In our friend Fitz Allison’s insightful new book, Truth in an Age of Arrogance, I found a quote by someone I’d never heard of, Lord John Fletcher Moulton. I looked him up; he was a brilliant English mathematician and jurist at the beginning of the last century.
The words that Lord Moulton spoke which struck me are, “The greatness of a nation, its true civilization, is measured by the extent of its obedience to the unenforceable.”
Rule of Law is absolutely essential to freedom, commerce and justice. It’s the one essential which is sometimes missing in Russia, to the nation’s detriment—and also missing in some places and times in the U.S., like New Jersey and Atlanta a few years ago.
But Moulton points out that beyond enforceable laws, true civilization is marked by what citizens know to be right and wrong, without needing a secular law to tell them.
I think of drugs, abortion and sex outside marriage, to name a few. The laws on these three issues are all over the place. And they appear to be largely unenforceable. Yet all three seem simply wrong to me, with negative effects, sooner or later, on all who participate. I don’t need a law on the books to enforce my non-participation.
I believe that I came to this understanding primarily through family and faith. Teaching and Training. I worry that with Secularists pushing faith to the periphery of our culture, who will teach and train about right and wrong? Where will the rules come from? Darwinists? What kind of morality is Survival of the Fittest? The last time I checked, in romantically pristine Nature, everyone is ultimately someone else’s dinner.
Used to be, before we all demanded 24/7 entertainment, by the time you were twenty you’d heard about God’s truths from lots of sources. Schools. Churches. Family discussions at meals. Grandparents. American History.
How does a child growing up today in a secular family, insulated by political correctness, ever hear about grace, truth, and God’s laws?
Looking at these three issues, and others, it appears that John Adams was right:
“We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion…Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
— October 11, 1798
So as important as laws are, Christians today should focus at least as much on the fabric of our culture as on changing specific laws. When we demand that God’s Truth be brought back into the public square, for at least some to accept, the less battles over laws there will be.
Don’t give up. Introduce God’s truths to someone this week. And if that person blows you off and tells you for any of many reasons that he or she doesn’t need God, I’ve found that a great question to ask is “How is that working out for you?”
Then be quiet and wait for their answer. Usually, in some way, a door will open.