Legal Foundations: The Framework of Law
by Gerald R. Thompson
LONANG does not exist in a vacuum, it has a context. This context is fairly well documented throughout history, so it is not something I have made up so much as collected and organized. Like Jefferson, who claimed that the Declaration of Independence was simply the common sense of the subject which he merely wrote down, I do not claim everything I am about to write originated with me. However, I daresay I will interject some new thoughts every now and then, and at times I will question assumptions of very long standing. In one sense, LONANG is nothing new, but at the same time, everything is up for grabs.
You might think that law schools would acknowledge long-standing traditions in legal thought and try to tie together the modern with the ancient. But you would be wrong. What we are about to delve into – the foundations of law – are essentially things never taught in law school. There are a number of reasons for this, but these will have to be dealt with elsewhere.
Does the Bible speak to legal matters? Is the Bible a legal textbook? Can we know anything about law from God’s perspective with certainty? Or, is every legal philosophy based on the Bible merely a matter of subjective opinion, not objective truth? Even if we can know God’s perspective of law, is it relevant to modern nations? Do Christians have any basis for opposing modern trends in legal philosophy? Is there such a thing as a truly distinctive Christian jurisprudence? If a Christian jurisprudence exists, is it grounded in religion, or law? And, is the only result of an inquiry into such questions an endless discussion regarding rules of interpretation that can never be resolved?
I believe there is a biblical basis of legal philosophy and a distinctive Christian jurisprudence. This perspective of law is not only relevant, but to the extent it is revealed by God it is also authoritative, binding every person and every nation. Because it is based on biblical revelation, this jurisprudence is objectively real and verifiable, and we can (or should be able to) know it with certainty. Further, this perspective of law is grounded in law itself though based on biblical revelation, because the Bible is not merely a book of spiritual truths, but a revelation of truths which apply to every area of life.
The following pages will propose and examine some of the foundational principles of a biblical jurisprudence. The format of this work is to present biblical texts I believe are applicable to legal philosophy and to suggest an interpretation and application of those texts. No claim is made that the suggested interpretations of the Bible presented here are authoritative, but it every effort has been made (consistent with a grammatical-historical-literal understanding of scripture) to be as reasonable as possible. It is up to the reader to decide whether the interpretations and applications are persuasive or correct. For this reason, almost all of the referenced scriptures are quoted in full, to make it easy for the reader to verify the jurisprudential suggestions offered. Thus, in a sense, this work is necessarily incomplete. Constructive suggestions and comments are welcomed to revise and refine the legal analysis. The author invites criticism and takes full responsibility for any errors in the interpretations or applications made.
In addition to presenting biblical texts, there must necessarily be an examination of some historic legal texts and organic documents to assist in developing a Christian jurisprudence. The purposes for examining these texts include the following: 1) to corroborate the suggested biblical exposition as having been accepted at a specific time in history; 2) to demonstrate that the legal philosophy presented here is not new or novel, but has a long and rich tradition; 3) to remind the reader that biblical jurisprudence is not only relevant, but has been authoritative, in the legal affairs of real people in real-life situations, and for entire nations in actual history; 4) to show how biblical jurisprudence guided the formation of the United States of America; and 5) to demonstrate that biblical jurisprudence is an integral part of our national heritage, which we ought to study and may investigate as the truly authoritative basis for American law.
I believe that law, liberty and justice cannot ultimately be preserved in America until the biblical basis of our legal heritage is rediscovered and reaffirmed. Many scholars have recognized that the legal framework of our nation’s founders has been discarded modernly to the extent that the existence of the Creator God and his laws, as revealed in nature and the Bible, have been abandoned as the legal foundation of American society. The hope is that by reacquainting ourselves with a more precise historic understanding of the Bible’s legal applicability, we may be able to reverse the growing disrespect for the authority of law which has come to plague our nation.
- That no free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue, and by frequent recurrence to fundamental principles. [Virginia Bill of Rights, Sec. 15.]
- “And those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.” [Isa. 58:12.]