Skip to comments.Is Legislating Morality Biblical?
Posted on 09/01/2013 5:52:51 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
Why Christians Must Legislate Morality
by Frank Turek
When I have just a minute to communicate the importance of Christians being involved in politics, I call up this satellite picture of the Korean peninsula on my iPhone.1 Here we see a homogenous population of mostly Koreans separated by a well-fortified border. South Korea is full of light, productivity, and the gospel. They are a free country and one of the most Christianized countries in the world. North Korea is a concentration camp. They have no freedom, very little food, and almost no Christianity.
I then ask, What is the primary reason for the stark difference between these two countries? The answer is politics. The South politically allows freedom, while the North does not.
Freedom is rare in countries around the world. America is the shining exceptionhence the phrase American exceptionalism. It is not that Americans are somehow better than the rest of the world, but that our American system of individual freedom and limited government is better. Our Founding Fathers brilliantly grounded individual rights in God, without mandating a national religion, and put limits on government power, which created the conditions for a free and prosperous society.
Those conditions are eroding largely because Christians have ignored Jesus commands to be salt and light and to love our neighbors. Unless Christians begin to influence politics and the culture more significantly, we will lose the very freedoms that enable us to spread the gospel all over the world.
The question is, how much should Christians be involved in politics, and to what end? After all, we cant legislate morality, can we?
CAN WE LEGISLATE MORALITY?
News flash: all laws legislate morality. We go into great detail to support this point in our book Legislating Morality,2 but to be brief, morality is about right and wrong, and all laws declare one behavior right and the opposite behavior wrong.3 So the question is not whether or not we can legislate morality, but whose morality will we legislate?
Legislating morality is not only biblical, it is a necessary responsibility of government. When Paul writes in Romans 13:18 that the ruling authorities are put in place by God to punish evildoers, he is echoing Genesis 9:6, which established that the central responsibility of government is to protect the innocent from evil. That, of course, requires the legislation and enforcement of good laws.
Wayne Grudem makes an outstanding case for Christians influencing civil governments to legislate moral good in his comprehensive book Politics according to the Bible. Grudem cites many positive examples of biblical figures influencing civil governmentsoutside of the theocracy of Israelto do good. They include Joseph, Moses, Daniel, Nehemiah, Mordecai, and Esther. We also have as examples the written prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk and Zephaniah, writes Grudem. In the New Testament we have the courageous examples of John the Baptist and the apostle Paul. And we could add in several passages from Psalms and Proverbs that speak of good and evil rulers. Influencing government for good on the basis of wisdom found in Gods own words is a theme that runs through the entire Bible.4 Even Jesus Himself got involved in politics when He chastised the Phariseesthe religious and political leaders of Israelfor their unjust leadership.5
WHAT ABOUT THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE?
If we are called to legislate morality, then whose morality should we legislate? The answer our Founding Fathers gave was the self-evident morality given to us by our Creatorthe same moral law that the apostle Paul wrote was written on their hearts of all people (Rom. 2:1415). In other words, not my morality or your morality, but the moralitythe one we inherited, not the one we invented.6
Notice they did not have to establish a particular denomination or force religious practice in order to legislate a moral code. Our country justifies moral rights with theism, but does not require its citizens to acknowledge or practice theism. That is why charges that Christians are trying to impose a theocracy or violate the separation of church and state fail.
Such objections blur the distinction between religion and morality. Broadly defined, religion involves our duty to God while morality involves our duty to one another. Our lawmakers are not telling people that they need to be a member of a churchthat would be legislating religion. But lawmakers cannot avoid telling people how they should treat one another that is legislating morality, and that is what all laws do.
