“The civil magistrate cannot function without some ethical guidance, without some standard of good and evil. If that standard is not to be the revealed Law of God… then what will it be? In some form or expression it will have to be the law of man (or men) – the standard of self-law or autonomy. And when autonomous laws come to govern a commonwealth, the sword is certainly wielded in vain, for it represents simply the brute force of some men’s will against the will of other men.”
Greg L. Bahnsen
Do you understand that quote? It is impossible to not legislate morality. Each law draws a line identifying the boundary between good and evil. “That’s good. That’s wrong.”
For example, laws say homicide and breaking a contract are both bad.
Laws are inescapably moral statements.
And civil magistrates have the power to enforce laws, and so enforce moral statements. They are given a sword to wield.
Now, if a government bases its laws on God’s Law, then the moral statements it makes are guaranteed to be true, to be objectively correct. If a government does not base its laws on God’s Law, then its laws can only be arbitrary statements of right and wrong. They can only be the whims of a man or men who then have the power to force them upon others.
The difference, then, is between living in a good and true society or living in arbitrary tyranny.
The longer we live in arbitrary tyranny, the more comfortable with it we become, and the stupider we get about goodness.
Here’s a real-life example. Somebody was able to convince a majority of suits to vote to legislate arbitrary “morality” in Scotland. And so, a law was passed prohibiting the sale of alcohol after 10pm and before 10am. “Selling or buying alcohol too late or too early is wrong.”
Says who? God doesn’t make such a claim anywhere. It’s an arbitrary claim, made by men, and too many women, in power, men and women who force their arbitrary will on the populace.
And folks just go with it.
If I go into Billy’s store at 10:02 and he sells me a six-pack, necessary hydration for the toasty, backyard fire that is scheduled to ignite at 10:30, Billy would be a criminal. If caught, poor Billy would have some made-up, non-retributive punishment slapped on him.
Maybe the secret police would drop from the ceiling, torch his business, and publicly hang him for a week by his toe-nails.
Or maybe they’d settle for taking from Billy his means of providing for his crippled son, Timmy.
I’d probably get off easy, sent to the clink for 30 days, after being allowed to finish the Sierra Nevadas first.
Arbitrary law. The tyranny of arbitrariness forced upon us by the magistrate’s sword.
And so, we come back to God’s Law and Bahnsen’s quote.