Logophile on Law

Law is a word that fools us. Since law has serious impact on our lives we need to understand the term and how to use it properly. Importantly, we need to be aware of how it is used against us.

Some people come under the penalty of law, when the “law” used against them was not a “law” at all. You are most likely fooled by the use of “law”. So it is important that you understand the word, how it is used and what implications it has in your life.

Law is a Vague Term

Some words are used in multiple applications, with different meanings. A young woman tells her infant brother that she wishes to marry a man because she ‘loves’ him. The infant then replies that he is going to marry chocolate, because he ‘loves’ chocolate.

Love is used so broadly that its technical meaning varies in different situations. You can love sport while sport is not the love of your life. You can love your spouse, but also love getting away on your own.

The ancient Greeks used several different words for our English word ‘love’, differentiating between: attraction to the appearance of a thing; humanitarian or family concern; sexual attraction; and sacrificial commitment for the good of others.

Law is similarly a vague term. It refers to such unchangeable things as the laws of nature, but also to such changeable things as the rules of a club.

It’s the Law

When someone informs you that something “is the Law!” you can be misled as to their meaning. What type of ‘law’ is it? Who made that law? By what is it enforced? What are the consequences of breaking that law? Who is bound by that law?

Many things are the ‘law’ and have profound consequences for some people, yet can be completely ignored by others. Just because something is “the law” doesn’t mean most of us have to give any credence whatsoever. The trick is to know what is ‘law’ and what is ‘law’. That is, we need to differentiate between one law and another.

Others May but I May Not

A police officer is bound by more laws than the average citizen. Anyone who has sworn an oath of office, taking on special responsibility, is under stricter controls than normal citizens. For example, ordinary citizens are not bound by law to give their name to a police officer, but a police officer must give his name to any citizen who asks for it.

Lawyers and Barristers have sworn special allegiance to the courts, in order to be allowed to deal with the special legal matters of the court. So an ordinary citizen has much greater freedom in a court of law than their legal team does.

It is a case of “others may, but I may not”. Others may ignore the instructions or demands of a judge, but a barrister does not have that privilege. Others may ignore the demands of a police officer (under certain circumstances) but a police officer may not ignore the demands made of him or her.

Categories of Laws

Here are some of the various types of law that impact you in your normal life. There is Divine Law, Natural Law, Common Law, Imperial Law, Constitutional Law, Statute Law, Local By-Laws, Club Rules and House Rules. There are also such laws as the Laws of Nature, Maritime Law, Contract Law and International Law.

Divine Law involves mankind’s moral accountability to the Creator, who is the ultimate moral being and who holds all people accountable against His own moral standards. Such laws as the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus Christ convey man’s moral responsibility to God’s Law.

Natural Law involves the natural rights and responsibilities which attend natural existence. Such things as the right to self-defence and the right to maintain and sustain life are included here.

Human Legality

While Divine and Natural Law seem to be the most basic foundation for law, they are not man-made, but spring from either the nature of our existence or the One who created us. So the next areas of ancient law (Common Law and Imperial Law) represent the early expressions of human law which have passed to many nations.

Common Law is the body of laws which developed in England over centuries, where God’s Law, especially as expressed in the Book of Deuteronomy, was applied to situations and codified into a body of rights and responsibilities. Common Law is principally focussed on limiting people’s impact on others (no murder, injury or theft) and making people accountable for their own actions (bound by their promises).

Imperial Law involves all the laws of English monarchs, which further codified Biblical, Natural and Common Law into principles by which due legal process is to be applied. Such documents as the Magna Carta from over 700 years ago are still upheld as foundations for legal practice and principle followed today. Most English speaking and former British Empire nations have ratified their continued reliance on Imperial Law. Imperial Laws have not decayed with time, but are enduring elements of what is law and lawful today.

Modern Law

While all those laws mentioned so far are perfectly modern in their validity, most unlearned citizens think of them as somehow outmoded and not relevant today. Modern people think of their nation’s constitution and the government-enacted laws (statutes) as modern law.

Constitutional Law involves that body of law which is created to define a nation and how it will operate, politically and legally. Many nations have a constitution: that which constitutes (brings together) the nation itself. All of the parts are the constituents. All legal and political practice within the nation has to be based on the law that “constitutes” (or creates) the nation.

Statute Law involves all those “laws” which are created by governments. Once a nation has been constituted (via its Constitution) its elected or appointed officials may need to create the Rules for the effective operation of the nation. Those “laws” are actually “statutes”. They are rules which are given the force of law, and are generally treated as equal to those higher laws upon which the government has been founded. Statutes are binding upon the members of the club or society which created them.

Local Law involves those rules which are created by local councils, regional administrations, clubs (for their members), social organisations, etc. For example: a student at one school is told that he must wear a particular uniform on certain days. But that localised rule, while effectively the “law” for some students, has absolutely no hold over students attending a different school. One local council may prohibit the lighting of fires in people’s yards, while the neighbouring city might encourage such fires. Local laws only apply to those who are bound by them, by membership of some group or other.

Question The Law

Which laws apply to you? If other people create a rule for them and their club, does that have any hold over you? Is the law being applied to you a Divine moral responsibility, or is it simply a statute made up to facilitate social order?

Is the law that is being pressed upon you really a law at all? If a local or statute law is against the higher laws on which they stand, then can it be a lawful law at all?

