Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Reformation Day

Nearly 500 years ago, in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses for proposed debate to the door of the Castle Church in the German University town of Wittenberg. There were reformers before and after Luther, but the anniversary of the posting is the day chosen for Reformation Day - a day to celebrate the breaking out of Biblical truth that transformed Europe and returned much of Christendom to a Biblical view of salvation.

The Reformation is based on a handful of simple but profound ideas. First, the Bible is the ultimate standard for God's revealed truth, not church tradition or hierarchical authority. Second, we are saved by faith in Jesus, including transforming belief in the propositional truths of who Jesus is and what Jesus did for us. And third, this salvation through faith is by God's grace to us alone, not because of any merit or attribute we posses.

Amidst the darkness of the way the world celebrates October 31, remember the light of the gospel.

New Jersey Decision: Lewis v. Harris

On October 25, 2006, the New Jersey Supreme Court released an opinion in which they require the New Jersey legislature to create a scheme for same sex couples to marry. The summary of the opinion identifies the main reason for the opinion: “Denying committed same sex couples the financial and social benefits and privileges given to their married heterosexual counterparts bears no substantial relationship to a legitimate government purpose.” The New Jersey court erroneously believes that marriage is basically a contractual device aimed at “financial and social benefits.” This is part of an erroneous view of marriage. Marriage is not merely a contract, it is a covenant relationship ordained by God for special purposes. The terms of marriage can be violated but marriage cannot be broken like a contract whose force disappears when one of the parties fails to abide by the terms of the contract. Otherwise marriages would last about fifteen minutes: until the bridegroom notices a bridesmaid’s cleavage or the bride refuses to obey a casual request of the groom.

The New Jersey case is also noteworthy because the side allegedly defending marriage sandbagged itself by failing to argue (at least the high court of New Jersey said they failed to argue) that marriage exists as an institution to “encourage procreation or to create the optimal living environment for children.” Other states have upheld traditional marriage precisely on that basis. The NJ court rejects it nevertheless. Radically political liberal courts cannot see marriage as a God-ordained institution or the law as bordered by a higher divine law, they cannot justify denying financial benefits to people who want them, even if the status upon which they base their desire for those benefits is rooted in something contrary to the natural law. What will be next? Protection for the sacred rights of safecrackers to carry out their profession unabated by the police? Rights of communalists to mixed group marriage? The right of women to eliminate bothersome ex-husbands by execution? Or the need to preserve the traditional right of used car salesmen to defraud their customers? What other immoral economic and social benefits can be justified by positive law?

Friday, October 27, 2006

Blog Conference

Since Thursday afternoon I have been attending Biola Universities' Godblogcon conference. I have had the pleasure to meet and talk to many great bloggers. I have linked to most of them over on the bottom of the blog roll at the right. Special thanks to Think Christian for mentioning my site. There have been good posts about the conference on Think Christian, The Susan Blog, and Skye Puppy among others.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Europe surrenders and Demands We Do the Same

On similar lines to the fjordman article bellow, the article at the link above (hat tip: Rantburg) discuses how Europeans loss of their Christian faith is causing Europe to abandon itself to Islam. Paul Belien writes that German author Hernryk M. Broder is encouraging young Europeans to leave Europe rather than loose their freedom. But the article points out that Europeans are unwilling to raise their birthrates or to risk death in war fighting for freedom. Instead they only want to enjoy freedom. And why?

“As Tom Bethell wrote in this month’s American Spectator: “Just at the most basic level of demography the secular-humanist option is not working.” But there is more to it than the fact that non-religious people tend not to have as many children as religious people, because many of them prefer to “enjoy” freedom rather than renounce it for the sake of children. Secularists, it seems to me, are also less keen on fighting. Since they do not believe in an afterlife, this life is the only thing they have to lose. Hence they will rather accept submission than fight. Like the German feminist Broder referred to, they prefer to be raped than to resist.
“If faith collapses, civilization goes with it,” says Bethell. That is the real cause of the closing of civilization in Europe. Islamization is simply the consequence. The very word Islam means “submission” and the secularists have submitted already. Many Europeans have already become Muslims, though they do not realize it or do not want to admit it.”

