Note: This was originally written about a year ago as a way for me to simply sort out my thoughts on the matter. I had no intention then of publishing it to my blog, but after polishing it up a wee bit I've decided to make my rantings/musing public.
I don’t care for this term. It is far too vague and can be interpreted too many ways for me to find it helpful. I've found four possible definitions, in fact.
First: Is legislation either moral or immoral? Yes, and we need to
get our definition of ethics from a Biblical worldview. Should we
legislate immorality? Of course not! Is this the definition of
legislating morality? If so, then why would any Christian protest?
Second: Should we legislate something just because it is moral?
Should we make laws against everything which is immoral? No – this would
rapidly lead to an utterly tyrannical civil government.
This is where the issue of jurisdiction comes in. The civil
government should be viewed as the safety net of all governments
(family, self, church, etc) and is only to act when there is actually an
Take, for instance, the issue of drinking alcohol to the point of excess. Is it wise to go get drunk? Is it moral? Of course not! But if I were to injure no one but myself while inebriated, there is no reason for the civil government to step in and punish me for this lack of morality. Instead, such morality should be enforced by self-government, and actively encouraged by church and family governments.
Thus, morality is not the only basis to determine what legislation
ought to be passed by the civil government. Jurisdiction also MUST be a
determining factor if we are to be free.
As a side note, I find it interesting that, every form of human
government follows a pattern: the more people affected by it, the less
amount of jurisdiction it has.
Self-government is the most powerful, as God grants salvation on a
person by person basis (the names written in the book of life are not
family names, nor are they town or country names.), and we are all to
answer indiviudally to God on judgement day.
Family government is next, as parents have the ability to control
almost every aspect of their children’s lives up until their adulthood,
and it is the responsibilty of the parents to bring their children up
in the fear and admonission of the LORD.
Then comes the governance of the (local) church, which instructs,
guides, encourages and disciplines obvious and ongoing sins in the
various families which make it up.
The various forms of civil government – town, county, state, and federal – also follow this same pattern.
God is the only governing authority with unlimited jurisdiction and power.
Third: Does legislation define morality? Is something which is
technically illegal necessarily immoral? Absolutely not. The Ten Boom
family was violating Nazi law when they saved Jewish lives, yet their
doing so was not in any way immoral, and was the correct course of
action for them to take in every way.
God is the only one to ultimately determine what is right or wrong,
and if we say that any other government determines morality through
their decisions, we are guilty of attempting to usurp God’s role in the
universe. This is why Hitler’s regime was wrong, even though it was
Fourth: Furthermore, should we seek to change society’s view of
morality (be it a correct or false view) through civil legislation? Is
this the job of civil government? No. The gospel is the only way to
truly redeem people – civil government can never save us, and must stick
to its God-given role — that of defending life and liberty from those
who seek to harm them.
History shows us that state-established religion leads to chaos,
corruption, and confusion in both the church and the culture. Whether we
look at Constantine’s establishing Christianity as state religion and
the rash of false conversions which followed, or the Church of England,
which answers to the king before the Bible, there is no good which comes
of this muddling of rulers. All governments are answerable to God, but
they are not to usurp each others roles and “force” them to do what is
When Joshua was to lead the Israelites into the land of Canaan, he was
ordered by God to destroy the Canaanites and their property.
Now, Biblical scholars and Christians have for centuries stated that
the only proper use of force and war is in self-defense. We do not
attack countries without provocation, neither do we attack them merely
because they are attacking another (who appointed us to be police of the
world?). Rather, we are only to keep ourselves safe from harm.
The Israelites conquest of Canaan, however, was really not one of
self-defense. They were entitled to the land, it is true, but it is
likely that the Canaanites who originally settled there we unaware of
God’s promise to Abraham, and indeed, they may have even been there
before Abraham’s time. However, because God is above the law, he choose
in this instance to order the Israelites to conquer the land through
bloodshed and force.
Does this, however, set a precedent? Are we to go into foreign lands
without provocation and slaughter the inhabitants? Were the crusades
Godly and Biblical? Are wars not related to self-defense okay? Of course
not! Just because God chose in one instance to allow his people this
remedy does not mean that we are to presume that a precedent has been
set for all time.
Likewise, I would argue that, in laws where God is the only “injured
party”, we should not take the sword of the civil government to punish
the evildoer, even when we see that God once ordered it in one case in
the Old Testament.
First, we must take into account the fact that there was only a tiny
amount of time in the Old Testament where a proper form of civil
government was upheld – from Moses to Samuel. After that, Israel
rejected God’s governance and appointed for themselves a human king.
Throughout the rest of their history, they were ruled either by a king
of Israel/Judah or by foreign kings who had conquered them.
These years of Israel’s history are mainly covered in Deuteronomy
(and other books of the Torah), Joshua, and Judges, and 1 Samuel.
In Deuteronomy, Moses was the main judge over Israel. He had other,
lesser, judges under him, and they judged small matters, but I think it
safe to say that matters were a person’s life or a significant amount of
property were at risk were brought before Moses himself. We also know
that Moses was a prophet, and heard directly from God in a way most
people did not – and even to this day, do not.
Numbers 15:35 and 27:5,6; show that Moses heard directly from God in
regards to specific civil matters – Joshua 7 shows that the same was
true for Joshua – Joshua 9:14 would indicate that their custom was to
ask counsel of God, yet in this instance they did not and thus suffered.
Judges 2:18,19 would seem to indicate that God spoke to the other
judges of Israel in like manner.
We know that Deborah was a prophetess
(a fact which is highlighted for us, perhaps because, although normally a
woman would not be qualified for such a role, God chooses to make
exceptions at times and made her a prophetess, thus qualifying her for
such a role). We also have recorded for us the fact that Gideon was
spoken to by the LORD, and Samson had the Spirit of the Lord upon him.
Samuel definitely was able to hear the voice of the LORD.
Unfortunately, Israel was corrupt all too often throughout these
years, and the people did not follow God. I would state that this is not
the fault of improper civil government, but of families who did not
pass on to their children a fear and love for the LORD. Judges speaks of
a generation rising up which did not know the LORD, and even Samuel’s
sons were wicked. This goes to show that even when God himself is
speaking directly to the civil leaders, good civil government alone
cannot make people righteous – you cannot legislate morality.
Today, we do not have leaders – not even church leaders, but
certainly not civil leaders -who hear from God in such a direct, case by
case, personal manner. Perhaps someday God will choose to speak to
people this way again, but we don’t know that He will, and if that
happened I would have to reconsider my conclusions here.
That being said, I do not believe that civil government should be
able to punish people for sinning against God and thereby “injuring” Him
(insofar as a mortal can harm the Almighty). Self, family, and church
governments should address sins, obviously, but it should be noted that
they do not hold the sword – they really can’t resort to physical force,
at least not to the extent that the civil government can. As such, I
would advocate putting the civil government on as short a leash as
possible (without thoroughly making it useless).
Take, for instance, the matter of the sabbath – most Christians today
observe it on the 1st day of the week. Others feel that this is a
Catholic perversion of the command to celebrate it on the 7th day, and
so celebrate on the last day of the week. Should civil government then
step in and determine for us what God has said? Are they to then force
everyone to ignore their conscience and observe the sabbath on "X" day?
Does the Bible say that man is the head of women, the state is the head
of man, and God the head of the state?
Unless I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is what
God wants for us today I could not in good conscience support such laws.
I would rather let a guilty man go unpunished until judgement day than
to have a law punish people for things which are not crimes, and find on
judgement day that I have blood guilt upon my hands.