Christianity and Law – Biblical Applications

QUESTION: Christianity and Law – Biblical Applications

ANSWER:

The Bible gives us guidelines for an ordered legal system. Judges were appointed to decide disagreements among people according to God’s laws and teachings. (See Exodus 18:13–16; Deuteronomy 1:16–17; 19:15–21.) John Eidsmoe says, “The judges were commanded to be honest and not to take bribes or favor the rich (Exodus 23:1–8).”1 These biblical examples of the judicial system demonstrate that God’s ideal legal system is orderly and equitable. Each person has the right to be judged by the same standard of justice. One clear example of a biblical legal concept states, “Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike” (Deuteronomy 1:17).

The Bible addresses legal theory for assigning guilt as well. Simon Greenleaf explains, “The importance of extreme care in ascertaining the truth of every criminal charge, especially where life is involved, may be regarded as a rule of law. It is found in various places in the Mosaic Code, particularly in the law respecting idolatry; which does not inflict the penalty of death until the crime ‘be told thee,’ (viz. in a formal accusation), ‘and thou hast heard of it,’ (upon a legal trial), ‘and inquire diligently, and behold to be true,’ (satisfactorily proved), ‘and the thing certain,’ (beyond all reasonable doubt).”2

Christianity and Law – Mosaic Code
This illustration from the Mosaic code teaches us that earthly judges should not hastily condemn an accused person. Because of our fallen nature, our reason and our will are not perfect, making human error possible in meting out justice. We are taught that it is better for a judge to err in favor of the defendant than to punish an innocent person. Ultimately all lawbreakers will be judged by God on the final Day of Judgment.

The Bible also calls for a restoration of God’s order and for restitution to be made to the offended person when laws are broken. C. S. Lewis writes, “[Christianity] thinks that a great many things have gone wrong with the world that God made and that God insists, and insists very loudly, in our putting them right again.”3

Notes:

Rendered with permission from the book, Understanding the Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews (Rev. 2nd ed), David Noebel, Summit Press, 2006. Compliments of John Stonestreet, David Noebel, and the Christian Worldview Ministry at Summit Ministries. All rights reserved in the original.

1 John Eidsmoe, God and Caesar (Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1985), 197.
2 Simon Greenleaf, “A Treatise on the Law of Evidence” (1824), Part V, Section 29, n. 1. Cited in Herbert Titus, God, Man, and Law: The Biblical Principles, 2nd ed. (Oak Brook, IL: Institute in Basic Life Principles, 1983), 85.
3 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1974), 45.

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