The Ten Commandments: A Necessary Rebuke of Secular Libertarianism Part 6
by Pastor Cary Gordon
Part 6 of a 6 Part Series
In my backs and forths with political antagonists over the years I finally broke-down and coined the term “potato logic.” What I mean by that is explained thusly, “I have skin. A potato has skin. CLEARLY! I AM a POTATO!” Using “potato logic”, the antagonist often counters that homosexual attractions occur in nature, so such behavior must also be in line with natural law. It is as if the depth of their understanding of the term “natural law” is merely a fancy way of describing things “occurring on planet earth.” Through this lack of cleverness the advocate of divine natural law is given an opportunity to join the concepts of divine natural law with divine ecclesiastical law, by responding, “Yes, and murder, perjury, larceny, adultery, and incest ‘occur in nature,’ as well.”
Melanchthon* pointed out the same failure of Greek philosophers who attempted to develop natural law without connecting it to ecclesiastical law, when he wrote, “…for many of their popular ideas express the depraved affections of our nature and not laws.”[i] In other words, just because it occurs ‘on planet earth’ doesn’t make it in harmony with divine natural law, and since law is absolute in society, it stands to reason that a good law must be based upon an absolute truth in order for it to be just and “good.”
Divine natural law is only meant by our Creator to be a scaffolding at the foundation of civil law. The proper construction of a mature legal system requires the explanation of natural law provided by divine ecclesiastical law for the production of freedom. The antagonist responds with an ugly and mocking condescension, “So which version of divine ecclesiastical law should society be expected to use? Sharia?” Then a favorite and painfully overused polemic, “Would you be okay with Sharia, or is the first amendment only for Christians?” (Each time these kinds of snarky questions are asked I find myself imagining the voice of Eugene “Snotty Boy” Beady from the Children’s cartoon Back at the Barnyard. It helps me navigate through the insolence. Chortles!)
The answer could not be more obvious. Why not use the ecclesiastical law system that has produced more liberty than any other in the history of the world? How about Judeo/Christian law? You know, the system that guided the original creation of the American legal system. Is that so unreasonable? Simpler still, we could also ask why not use the only ecclesiastical system that is legitimately compatible with freedom? Is there another religion in history that has produced a civilization with more liberty? Is there another religion in history whose influence has produced the real-world experience of private property ownership, prior to America?
Plato was not a Jew and lived centuries before the birth of Christ, yet he recognized the empty folly of improving a system of justice without a solemn search for a reliable foundation of ecclesiastical law to lean upon. Plato wrote, in his famous work Second Alcibiades, “That we must wait patiently until someone, either a God, or some inspired man, teach us our moral and religious duties, and, as Pallas, in Homer, did to Diomed, remove the darkness from our eyes.”[ii] What great shattering of darkness might Plato have enjoyed had he been born three centuries later to witness the greatest explanation of the ecclesiastical system of Mosaic law ever known…those doctrines illuminated by Jesus Christ.
Using the same skill of reasoning as Plato, more than two millennia later, Herbert Schlossberg explained, “For if there are wicked statutes, it must mean that there is a law above the statutes by which their wickedness is identified and judged. There is a transcendent principle, a higher law that relativizes all statutes and all sovereigns.”[iii]
Finally, the atheist Libertarian, liberal Democrat, and some self-described “Christian conservatives” protest, “But if you return us to the way colonial Americans thought of Mosaic Law three hundred years ago, you will bring tyranny, forcing your views upon those who do not believe or agree!” (As if the new ruling class of Darwinian-secular-humanism is less dangerous than those who are motivated by the ever perilous and shifty standard of... agape love! Absurdity is too gentle a word.)
In his scholarly work on natural law, Phillip Kayser offered these words concerning the common charge made against those who apply the Bible to politics as bringers of statist tyranny: “It is often assumed that Natural Law alone will provide liberty and justice, whereas if Biblical law is instituted we will once again have religious persecution like that under the Roman Emperors from Constantine onward or like the Inquisition under the Roman Catholic Church.
“It is ironic that this charge should be made because it is precisely Natural Law that was the dominant social ethic during the periods of these religious persecutions. Furthermore, if Biblical law had been followed there would not have been such religious persecution. Those who fear bloodshed and tyranny if Biblical law becomes the law of the land either do not understand the nature of Biblical law or have assumed that statism will always be a way of life. But Biblical law is diametrically opposed to statism.
