What makes a law unjust

Discussion in 'Faith, Devotion & Formation' started by bwallac2335, Feb 17, 2021.

  1. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

    Posts:
    1,767
    Likes Received:
    1,671
    Country:
    America
    Religion:
    Anglican
    Without it there’s simply no other objective ground for you to decide questions of justice. Can spoiled milk be sold? For how much? Who should set the price?

    Or even, are guns allowed? Who says? How many guns, what kind?

    These are simply irreconcilable questions, even among Christians, without the objective common ground of nature, “the way the world is”, “how gravity makes things fall down”, “the way human nature is”, etc.
     
  2. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    1,410
    Likes Received:
    1,558
    Country:
    Australia
    Religion:
    Anglican
    Earlier we were discussing it is more of an approach rather than something codified, like say the decalogue.

    The question of slavery is apposite as to what you are saying, for when slavery was acceptable people accepted that the Bible either allowed or was silent on the subject, which I think many today struggle with, and would argue that slavery is counter the propositions and tenure of scripture. Natural Law also does not get off the hook on that question either.
     
    Stalwart likes this.
  3. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    1,535
    Likes Received:
    731
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican Christian
    The topic and question presented by the O.P. have to do with whether a law (by implication a man-made law) is just or unjust. Physical laws such as gravity or the speed of light are not man-made laws, and there can be no question of them being just or unjust... they simply are the way they are. Since these are being referred to as part and parcel with the natural law, I do not understand the relevance of "natural law" to the question about man-made laws and whether they are just laws.

    As for spoiled milk, isn't that called "kefir" or "buttermilk"? :laugh: The sale of raw milk is not forbidden in the Bible in any way, shape or form (this is the objective ground for deciding), and therefore I conclude that the sale of raw milk is not immoral and should not be illegal. A law forbidding its sale is an unjust overreach of government. Let the market (people) decide and choose whether they want to buy it or to buy processed milk instead.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2021
  4. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

    Posts:
    1,767
    Likes Received:
    1,671
    Country:
    America
    Religion:
    Anglican
    Right. And that "is-ness", that natural sense of how things are is where justice is derived from. Justice is derivative from nature.

    Justice emerges out of things happenings precisely as they ought. When a ball is released, it should drop down; and when it does, that's proper, that's normal. When someone's item is stolen, it should go back to them; but when it doesn't go back to its owner, a crisis happens. The natural order of things, in some sense reality itself, has broken down. And that's what we call injustice. To correct it, steps have to be taken, to restore the justice, the normal order of things, when everyone has what is his, when the ball falls down from gravity, when the lion cub clings to his mother, when things are as they are.

    That's how the method of natural law reasoning works.
     
  5. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    1,664
    Likes Received:
    529
    Country:
    UK
    Religion:
    CofE
    Neither is driving a fast car on a line of crack or half a bottle of moonshine, forbidden in The Bible.
    I wouldn't say a law against it 'is an unjust overreach of government' though.
    The difference is only one of scale, not principle. :yes:
    .
     
  6. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    1,410
    Likes Received:
    1,558
    Country:
    Australia
    Religion:
    Anglican
    Classic Capitalism.

    MMXX has given to the world the possibility to re-think the link and responsibilities between Government and Public Health.

    One of the results of urbanisation was the extension of the supply chain, and in the case of Milk this proved problematic, and as a result a number of means were resolved to retain the advantages of milk without the level of danger (Pasteurization and Homogenisation). Since that time Refrigeration has stepped up along with other methods of processing.

    Is it reasonable to ask the government to re-examine the issues in light of developments? YES.

    Is the weight of this really a justice issue? Probably Not.
     
  7. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    1,535
    Likes Received:
    731
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican Christian
    Look at the fundamental difference between your example and the milk example. In the former, someone is endangering other people's lives and those people have no choice in the matter; occupants of other vehicles are put at great risk unknowingly and the inebriated driver has failed to "love thy neighbor" and to "do unto others as you would have done unto you," so we have a Scriptural basis for prohibiting the behavior. In the latter, someone is choosing to accept the slight personal risk of becoming ill by buying and consuming raw milk; anyone who does not want to take that risk is free to buy the processed milk.
     
  8. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    1,535
    Likes Received:
    731
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican Christian
    What concept of justice derives from the speed of light? Or that up is up and down is down? Or that gravity on earth is fairly constant? :confused:

    Looking at the philosophical aspects of "natural law" that were contributed by, say, the Greeks, what concept of justice can be derived as a constant truth from the ideas of a polytheistic society? O_o
     
  9. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    1,410
    Likes Received:
    1,558
    Country:
    Australia
    Religion:
    Anglican
    Christianity in it's claim that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, is no no sense making a claim that there is nothing else but falsehood everywhere else. There are many Biblical passages that spell that out for us, however perhaps Paul is the Areopagus, where he argued, not that they were wrong so much as that there was more to the story.