But to make matters worse, they try to stop others from defending truth and liberty too:

“People who are not prepared to resist and are eager to submit, hate others who do not want to submit and are prepared to fight. They hate them because they are afraid that the latter will endanger their lives as well. In their view everyone must submit.
This is why they have come to hate Israel and America so much . . .”

Europe's Hatred of its Foundation

At the link (hat tip: Rantburg) is an article by a writer with the pen name Fjordman on the importance of Christianity to Western Civilization and the multiculturalists suicidal embrace of Islam and hatred for Christianity. What makes the article unusual is that Fjordman is a non-believer. But he agrees with one quoted author that:

“As long as there is separation between religion and state, those of us who don't have any religious belief should prefer religions which tend to create reasonable and prosperous communities. Our traditional Judeo-Christian religions have proven this capability. Islam never has, and probably never will. As Australia's Cardinal George Pell says, ‘some seculars are so deeply anti-Christian, that anyone opposed to Christianity is seen as their ally. That could be one of the most spectacularly disastrous miscalculations in history.’”

Fjordman admits the hostility of current elites in Europe (and we might add parts of coastal America) to both Christianity and Judaism:

“The First Commandment of Multiculturalism is: Thou shalt hate Christianity and Judaism. Multiculturalists also hate nation states, and they even hate the Enlightenment, by insisting that non-Western cultures should be above scrutiny.
It is sometimes claimed that Islam is a "European" or Western religion. Ironically, we can test this by using "cosmopolitan Multiculturalists" such as Mr. Hylland Eriksen. They hate everything that's seen as Western and they like Islam, precisely because it's anti-Western.”
But as Fjordman also notes, Western civilization is what it is because of Christianity.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Legal Ethical Dilemmas II

The classic legal ethics dilemma everyone asks about is how a criminal defense attorney can represent someone they know to be guilty. The sort answer is a question “What makes you think you know they are guilty?” Real criminal clients do not usually admit they committed the crime – even to their own attorneys. And, indeed, if they do admit it how does the defense attorney know they are telling the truth and not either taking the fall for someone else or engaging in the habits of one of those mental instabilities that cause false confessions? The defense attorney does not know his client is guilty.

All too often in our society people assume that because the accused is a gang member or a rough character that they either committed the crime in question or some other crime, and so deserve to be convicted. But no one knows that except God and the accused. Our system, and real justice, convict or acquit people of specific crimes, not based on status. No one should be convicted because they are considered a member of a “criminal class.” Even a real professional criminal may not have committed the crime of which he is accused. This is especially true today because of the anonymity of big cities, the unreliability of personal identifications of strangers, and the reluctance of the police to use the expensive resources of finger printing and DNA evidence in cases of property crime.

But even if the client is guilty, there are reasons to feel good about defending them anyway.

First, the argument you have probably heard, our system of justice is an adversarial system. It depends for optimal outcomes on a prosecutor and a defense attorney each doing there best for their own side. The defense attorney is there to keep the prosecution honest and make sure no one is convicted without adequate evidence.

Second, a lawyer may seek mercy in place of justice. How do you know that God is not working in the life of defendant, and may not acquit him through the trial procedure for purposes of His own? If we all got what we deserve we would all be dead and damned. The defense lawyer may be an instrument of mercy just as the prosecution may be an instrument of justice.

Third, contrary to popular belief, most criminal defense work does not focus on “trying to get the client off.” In most cases the defense attorney reviews the evidence the prosecution will present, weighs the evidence, works to convince his client he is going to loose the case if a trail occurs, and negotiates a fair sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. Usually plea bargaining works. The plea agreements are often about right. You can have sentencing that is too heavy or too light, especially if you have judges who are social determinists, but usually my experience has been that plea bargaining produces just results.