To illustrate the point, let us consider two prominent moral issues in our society: abortion and same-sex marriage. First, let me be clear that I do not want the state running the church or the church running the state. But even if one were to accept the court-invented claim that the Constitution requires a strict separation of church and state,7 opposition to abortion or same-sex marriage does not entail the establishment of a theocracy. Churches and the Bible also teach that murder, theft, and child abuse are wrong, but no one says laws prohibiting such acts establish a theocracy or are a violation of the separation of church and state. In fact, if the government could not pass laws consistent with biblical teachings, then all criminal laws would have to be overturned because they are all in some way consistent with at least one of the Ten Commandments. The truth is, Christians do not legislate the Bible as such, but we do legislate the moral law consistent with the Bible. We do not need to legislate religion, but we cannot avoid legislating morality.
Second, there are churches on both sides of these issues. In other words, some liberal churches actually support abortion and same-sex marriage. So if church-supported positions could not be put into law, then we could not have laws either way on abortion or same-sex marriage. Absurd.
Finally, most proponents of same-sex marriage argue as if they have some kind of moral right to having their relationships endorsed by the state. They claim that they dont have equal rights or that they are being discriminated against. Likewise, abortion advocates claim they have a moral right to choose an abortion. None of these claims are true, as I have explained elsewhere.8 Nevertheless, their arguments, while flawed, expose the fact that independent of religion they seek to legislate their morality rather than the morality.
If you have a problem with the morality, do not blame me. I didnt make it up. I didnt make up the fact that abortion is wrong; that men are not made for other men; or that sex outside of natural marriage leads to destruction. Those truths are part of the Laws of Nature, as the Declaration of Independence puts it, and we only hurt others and ourselves by suppressing those truths and legislating immoral laws.
HOW DO WE LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR POLITICALLY?
We often hear that Christian involvement in politics always fails. The people who say such things do not know much about history. Other than banning slavery, kidnapped brides, child labor, gladiatorial combat, death games, infanticide, child marriage, temple prostitution, child sexual abuse, child prostitution, wives as property, and promoting religious and political freedom and the equality of all mankind, Christians have accomplished nothing politically in Western civilization. Even recently in the United States, Christians and others have made progress in protecting life by passing hundreds of laws that restrict abortion at the state and local levels.
Yet even if Christian efforts to bring about good all failed politically, we are called to be salt and light, to love our neighbor, and to leave the results to God. Those commands require us to work for laws that will protect our neighbors whether they are Christians or not. In fact, if Christians dont stand up for the weak, poor, and unborn, who will? Are you truly loving your neighbors if you do nothing to prevent them from being enslaved, abused, or aborted?
Having Christians involved in government is advantageous for all people, even non-Christians. How so? Only the Christian worldview secures the unalienable rights of the individual in Godrights that include the right to life, liberty, equal treatment under the law, and religious freedom. Islam does not. Islam means submission to Allah and Sharia law. It does not protect individual rights; neither does Hinduism (the caste system) or outright secularism, which offers no means to ground rights in anything other than the whims of a dictator. Only the Christian worldview secures the rights of all in God, not government, people, or a sectarian religion.
JUST PREACH THE GOSPEL?
I often hear Christians claiming that we ought to just preach the gospel and not get involved in politics. This is not only a false dilemma (we are commanded to do both); ironically, such an attitude serves to stop the gospel. How so? Because politics and law affects your ability to preach the gospel! If you think otherwise, just visit some of the countries I have visitedIran, Saudi Arabia, and China. You cannot legally preach the gospel in those countriesor practice other aspects of your religion freelybecause politically they have ruled it out. You cannot publish the CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL in North Korea; nor can you open a church; nor can you evangelize.
In fact, politics affects virtually every area of your life including your church, marriage, family, business, school, children, money, property, home, security, health, safety, and freedom. As Christians, should we let the atheists impose their morality on us in these areas? If we do, we will continue to lose the very freedoms that have empowered us to prosper and spread the gospel.
When we fail to legislate and protect liberty, others impose tyranny. Totalitarian political correctness is already the norm in states such as Massachusetts, where the implications of same-sex marriage are legally imposed on Christian businesses, Christian parents, and even on Christian charities. There you are not permitted to run your business, educate your children, or practice your religion in accord with your conscience.9 And soon, as is the case in Canada, you may not be able to speak biblically about homosexuality. That is because the people who say they are fighting for tolerance are often the most intolerant.