    Currently we believe that it is not possible to travel faster than the speed of light. There is no question as to the rightness or wrongness of this idea, and perhaps it is a limitation that one day we may overcome.

    There is a thread of Pragmatism (I mean the philosophical concept not the matter of being pragmatic) which lives within Christianity. I think Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 laid that bare when we says now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.

    Gravity is not wrong, however we also know that the things that cause gravity are in the main beyond our control. Indeed we have harnessed our experience of gravity, for without it the concept of moving house would be very different. Things stay place where we put them, without some intervention my glasses will be where I left them. These are not moral questions, they are not matters of justice.

    I everything we taught was only what could be shown in the Bible, our perspective on life would be very limited. Richard Hooker reminds us of the importance of Scripture, Tradition and Reason.

    Barring possibly the election of Matthias, there is little in scripture to support democracy, and I know that both Henry VIII and James I/VI both felt that the rule of Kings was what was the witness of Scripture. Most Western Christians however feel the very Greek concept of Democracy is eminently suited to the governance of peoples, both Christians and Non-Christians.
     
  10. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

    Posts:
    1,767
    Likes Received:
    1,671
    Country:
    America
    Religion:
    Anglican
    Natural truths (mathematics, science) don’t depend on Christian revelation. Someone can figure out how to be more logical, consider more evidence, discover principles of human behavior, even better than a Christian.

    And while ancient society was polytheistic, the ancient philosophers were monotheist, stating from Plato himself who formulated the One Being which is above all beings, and Aristotle who proved the existence of the omnipotent Immovable Mover who moves the entire universe.

    Not that it matters of course, since even a polytheistic thinker, if he looked at reality better than a Christian did, could arrive at natural answers better than a Christian would.

    St Paul teaches that even the nonChristian humanity is governed by the unspoken universal law which everyone accepts as valid. Let’s then use this common ground, I’m not sure what else I need to say.
     
  11. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    1,535
    Likes Received:
    731
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican Christian
    Do you folks think that a law permitting homosexuals to marry each other is based on natural law? If you don't, do you think there are plenty of people in the world who disagree and who think it is based in natural law?

    Do you think that a law authorizing at-will abortions is based on natural law? What's the consensus in the world?

    Some countries outlaw Christianity. I suspect they'd say such a law is based on natural law. Is it?
     
  12. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    1,535
    Likes Received:
    731
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican Christian
    The early fathers who mentioned natural law, I'm reasonably sure, felt that natural law derived from God. If I'm not mistaken, even John Locke felt this to be true and this was the basis of his concept of natural law. But something seems to have happened after the time of Locke.

    Is it possible that humanists have, in the past century or so, redefined "natural law" to broaden it and make it less dependent on the existence of the One true God? If we are going to use a Wikipedia-like definitions of natural law and include the influences of rationality and intellectualism, have we perhaps lost the old, intended meaning of the phrase?

    Laws try to prevent, forbid, or discourage wrong from being done to people. All morality, all wrong vs. right, is defined as God saw fit to define it. If something isn't wrong in God's eyes, it shouldn't be illegal. If we formulate laws on any other basis than that which God saw fit, I think we're using humanist concepts. And human concepts of right, wrong, wise, and foolish are like shifting sands.

    In other words:
    yes, man's laws should be based on natural law; but
    no, man's laws should not be based on the "remake," the modern concept of natural law that we are being taught by an overwhelmingly unbelieving world. What do you think about that?
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2021
  13. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    1,535
    Likes Received:
    731
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican Christian
    Jesus never labeled slavery a sin. Nor did the apostles in their writings. Back then, people often indentured themselves (became slaves) voluntarily (or we might say semi-voluntarily due to overwhelming circumstances that made it a better choice than the alternative). Involuntary servitude would have been (and still can be) equated to kidnapping and/or wrongful confinement. The Israelites took some slaves (for involuntary servitude) in the Promised Land, but IIRC they did so in disobedience to God's command to kill all those inhabitants. But if I've missed something on the subject from the Bible, feel free to refresh my memory.
     
  14. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

    Posts:
    1,767
    Likes Received:
    1,671
    Country:
    America
    Religion:
    Anglican
    Yes, please don’t use the Wiki article on natural law, for the love of all that is holy. It is a few genuine facts that are mixed with wild distortions, and misinterpretations. You can even find Roman propaganda in how Thomas Aquinas gets cited at every opportunity. Please stay away from Wikipedia, it is cancer for the eyes.