And, contrary to the impression given by high profile trials with celebrity lawyers, trials usually (but not always) have reasonably just results. Real cases with guilty perpetrators do not usually result in acquittals based on technicalities or the exclusion of inadmissible evidence. And no one should be convicted on inadequate evidence no matter how strong the intuitions of a wronged society.

There is one real moral limitation in defending people accused of crimes however – no attorney should knowingly let his client take the stand and lie. If the client tries to lie the attorney must resign. But the client should be advised not to lie. Of course this brings us back to the first paragraph of this post though. The attorney does not usually know his client is guilty. So the attorney does not usually know if his client is lying or not. But then everyone is entitled to be given the benefit of the doubt by someone, if only by their attorney.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Why vote?

In an article at the link, Fred Barns is saying similar thinks to what I wrote last week. I agree with Barns.

I am hopeful the election is swinging back toward the Republicans keeping control of the House and Senate.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Legal Ethics Dilemmas I

Lawyers sometimes face clashes between popular ideas and expectations on the one hand, and the demands and expectations of the legal system on the other hand.

In this series of postings I will try to explore some of those problems.

One such dilemma is the tension between the proper advocacy of law change or interpretation and radical expectations or arguments.

The law is a very conservative profession. The way lawyers think and argue dates back to the middle ages. In his book Law and Revolution legal historian Harold Berman describes how the way lawyers think about legal texts and problems today has its origin in a synthesis of ideas and practices from Christianity, the Germanic folk law, Roman law and the philosophy of Plato and others, in the eleventh century AD. Lawyerly thought is related to Medeival scholastic thought – which might be why it seems foreign to modern laymen. The ways of the law have also been shaped by the norms of 15th to 18th century English common law practice.

The end result of the development of legal thought is that certain radical arguments are acceptable in court and some are not. If your aim as an attorney is winning justice or mercy for your client, rather than being a sounding box for your client’s political position, you do well to make arguments that are within the allowable range. This allowable range does not provide severe limits on what outcome you seek; it merely limits the means by which you will be allowed to get there.

For example, while I believe the Bible is the ultimate authority for truth, I also know the judges in US courts, though many of them believe the same thing, have been taught that the Bible is not admissible authority or polite argument. Until that changes, while I might use the Bible in a literary or artistic way, I do not jeopardize my client’s case by quoting the Bible as authority unless my client wants to go out in a blaze of glory and I want to be sanctioned by the court. That is not to say I do not use the Bible in political and academic arguments – I use it there as much or more than anyone. But I know what the limits of decorum in court are, and I abide by them for practical reasons.

I do not believe it is immoral not to quote the Bible in court. I have many other arguments and authorities that really have their deep roots in the Bible anyway. And quoting the Bible to unwilling ears will not further the influence of the Bible. The main thing is honestly and ethically arguing for justice and/or mercy for the client’s position. But it is also my personal preference not to make arguments that I would not want society to have to live with if I win. This usually involves choosing the right clients and counseling your clients about the potential results of the arguments available. Even most professional criminals do not want legal rules that make things too easy for other professional criminals – they do not want to be robbed or killed any more than honest men (Though many professional criminals do have decided socialist or libertarian tendencies).

Sometimes you have to make an argument on the record for the court of appeal and then let it go. Hammering it till you get thrown out for contempt is not helpful. A good example was the old operation rescue cases from the sit-in days of the eighties. I think Operation Rescue was right that their blocking of abortion clinics was justified by necessity, defense of others and other legal arguments wrongly considered improper. It was not wrong to raise these arguments for the record or to make sure the court understood them. It would be wrong to commit contempt by continuing to raise them in a rude manner after the trial court rejected them. The trial court must follow the law as it understands it. The lawyer can argue for a different understanding with the court of appeal and the politicians if he looses at trial.

There are though some arguments that go too far and are just wrong. Every judge has had a few cases where people – usually non-lawyers, try to make crazy arguments – like the income tax is illegal, or that the court has no jurisdiction because there is a fringe on the flag in the court. People who waste public time and money with such buffoonery should be ashamed.

