Monday, October 15, 2012

If Two Men Go Into the Woods Without a Police Officer, How Many Will Come Out Alive?

With this question, Mark R. Crovelli opened a persuasively argued and brilliantly illustrated volley against the Biblical doctrine of the total depravity of man in which he rightly painted Thomas Hobbes' view of the civil magistrate as immoral tyranny. 

While Hobbes may not get total depravity exactly right, he is partially right in that man is by nature wicked and if left to his own devices, he will act in all the depraved ways Hobbes describes. But Hobbes is significantly wrong in seeing the power of the civil magistrate as a human power and thinking it can restrain sin apart from the grace of God. The civil magistrate conceived in Hobbes mind ignores God and his law and thus only replaces the decentralized corruption, depravity, and violence of the people with their own centralized corruption, depravity, and violence.  Far from restraining sin, Hobbes’ civil magistrate is an engine of evil, significantly exacerbating injustice and  oppression. When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked bear rule, the people mourn. Proverbs 29:2 

According to scripture, there is no liberty apart from obedience to the law of God. Perfect liberty is perfect obedience to the law of God. (See this article for a fuller discussion.) Because Hobbes denies God’s law, his civil government can at best trade liberty for security. To the extent any government infringes liberty, it is tyrannical. It is never lawful or moral to infringe liberty. At times my will may be infringed by righteous laws, but in those instances it is my sinful desires that are being infringed, not my liberty. It makes no more sense to infringe liberty for the sake of security or societal stability than it does to poison your food for the sake of your health. If the “poison” improves your health, it’s not poison. We were told airport scanners are analogous to cutting off a gangrenous toe to preserve the rest of the body. But the point of that operation is to cut off gangrene. Airport scanners are like cutting off a good toe so that it doesn't get gangrene – something no lawful doctor would ever do.” (Quoted from here.)

On the other hand Crovelli is very wrong in his view of man as basically good. It is a flat contradiction of scripture (e.g. Rom 3). Pointing to a peaceful day on the Colorado range with some gun toting friends as an example of man’s basically good nature is as naïve and ungrateful as eating a scrumptious Thanksgiving feast and then supposing that the food must have cooked itself because there was no cook in the field of view.  It is the progressive success of the kingdom of God that men’s hearts are brought into submission to the law of God regarding the preservation of their neighbor’s life. This came through the preaching of the gospel over the past five hundred years. Even though his friends may have no knowledge of Jesus Christ, those men were enjoying the fruit of gospel as it has transformed our culture and law.  Men with changed hearts established laws for our body politic that upheld marriage, family wealth (inheritance laws),  industry (laws on theft), truth and so on. This is often referred to as God’s common grace.  These are the crumbs that fall to the dogs from the children at the table.  As our culture has substituted the laws of sinful men for the perfect law of God, we have seen exponential increases in crime. But even today, God’s restraint of sin through the means he has ordained is very great. All men would be wise to acknowledge this as the work of God’s grace and thank him for his restraint of sin. “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” Romans 1:21. Kiss the Son lest you perish in his wrath. Psalm 2:12

The rainbow is the sign of God's covenant never to destroy the earth again with a flood. As long as earth remains, seed time and harvest, summer and winter, hot and cold, day and night will not cease. Implicit in this promise to sustain the earth is the promise to restrain the wickedness of man so that God's justice does not require a temporal judgment so severe as to destroy the earth. Concurrent with this promise in Genesis 8 is the command for men to shed the blood of those who shed human blood. With this authority  God established the means through which he would accomplish this restraint of evil. 

Anyone who thinks this authority unnecessary has no more wisdom or foresight than a pilot who thinks airplane engines are not necessary to sustain flight.  

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