To Teach The Laws of Nature and Nature’s God

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether. They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.

[Psalm 19:7-10]

I.     How can the Bible be used to derive a secular (civil) legal framework?

    A.     To derive civil legal rules from the Bible, we need to answer the following questions:
      1.     Is there a law of God at all? We might as well ask:
        a.     Did the Psalmist believe God’s law exists?
        b.     Did the Psalmist believe God’s law could be found?
        c.     Did the Psalmist believe the search for God’s law was profitable and worthwhile?
      2.     In what sense is the Bible applicable to modern laws?
        a.     Was Psalm 19 valid only during the Old Testament? [If it has expired, why does Psalm 119:160 say “every one of Thy righteous ordinances is everlasting”?]
        b.     Was Psalm 19 valid only for Israelites? [If it applied only to Jews, then how could God have judged the Canaanites guilty of violating “My statutes and My judgments” in Leviticus 18?]
        c.     Is “God’s law” only religious law, not civil law? [If it relates only to religious law, why does Romans 13:1-4 say that “there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God,” and that the civil ruler “is a minister of God”?]
      3.     Can we know what God’s law is?
        a.     If we cannot discover it, how can we know it?
        b.     If we cannot know it, how can we be obedient to it?
        c.     If we can know and confidently teach God’s plan (or, His laws) of redemption in the face of contrary beliefs among modern scholars, why can’t we know and confidently teach God’s laws for human behavior to the same degree?
    B.     There are generally four approaches to understanding the Bible from a legal perspective.
      1.     The law + religion approach.
        a.     This approach posits that a lawyer should, in addition to legal studies, be educated in religious studies. A dual degree approach.
        b.     The result of this approach is that the lawyer is a lay evangelist to the unsaved and a trained counselor to the flock.
        c.     Essentially, the lawyer is seen as a minister of redemption law.
      2.     The law + evidentiary defense.
        a.     This approach posits that a lawyer should, in addition to legal studies, be trained in defending the existence of God, the validity of the Bible, and the gospel of personal salvation.
        b.     The result of this approach is that law, particularly the legal rules of evidence, is a tool for verifying religious arguments. Law is viewed as a means to a religious end.
        c.     Essentially, the lawyer is seen as a religious apologist.
      3.     God’s revelation of law practice.
        a.     This approach posits that a lawyer should conform the relational aspects of legal practice to the model of Christ as the prototypical mediator and counselor.
        b.     The result of this approach is generally a focus on ethical and moral considerations, conciliation and mediation services, and legal aid.
        c.     Essentially, the lawyer is seen as a charitable services provider.
      4.     God’s revelation of substantive law.
        a.     This approach posits that man’s law is subject to a pre-ordained and pre-defined objective legal order which is not transient or relative as to person or place.
        b.     The result of this approach is that a lawyer acquires a sense of law, justice and liberty that others lack, and the lawyer becomes an advocate of the true principles of right and wrong behavior.
        c.     Essentially, the lawyer will be seen as a troublemaker. [We need more troublemakers.]
    C.     The four approaches compared.
      1.     The law + religion and law + apologetics approaches are not directed to lawyers in their legal capacities, and are irrelevant to a study of law.
      2.     The law practice approach has been popularized by legal fellowship organizations. But such things do not inform a legal worldview either.
      3.     The substantive law approach is the one most in need of restoration, and is the only approach which concerns itself with what is actually right or wrong, and therefore what is actually just or unjust.

