Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Legal Change in Moses Time

A commenter recently said they did not believe the law of ancient Israel was allowed to incorporate change. As this is an important issue, I thought I would say something about it here on the main blog.
Deuteronomy 4:1-2 says:
“ 1 Hear now, O Israel, the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land that the LORD, the God of your fathers, is giving you. 2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.”
By this God meant that no one should claim God gave commands he did not give or claim that commands God did give were not given by Him. He clearly did not mean there would be no additional revelation from God because there obviously was additional revelation. He also did not mean to bar common law judicial decisions or additional human laws for Israel. I have reasons for believing this:
1) Look at the example of the case of the daughters of Zelophehad in Numbers chapters 26, 27, and 36. The law was modified to deal with a new circumstance, thereby setting the precedent of common law development.
2) Historically, the Mosaic Law did provide for common law style human legal additions. The rabbinic method of expounding the law to new circumstances actually influenced the development of English and American common law methodology.
3) That is how ancient law codes of this type worked and were understood. The Ten Commandments, or the ten words and they are known to the Jews, are the core principles of the code. The other “commands”, like “if a man steals a sheep . . .” etc are exemplar analytic dispositions to serve as guidelines for judges on how to apply the principles in the central Ten Commandments.
4) In practice it has to be that way. No legal code can deal with all possible future human conduct. Additional common law rulings and or statutes will be necessary to deal with new technology, new scams, new threats, and new business patterns that did not exist when the code was made.
5) Better and brighter men than I have interpreted scripture this way. For example, look at the collective teachings of John Calvin in the Institutes.
The Bible also never says other nations have to have exactly the same laws as ancient Israel. These laws were given by God to Israel. Because they came from God, it makes sense to pay attention to the timeless truths they embody. But, a code for an ancient agrarian people is not adequate for a country with cars, computers, nuclear reactors, and banks.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Should Social Conservatives Set Their Views to the Side for the November Election

Laurie Higgins from Illinois Family Action writes:
“The Republican governor of Indiana, Mitch Daniels, recently called for a “truce” on the divisive social issues. Republican governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, concurs saying, “Any issue that takes people’s eye off of unemployment, job creation, economic growth, taxes, spending, deficits, debts is taking your eye off the ball.”
Earlier I asked, if one of the “social issues” that divided the country were not the slaughter of the most defenseless but were instead the enslavement of African Americans, would these same “moderates,” be chastising conservatives for refusing to subordinate social issues to fiscal issues?
When social conservatives retreat from the cultural and political debate, the cultural and political views of the public are shaped by those who are publicly engaged. Our retreat creates a vacuum that leftists are only too glad to fill with false moral propositions and destructive legislation. Soon there won’t be enough conservatives who think rightly on fundamental social issues, and the ones who do will lack the courage to speak. Society would be much better served by heeding the words of John Adams who said, “Public business, my son, must always be done by somebody….If wise men decline it, others will not; if honest men refuse it, others will not.”
It should be noted that a truce requires that both sides agree to a cessation of activity. Surely, some have noticed that Democrats aren’t participating in the truce. In fact, carnivorous leftists are licking their chops while waiting to devour the carcass of social conservatism. And while they await its demise, they engage in ever more fevered efforts to advance their pernicious goals to preserve the right to annihilate the unborn and destroy the family.
No, Daniels and other likeminded conservatives are not calling for a truce; they’re effectively calling for a forfeit.”
While economic issues are important, I believe Laurie is correct. While social conservatives are pressed to drop their issues and vote for so called moderates, the other side is going on the offensive to dominate social policy and the party. The Manhattan Declaration signers and others have made some progress in refusing to be cowed and continuing to press on social policies as well as economic policies. And it is well that we should.
The reasons America is in trouble in our time are not purely economic. America is in trouble because Christians who believe in and live out the Christian world view and Biblical ideals are not the dominant culture makers and leaders in our society. Instead the church is often failing to teach the truths of the Biblical world view and how they apply to life. We in the pews are failing to learn and live as we should. And in the end, we do not even take significant part in most of the institutions that shape the culture. Without more really Christian University professors, artists, movie makers, and writers doing high quality work that reflects the good in a compelling way (e.g. Bach and Burke), it is no surprise we cannot find solid Christian candidates for political offices who understand law, human nature, and the limited ability of governments to solve problems.
In turn, if we keep electing people who believe the wrong things about human nature and human dignity, about rights and the sources of rights, and about governments and what they can and cannot accomplish, we will continue to get corruption, bad laws, foolish priorities, and selfish “legal” graft from our law makers. Social issues ARE important, because they are bellwethers of a person’s true beliefs and priorities. A politician who does not understand why he should be against abortion on demand and against gay “marriage” does not understand human dignity, human rights, and the rule of law. Such a person is not going to make wise choices in the long run about “economic” issues either, no matter what they tell you between now and Election Day.