The Rule of Recognition
Working through some research about the state of the Church in America I came across a report about the mass exodus of young people from traditional churches. Those who study such things are asking "Why?"
Britt Beemer, former research analyst with the Heritage Foundation, headed a study which included over 20,000 phone interviews with young people who grew up in evangelical churches but left. The surprising conclusion is that they decide to leave in elementary and high school, long before reaching college. The "feel-good Gospel" has failed to hold them in the church because it is heavy on relationships but undermines the authority of the Bible.
I confess that I agree, even while understanding that relationship is at the core of law. The fault lies at the feet of intellectuals within the church who, at least in part, are responsible for undermining the validity of the Bible.
In his book "The Year of Living Biblically", author A.J. Jacobs wrote "The Bible isn't just another book. It's the book of books, as one of my commentaries calls it. I love my encyclopedia, but the encyclopedia hasn't spawned thousands of communities based on its words. It hasn't shaped the actions, values, death, love, lives, welfare and fashion sense of millions of people over three millennia. No one has been executed for translating the encyclopedia into another language, as was William Tyndale when he published the first widely distributed English-language edition of the Bible. No president has been sworn in with the encyclopedia."
He makes an excellent point. Any scholar worth his salt should recognize the clear evidence of history, that the singular most important book ever written is the Bible.
One scholar, Daniel Robinson wrote, "The oldest tradition in philosophy of law is theological." In other words, the law begins with God. Without him there is no basis for law. The first commandment is considered by several scholars to be more than a command because it provides the platform for all commands to exist. When God said, "I am Jehovah your God, who has brought you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage." (Exodus 20:2), he established the foundation for everything he says to Israel. All law rests upon his authority and extends from his character.
There is a philosophical concept called the Command Theory of Law that ties law into little more than the power of enforcement. By this theory the gun-toting robber who commands a victim to hand over his wallet then qualifies as a lawgiver.
The balancing factor is called the Rule of Recognition which says a law, to be valid, must pass all the tests of the rule of recognition. For example, is it okay for Wal-Mart to distribute drivers' licenses? Well, it would not be immoral, and they may even have a better process than the Department of Motor Vehicles, but Wal-Mart isn't the recognized authority. We all agree to recognize a common authority for that purpose.
Americans recognize the right of the federal, state and local governments to collect taxes. If a local department store decided to levy a tax on the local community, no thinking person would comply.
What lawmakers often fail to understand is that there is a lawmaker recognized by the majority of citizens. It is God. When kings and princes make laws contrary to the moral laws of God, they lose the support of citizens and eventually fall back on the Command Theory of Law. The result is rebellion. This country was founded under those circumstances.
The Declaration of Independence rejects the Command Theory of Law by appealing to the Rule of Recognition for citizens of this nation, declaring we have the right "...to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them...."
The Founding Fathers recognized the Supreme Lawgiver. Congresses are composed of men who have no right to impose laws that contradict either nature or God.
You may have seen a recent email chain that is making the rounds. It quotes all fifty state constitutions in this country which, as a preamble to giving law, express gratitude and dependence on God who is the lawgiver. Could this be mere accident, or did they understand the foundation for the source of law?
There is no king or body of legislators that has ever existed or ever will exist that can create laws that abolish those made by the original Lawmaker.
Until next time, Jim O'Brien