II.     Social needs and the legal profession.

    A.     Socially, the legal profession stands at a crossroads:
      1.     The need for moral character.
        a.     Lawyers are held in low regard by our society in matters of personal integrity, being likened to used car salesman in Gallup polls.
        b.     There is a need for all lawyers to exemplify good moral character.
        c.     A study of the substantive rules of the laws of nature’s God will instill moral character.
      2.     The need for a just perspective.
        a.     Lawyers are viewed by society as “hired guns” who can, and will (for a fee), argue any position on any issue, whether right or wrong.
        b.     There is a need for lawyers to advocate positions which are truly just, not merely self-serving.
        c.     A study of the substantive rules of the laws of nature’s God will teach what is really just.
      3.     The need for civil liberty.
        a.     Our culture (especially the legal profession) regards biblical principles as irrelevant to civil society.
        b.     All man-made legal systems inevitably tend to produce tyranny and oppression, not true liberty.
        c.     A study of the substantive rules of the laws of nature’s God will lead to greater freedom for all people, not less.
    B.     There is no such thing as an ideologically neutral legal system. The preeminent ideological issues in law today are:
      1.     What is law?
        a.     Historically, law was viewed as created rules of conduct which are fixed, uniform and universal.
        b.     Beginning in the mid-1800’s, legal scholars rejected the historic view and posited law as evolving rules of relative application.
        c.     Today, modern scholarship has largely abandoned hope that any such thing as true law, or fixed law, or objective law, exists.
      2.     Where does law come from?
        a.     Historically, law was viewed as God’s will impressed upon the creation (the law of nature) and as revealed in the Bible (the law of nature’s God).
        b.     Legal scholars have rejected the historic view and posited that law is derived from appellate cases and other human sources alone.
        c.     The inevitable result of modern scholarship is that law comes from whoever holds the most power in society (might makes right).
      3.     What are the true rules of law?
        a.     Historically, law was viewed as the precepts of God, and the legislation of man consistent with God’s precepts.
        b.     The influence of utilitarianism and positivism led lawyers to believe that anything God can do, man can do better.
        c.     The modern view believes that law is whatever the judges say it is. God is irrelevant.
    C.     While all approaches to understanding the Bible from a legal perspective have value, not all approaches meet the needs of today’s legal profession.
      1.     The law + religion approach.
        a.     This approach does not inform the lawyer as to what any specific rules of lonang are.
        b.     This approach does not inform the lawyer how to discern legal rules in the Bible.
        c.     This approach does not enable lawyers to address the ideological concerns of the legal profession (above).
      2.     The law + apologetics approach.
        a.     This approach does not inform the lawyer as to what any specific rules of lonang are.
        b.     This approach does not inform the lawyer as to the historic traditions of legal analysis.
        c.     This approach does not enable lawyers to address the ideological concerns of the legal profession (above).
      3.     Religion and apologetics are insufficient to form the basis or foundation of a study of law itself, to form a biblical worldview of law, or to derive legal principles from the Bible.

