Whose Law Is It Anyway?

The evening news showed a startling image: During a high school graduation, uniformed police officers rushed onto the stage, grabbed a student, and hustled him off. Just what was the boy's crime? He was leading the audience in a traditional school song entitled "Friends." The song had been banned by a federal court for its religious lyrics. But in a widespread act of subversion, students decided to sing it anyway. Even as police officers charged on stage, the audience continued singing in defiance. It was a dramatic illustration of a dangerous transformation that has taken place in the American legal system: It has gone from expressing Christian convictions to oppressing those same convictions. From the birth of our nation, the defining principle of the American experiment was the rule of law. Our founders were steeped in works such as Rex Lex—which means "the law is king"—penned by Scottish cleric Samuel Rutherford. Rutherford argued that a nation's laws must be based not on the whims of men but on the decrees of God. But today the law is often positively hostile to the decrees of God. What caused such a sharp turnaround? The answer is that law schools today teach a view heavily influenced by former Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Holmes was a convinced Darwinist, who believed that Darwinism is not just about biology but also entails a complete, naturalistic world view: that there is no God, that nature is all that exists. And if there is no God, then obviously a nation's laws cannot be based on divine decrees. Darwinism implies that justice and morality are merely ideas that the human mind invents when it has evolved to a certain level. Laws are based on the moral ideas of whoever has the most power. Might makes right. We may shudder at such a crass view, but it is inevitable once you accept a naturalistic world view. Any law the government passes is subject to challenge—to what law professor Arthur Leff calls "the grand sez who?" The only absolute authority for law is God Himself. No human being, no document, can speak with the same authority as an omniscient, omnipotent, and infinitely good being. As a result, "the so-called death of God turns out not to have been just His funeral," Leff argues; it also eliminates any "ethical or legal system dependent upon final authoritative . . . premises." And with no final moral authority, law ends up being merely what some person or group "sez" it should be. Today, Christians are entering the fray over legal issues—defending students who just want to sing their school song or pray at graduation. But we also need to help people realize that the very definition of law has changed: Darwinism has persuaded many people that the world does not need a Creator—and without God, law becomes hostage to whomever is in power. The controversy over Darwin affects every area of life. For an excellent exposition of the subject, read Reason in the Balance by law professor Phillip Johnson. If our laws are to be just, they must finally rest on the decrees of God Himself.


Chuck Colson


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