For another example of the scope of argument involves the Common Law. Some laymen think the Common Law is always right. Though we teach our students about the history of the common law, it is not always appropriate to cote the common law in court. Sometimes statutes supersede the common law. Sometimes the common law was wrong. Just because a rule is old does not make it the right rule even though age is some evidence of reasonableness in rules. To know when to argue for a return to an old rule or a change to the new rule you need skill, judgment, wisdom, and a sound knowledge of legal reasoning and custom. You must learn how judges think and how to influence their thinking properly for good.

Most judges are not so different from you and me. Many are Christians, or at least church going people. Judges are often nice people. Someone has to like a person to get them elected or appointed as a judge. They are usually very bright. And, judges want to do the right thing. They are constrained by what they understand the law to be and how they understand the law to work. And that understanding is shaped at the edges by legal education, scholarship, and traditions. That is why recapturing legal education with a Christian world view is so important. The way to change legal culture is not by making arguments judges cannot accept, it is by changing the culture of acceptable argument through education, writing, politics, media, art, and personal persuasion. Too often Christians want cultural change on the cheep – by just yelling at culture.

Post modernism and radical politics are eroding the customary limits of legal argument in bad ways today. While judges still are afraid to hear the Bible in court, more and more they refuse to dismiss frivolous cases that attack fatty foods, gun sales and manufacturing, and political decisions – even though there is no established law to support such cases. The law has sometimes become a tool for leftist political policies to use to bypass the ballot box and the legislature (this happened because the courts abused their power for good purposes in the past and now have that power to use for less noble social goals today – but that is another story). This is problematic. A legal world in which the good guys are tied up by tradition but those who want to destroy our society and start over can say and allege whatever they want is not a safe legal world.

To sum up, good legal education and lawyers of good character are needed for the legal system to work properly. It is the man or woman of character and proper legal education who will know what to argue when, and who will stay within the bounds of propriety and morality at the same time, while making his or her point, and furthering his or her cause.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Why You Should Vote

On the radio I keep hearing about Christians who think they may sit out the election because they are unhappy with both political parties. This is not a good idea.

I remember an old Dilbert cartoon where Dogbert convinces Dilbert not to vote because his opinion’s and Dogbert’s opinions would cancel each other out. At the end of the day Dilbert realizes he has been had and says “dogs can’t vote.” Dogbert replies “apparently they can.” When you do not vote for the party with the views closest to your own on the issues, you are effectively voting for the victory of the party who disagrees with you more. The same thing is true when you vote for a third party candidate that is poling so low he will not win the election. Primaries are the time to vote for your favorite candidate on ideology alone. In the general election you need to help the viable candidate closest to your own views.

Lots of people hope that by not voting for a weak candidate, they will punish the party for its sins and get a better candidate next time. The problem is, that is not the way politics works. Here in California, many of my pro-life friends have refused to vote for some Republicans because they were not pro-life enough. The result has been not only that our state is represented by openly pro-abortion candidates who caucus with and maintain the line of the pro-abortion party and vote for its pro-abortion leadership, but the Republican party here insists it cannot win with conservative candidates and runs even more liberal Republicans – thereby further angering my friends who then vote for third party candidates or stay home. In the mean time the democrat legislature churns out anti-Christian and immoral legislation by the truck load.

Politics is an incremental business and requires endless hard work and commitment. If you want moral candidates you need to get active in the party and work and vote for the best candidates you can find at all levels. When candidates who are not immoral are elected, they change the climate to make the next step toward a more moral candidate more practical. We also need to find good candidates to run. So often candidates who claim to represent Christian views are either phonies, people lacking in character, not too bright, or people lacking in interpersonal and political skills. But in the absence of a good candidate, a bad candidate who will support the better party most of the time is better than one that will vote to put the pro-abortion anti-Christian party in power.

Refusing to vote Republican this year is like eating tainted chicken and sending yourself to the emergency room because your boss did not believe you have a cold. It is like cutting off your arm because you hand itches. It is like quitting your job and going on unemployment because your salary should be higher. It has emotional appeal, but is and irrational way to deal with the real problem.

