The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

The Logic of Law

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If there is no final authority, then there can be no law that has legitimacy. “If there is no absolute moral standard,” Francis A. Schaeffer wrote, “then one cannot say in a final sense that anything is right or wrong. By absolute we mean that which applies [to all people], that which provides a final or ultimate standard. There must be an absolute if there are to be morals, and there must be an absolute if there are to be real values. If there is no absolute beyond man’s ideas, then there is no final appeal to judge between individuals and groups whose moral judgments conflict. We are merely left with conflicting opinions.”[1]

As long as non-Christians were living off the memory of Christianity, Schaeffer’s logic was understood and accepted as true. As long as Christians still believed that there was a “Christian consensus,” then there was no need to develop and implement a social ethic since the majority of Americans shared the same moral values. Once the memory faded and the consensus evaporated, there was no longer a common reference point for doing ethics.

When the logic of secularism came to dominate colleges and law schools, secularism created a new memory and consensus and used the courts to impose them on the masses, Christian and non-Christian alike. Consider the following: “You’re standing on a street corner, and there’s a frail old lady with a heavy shopping bag in front of you. Trucks, buses, and cars are zipping by. You have three choices. You can ignore her [and do nothing]. You can [offer to] help her across. Or you can push her into the ongoing traffic.”[2]

What makes any of these decisions right or wrong? She’s a human being with rights? What is the origin of rights? They used to be God given, but we don’t officially acknowledge God anymore, and if we do, he, she, it is undefined. God is now made in our image, or, given the present religious climate, there is no god.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Again, who says? It’s a dog-eat-dog world. “You only go around once in life, so grab for all the gusto you can.” The Bible even gets in on the act. “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die” (Isa. 22:13; 1 Cor. 15:32; Luke 12:19). Given the prevailing worldview, why not?

The law says it’s wrong to kill frail old women. But what if the law were to change? Hitler killed “useless eaters” for high social reasons and made it a part of German law. The plan to exterminate or sterilize Jews was argued over points of law. Those who planned the Final Solution did it in terms of the law. See the real-time production Conspiracy for a chilling slice of Nazi history that was impeccably consistent with its operating presuppositions.

In his A Christian Manifesto, Schaeffer maintained that justice is based on “God’s written Law, back through the New Testament to Moses’ written Law; and the content and authority of that written Law is rooted back to Him who is the final reality. Thus, neither church nor state was equal to, let alone above, that Law. The base for law is not divided, and no one has the right to place anything, including king, state or church, above the content of God’s Law.” It’s a lesson we all need to heed.[3]


[1] Francis. A. Schaeffer, How Should We Then Live? (Westchester, IL: Crossway, 1983), 145.
[2] Charles Colson and Ellen Vaughn, Being the Body (Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, 2003), 201.
[3] Francis A. Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer (Westchester, IL: Crossway, 1982), 5:430.

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