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Is Legislating Morality Biblical?
Christian Research Institute ^ | 08/31/2013 | Frank Turek

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 exception—hence 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 can’t 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 13:1–8 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 governments—outside of the theocracy of Israel—to 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 God’s own words is a theme that runs through the entire Bible.”4 Even Jesus Himself got involved in politics when He chastised the Pharisees—the religious and political leaders of Israel—for 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 Creator—the same moral law that the apostle Paul wrote was “written on their hearts” of all people (Rom. 2:14–15). In other words, not my morality or your morality, but the morality—the 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 church—that 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 don’t 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 didn’t make it up. I didn’t 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 don’t 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 God—rights 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 visited—Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China. You cannot legally “preach the gospel” in those countries—or practice other aspects of your religion freely—because 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 Don’t 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).


NOTES

  1. http://www.google.com/imgres?um=1&hl=en&client=firefox-a&sa=N&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&biw=1171&bih=752&tbm=isch&tbnid=6iF5ZWksjud1jM:&imgrefurl=http://memex.naughtons.org/archives/2011/12/28/15036&docid=wKzDF7sMCHWxwM&imgurl=http://memex.naughtons.org/wpcontent/uploads/2011/12/n_korean_lights.jpg&w=960&h=720&ei=KlljT-bTM_OOsAKB-bWdCw&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=325&vpy=146&dur=18&hovh=194&hovw=259&tx=165&ty=111&sig=103106463688587759745&page=1&tbnh=127&tbnw=178&start=0&ndsp=25&ved=1t:429,r:1,s:0
  2. Frank Turek and Norman Geisler, Legislating Morality (Eugene, OR,Wipf and Stock, 2003). For the common objection regarding prohibition, see chapter 2.
  3. Some laws do not address moral issues but conventional issues, such as how many representatives will be in Congress, or on which side of the street we should drive. Nevertheless, we all have a moral obligation to obey those laws, especially ones where disobedience could result in great harm (such as driving on the “wrong” side of the street). Moreover, I am not saying that all laws are good or moral; I am saying that all laws legislate someone’s moral position, which may actually be an immoral position. For example, legislating that a woman has a moral “right” to choose an abortion is actually an immoral position because a child is killed in the process. There is no moral right to kill an innocent human being. The right to life is the right to all other rights.
  4. Wayne Grudem, Politics according to the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 61.
  5. See Matthew 22–23, and the fine book by Neil Mammen, Jesus Is Involved in Politics: Why Aren’t You? Why Isn’t Your Church? (San Jose, CA: Rational Free Press, 2009).
  6. This is not to suggest that every moral or political issue has clear right and wrong answers. It only means that violations of basic moral principles—such as murder, theft, and rape for example—are clearly wrong. Legislators often need to debate the level of government involvement in less obvious cases.
  7. To see where the “separation of church and state” language (which is not in the Constitution) originated, see Legislating Morality, chapter 5.
  8. For a moral law and social case against same-sex marriage, see my Correct, Not Politically Correct: How Same-Sex Marriage Hurts Everyone (Charlotte: CrossExamined Press, 2008). For a Moral Law case against abortion, see my Legislating Morality, with Norman Geisler.
  9. See Brian Camenker, “What Same-Sex ‘Marriage’ Has D one to Massachusetts,” Mass Resistance, http://www.massresistance.org/docs/marriage/effects_of_ssm.html.
  10. While no church has ever lost its tax-exempt status, the Alliance Defense Fund is challenging the law. Go to www.alliancedefensefund.org for details about the law and their Pulpit Initiative.



TOPICS: Current Events; Moral Issues; Religion & Culture; Religion & Politics
KEYWORDS: legislation; morality

1 posted on 09/01/2013 5:52:52 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

The Democrat Party legislates immorality. Good luck putting that horse back in the barn....


2 posted on 09/01/2013 5:59:37 PM PDT by freebilly (Creepy and the Ass Crackers....)
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To: SeekAndFind

We legislate morality all the time. It is immoral to steal and rape and murder and any number of things.


3 posted on 09/01/2013 6:03:09 PM PDT by Blood of Tyrants (Tyranny is defined as that which is legal for the government but illegal for the people. T Jefferson)
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To: SeekAndFind

New Novel ‘Terrifies’ Readers, Suggests ‘President Palin’ Could’ve Turned us Into Christian Nation
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/3061305/posts


4 posted on 09/01/2013 6:04:54 PM PDT by 2ndDivisionVet (I aim to raise a million plus for Gov. Palin. What'll you do?.)
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To: Blood of Tyrants

So, outlawing blasphemy is constitutional?