If the Democrats take back the US Senate it will become impossible to confirm pro-life justices when any additional Supreme Court Justices retire – and several could in the next two years. Two more pro-abortion judges could mean decades of extra abortions that could be stopped if the next nominee or two where willing to vote with the angels on the abortion issue. Thousands, perhaps millions, of extra deaths will occur.

If the Democrats capture the house and the Senate they will over ride the President’s policies in the war on Islamo-facism and go back to a defensive law enforcement approach. That will mean more terrorist attacks on America and embolden terrorist armies abroad. The Islamo-fascists might get their caliphate after all. Billions of dollars in taxes will be spent on defensive measures that cannot possibly protect every target, but will cost a fortune to fortify a few. Needless to say taxes will go up and the economy will stall and crash. The democrats will blame Bush, but it will be their fault.

If the Democrats win back the House or the Senate there will be no more attempts and amendments to end partial birth abortion or protect marriage. But there will be democratic sponsored amendments to lock abortion into the Constitution and grant marriage right s and more to homosexuals and polyamourists. There will be no more tax cuts for the middle class but there will be plenty of new burdens on liberty. There will be no more faith based initiatives, but there will be legislation ending exemptions and protections for Christian groups.

If the democrats win the House or the Senate they will force an early withdrawal from Iraq. Hundreds of thousands will die the ensuing civil war. The winner will either be Iran, Osama, or Sadam’s heirs. American will have a potent nation sate enemy in place of an unstable neighbor. No fewer American soldiers will die because the next war will be worse than this one. But many fewer terrorists will die since instead of finding Iraq the terrorist-killing zone it is today, they will find it a base for rest and training.

The Republicans have not been all we hoped. 70% of Americans want restrictions on abortion and they have passed only a few and changed the hostile courts only a little. 70% of Americans want marriage to be between one man and one woman, but the republicans could not overcome Democrat opposition to the amendments to protect marriage. 70% of Americans do not buy into the radical separation of morality and faith from public life, but the Republicans have not been able to get many good judicial nominees, who see this issue the same way, past the Democrat obstructionists in the Senate.

But if the Republicans have failed to be effective against the democrats why put the very same democrats in charge?

Please vote.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Politics and Love

Political discourse can be more frustrating for Christians than for many others because of our need to love. God commands us to love: to love God by obeying Him, to love one another, to love our families, to love neighbors, to love foreigners in our land, and even to love our enemies. We are also commanded to act based on love – warm fuzzy feelings are not enough. The Bible even says Christians should be recognized by their love. There is no question that we are failing in our Christian walk if we are motivated by hate instead of love. But politics rarely results in everyone even feeling loved.

No matter how just or necessary a war may be, killing combatants on purpose, civilians by accident, and appearing to fuel the killing done by our antagonists, always looks and feels unloving to a significant number of people.

When a group or class of people need money or food or health care or housing or education or encouragement or self esteem, it always seems unloving to many to say government larges is not the appropriate solution to that need.

When we say we want to limit illegal and undocumented immigration, it sounds like we do not care about the needs of penniless Mexicans who need a chance to feed and cloth their families.

Opposition to homosexual and polyamourous marriage sounds like we hate homosexuals and advocates of unconventional sexualities. Resisting our sex drenched and obsessed society makes us sound like we are the ones who are obsessed with our supposed loathing of sex.

Stiff sentencing laws for violent criminals make their friends, families, and protectors certain that we must hate them.

And, when we argue against the coherence and practicality of our political opponent’s arguments, they say we are filed with hate for them personally.

I know many Christians and some secularists who are so affected by the desire to avoid appearing unloving that they always side with those on the apparently “loving” side of these issues or claim that these issues are of no real political importance.

The problem is that sometimes there is a difference between appearing loving and being loving. God Himself is the very definition of love. But how many millions have doubted His love and His goodness because of the pain and suffering brought into the world by the fall?