One final note: if you are a pastor who is worried about your tax-exempt status, please consider these three points: (1) you have more freedom than you think to speak on political and moral issues from the pulpit;10 (2) if you do not speak for liberty now, you may soon lose your freedom to speak for anything; and (3) most importantly, you are called to be salt and light, not tax-exempt.
Frank Turek is an author, speaker, and founder of www.Crossexamined.org. He hosts I Dont Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist on the NRB Network, Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. and 1 a.m., Eastern Time (DirecTV Ch. 378, Sky Angel ch. 126).
The Democrat Party legislates immorality. Good luck putting that horse back in the barn....
We legislate morality all the time. It is immoral to steal and rape and murder and any number of things.
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So, outlawing blasphemy is constitutional?
I ignore stupid comments.
Government cannot legislate morality. Even God cannot legislate morality without removing freewill.
Government can legislate an environment for man that allows him to live morally.
That wasn’t a comment, that was a question.
to make it more specific, what commandments of God should America legislate against and what should be legal (even if immoral)?
THAT is the question. Now, if after my clarification, you still call the question “stupid” I want you to justify the adjective.
RE: Government cannot legislate morality.
But surely, SOME morality must be legislated without society degenerating to chaos.
Ya. Following the 10 Commandments is a pretty good thing. Murder — bad, adultery — bad, etc. etc.
Hopefully, they are suggesting that it should be okay to murder, etc.
As I see it, you have four kinds of law in this regard.
Justice Law - any law pertaining to bringing justice to those who harm others through theft, murder, rape, assault etc.
Code Law - laws that give a code to functions of daily life, such as speed limits etc.
Civil Law - any law pertaining to the maintenance of a civil society, like bans on bestiality, indecent exposure, etc
Religious Law - Blasphemy laws would come under this
The problem arises when trying to sort laws into these categories. Things like blasphemy laws would be unconstitutional. Violation of free speech. There’s room to argue about what the 1st Amendment covers, but I take a Libertarian view of it, meaning very little can be banned in terms of speech (unless minors are involved, in which I think some action can be taken to protect them from things like sexual heckles and such). Fire in a movie theater is an obvious exception too.
Take some time to read my whole post. The answer to your query is there.
Starting from your principle, we must repeal laws against bank robbery. We should “allow” banks to operate, but we must not prohibit anyone from robbing them.
You raise a very big question, and one that the Founders likely didn’t think about too much, because they never predicted a society in which shame did not exist. Why did the Founders not even mention a lot of issues we consider key in a ‘moral’ sense? Because people didn’t dare engage in such activities for fear of being ostracized by their neighbors. We don’t have a ‘civil society’ in the true sense anymore. We have a very post-modernist society in which it is heresy to be “judgmental”.
I can tell you this. Had the Founders witnessed Miley Cyrus’ display, they probably would have burned her. haha :)
“Don’t you blaspheme in here! Don’t you blaspheme in here!!!” —The Blues Brothers
That is one theory of government, that the government should allow private industry to operate, but that the industry should be responsible for defending itself from robbery. Such hardcore anarcho-libertarians find the idea of a police force to be too much of a threat to freedom.
I’m chuckling as I type this. I thought morality was already legislated with the Ten Commandments.
Government needs to stay out of it.
You can’t legislate morality and force people to live moral lives .
We are where we are at because people refuse to repent .
You can try to pass all the laws you want but until the people change their minds nothing will matter
Proof can be seen on the abortion issue alone and how many people who are members of the churches that scream the loudest about it have abortions and promote it
My impression wasn’t so much that raycpa is a Libertarian, as that he was mindlessly repeating the slogan “You can’t legislate morality.”
It’s a stupid slogan. Every law legislates morality. It is either just or unjust.
Of course it is. One man's blasphemy is another's free speech.
If society deems blasphemy unacceptable, then it must develop social sanctions to discourage it -- not criminal or civil sanctions.