“Government is a servant (Rom. 13) not a god. Nowhere in Scripture is the church given the right to bear the sword. Indeed, even in theocratic Israel God guaranteed a degree of religious liberty (or toleration). The Conquest and the harem principle were not standing laws (and thus not normative for most of Israel's history) as a reading of Deuteronomy 20 will make clear. The laws of Israel forbad injustice to the pagan in their midst (Lev. 24:22; Ex. 12:49; Num. 9:14; Deut. 1:16; Jer. 22:3), forbad oppression of the pagan (Ex. 22:21; 23:9; Deut. 24:14,17; 27:19; Jer. 22:3), forbad an abhorrence of the pagan (Deut. 23:7) and commanded love (Deut. 10:18,19) and kindness (Lev. 25:35-38; 19:10,33,34) to the pagans in their midst. Israelites were not to discriminate against the pagans when it came to charity to the poor (Lev. 19:10) or when it came to justice in the courts (Lev. 24:22).
“There was to be one standard of law for all. “But the stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." (Lev. 19:34) All of the above implies that pagans were allowed to live in Israel unmolested provided they did not blaspheme (Lev. 24:16) or seduce Israelites into false worship. If this degree of religious liberty was allowed during that period of redemptive history (and it was certainly more than was allowed to "infidels" in much of Europe’s history under Natural Law) it is difficult to believe the charges of bloodshed and Inquisition that some would hurl at Theonomists.*
“But let us turn the tables around. In reality, it is Natural Law [alone without God’s law] which is unable to give concrete protective laws to the citizens of a realm.”[iv]
Robespierre’s libertarianism attempted an atheistic natural law sustained by a hatred of Christian ecclesiastical law as their anchor. It brought terror, blood, and death to Europe. Robespierre took one step away from Jesus Christ, and proved that no true liberty exists without Him.
American founders escaped the tyranny of a state-sanctioned religion through natural law sustained by the Ten Commandments. They rejected denominational usurpations, and centralized federal sectarian powers. They produced freedom, a Christian nation, as opposed to a denomination-controlled sectarian nation. Because their anchor was sound they eventually shed themselves of the evil of slavery through a refining process brought upon them through the schoolmaster of time. America’s founders took one step away from dead religion and one step closer to Jesus Christ, proving that true liberty is found beneath the power of the resurrected Savior.
Today’s modern American libertarian movement has many strange factions. While Robespierre took one step away from Christ, one modern faction seems hell-bent on continuing in the same direction of Robespierre, by taking two steps away from Christ. They reject natural law altogether using the premise of private property as the only single lens through which all political decisions are judged. The other faction wants to accept natural law without Christ, exactly the same as Robespierre, proving a failure to learn from history, precisely the same as they rightly accuse their own sworn leftwing liberal statist enemies.
It’s time for the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ to reassert themselves into the political morass that has taken form in their negligent absence. It is time to throw off the demonic shackles of antinomian and Marcionite nonsense, and raise the standard of God’s law again in America. It’s time for a return to the second table of God’s law as our anchor for the future. We can build America’s house upon the Rock, again.
It is not enough for a local church to sing. Let the whole nation know the joy of singing with the church, “On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand, All other ground is sinking sand.
* Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560) was a German reformer, collaborator with Martin Luther, the first systematic theologian of the Protestant Reformation, and a influential designer of educational systems. He stands next to Luther and Calvin as a reformer, theologian, and molder of Protestantism. As much as Luther, he is the primary founder of Lutheranism.
* Theonomy is a view of Christian ethics most noted for its attempts to show how the ethical standards of the Old Testament are applicable to modern society, including the Standing Laws of the Old Testament, as well as its general ethical principles.
[i] Pauck, Melanchthon and Bucer, p. 52.
[ii] Plato Against the Atheists, Tenth Book of The Dialogue On Laws, Common Law Against Private Religions, by Taylor Lewis, LL.D., Harper and Brothers publishing, Copyright 1845, page 367
[iii] Idols For Destruction, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983), p. 207
[iv] Phillip G. Kayser, The Flaw of Natural Law, Biblical Blueprints, Omaha Nebraska, Copyright 1983, page 31 and 32