Fundamental Astuteness

The Essence of Astuteness: Non-Partisan Intellectual Honesty

Clarification regarding commentary on liberty…

with one comment

Insightful questioning and commentary by my good friend Will at WillsPerspective has been well placed and has persuaded me that a clarification is order.

At some point during our exchange in commentary over my previous post, I proposed that “I don’t know exactly what parts of the bible to enforce. But I think that discussion [should] take place. My inclination right now is to say that the Government today cannot take any more power than the civil government of the Old Testament. Church issues should then be left to the church, and family issues to the family.”

And in response, Will made an appropriate observation and suggestion: “The Old Testament government was extremely powerful (stoning girls for fornication, etc) and I don’t think we would want to take our New Testament model of liberty that far, so I would encourage you to re-think that standard.”

Let me say here and now that I hate death and glory in its absence. Capital punishment is a serious matter,  and by no means do I propose we expand it to crimes other than murder. Nor do I propose that we follow every single statue of Levitical law to the letter. Especially when it comes to matters of capital crime. It seems to me (and I welcome any alternative view on this for consideration) that there is room for grace and mercy in light of New Testament principles. The story of Jesus forgiving the adulteress woman and saving her from stoning comes to mind.

What then did I mean by my statement reproduced above?

Aside from the fact that I never actually said or intended to imply that we should expand capital crimes to Old Testament levels but rather simply stated that the modern civil government should not expand its jurisdiction beyond Old Testament jurisdiction, my point was primarily not that we should necessarily re-install every single mandate from the Old Testament, but rather, we should view the seperation of powers and jurisdiction in the Bible as a foundation for government today.

Here are two examples of what this would look like:

Capital Punishment: Capital punishment should remain in the hands of civil government if it is to be practiced at all. Churches and families should not hold this power (the Catholic church tried to do this in the Dark Ages). Since the pattern from the Bible seems to hold that the civil magistrates should administer the death penalty, it should stay that way. What is a capital crime in today’s world is very much very much debatable. Personally, The farthest I would go in allowing capital punishment is only in cases of willful murder. Even so, serious discussion should be given to whether capital cases are tried correctly and in a consistent mannerl, in light of the recent spate of DNA exonerations. But this particular matter is for another discussion.

Welfare/Providing for the needy: Those who are in need in the absence of laziness should be cared for, as demonstrated by the Levitical law and by the pattern of the early church in the Book of Acts. There is no Biblically sanctioned pattern where civil magistrates are involved in the wholesale redistribution of wealth. Rather, this task was given to the individuals, churches, and, in the modern times, charitable/voluntary organizations. There are other reasons to oppose welfare as well, but for the purpose of biblical pattern, we see no precedent that endorses the civil government being involved in this matter.

Again, the goal here is to observe patterns and principles of the separation of powers and duties in the Old Testament, not necessarily adopt every statute to the “letter of the law”. There are separate and distinct roles that are best carried out by various entities in society, and I propose, that as Christians, we take our pattern of separated powers and jurisdiction from the Word of God.


Written by Astuteness

June 6, 2008 at 3:34 pm

One Response

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    Very exciting…


    June 15, 2008 at 11:45 pm

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