Morality, Neutrality, Law, and Reformed Theology

Photo by steakpinball, flickr.comWith Congress in session we’re hearing many liberal proponents peddling phrases such as, “Laws are to be morally neutral and objective” or “You cannot legislate morality.” These statements (and many others like them couched in various forms, but always with the utmost vehemence) have been used to defend a variety of  governmental funding  and legislation, as well as to avoid legislation with particular moral implications.

I recently heard an argument intended to defend the federal funding of Planed Parenthood that went something like this: It costs $x00 (Some figure in the hundreds) to have an abortion, and it costs $x,000 (Some figure in the thousands; the exact number varies) for a child to be born in the hospital. It’s less expensive to abort a child than for him to be born. Therefore, if we were objective in our funding and legislation we would see the great benefit in funding organizations such as Planned Parenthood which provides abortions (the person making the argument claimed to be “personally pro-life” to demonstrate, no doubt, just how objective she is).

Now, the puerility and ignorance of such an argument runs so deep it would take too long to refute in total. But I do like to take such arguments as soapbox opportunities to push my agenda of Reformation thinking, so I will address the overarching idea of moral neutrality in legislation.

Because this is a soapbox opportunity I’m going to jump right in with some broad sweeping universals: All laws are moral in nature. All morals require a system of thought. All systems of thought are religious in nature.  All religions have a god. No liberal will recognize this. No neo-con will dare be this dogmatic or even shake hands with those who are.

Concerning my first dogmatic statement: How are all laws moral is nature? Because, morality concerns itself with what is right or wrong. And law[1], at the very least, even according  to the most liberal, concerns itself with the social well being (or good) of society. Combine these two truths and you’ve just admitted that law is very much concerned with morality . Romans 1:3-4 is very clear on this, “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” Laws do not make one moral, only the regenerating power of God does that, but they do restrain moral evils.

So, all laws are moral in nature. But couldn’t there be some morals that are neutral? This leads us to my second broad sweeping universal: all morals require a system of thought. There is no neutrality in thought. All thoughts spring forth from presuppositions (I know, more universals. For more on this read No Matter What You Think You’re a Presuppositionalist). From these presuppositions we deduce logically subsequent propositions. The collection of these propositions is a system of thought. This makes a person’s propositions or ideas only as strong as his starting presupposition. A person who doesn’t have a system but just one presupposition after another not rooted in any foundational principle is not only arbitrary, but untenable. One who claims it is good to save the trees must have an answer as to why. If they have an answer they have a starting principle (and thus, a system of thought). If they don’t have an answer, there is no reason to believe them.

Religion is simply a system of beliefs that worship and serve a being (anything, whether nature, an object of nature, the human ego, or the Triune Godhead). The being worshiped and served is the god of that system. Even the most liberal of individuals then who passionately oppose morals in legislation are just as religious as the Christian. Their religion has a different god with a different system of thought and different morals and thus, they desire different laws, but it is no less religious. To claim moral neutrality is simply to be dishonest or uncertain as to your religion.

Battles over legislation are religious battles. Religious battles are not as antiquated as one may think. When we push for or support legislation or support a congressman or senator as Christians (especially as Reformed) we must be sure what we are supporting is the religion of Christ and not some other religion. Is the law founded on Christ and His Word, or is it founded on some other god? Have you opted for the myth that there are neutral laws? Christ is sovereign over all things. Let us leave nothing for the rule of another god.

-Ben Murch

End notes:

[1] Every mention of law in this article is in reference to civil law.

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