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Volume 7, Issue 4: Magistralis

Our Jewish Liberties

Gred Dickison

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 people'"(Deut. 4:5-6).

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 ourselves.

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