Posted by: Dan | December 6, 2007

Christianity and the Law

(1) The Law was created to serve people and, as such, it is subservient to the tangible experiences and lived needs of people (this is true of the Hebrew Law, the approach to the Law taken in the New Testament, and the understanding of the Law reflected in Western philosophy, from Plato onwards).

(2) Consequently, whatever manifestation of the Law we currently confront must be understood as something that has been created and, therefore, something that is temporal.

(3) As a created and temporal entity, the Law itself is not 'carved in stone' but it is open to development and change, as the tangible experiences and lived needs of people develop and change.

(4) Ultimately, when understood from this perspective, the Law is something that has the potential to do a great deal of good — and in this potential the Law itself is good.

(5) However, our first thesis is regularly reversed when those who desire to dominate and (forcefully) rule over others come to power (as they always do). Thus, in such situations, people are made to serve the Law, and their tangible experiences and lived needs are made subservient to legal abstractions and generalisations.

(6) Frequently, those who desire to dominate others go about making people subservient to the Law by reversing our second and third theses. They argue that the Law we follow is an eternal Law that, rather than being created, has now been revealed to us. Thus, the Law is 'carved in stone' and not open to change or development.

(7) Consequently, the Law's goodness is abstracted from its potential to do good, and the Law is said to be good — regardless of what results from sticking exactly to the Law in all situations.

(8) When this occurs, idolatry is the result. The Law, something created to serve people, takes on a life and a power of its own and, even apart from the manipulation of greedy people, begins to follow an oppressive trajectory of its own — a trajectory outside of human control.

(9) Christians, however, cannot stick exactly to the Law in all situations but, given the propensity of those in Power to manipulate the Law in the ways describe in theses 5-7, must continually question the Law as it is manifest in this or that situation. Thus, rather than making people subservient to the Law, Christians must once again make the Law subservient to the tangible experiences and lived needs of people.

(10) Rejecting the inherent goodness of the Law, Christians will proclaim that the Law is only good when it does good. Thus, rather than allowing the Law to become an idolatrous Power (as in thesis 8), Christians make the Law subservient to Christ and his Lordship.

(11) Therefore, this means that Christians cannot a priori accept all the rules and laws of the places in which they find themselves. Christian children can (and should) question the rules established by their parents, Christian employees can (and should) question the rules established by their workplaces, Christian citizens can (and should) question the rules established by their governments, and Christian parishioners can (and should) question the rules established by their churches.

(12) Furthermore, such questioning will sometimes lead Christians to either engage in, and/or affirm those who engage in, activity that is disobedient to their parents, that violates the rules of their workplaces, that is considered illegal by their governments, or that is considered immoral by their churches.

(13) However, such questioning should also lead Christians to affirm the rules and laws that genuinely serve people in their tangible experiences and lived needs.

(14) Consequently, Christians can neither be fully for, nor fully against, the Law, but must always critically engage the Law as it is manifested in this or that particular time and place.

(15) Ultimately, this Christian attitude towards all Law, does not come from the elevation of the individual to the place of authority over all things; rather, it comes form the elevation of Christ to the place of authority over all things, and from the Christian's subservience to Christ's sole Lordship.

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