    Try this recent book instead:
    Natural Law: A Brief Introduction and a Biblical Defence
    https://davenantinstitute.org/natural-law/
     
  15. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    1,410
    Likes Received:
    1,558
    Country:
    Australia
    Religion:
    Anglican
    So slavery is a OK thing? from a Christian perspective?

    wedgewood.jpg

    My view quite simply is that it is not. We have been created in the image and likeness of God, and I do not find the image and likeness of God in the practice of slavery. Whilst Paul did not specifically condemn it, he was happy to plead Onesimus', a slave, cause to Philemon.

    no longer as a slave but more than a slave—a beloved brother, especially to me but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.
    Philemon 1:6​
     
  16. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    1,410
    Likes Received:
    1,558
    Country:
    Australia
    Religion:
    Anglican
    This is an interesting question. For a long time the argument was held that procreation was primary function of humankind, one which we shared with the animal kingdom, and it is clear that male and female are required for procreation, and accordingly the proposition was held that this was a clear example of natural law at work showing us what is right and true. The argument presented in the Holiness Code is in the context of Israel holding itself to a higher standard and therefore not behaving like their former captors 'walk not like and Egyptian', may well follow this pattern, especially if it falls within the period of the Exodus, and in hard conditions the survival of the race is important.

    I recent times there have been various examples of same sex attraction noted in the animal kingdom, and the earlier arguments of natural law are called into question. The song made famous by Lady Gaga (not normally noted as theological) 'born like this' represents a natural law argument based on the idea that same sex attraction is innate in some people's makeup, and not a wrongdoing of choice.

    On a conservative Anglican site, we would probably be keen to distinguish between actions and persons, given that we are assured that persons are beloved of God, whilst our actions may not be. I think the arguments from natural law may be extended in both directions, which is why I do not see it as an outright reliable guide.

    Probably not.

    I am not sure that there would be an argument that could be argued from natural law for outlawing Christianity.
     
  17. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    1,535
    Likes Received:
    731
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican Christian
    Enslaving people against their will is certainly immoral. Accepting voluntary slavery of another for a specified period would not be immoral, so far as I can glean from Scripture.

    This is an interesting passage.... :hmm:
    Lev 25:39 “If your brother becomes poor beside you and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave:
    Lev 25:40 he shall be with you as a hired worker and as a sojourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee.
    Lev 25:41 Then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own clan and return to the possession of his fathers.
    Lev 25:42 For they are my servants, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves.
    Lev 25:43 You shall not rule over him ruthlessly but shall fear your God.
    Lev 25:44 As for your male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are around you.
    Lev 25:45 You may also buy from among the strangers who sojourn with you and their clans that are with you, who have been born in your land, and they may be your property.
    Lev 25:46 You may bequeath them to your sons after you to inherit as a possession forever. You may make slaves of them, but over your brothers the people of Israel you shall not rule, one over another ruthlessly.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2021
  18. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    1,535
    Likes Received:
    731
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Anglican Christian
    I purchased the Kindle version for about $3 and will have a look at it (when time permits). Thanks for the recommend.
     
    Stalwart likes this.
  19. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    1,410
    Likes Received:
    1,558
    Country:
    Australia
    Religion:
    Anglican
    I think a fair reading for that is that you may not make slaves of your fellow Israelites, but the rest of the world is fair game. Israelites who become slaves to resolve indebtedness, can only be slaves till the next jubilee (every 50th year was a year of jubilee). Foreigners and the children of foreigners can be held in slavery in perpetuity.

    That of course is not a question of natural law here, but rather it has been codified. For us, for my money, this falls within the ambit of Article VII, and represents

    Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.​
     
  20. Tiffy

    Tiffy Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    1,664
    Likes Received:
    529
    Country:
    UK
    Religion:
    CofE
    I don't actually disagree with the point you are making about 'natural' law here, so my comment is probably not relevant to the point you are driving home.

    Here is something to think about though:

    Do we actually have a LAW permitting heterosexual couples to marry?

    Or does the law simply recognise that sexual relationships are naturally going to happen, because heterosexuals will do it naturally anyway, but there are certain aspects of that 'natural' behavour which require regulation in the interests of society as a whole, to discourage promiscuity and encourage constancy in monogamy, (where monogomy is enforced by law)?

    If that is indeed the case, it could be argued by homosexuals that their behaviour is according to their nature, (because 'normal' to them seems unnatural), so the same regulations are necessary, they would argue, in the interests of society at large, to promote monogamous relationships between homosexuals, (as it does with heterosexuals), rather than 'unnatural' promiscuity, which threatens society at large.

    Interestingly this tends I think to agree with your main point regarding how 'natural' law does not offer much of a basis upon which to define issues of justice or morality.
    .