III.     A biblical (lonang) perspective of law.

    A.     What a biblical (lonang) perspective of law is not.
      1.     Not Reconstructionist.
        a.     Reconstructionism views the specific commands of the Mosaic law as having covenantal applicability to the Church and, potentially, to any nation today. A lonang perspective of law does not seek to reinstitute the Mosaic law in the United States or any other nation, because the Mosaic law has no covenantal applicability to anyone but the nation of Israel.
        b.     Essentially, Reconstructionism seeks to make each nation a theocracy in the legal sense, as ancient Israel was. We do not seek to make any nation a theocracy in the legal sense, because God has not revealed that He is, or intends to be, an actual party to any other nation’s civil covenant (or constitution), nor have we the right to ask Him to.
        c.     Although we sometimes refer to the laws of nature’s God as “God’s law,” this is not the same as “theonomy” as Reconstructionists define it. “Theonomy” to a Reconstructionist means essentially the same thing as “theocracy,” where not only does God’s law rule the nation, but God also personally rules as Chief Magistrate.
      2.     Not Dispensationalist.
        a.     Dispensationalism, at least in some of its radical forms, posits that most or all Old Testament laws have ceased to have any continuing validity. We affirm both that laws of nature as revealed in the Old Testament and the terms of the Adamic and Noahic covenants apply to all modern nations.
        b.     Dispensationalism commonly holds that the New Testament age, being “under grace, not law,” frees Christians from obedience to legal rules. We believe that the New Testament had no effect on the laws of murder, adultery, stealing, etc. which are part of God’s will expressed in the creation, i.e., the law of nature.
        c.     Although we believe the Old Testament covenants are applicable to differing groups of people, this does not make us “dispensationalist.”
      3.     Not new or novel.
        a.     The lonang perspective is not new or novel, but in fact is the historic legal tradition of the United States and England, and is consistent with Christian orthodoxy throughout the centuries.
        b.     Although the actual biblical principles of law are ancient, changes in the world have prompted the need for new applications of those principles to modern circumstances. Thus, the task is to rediscover the biblical principles and apply them to the modern world. No one has done this task for approximately 150 years.
        c.     The biblical perspective of law is not based on any one person’s teachings, nor is it a personality cult. The scholars in the field are people who are simply interested in rediscovering what has been known for centuries, and reapplying them to today. However, the task is still in its infancy, and is largely undone.
    B.     What the biblical (lonang) perspective of law is.
      1.     A biblical perspective of law results from a study of the “laws of nature and of nature’s God.”
        a.     “The law of nature” is a well known phrase having the historic understanding of the will of God impressed upon the creation. The law of nature is observable, discernable and testable. Its discovery employs the use of logic and reason, although it is not mere “rationalism,” “deism,” nor even “natural law,” because it affirms the special revelation of God in the Bible, man’s fallen nature (corrupt reason), and man’s inadequacy to accurately discern God’s will apart from His special revelation.
        b.     “The law of nature’s God” was historically understood as a reference to the Bible. The Bible does not exhaustively describe the law of nature, but it is perfectly consistent therewith. The Bible informs, checks, and delimits our understanding of the law of nature. Whereas the law of nature is discernable apart from the Bible, God’s specific provisions of covenantal law are knowable exlusively from the Bible.
        c.     The laws of nature and of nature’s God requires an inquiry into both the creation and the Bible. Reliance on either one to the exclusion of the other will inevitably lead to error.
      2.     The Bible as a tool of legal analysis.
        a.     The biblical view of law receives the Bible as a legal sourcebook. This does not require the rules of law to be stated by biblical texts in propositional form. Rather, the rules of law may be discerned from covenantal provisions, case adjudications, historical narratives, etc.
        b.     The biblical view of law interprets the Bible the same as it would interpret any legal document. Consequently, rules of legal interpretation (and legal rule formulation) used generally in the profession apply to the Bible as well. That is to say, the Bible is not interpreted according to a methodology which is unique to that document, because this would negatively taint the validity of the legal reasoning derived.
        c.     There is a long, and documented, historical tradition employing the Bible in a legal fashion as described above, and this scholarship further validates the study of the laws of nature and nature’s God as an academic discipline.
      3.     Affirmation of hermeneutic principles.
        a.     Nothing in the study of the laws of nature and nature’s God, or the methodology it assumes, is in any way inconsistent with the principles of historical biblical interpretation.
        b.     We believe that God has an opinion regarding legal principles, that His opinion has not been kept secret but has been revealed in the Bible and nature, and that the employment of proper interpretive principles can discover His will with respect to law.
        c.     We commit to laying before the world, for criticism and comment, all scholarly apologies for the biblical perspective of law as they are completed.