Can a government morally uphold a law that rejects or breaks God’s Law? Can a local or state government legally create a law that violates that nation’s Constitution?

When someone tells you “It’s the Law”, what do they really mean? It may be “law” for them, but is it law for you? If two laws contradict each other, which law should you obey?

A Lawful Mind

The information and questions in this lesson are to prompt you to know where you stand before the law and how you should respond to the laws you are told to obey. I want you to have a deeper and richer understanding of the law than many of those around you who say, “It’s the Law!”

Give these matters some serious thought and seek to develop a wise and lawful mind.

‘This Holy Estate’ – Real Marriage

There is much fudgy thinking today and marriage is one of the areas where Christians can be as confused as anyone else. Considering that God invented marriage and it finds its greatest fulfilment as a representation of Christ and the Church (see Ephesians 5:32) Christians should be the first to have a good understanding of ‘Real Marriage’. My fourth son’s recent marriage brought to mind this subject yet again and my mind journeyed even further down some tracks it has trudged before. And I think I’m onto something that has fairly sweeping implications.

Before I get to my latest ‘rev’ on marriage I should let you know that my fourth son, Jonathan, married the lovely Katie Gunn a week ago. He, like his father and three of his brothers before him found a ‘treasure’ and made a ‘field’ out of her (which is a pretty lame pun on the man who found a treasure in a field and bought the field to have the treasure – it wasn’t any funnier when I said it at my own wedding over 30 years ago).

Now to the matter at hand. I have met many couples who have lined up with their personally created vows, ready to pledge their troth to one another, as if they are the architect of the relationship they are about to enter into. In the past few generations western culture has shifted from the idea that marriage is an historical reality which each new generation gets to enter into, to the notion that marriage is now malleable, able to be what the couple wants it to be. Since the 1970′s in particular, there have been notable examples of couples having a ‘tricky’ wedding – such as being wed underwater, while bunji-jumping, etc. This trend brought with it the notion that marriage is what ever the couple make it to be. The Australian government, under its previous Prime Minister, John Howard, sought to rein in this self-directed notion and to restore marriage as an institution which it expects its citizens to take seriously.

The idea that marriage is in the mind of the betrothed is strong, at least at a subliminal level. Couples want to have their dream wedding, with their choice of guests, their own vows and even their own idea of what the marriage will be. One couple told me they want a 50:50 marriage. We hear tell of the ‘open marriage’, the ‘trial marriage’ and other evidences that marriage is seen as adjustable, to suit the wishes of the couple.

Ah but here’s the rub ….. Marriage was not created by man. Marriage is not a social invention, nor a relationship of convenience, nor a reflection of past economic realities. Real Marriage, which is the only true marriage, is a ‘holy estate’ created by God. That is why the traditional western wedding ceremony starts with a description of what marriage is and then announces that “into this holy estate these two persons present come now to be joined” (quoted from the Book of Common Prayer 1928). However this modern wording is simply an updating of ancient lyrics. The wedding ceremony text recorded in the 1549 Prayer Book of King Edward VI states the same theme in ancient verbage and spelling: “Into the whiche holy estate these two presones present come noew to be ioyned.”

Western marriage has always been understood as something instituted by God, not by man. It is ‘This Holy Estate’ – a relationship which man is privileged to access, but which man has no power to dictate. The 1892 Anglican Prayer Book accounts for marriage as Holy Matrimony which is “an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church”. Because of the supreme quality and divine nature of This Holy Estate – Real Marriage, the Prayer Book goes on to warn that it “is not by any to he entered into unadvisedly or lightly ; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God.”

The eager young couple fronting up with their carefully re-worded vows and their desire for a wedding that has the stamp of their own individuality all over it, may well fail to realise the awesome significance of what they are about to do. Their notion of having some control over what the wedding is, may tempt them to think they have some control over what marriage. They may think they can excuse their own actions and thoughts, just as readily as they can modify their own wedding program. This is not so.

Whatever vows a couple come up with and whatever personal agreement they make in the form of their own wedding commitment – that couple has no power to alter, by one iota, what they are getting themsevles into. If, for instance, they agree to have an ‘open marriage’ where infidelity is allowed, God will ignore their arrangement and judge them based on what they did with what God created as a reflection of Christ and the Church. If the couple choose, as I know of some that have, that their marriage is not subject to the cultural mores of their family, and they will enter into a secret and peculiar arrangement of their own, including pre-marital sex, God will completely ignore their arrangement and judge them based on what they did with what God created as a reflection of Christ and the Church.

A godly wedding, such as Jonathan and Katie exemplified this past week, is a joy to all who see it. Marriage is a blessed relationship and I encourage all who have opportunity to enjoy it to do so in the fear of God. I am not down on marriage or young people. I am simply recognising one evidence of man’s tendency to become his own Lord and Master, where God does not give him leave to do so.

And, in closing, let me broaden the sweep of my brush. Most westerners live as if their own life were their ‘own’. They act as lords and masters of their own destiny. This is exactly the same disease that afflicts western marriage. The implications of what I am pointing out here sweep across all those places where we disband God’s reality and make up our own. Such behaviour is vile – yet ever so culturally acceptable, in the same way that tinkering with marriage is now seen as the expected thing. Hmmmmm… Methinks this goeth a long way – and methinks I will wax lyrical about it yet again in due course.