The 10 Commandments
(Part 2)

Dateline: 6 April 2015
In the crook of the nine tree...
(click drawing  to see a larger view)

In Part 1 of this series I introduced the idea of learning the 10 Commandments. I explained that God’s law, as distilled into the 10 Commandments, gives us a standard of human perfection that is humanly unattainable, therefore making it abundantly clear that we are all sinners (that includes you too). 

Sin separates us from God because God is holy. But God solved the separation problem by coming to earth Himself in the person of Jesus Christ and allowing his lowly created beings to brutally kill him. In so doing, Jesus paid the penalty for the sin of all those who come to him, thus restoring them to proper relationship with God. Only a loving God could come up with a solution like that.

This matter of sin (sometimes referred to as the transgression of God’s law) is actually a popular topic of discussion in our society. Read the news on any day of the week and you’ll be reading about all kinds of people who have committed sins, or are accused of committing sins. Pick a sin: murder, theft, rape, extortion, sodomy, arson, bribery, pornography, adultery, child abuse. Yes, sin certainly is a major news story and topic of discussion.

We can also simply look at ourselves and find sin. If our sins are not of the sensational, news-making sort mentioned above, every one of us is surely guilty of the more subtle sins like pride, lust, envy, selfishness, lying, gossiping, and so on. 

The reason we see many sins mentioned in the news is that many sins are against the law. It so happens that the punishment of certain sins is one of the most legitimate functions of government in a civil society. The most obvious example being that of murder. If one person murders another, then the civil authorities have a responsibility to punish the sinner. 

This punishment is known as justice, and justice serves to not only stop the murderer from committing more murder, it also sends a message to other potential murderers that if they commit the same sin, they will meet with similar justice. It is justice (the civil punishment for certain sins) that, if carried out fairly and consistently, ensures a safe and stable society.

That said, I’d like to take a look at the phrase, “You can’t legislate morality!” 

It’s really an odd thing to say because morality is nothing more than an understanding (or definition) of right and wrong, and all legislation (laws) are based on someone’s understanding of right and wrong. Laws are, in fact, codifications of morality. So, it's just plain silly to say you can't legislate morality.

Knowing that, the question that every civil society needs to ask itself is, “What morality, or whose moral system, will we use for our system of law and justice?”

Historically speaking, the organized system of law and justice in America, beginning with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, came in large part from William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England

Blackstone (1723-1780) was an English jurist who recognized God’s law, as revealed in scripture, as the only legitimate moral foundation for civil law. This short YouTube film introduces Blackstone’s beliefs about law and scripture.

This Web Page about Blackstone's Commentaries has the following quote:

In his 1941 book The Mysterious Science of the Law Daniel Boorstin wrote that no other book except the Bible played a greater role in the history of American institutions. The Founders of the country found their philosophy in John Locke and their passion in Thomas Paine, but they found the blueprint for a new nation in Blackstone.

There is an interesting story related to Blackstone’s Commentaries and the famous evangelist Charles Finney (1792-1875).  As a young man studying law, Finney was a skeptic of Christianity.  His reading of Blackstone’s Commentaries, with numerous Biblical references, led Finney to purchase a Bible. When Finney read the Bible, he became a Christian and, eventually, an evangelist. 

I’m on a rabbit trail here, but I’ll circle around to my main discourse after this… 

The story of Charles Finney reading the Bible and coming to Christ is pretty much what happened to Rosaria Butterfield (in more recent history). Rosaria was a tenured English professor at Syracuse University. She was a radical lesbian. Her academic interests centered around feminist theory and queer theory. 

As part of a research project on evangelical Christianity, Rosaria read the Bible. She wanted to understand why Christians thought the way they thought. More than just reading the Bible, she put hours and hours into actually studying it. Then, like Charles Finney, she became a convert to Christianity. Rosaria left the lesbian lifestyle and married a pastor. There is more to the story and you can hear it in This Interview.

It was the English people who, so long ago, came to the understanding that God’s law was a more dependable and fair moral authority than that of a monarch (I'm thinking here of the Magna Carta). The reason being, God’s law was transcendent; it was a moral authority that came from outside the sinful tendencies of mere men. 

As a mere man, a monarch was inclined to define law and morality in ways that served his own selfish best interests. Besides that, mere men are inclined to be arbitrary and capricious.

But God’s law is neither arbitrary nor capricious. It is a rock-solid, dependable moral authority that defines right and wrong. Such a law is the surest support for civil law, justice, and the stability of any civilization. 

You don’t need to be a Christian believer to understand the value of a immutable moral standard as the foundation of a national system of law and order. It’s just common sense. 

Now, as we all know, the transcendent moral authority of God’s law (the foundation of much of American jurisprudence) is in the process of being jettisoned. God is no longer feared or honored by the majority of Americans, and his moral authority is dismissed as a relic with no useful value.

The most glaring example of this in the news these days is the whole movement to redefine marriage. God clearly established marriage as a union between a man and a woman. When the civil institutions of a nation decide that God's law on this matter is no longer the moral authority for marriage, we leave the safety of God's law and enter into the bizarro world of marital anarchy; marriage will be redefined again and again to include all manner of perversions.

Anyone, like myself, who asserts that God’s law, as found in scripture, is a far more reliable standard than the varying moral whims of our cultural milieu, is characterized as an ignorant, intolerant hater who wants America to be a theocracy. (that’s not what I believe, by the way)

So this nation, once secure in it’s understandings of right and wrong, is now in a state of moral flux and confusion. We are a nation adrift. All our institutions are faltering. Even many churches are in a state of moral confusion. We are a civilization in decline. Tyranny is rising.

Perhaps we should reconsider the value of God’s unwavering standard of morality as the foundation for law and justice.


So I have not taught you the 9th Commandment, using the “nine tree” as I said I would in my previous essay. But I needed to get these thoughts out of my brain. I will show you how to remember (and never forget) the 9th Commandment in my next blog post. Really, I will.


Jim Huskins said...

So be it, Herrick. Well and powerfully said.

Christopher Cerfus said...


Not only was this post great, it also improved my vocabulary a great deal. I had to look up about 4 words. :D

Herrick Kimball said...

Thank you. That is a fine looking watermelon you are holding in your picture.

It's so much easier to look up words with the internet than it was in the old days, when I was young. I hope I used the words correctly.

Sheila Gilbert said...