Volume 7, Issue 4: Magistralis
Our Jewish Liberties
Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God
commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to
possess. Therefore, be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and
your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these
statutes, and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding
Take particular notice of how Moses describes the covenant of laws God gave to
Israel. They are wisdom and understanding. So wonderful are these
laws that the pagan peoples who hear them will be envious.
This strikes our post-modern ears, filled as they are with government school
wax, as being absolutely bizarre. "Envy a nation with laws straight out of
Deuteronomy? But that was an oppressive legal system run by tight-shoed
Calvinistic Puritan types whose job was to find and kill anyone who ever even
thought about having fun!" Oh, give it a rest. The civil covenant with
Israel was an unmitigated blessing, and all the civil liberties we take for
granted are its fruits. They are rotting because we have removed the Jewish
roots of our civil law.
The Jewish civil covenant is perfect justice. Israel received the law by
direct revelation from God. He forbade that anything be added to it, or that
anything be taken away (Deut. 4:2). It is a static code with principles
sufficient to govern all conceivable situations to which the judges might apply
it. A noteworthy feature of the Hebrew republic is its lack of a law-making
body. The men of Israel did not need to gather together once a year to invent
laws. They did not need to make up new laws to address evolving notions of
morality and changing societal circumstances. They did not need to struggle
along blindly, with only man's fallen reason as a guide. Instead, Israel
was blessed with the unchanging law of the unchanging God.
The Jewish civil covenant embodies the doctrine of lex rex: the law is
king. The civil authority has no divine right to rule according to his own
pleasure. The king is not above the law, but the law, given by God, is above
the king. Thus Jeremiah stood before Zedekiah, Elijah stood before Ahab, John
the Baptist stood before Herod, and Peter stood before the elders of Israel and
boldly chastised them for their wickedness and oppression. Mere men, appealing
to the law of God, held kings accountable for their behavior.
We say this is a nation of laws and not of men, and that no man is
above the law, but we only mean that no individual is above the law as enacted
by the popular majority. In reality, we make laws on our own authority, and
forbid appeal to God's law. We give the lie to lex rex, and affirm
instead vox populi, vox dei: the voice of the people is the voice of
god. And what limits can a god's voice have?
Only in the transcendent law of God set forth in the Jewish civil covenant do
we have any protection against humanist tyranny. Only there can meaning be
given to such concepts as the sanctity of human life, the dignity of man, the
inviolability of the marriage bond and the family, and individual liberty.
These ideas are arbitrary if man is not created in the image of God. They are
mere social conventions which we might accept for the moment, but discard when
they become undesirable.
Never in history, however, has the rejection of God's law led to more
freedom. Instead, it leads to abortion, euthanasia, no-fault divorce, sexual
permissiveness and perversity, statist education and surrogate parenting, the
squelching of true freedoms, and the proliferation of the worst kinds of
oppression. The civil government, far from taking a libertarian stance, becomes
increasingly totalitarian in its effort to mold everyone into conformity with
the most fashionable social theories.
Any nation that denies the sovereign Lord will inevitably exhibit the
consequences to one degree or another. In our own time, we can call Nazi
Germany and Stalinist Russia to witness, which suppressed doctrines contrary to
the official line of thought, particularly biblical doctrines, and slaughtered
undesirables and dissenters like cattle.
Oppressions are increasing in our own legal system. The doctrine of original
sin is out, and crime is now an environmental problem. What someone did
is less relevant than why he did it, and rehabilitation is substituted for
punishment. The social environment is cleansed of the "evils" of
private property, achievement through hard work, unequal distributions of
wealth, and offensive statements and ideas. Law becomes less a system of
justice than a system of social engineering. Lawyers and judges reject
immutable rules of law, and instead mold the rules to make them more
"relevant" to human affairs. The rules are thus less important than
the means by which they can be manipulated to achieve other goals.
We must be extremely careful not to adopt a man-centered, non-covenantal view
of civil government. Christians must be wary of merely advocating one more
competing social theory. It is not enough to urge a "conservative"
agenda or a "pro-family" policy. We must petition the Lord for a
biblical government. Far from being oppressive, God's civil
covenant is the very antithesis of oppression. Unless we acknowledge and
embrace the Jewishness of our civil liberties, we will eventually lose them
all, and we will be left to envy a people wiser and more understanding than