A good parent cannot always give in to the felt needs of their children. Bad behavior must be disciplined so that the children will grow up to be virtuous and happy adults. Budgets must be kept so that real present and future needs can be met. Difficult priorities must be set. Children may think good parents are unloving when they discipline them and when they say “no.” But the children of lax parents know deep in their heart that they are really unloved – because their parents care more about impressions and convenience than reality. Wishful thinking and appeasement are not good for families or nations.

So we speak the truth in love – even when it makes some people think we are unloving. Real love, as ethicist Lewis Smedes said, is wishing the other well and acting reasonably upon that wish. Real love is not wanting to be loved and doing whatever you think people think they want to win their love – no matter how damaging or unaffordable.

Because we love the people of the world, we cannot allow totalitarian regimes to grow and spread.

Because we love the poor, we need to do more for them through charity and the church while government concentrates on unmet emergency needs, incentives, and eliminating barriers to job creation and social mobility. Because we love the poor, we also need a way for them to obtain a good private education that includes real moral truth and the gospel instead of a public education that feeds all the values that maintain poverty and crime. The government should not raise taxes so high that it destroys the economy and creates more poverty, even if that means saying “no” to some felt or even real needs.

For the sake of our children’s future happiness, we should not let law and public education user in an era of no sexual boundaries; it will cause even more pain and suffering and disease than the playboy lifestyle and the “sixties” morality have already caused.

But in advocating the policies of tough love, we need to be loving people. We need to pray for God’s help to not only love our enemies and neighbors, but to be able to communicate rationally and persuasively in a way that lets them know they are loved even though we may disagree with them or their lifestyle choices. While humor can be effective, we need to be careful not to use name calling or to go too far. We need to avoid becoming the stereotypes wishful thinkers have of us. And, we need to really act loving – not just favor policies that feather our own nests while failing to give to charity or to provide alternatives that work. This is all difficult, but life is difficult. God has set us in a moral adventure, not a perpetual spa for our egos.

We also need to remember that policies choices are not always easy things. We can, and sometimes will be wrong. Humility and persuadability go hand in hand with love too.

So let us argue and act and vote in love.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Bilateral Talks with North Korea?

The past few days I have listened to discussions on the television, radio, internet, and in the press on the North Korean Nuclear weapon situation. To my (naive?) surprise the push is on on the left, by Democrats and among moderates and elitist Republicans, for bilateral talks with North Korea. This is odd for a few reasons, and a bad for a few more.

It is odd because the coalition in question is usually grumbling about bilateral talks by the US. They are usually demanding a multilateral solution. The whole point seems to be to disagree with the administration rather than to be principled.

The push for bilateral talks is also odd because there is no good reason for it. The only reason anyone seems to give for doing it is that the North Koreans want bilateral talks. The real foreign policy of the pro-bilateral coalition seems to be “just find out what the mad man wants and agree to give it to him!” That may be your best option with an armed mugger in the park, but you cannot run foreign policy that way. You may never see the mugger again, and the police may get the mugger. But Kim will still be here asking for the world, and there are (thankfully, since they would probably be staffed and led by rouge nations) no world police.

Bilateral talks are a bad idea because the North Koreans only want them so they can abuse us and lie to us without losing face with anyone whose opinion they care about. The six party format we have encouraged requires the North Korean delegation to behave like diplomats since China and South Korea are present. Six party talks also avoid silly demands for betrayals of our alies (“promise not to stop our invasion of South Korea and Japan and no one gets hurt.”) North Korea would use secret bilateral talks to sow suspicion and discord between the US and our alies (“Can you believe it ambassador, as soon as you were not there the Yankee bandits offered us the whole peninsula.”).

Bilateral talks are also a bad idea because the lend prestige to the North Koreans, and make it look like we are already deciding to appease them.

It is not good for North Korea to have nuclear weapons.

It is also delusional to think we can negotiate a just and reasonable treaty to get North Korea to give up nuclear weapons. Even if they promised to do so, exactly how would we be sure they had not kept a few nuclear weapons in some deep lead lined cavern?

