Two Views of Law
There was a time when Christians might have argued that society needed more laws. Nowadays we are more likely to feel the need of fewer laws – or at least fewer of the kind promulgated by the Anti-Discrimination Board (ADB) and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (HREOC). Today two very different approaches to law are confronting one another. Let us look at three contrasts, then at some possible consequences.
The first contrast is between the moral absolutes of the Bible and the prevailing view of moral relativism. The Bible says there are moral absolutes which God has revealed. We are not to worship any other god; we are not to take God's name in vain; we are to remember his day; honour our parents, and not murder, commit adultery, steal, bear false witness, or covet. But the HREOC and its like-minded allies do not believe in Christian moral absolutes. They believe that morality is relative, that 'truth' is in the eye of the beholder. Hence the one sin left is discrimination against anything. It was no surprise that in June 1998 the HREOC ordered the Catholic Education Office to allow a lesbian activist to teach in church schools. So far the Catholic Church has not buckled under this threat, for which we can be grateful. But we should expect more of the same kind of bullying from the HREOC and the ADB.
If there are no moral absolutes, then homosexuals cannot be discriminated against. They must take their place in schools, even Christian schools; they must be allowed to adopt children; and they must be free to 'marry'. For over a hundred years, Western society has increasingly built on the shaky foundation of moral relativism.
The second contrast is between impartiality and no discrimination. We will not argue about words but concepts. Sometimes a person might object to discrimination being shown against someone, and be quite justified in so doing. But the biblical concept of impartiality is very different from the modern opposition to discrimination. The Bible warns us not to show partiality either towards or against the poor (Exod. 23:3, 6; Lev. 19:15). Nor are we to oppress the stranger. Ruth, the Moabitess, was entitled to the same privileges under God's law as was the native Israelite. God's law is impartial.
It applies to all. Even the king has to obey it. When Ahab rode roughshod over God's law in murdering Naboth by taking his vineyard, God called him to account (1 Kings 21:1-3, 17-19).
Not so with the modern anti-discrimination approach. This works not with moral absolutes impartially applied, but with vaguely-defined 'rights'. The HREOC's latest brainchild is that it wants to outlaw religious discrimination. Strictly speaking, this means a New Ager could not be excluded from the church. In Victoria a recent fiasco concerned a Jewish woman who wanted to set up a Jewish agency. After an initial knock-back, she finally obtained permission to do so. Another example concerns the United Nations Convention on the Right of the Child. It guarantees the child's right to freedom of expression, and freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom of association, and freedom from arbitrary interference with his privacy. Does this mean a child can join a Satanist cult, or that a parent cannot enter the child's bedroom? Someone in the lofty regions of the HREOC will have to adjudicate on these questions. One thing we do know – a UN committee has already decreed that the child's freedom from 'degrading treatment or punishment' means that corporal discipline is to be outlawed both in schools and homes.
The third contrast is between the rule of law and the rule of lawyers. In 1973 the United States Supreme Court found the right to abortion in the United States Constitution's guarantee of the right to privacy. Only a lawyer, armed with a philosophy of moral relativism, could come to such an arbitrary conclusion. What was disturbing was not only what was done, but how it was done. To cite another example, in August 1998 the Executive Summary of the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties was published, after enquiries into the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This parliamentary committee advocates the immediate implementation of the Convention, and the establishment of an Office for Children to see that it is done.
Yet this is the opening paragraph in its report:
The Convention on the Rights of the Child is a wide-ranging instrument encompassing civil, cultural, economic, social and political rights of the child. The articles of the Convention are couched in general terms which are often open to a number of interpretations. While this allows States Parties a margin of appreciation in implementing the Convention in a manner compatible with their culture, in Australia this has led to continuing confusion and concerns about its implementation.
In other words, this Convention will radically change things: we do not know where we are going, but we are certain that we want to get there! Small wonder that C.S. Lewis declared: 'It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.'
The consequences of the modern approach will be:
- Confusion. What exactly is discrimination?
- The possibility of tyranny. The ADB and HREOC will be the unelected judge, jury and executioner in any case.
- Chaos. True law and order will break down even further as there will be no clear ideas of right and wrong.
- No forgiveness. If there is no such thing as sin, there can be no such thing as forgiveness.
But there is nothing new in this. As Isaiah put it: 'Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!' (Isa. 5:20).