Archive for the ‘Law and Justice’ Category

Just what belongs to Caesar and not to God?

Friday, November 18th, 2011

The following is an excerpt from EMPIRE on the true meaning of Christ’s statement in Mark 12:17 “And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  

            “Probably no verse in the whole Bible has been more misunderstood than this one.  (See also Matthew 22:21 and Luke 20:25)  This saying of Jesus is commonly used to support the proposition that there are two separate spheres of government, each with a legitimate claim on our obedience.  God has some sort of limited claim on our spiritual life, while the civil government has an independent claim on everything else.

            “Nothing could be further from the truth.  The prior verses 13 through 16 show that Jesus knew He was answering a trick question.  The tax paid to Caesar was a tribute, a tax that acknowledged his claim to total sovereignty.  If Jesus said to pay the tax, He would be agreeing with Caesar’s claim and undercutting His whole ministry.  If He said not to pay the tax they could have Him arrested.  So He asked them whose image was on the coin used to pay the tax.  Of course, it was Caesar’s image.  His indirect answer was to give what is Caesar’s to Caesar and God what was God’s.  The obvious point is that while the coin bore Caesar’s image, Caesar and every other man bore God’s image.  Thus, without giving them an answer they could use to have Him arrested, He affirmed that everyone and everything is subject to God, denying Caesar’s claim to sovereignty.”

            It is important to understand that the civil government is not another god with a sphere of action independent from the true God in heaven.  That way of thinking amounts to denying the total Lordship of Jesus Christ and in fact borders on polytheism.  When Christians say “I am personally opposed to abortion but would never impose my morality on others because not everyone is Christian” they are affirming the Lordship of Jesus over their personal life and denying His Lordship over civil government.  Revelation 1:8 calls Jesus “the Ruler of the kings of the earth.”  Do we proclaim that total Lordship,  or a more modest and limited one?  Is our confession of who Jesus is adequate or inadequate?

            Let me submit that this limited view of the Lordship of Jesus Christ is a doctrinal error that has corrupted our faith and witness.  It is necessary for us to confess this error, repent, and take up a full throated defense of our Lord before men.  Let us be like John the Baptist who said to Herod concerning his brother’s wife “It is not lawful for you to have her.”  Better we should lose our heads for a faithful confession before men than risk Jesus being unwilling to confess us before the Father.


 

California vs.Barney Fife

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

Barney Fife vs. California

The US Supreme Court by a 5-3 majority has ordered California to release 30,000 prisoners into the population over the next two years.  They found that prison overcrowding has resulted in a lack of medical care they consider unconstitutional.  There are many causes for this situation being discussed, including high costs flowing from the power of the Prison Guards union, the three strikes law, and illegal immigration.  But lost in these discussions is what I consider to be the biggest cause of all.

Contrast the modern state of California (and most of America) with the picture of Mayberry in the popular Andy Griffith series.  In Mayberry, the face of law enforcement is Barney Fife, with his one bullet locked in a special drawer.  A crime wave in Mayberry consists of children chewing gum in school or the town drunk failing to report in for his overnight jailing.  In California it is endless rapes, murders and street gang activities.  The police look like a military occupation force.  The people demand harsher sentencing and prisons bulge beyond capacity.  What is the reason for the difference?

In the late 1960’s and early 70’s California led the nation in creating a radical break between the law and its moral and religious basis.  With the legalizing of things like abortion and sodomy, and with radical separation of church and state jurisprudence, we declared as a people that the law was one thing and religion and morality another unrelated thing.  In Mayberry, by contrast, you have a civilized community where the law rested lightly on a social order based on a religiously defined morality.  Such a unified system of right and wrong has a powerful hold on the conscience of the individual.  This internal moral restraint needs only the occasional reinforcement of the civil law.

But when the system of law is disassociated with any system of morality, and morality is considered a matter of personal choice rather than constrained by the Law of God, then that system of law has little or no claim on conscience.  Law is then seen as just a set of rules of the game, to be ignored or navigated as best you can to get what you want.  The sense of community dissolves and people form gangs or move into gated “communities” where no one knows anyone else.