But it is also clear we cannot lightly go to war with North Korea. Our current forces are tied up with the war on terror. Iran is still a growing threat. And, the North Koreans have the capacity to kill hundreds of thousands of South Koreans before the war is over. We would never be sure they would not seek revenge with a nuclear device at some time in the future. But then, we can no longer be sure they will not find a way to blow up an American city if we do not attack them either.

The North Korean nuclear problem is not a simple one. And the President is entitled to a little slack in dealing with it since there are no good options.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Trinity Law School Mission

This is the mission statement for TLS:

Trinity Law School Mission Statement

Trinity Law School exists to serve Christ by championing a biblical view of human law and government through our students, graduates, faculty, and staff.

In application of this mission Trinity Law School commits to:

Uphold Trinity International University’s commitment to biblical, historic, evangelical Christianity.

Integrate law and theology throughout our curriculum, scholarship, co-curricular activities and overall strategy

Acquaint students with a classic Christian natural law theory of jurisprudence

Promote engagement in and support of public service and pro-bono legal work

Enable our student to evaluate law and public policy from a Christian perspective

Develop in our students a deep sense of commitment to ethical legal practice and public service

Equip students to critically analyze and constructively engage contemporary culture

Provide students with a thorough understanding of law and the skills necessary for a life of service

Give an opportunity for legal education to students from diverse backgrounds

Create opportunities for students from economically challenged circumstances to attend law school

Produce scholarly and popular literature and broadcast media which embody a biblical Christian perspective on law and public policy

We are currently accepting students for Spring 2007. See our web site for details and legal information: tls.edu.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Foundational Law Quotes XXVII

“[T]he liberty guaranteed by our bills of rights is a reservation to the individual of certain fundamental reasonable expectations involved in life in a civilized society and a freedom from arbitrary and unreasonable exercise of the power and authority of those who are designated or chosen in a politically organized society to adjust relations and order conduct, and so are able to apply the force of that society to individuals. Liberty under law implies a systematic and orderly application of that force so that it is uniform, equal, and predictable, and proceeds from reason and upon understood grounds rather than from caprice or impulse or without full and fair hearing of all affected and understanding of the facts on which official action is taken.”

- Roscoe Pound

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Foundational Law Quotes XXVI

“The abuses of logic in the law are in line with similar abuses in other fields . . . A reaction against this has naturally been provoked and has taken diverse forms. . . . All of these forms of anti-intellectualism, however, concern us here only to the extent that they lead to a nihilistic absolutism according to which there can be no logical certainty in the law at all. In the main this has been supported by nominalistic dogma that there can no law other than the actual individual judicial decisions, which have physiologic causes such as the state of digestion, etc., but no logical determinants. I cannot here examine in detail the metaphysical assumptions of this dogmatic nihilism, which no one has ever carried out consistently because it is practically impossible to carry out any universal denial of the existence of universals.

. . .

[T]he stream of judicial decisions has a continuity, and judges in deciding actual cases are to some extent influenced by the logical demands set by the prevailing conception of what the law is or ought to be. The law is not in fact a completed, but a growing and self-correcting system.

. . .

When, however, we come to descriptions of nature, or prescriptions for human conduct, we cannot attain such absolute precision and we have to expect imperfection, though we must hold the idea of perfection with sufficient tenacity to realize that our actual achievement has fallen short of it. This recognition of the necessity of the ideal and our inability throughout time to achieve perfection, is the condition of intellectual and moral sanity.

. . .

[T]here can be no just order unless there is also what I have called ‘formal’ justice, i.e., a general determination on the part of those who deal with the law to live up to its spirit, to carry out not only its literal provisions but the ideal inherent in it. Doubtless, the law will never, so long as it is administered by human beings, be free from arbitrary will and brute force. Nevertheless, it cannot function in an organized society without some rational effort at justice as an ideal harmony.”

- Morris R. Cohen (1936)

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Foundational Law Quotes XXV

Whether rule is born by Rex or by Demos
a ruler who rules reasonably
under God and the law
founds his kingdom on a rock.