IV.     Biblical exegesis.

    A.     A number of criticisms have already been voiced concerning the legal interpretation of the Bible which may be addressed here.
      1.     Criticism #1: You can’t derive modern legal rules from the biblical text!
        a.     This view propounds that we are looking for something that isn’t there, cannot be found, and therefore cannot be taught. Essentially, law is something that either God has no clear opinions about, or if He does, He has kept them secret.
        b.     A corollary position of this view is that the Bible speaks only to religious truth, or that the main concern of the Bible is God’s relationship with men and the means of salvation, therefore, rules of civil law are merely ancillary to, subordinate to, or unimportant in relation to, the central theme of the Bible.
        c.     This view treats law as a slave to culture, because the Bible doesn’t give us enough information with which to refute the secularism of modern legal culture. This view produces a jurisprudence of irrelevance. Don’t people have the right to ask, “Now that you have defended the existence of God and the authority of the Bible, what difference does it make to knowing whether modern laws are right or wrong?” Is “None” your final answer?
      2.     Criticism #2: You might or might not be able to derive that legal rule from a given text, but we can’t tell for sure, and neither can you!
        a.     This view holds that unless a legal rule is stated in the Bible in propositional form, it isn’t there. Essentially, it denies that reasoning applicable to modern legal documents has any relevance to the Bible, or that if it is applicable, it is inconclusive, at best.
        b.     This view produces a jurisprudence of doubt, and a doubtful jurisprudence. In fact, it is a jurisprudence of agnosticism, because we really can’t be sure of any “legal” rules. Isn’t it funny how people can be so certain of God’s plan (His laws) of salvation (over which there has been no small disagreement throughout the centuries), yet are absolutely convinced no one else could possibly know the substantive rules of God’s law for certain?
        c.     James 1:25 speaks of “the perfect law of liberty.” In Romans 8:2, Paul talks about the “law of sin and death” and the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.” In neither text are we told what these “laws” are. Did the biblical writers assume that there were real laws being talked about? Did the writers assume we could know those laws for certain? If not, why mention them?
      3.     Criticism #3: Even if you can derive a legal rule from that text, you can’t be dogmatic about it!
        a.     This view believes that unless there is a sufficient consensus about something, it cannot be taught as “true.” Essentially, truth is made a function of someone’s opinion, whether the public, the experts, or professional convention.
        b.     Such a view produces a jurisprudence of hesitancy. Of course, no one has all the answers. God’s law, for the most part, gives us broad guidelines, foundational or framework rules, within which there is great room for liberty. We are not advocating a doctrine of legalism (claiming divine authority to promulgate rules when God hasn’t declared them). We are not the voice of God. However, as Francis Schaeffer said, “I do not claim to know exhaustive truth, but I do claim to know some true Truth.” That is all we claim
        c.     The founders of our nation would be dismayed to find that modern lawyers and scholars proclaim the law of God only when there is safety in numbers, when the founders were willing to pledge their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor on the basic principles of the laws of nature and of nature’s God in the face of opposition at home and abroad. Further, the founders thought those rules were knowable in enough detail to prescribe the forms of government which were lawful to erect.
    B.     Where to find the laws of nature and nature’s God.
      1.     The laws of nature may be reflected in the Bible, but need not be in order to be discoverable.
        a.     The law of nature is observable in creation, tempered by the wisdom of history, experience and reason.
        b.     The law of nature must be consistent with verbal revelation, that is, not contradicted by it. Nonetheless, the law of nature need not be expressly stated in verbal form, as creation is not essentially verbal in nature.
        c.     The Bible does not contain all (exhaustive) truth. If we can truly discern the laws of science from observing creation, why not the laws of human behavior?
      2.     Even the biblical writers did not believe that God’s law was derived exclusively from verbal revelation.
        a.     Moses believed that he could discern “the statutes of God and His laws” before the Ten Commandments or its derivative laws were verbally revealed. Exodus 18:16.
        b.     The apostle Paul believed that non-verbal nature reveals truths which men can know, and be held accountable for. Romans 1:18-32; 1 Cor. 11:14.
        c.     The Bible indicates that God’s laws have already (to some extent), and will be (to an even greater extent), written on men’s hearts and that we can know them. See, Romans 2:14-15; Hebrews 10:16 (quoting Jer. 31:33).
      3.     Are there any principles of law revealed solely in the Bible and not in the law of nature?
        a.     Yes, in the form of covenantal law. That is, we can know the terms and provisions of specific biblical covenants only through an exposition of the biblical text.
        b.     This is not to say, however, that the law which defines what a covenant is, is also a part of the terms of any given covenant. The law of nature informs us what a covenant is, but only the text of a given covenant can tell us what the terms of that specific covenant are. Attention must be given to both the law of nature and the law of nature’s God.
        c.     The distinction between covenantal law and the law of nature is a key to understanding the relevance of divine laws (propositional statements) to modern nations.