Bleeding hearts will scream for prisoners to be released, “conservatives” will scream for the key to be thrown away, but neither approach will work.  Only a return to an integrated whole of Christian belief, morality, and law offers any hope.

The main barrier to this return is the heresy of “dualism” in the Church.  We accept the proposition that human government must be independent of if not hostile to the Law of God.  We hold Caesar as running a parallel world independent of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We hold that Christians should not be involved in politics except as members of some ordinary interest group.  In effect, we deny the Lordship of Jesus Christ with respect to civil government, and then act surprised when things go to hell.  No change in the world is possible until the Church escapes from this dualistic error and once again proclaims the total Lordship of Jesus Christ.


 

Capital Punishment

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

One issue that divides pro-life Christians is capital punishment.  Some see a consistent pro-life position as including opposition to capital punishment in most or all cases.  Others oppose abortion as the killing of innocent people but support capital punishment for people guilty of capital crimes.  The former view seems more common among Catholics and the latter among Evangelicals. In my opinion, these positions reflect either the rationalist approach to scripture, in which extracting principles and creating a rationally consistent philosophy is the dominant mode of thinking, or the more literalist approach that takes scripture closer to face value.  I am in the latter camp.

Two items I have come across lately highlighted this issue for me.  The first was the case of the murder of  Jitka Vesel by Dimitry Smirnov on April 13 in Oak Brook, Illinois.  Smirnov told police he had verified that Illinois had no death penalty before deciding on killing his ex-girlfriend. 

The other was an opinion piece by Roger Olsen, a theology professor from Baylor in the Associated Baptist Press entitled “Capital Punishment is a Sin.”  In addition to citing a number of anecdotes about erroneous or problematic cases of capital punishment, Olsen was good enough to provide a list of specific arguments in favor of his position, for which I commend him.  This provided a convenient set list to which I could respond.  Here is his list with my responses in italics.

“There are several theological and ethical problems with capital punishment.

First, it ends a person’s opportunity to exonerate himself or herself. 

The opportunity to exonerate one’s self is available at a fair trial.  This is not unique to capital cases as an innocent man may die in prison without exoneration.

Second, it ends a person’s opportunity to accept Christ and live a God-honoring life in prison ministering to other inmates and guards. 

The prospect of a swift execution concentrates one’s mind on their need for salvation, while endless imprisonment just hardens a heart.

Third, it usurps God’s place and assumes a God-like right and power to take the life of a person created in God’s image and likeness.

God has delegated the power of executing murderers to man and requires us to carry it out.  Obedience is not usurpation.

Fourth, it has no social benefit. It only serves a blood thirst for vengeance.

When capital punishment is carried out as part of a legal system tied to God’s moral law it serves to reinforce the Law of God in the minds of the people.  It is the Law of God in the minds of the people that restrains murder and lesser offenses.

Fifth, no modern, Western country still has capital punishment.

And few would be called Christian.  All embrace child killing and Sodomy for example.

Sixth, capital punishment is barbaric and cruel — if not to the person being executed (and who can know for sure?), to his or her family.

If capital punishment is required by God this argument insults God.  Life imprisonment is pretty cruel too.  The cruelty inflicted on relatives of the victim by denying them justice just to show how morally superior we are is amazingly heartless.

Seventh, innocent people are executed. A few years ago Ethel Rosenberg’s brother came forward and admitted publicly that he knew she was not complicit in the plot to steal American nuclear secrets and deliver them to the Soviet Union. He fingered her to help himself. She was electrocuted in 1953 leaving behind two small, traumatized boys.

For these and other reasons, capital punishment needs to be abolished and Christians ought to be in the forefront of that effort.

Innocent people are executed and some always will be.  This is a reason for utmost care, not a reason for disobedience or thinking we are wiser or more merciful than God.  If Rosenberg’s brother’s statement is true, which is unlikely, it just means he is guilty of her murder.   Innocent people are shot by police and people thinking they are acting in self-defense.  Should police and citizens be denied the right to self-defense?

