged with the crime of incitement?” After a lot of pressure by Congressman Lungren on the Congressmen sponsoring the legislation to answer the question, Democrat congressman Artur Davis from Alabama said that the answer to the question was “yes.” In other words, pastors could end up being prosecuted for inciting a hate crime as a result of this legislation if they were critical of homosexuality in the pulpit or in a Bible study, and if one of their congregants misunderstood this and took it as a justification for violence (Which it is not. The status of homosexual acts as sins does not in any way justify individuals acting violently toward people who commit those acts or who endorse them.).

Courts often look to the legislative history of a bill in order to interpret and understand it. A court applying federal law about criminal incitement would be very likely to consult this debate and conclude because of Congressman Davis’ statement that the law should apply to allow the prosecution of the minister with the errant congregant. Attempts to have the bill amended to provide better protection and clarification to prevent the kind of problem described above were largely unsuccessful. But, the rule of construction was successfully added by amendment about April 30th. It is possible that the rule of construction could be construed to prevent the kind of anti-Christian application discussed above. But it must be remembered that while the First Amendment is applied very broadly by the courts in matters such as flag burning and pornography, it is not given a broad scope with respect to the free exercise clause or certain types of speech. It would still be possible for the courts to conclude that anti-homosexual speech was not “protected speech” under the First Amendment. A fair or honest court would have to say that speech characterizing homosexuality as sin ought to be protected speech since it flows from religious, ethical, and moral debate that is almost as much at the core of religious speech as the proclamation of the gospel. In the current legal environment, this is by no means a foregone conclusion.

Hat tip to The Truth in Black and White.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Genocide Against Women

In a recent article in the on line journal of First Things, Susan Yoshihara highlights one of the terrible side effects of international abortion: what I would call genocide against baby girls.
Yoshihara points out:

“Throughout human history, demographers tell us, nature has provided about 105 male births for every 100 females . . . A Chinese census reports ratios as high as 120–136 boys born for every 100 girls; in Taiwan, ratios of 119 boys to 100 girls; in Singapore 118 boys per 100 girls; South Korea 112 boys per 100 girls; and in India, where the practice was outlawed in 1994, the ratio continues to exceed 120 boys for every 100 girls in some areas. Countries such as Greece, Luxembourg, El Salvador, the Philippines, Cape Verde, and Egypt, even among some ethnic groups in the United States (Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino), are showing the same deadly discrimination against daughters.

What is the cause of the crisis? Experts point to a recent confluence of four main factors: rising access to sonogram technology, increased access to abortion, a preference for sons, and fertility decline.”

Simply banning sex selection abortion will not prevent this hostility toward women from continuing. It is too easy for doctors to document some pretextual reason for the abortion. The genocide of women is another good reason to limit or ban abortion altogether. This sort of abuse is another reason why abortion today is analogous to slavery in the 1800's. Both allowed the dehumanization of certain groups of human beings.

(Hat tip to Rantburg)