- Roscoe Pound

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Foundational Law Quotes XXIV

“Almighty God to all mankind on Christmas Day said He:
‘I rent you from the old red hills and, rending made you free.
There was charter, there was challenge; in a blast of breath I gave;
You can be all things other; you cannot be a slave.
You shall be tired and tolerant of fancies as they fade,
But if men doubt the Charter, ye shall call on the Crusade –
Trumpet and torch and catapult, cannon and bow and blade,
Because it was My challenge to all the things I made.’”

- G. K. Chesterton, from “A Christmas Song for Three Guilds”

Monday, October 02, 2006

Response to Tony Campolo on Marriage Law Cont. Part III

Another disadvantage of removing the family from the human law of government is that the church has no real enforcement ability today. At one time, the threat of excommunication or shunning was a real stick carried by the church and feared by the laity. But today, most churches are reluctant to even speak against the primary sins of their congregants from the pulpit lest these people take their consumer-minded religiosity to some other less offensive congregation. If the regulation of marriage is left to the church, there will be some chastisement of words but no force behind the institution of marriage. We will have gone to a situation in which marriage will be abandoned except as a sentimental and romantic token of affection. Overall, I would have to think that the situation in which marriage was merely like baptism or communion—a ceremony offered by the church but in no way attached to any actual real world results—would be an even further degrading of marriage. Marriage has already been severely weakened because society in no way enforces law against adultery and is beginning to give up on its laws against statutory rape. Will pedophiles be the next group to claim that their civil rights are being violated because of the state’s rejection of their “inborn” proclivities? (I don’t really think that they are inborn. But undoubtedly that will be the claim made. And even if they were, having a greater proclivity to sin than other people does not make one’s desired activity less sinful.)

I don’t doubt that many people will think that my polemic on this page is an unnecessary panic. They will believe that things will go on much as they have gone on in the past despite these radical changes. But we can look at the history of the last 100 years in the United States to easily see that that is not the case. With the advent of no-fault divorce, there has been a genuine weakening of the family. Divorce and adultery have become far more common. The change in schools to the point where morality is no longer taught and enforced has opened the door to the Playboy lifestyle being thought of as normative by many people. In some large cities, sex education encourages people to have sex rather than educating them about the risks of venereal disease and poverty. Today we have more and more out-of-wedlock births and more and more human unhappiness as a result. The failure to domesticate men by bringing them into a stable family institution and requiring them to be faithful to that institution has led to not only out-of-wedlock births but an increase in child abuse as boyfriends who have no interest in a woman’s children other than predation become their temporary custodians without genuine commitment. We need only look to Scandinavia and the Netherlands to see how lax attitudes about the family and sexuality actually do contribute to its deterioration. Do we not wish to go even further and allow our country’s people to debase themselves even further in the interest of a theoretical need to separate the government from God?

Perhaps part of the impetus behind the belief of people like Tony Campolo in a radical separation between morality and the state but not between help for the poor and the state is a belief that people who are morally miserable are more likely to become Christians than people who are unrighteous but relatively nice people. I had a friend once in college who, when asked about his work at Disneyland, replied that it was depressing. When asked why, he said that it was terrible to see all of those non-Christians enjoying themselves and having fun. My friend called Disneyland the “tragic kingdom” because he believed that when sinful people had a good time it distracted them from their need for God. The corollary of such a view would be that misery brings people closer to God. Indeed, in some ways there is some truth in the idea that God uses our afflictions to get our attention. C.S. Lewis said that God whispers to us in our pleasures, and shouts to us in our pain. But the Bible does not seem to support the idea that we should maximize human misery in order to bring people to God. Jesus said that offenses are inevitable, but woe unto those by whom they come. This fallen world is full of plenty of sickness, sin, death, pestilence and pain. It is our job to alleviate what we can rather than seeking to increase or maximize human suffering. People will suffer more than enough despite our ameliorative efforts. If we do not seek to end suffering but rather seek to allow suffering, God is not happy with our decision. This is why Jesus says “woe unto those by whom offenses come.” Far be it from us to be the source of offense and suffering rather than a resistance against it. Far be it from us to seek to be infection and darkness rather than salt and light.