RE: social sanctions to discourage it — not criminal or civil sanctions.
Well, blasphemy can be legal then.
RE: Government needs to stay out of it.
Surely you are not saying that government has to stay ENTIRELY out of it...
For instance, I’m sure you’re not against government making the violation of the sixth and the eight commandment punishable.
The question then becomes, why ONLY these two commandments and not the others...
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Catholic Ten Commandments
You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and with your whole soul, and with your whole mind, and with your whole strength; you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
To love God, our neighbor, and ourselves, we must keep the commandments of God and of the Church, and perform the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
...morality is about right and wrong, and all laws declare one behavior right and the opposite behavior wrong...
A code of morality is what a man imposes on himself to live a rewarding life; a person on a desert island desperately needs a code of morality to survive. When there are multiple people, he needs an upgrade to that code which governs his behavior towards others, whether there is a government or not.
Governments are instituted to protect men from being harmed by others who do not have a sufficient code of morality; they do this by declaring laws and sending out men with weapons to use violence to enforce their laws. As pointed out by the Founders, if men were angels, there would be no need for governments; some people are bad, and some bad people try to join governments.
However, 3000 years of history suggest Governments cause chaos when they attempt to protect men from the consequences of their own actions.
Trivial example: nanny Bloomberg believes that drinking large sugary drinks leads to obesity, thus is immoral; he then also believes that government should suppress this immoral behavior by sending out men with guns to prohibit the sale of large sugary drinks. Just as sure as God made little green apples, if the law had not been declared contradictory to the NY Constitution, there would have been a raid by a SWAT team to measure how much rootbeer was in a cup, and a careless trigger finger would have brought tragedy. So what conclusion do we draw: too much rootbeer, immoral; but God will not protect us from the consequences of making it illegal. This has in fact happened with SWAT teams were sent out to enforce a prohibition against the sale of raw milk.
Egregious example: a supermajority of the population of the US in the early 1900s concluded that drinking alcohol (ethanol) was immoral because it led some men to drunkeness and violence; they were led by the vast majority of God fearing believers, who quoted the good book on why ingesting alcohol was immoral. Three Quarters of the States passed a Constitutional Amendment to make the distribution and sale of alcohol illegal, and authorized sending out men with guns to use violence to suppress the trade of alcohol.
By any standard, it was an unmitigated disaster, with unintended consequences of destroying life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the perversion of the entire criminal justice system ... consequences we are still living with today (e.g., infringements on the 2ndA).
So what lessons do we draw from this experience: using alcohol to excess, immoral and evil; passing laws to prohibit alcohol, EVEN MORE EVIL.
The national experience of [alcohol] Prohibition has poisoned the well of discourse for anyone who advocates, or during a debate is maneuvered to advocate, that anything immoral should be illegal. When confronted with this arguement, the vast majority of people will remember Prohibition, and react with contempt, and meaningful discussion is over.
Since there is an element of truth that “some immoral behavior should be illegal”, legal analysis should emulate economic analysis: if you want to understand the full impact of making something illegal, you should look at all consequences of the action, both short term and long term, for all actors impacted by the action.
I guess the question is; "how Biblical is it?" Some folks' "morality" is based on inner opinions (Baptists against drinking/dancing/singing to the radio). Most laws deal with some sort of morality and even the 10 Commandments, but many have nothing whatever to do with morality unless one considers speeding to be immoral. Since Roe vs. Wade, and homosexual "marriage", and many other social "new norms", legislating morality is more a concept and we are getting into true New Covenant territory where God will be the Judge and man-made laws are inconsequential to the really big picture.
I often hear Christians claiming that we ought to just preach the gospel and not get involved in politics. This is not only a false dilemma (we are commanded to do both); ironically, such an attitude serves to stop the gospel. How so?
Romons 13 i am confused by why Paul said it in the manner that he did, i guess he had his reasons
In later years they also murdered Peter and Paul, and legend has it that all of the other Apostles were murdered in the same way except for John.
Rulers hold no terror???