Thursday, May 28, 2009

GOD AND NATURAL LAW

The reality of God and His nature is evident to men through what He made. Paul wrote, "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." (Rom. 1:20) The Bible says that God intended for Himself to be known through what He created. This explains why man is universally "wired" to seek and to worship God. Many people, dare I say most people, are convinced of this fact by the complexity of life on earth. And many believe in the existence of God because there is a moral law, a sense of "oughtness", in each of us.

That we know something about God is important because it means we also understand something about our relationship to Him. Since He is all powerful, then we are humbled before Him. Because He establishes laws, we seek to be just by establishing a just society with order and freedom. Because He is good and beneficient, we naturally praise Him. By God's design, there is right and wrong. Attributes like faithfulness and bravery are viewed positively by all while thieves and liars are universally reproved exactly because of the everpresent natural laws of God. Even if people reject God, they are truly only living in denial because they cannot escape His laws. God has made these things knowable because He wants men to search and find Him. God is knowable because He wants to be known.

It was during the ordeal of appointing Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court that I heard of something called Natural Law (Latin jus naturale, and not the same as the Laws of Nature, though I think they are related, DM) which relies on the idea that there is objective truth of right and wrong; that there are "self-evident" truths which form the basis for documents like the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. It is "law that exists independently of the positive law (written law) of a given political order, society or nation-state."1 Clarence Thomas was ridiculed for holding what, some believed, amounted to religious faith as he (but not he alone) held that our Constitution and Declaration of Independence were based upon Natural Law. This made sense to me even if his opponents would disqualify him for his belief. Cultural and political liberals don't like Justice, Clarence Thomas
"who understand[s] and defend[s] the principle that our rights come not from government but from a 'Creator' and 'the laws of nature and of nature's God,' as our Declaration of Independence says, and that the purpose and power of government should therefore be limited to protecting our natural, God-given rights."2
When you read the Declaration of Indepedence and the U.S. Constitution, you see that the framers of our nation were drawing from truths that they believed to be self-evident, for example, that all men are created equal and that they have the right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. The idea of natural law led the founders of our country to conclude the existence also of natural rights.
"Thomas Jefferson and James Madison agreed, for example, that the best guide to the Constitution is the Declaration of Independence and its philosophy of natural rights."3
Where did the idea of natural rights come from? From natural law came the natural rights to think, speak, work, and raise a family as one saw fit. Government did not give man is brain, mouth, hands, or family. These are gifts from God who extends an abundance of freedom to each person to exercise those gifts. When men write laws, those laws must not inhibit the exercise of those freedoms.

In George Washington's inaugural address on April 30, 1789, he said the following from the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City:
"We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained;..."4
Washington clearly believed that a nation would not be blessed unless it respected the eternal, Natural, laws of God, which precede any human code. In the same address, he prayed that:
"I now make it my earnest prayer that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow-citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for brethren who have served in the field; and finally that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation."
Washington's final thoughts in his prayer were that the government and the people of this nation would imitate the "Divine Author of our blessed religion", Jesus Christ. Our nation's first leader exalted God and His Will and not human philosophy and wisdom. Washington believed that the blessings experienced by this new nation were the result of God's providence for following that Will. Washington and others understood that government does not make law as much as it attempts to best apprehend and imitate the Will of God. With this same knowledge of God, we seek and grope for Him.

In the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we see this Will of God more fully revealed. This brings to mind another question. Since the Gospel is also the Will of God and government is to apprehend and support as best as it can that Will, should the government impose upon the citizens the requirement to be Christian? The answer is no. First, government is God's minister for justice in any land. But this does not give the government the right to demand that any person become Christian. This is evident in that the Father Himself does not demand that any person become a Christian. God invites all and God warns of eternal consequences for rejecting, but God also allows Christ to be chosen by free will. So government should leave it to the free will of each man as much as the Father does. But the government should have as its duty to praise those who are good and to punish those who are evil.
"Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well." - 1 Pt. 2:14
It is enough that the government foster a society that allows the free exercise and expression of one's faith through worship, family, and proclaiming the Gospel. Let us not confuse the civil government with the church. The church is a separate entity whose sole citizenship is the redeemed. These are to live as good citizens within the larger community of a civil society. But the government does not require anyone to become a disciple of Jesus Christ. This must always remain a decision of the individual.

Jesus said that if we seek we will find the truth. The specific particulars of the Gospel are not understood by examing nature, but the existence of Natural Law wets the appetite of a reasonable man to seek the truth in whatever way it is revealed. Finding the way to heaven begins with the first step of acknowledging the reality of the Creator in the natural world.
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1."Natural Law" From Wikipedia. Accessed from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_law
2."Defending Thomas". Accessed from http://www.claremont.org/writings/precepts/041213.html
3."Lest We Forget: Clarence Thomas and the Meaning of the Constitution." Accessed from: http://www.ashbrook.org/publicat/onprin/v6n6/sikkenga.html
4.Accessed from: http://www.ushistory.org/valleyforge/washington/earnestprayer.html
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Legalism is not the strict adherence to God's word

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