5 posted on 09/01/2013 6:06:27 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind

I ignore stupid comments.


6 posted on 09/01/2013 6:15:31 PM PDT by Blood of Tyrants (Tyranny is defined as that which is legal for the government but illegal for the people. T Jefferson)
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To: SeekAndFind

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.


7 posted on 09/01/2013 6:18:14 PM PDT by Raycpa
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To: Blood of Tyrants

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.


8 posted on 09/01/2013 6:19:57 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: Raycpa

RE: Government cannot legislate morality.

But surely, SOME morality must be legislated without society degenerating to chaos.


9 posted on 09/01/2013 6:20:52 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: Blood of Tyrants

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.


10 posted on 09/01/2013 6:20:54 PM PDT by dhs12345
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To: SeekAndFind

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.


11 posted on 09/01/2013 6:22:56 PM PDT by Viennacon
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To: SeekAndFind

Take some time to read my whole post. The answer to your query is there.


12 posted on 09/01/2013 6:23:02 PM PDT by Raycpa
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To: Raycpa

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.


13 posted on 09/01/2013 6:27:07 PM PDT by Arthur McGowan (If you're FOR sticking scissors in a female's neck and sucking out her brains, you are PRO-WOMAN!)
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To: SeekAndFind

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 :)


14 posted on 09/01/2013 6:27:10 PM PDT by Viennacon
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To: SeekAndFind

“Don’t you blaspheme in here! Don’t you blaspheme in here!!!” —The Blues Brothers


15 posted on 09/01/2013 6:28:52 PM PDT by onedoug
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To: Arthur McGowan

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.


16 posted on 09/01/2013 6:29:05 PM PDT by Viennacon
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To: SeekAndFind

I’m chuckling as I type this. I thought morality was already legislated with the Ten Commandments.

Government needs to stay out of it.


17 posted on 09/01/2013 6:41:26 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: SeekAndFind

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


18 posted on 09/01/2013 6:44:47 PM PDT by Lera (Proverbs 29:2)
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To: Viennacon

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.


19 posted on 09/01/2013 6:47:51 PM PDT by Arthur McGowan (If you're FOR sticking scissors in a female's neck and sucking out her brains, you are PRO-WOMAN!)
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To: SeekAndFind
So, outlawing blasphemy is constitutional?

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.

20 posted on 09/01/2013 7:08:18 PM PDT by Maceman (Just say "NO" to tyranny.)
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To: Maceman

RE: social sanctions to discourage it — not criminal or civil sanctions.

Well, blasphemy can be legal then.


21 posted on 09/01/2013 7:12:00 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: Salvation

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...


22 posted on 09/01/2013 7:14:54 PM PDT by SeekAndFind
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To: SeekAndFind; Heart-Rest; HoosierDammit; red irish; fastrock; NorthernCrunchyCon; ...
+

Freep-mail me to get on or off my pro-life and Catholic List:

Add me / Remove me

Please ping me to note-worthy Pro-Life or Catholic threads, or other threads of general interest.

23 posted on 09/01/2013 7:17:35 PM PDT by narses
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To: SeekAndFind

Catholic Ten Commandments

I am the Lord your God; you shall not have strange gods before me.

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

Remember to keep holy the Lord's day

Honor your father and your mother.

You shall not kill.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor's wife.

You shall not covet you neighbor's goods.

The Two Great Commandments that contain the whole law of God are:

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.


24 posted on 09/01/2013 7:35:14 PM PDT by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Arthur McGowan

No.


25 posted on 09/01/2013 8:36:34 PM PDT by Raycpa
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To: SeekAndFind

...morality is about right and wrong, and all laws declare one behavior right and the opposite behavior wrong...


This description of the relationship between morality and law is so simplistic that it is evil -— because it leads inevitably to evil consequences. Just because something is immoral does not mean it should be made illegal; adding “use of force” needs a different set of discussions and analyses.

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.


26 posted on 09/01/2013 10:59:36 PM PDT by Mack the knife
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To: Blood of Tyrants
We legislate morality all the time. It is immoral to steal and rape and murder and any number of things.

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.

27 posted on 09/02/2013 3:07:24 AM PDT by trebb (Where in the the hell has my country gone?)
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To: SeekAndFind

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?


I agree with reservations which are these.
The gospel of Jesus was illegal, but the Apostles preached it any way.

Romons 13 i am confused by why Paul said it in the manner that he did, i guess he had his reasons


3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.

But these rulers were the ones who murdered Jesus on the cross, were throwing the apostles in prison, murdered the apostle James and also Steven who may have been a deacon.

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???
.


28 posted on 09/02/2013 6:04:06 AM PDT by ravenwolf
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