If God exists and imparts divine law, then any society that ignores His laws is risking untold consequences. People who ignore or deny the law of gravity by jumping out a ten-story window earn severe consequences. Societies that ignore or deny the prohibition against murder or theft also suffer severe consequences. A society that rejects God may pass arbitrary laws that result in a loss of respect for the law by its citizens.
We also fail to consider it binding. If in our fallen condition we create our own laws, we are likely to revise them to better suit our selfish needs. A weak foundation for law creates a weak foundation for morality. We need laws that are unchanging and worthy of our obedience, but we cannot discover a consistent moral code within ourselves. If God does not exist, all things are permissible.
Christians Law – An Absolute Standard
One aspect Christians find troubling about the theory of legal positivism is that it builds law on an ever-changing foundation—the whims of governmental authorities or political superiors. Legal positivists, though, view it from a different perspective. They believe a law is desirable, since we and our laws are caught up in the process of evolution. Positivists believe laws are logically formulated by the state to best suit these evolving needs.
Christians believe this fixity exists in the moral order in the form of divine law, which is grounded in the immutable nature of God, a firm foundation that does not flex or evolve. Whitehead explains the superiority of a fixed system of law over a flexible one: “Law has content in the eternal sense. It has a reference point. Like a ship that is anchored, law cannot stray far from its mooring.”7 The Christian view of law produces a legal system that does not fluctuate according to our whims and preferences; rather, it remains constant and therefore just. This perspective provides law grounded on the absolute foundation of God as the ultimate Law giver.
Legal positivism cannot adequately explain the nature of law—why it is necessary and why human-determined law is not just. Christian legal theory, on the other hand, explains that law is necessary because we are universally in rebellion against God and His moral order, and we need earthly law based on His moral order to curb our rebellion. Further, our implementation of laws is always imperfect because our fallen nature prevents us from formulating and enforcing a totally just legal system. Christians believe that in spite of our corrupted, fallen nature we can, nevertheless, know God’s laws through general and special revelation.