Most Christians who support capital punishment rely entirely on Old Testament material which was transcended by Jesus.”

In the New Testament, Jesus Himself affirmed the continuity of the Law and the Prophets.  There is no radical break in the role of governmemnt between the Old and New Testaments.  The saved thief on the cross affirmed the justice of his punishment.  At trial, Paul said that if he was guilty of an offense worthy of death he ”refused not to die.”  Paul said malefactors should rightly fear the civil magistrate who, as God’s minister, does not bear the sword in vain.  Swords are for killing.  Capital punishment for murder is required throughout the Bible.  The death penalty is not optional.

So there you have it.  I invite you to join in the debate.


 

Homosexual Club OK, Christian Club Not OK

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Today the Supreme Court ruled that Hastings College can exclude a Christian club because they will not admit non-Christians or people practicing sexual immorality.  Here is my parody:

Once upon a time there was a small law school in Hastings, California.  At this college there were two clubs.  One was the “Cussing Club” organized by students who liked to cuss.  The other was the “No Cussing Club,” organized by students who did not like to cuss.  They didn’t even like to listen to other students cuss.

For a while, this suited everyone just fine.  Students who liked cussing could join the Cussing Club, and students who didn’t like cussing could join the No Cussing Club.  Then one day, Clay Custer, a member of the Cussing Club, decided he didn’t like the people in the No Cussing Club.  If the truth were known, he hated them.  Their “holier than thou” no cussing policy made it look like there was something wrong with cussing.  He figured the only reason they existed was to make him feel uncomfortable about cussing.  So he made a plan.

The college had a policy.  This policy said that all clubs had to be open to all students.  So he applied to join the No Cussing Club.  He even got a number of his fellow cussers to do the same.

“You can’t join our No Cussing Club,” said Peter Puritan, the club president.  “Why not?” said Clay.  “Because then it wouldn’t be a no cussing club!” replied Peter.  “You would be cussing all the time!”  “That may be,” replied Clay.  “But college policy says you have to admit everyone.”

 So they went to the college administration, and sure enough, the administration said their policy required the No Cussing Club to admit cussers.  In fact, most people in the administration liked cussing themselves and also resented the No Cussing Club.

 So this being America, the dispute went to court.  In fact it even went to the Supreme Court!  There, the final verdict was read by the distinguished jurist Ruth “Bad Ass” Ginsburg:

“We uphold the college policy requiring the No Cussing Club to admit cussing members.  Since the policy applies to everyone evenly, it’s fair.  If the members of the No Cussing Club don’t like it, they are free to join the Cussing Club just like the cussers can join their club.  So we are being fair and even to everyone.”

 All America marveled at the Supreme Court’s wisdom.  Soon, there were no more No Cussing Clubs on any campuses in the nation.  Discrimination was banished and everyone could join any @#$% club they wanted to.


 

Whatever is not Forbidden is Mandatory

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

T.H. White’s statement that “Whatever is not forbidden is mandatory” came to mind as characterizing our age while I was reading about a situation in Spain today.  It seems the Spanish government is investigating a clinic in Barcelona that is offering treatments to cure homosexuality.  Homosexual behavior was legalized in Spain in 1979, and same-sex marriage was legalized in 2005.  Now, individuals with homosexual urges seeking to overcome them with the help of clinical professionals will not be allowed to do so.  So much for live and let live.

When man casts off God as master of his life he thinks he attains greater freedom.  But nature abhors a vacuum, and almost immediately the government expands to fill the void left by God.  Today, our governments deny that the Constitution limits them in any way, but insist that no private individual can do anything without a permit.  Individual anarchy leads to collective tyranny almost immediately.

We may hold “Tea Parties” and protest the rise of tyranny, but until we repent of our anarchy and return to God’s Law as our standard we will get no help from heaven.