You Can Ignore Your Law School Dean If What They Say Isn’t Scriptural

You Can Ignore Your Law School Dean If What They Say Isn’t Scriptural August 27, 2015

Hemant Mehta drew attention to a statement by the dean of Liberty University’s law school, claiming that the government has no authority to legislate or require anything, except that which is scriptural.

It was pointed out in a comment on the post on Facebook that this claim is the exact opposite of the point Paul makes in Romans 13. He doesn’t say “obey authorities, but only inasmuch as they do what we know in advance from Scripture that God wants.” He says that the rulers, who did not accept Jewish Scripture or Christian claims, ought to be obeyed, because despite their not accepting the one God, they are nonetheless ordained by God to rule.

And so here’s the take-away point: Presumably if your “Christian” right-wing “law” “school” dean appeals to Scripture while in fact saying the opposite of what it says, the Biblical thing to do is to either ignore them, or to stand up to them. Because surely no dean has authority to say things like this which clearly contradict Scripture?

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  • Michael Wilson

    James, if I might play devil’s advocate here, does Romans 13 mean Christians had a moral obligation to report Jews to the Gestapo or return runaway slaves to their masters before the emancipation? What the dean says is fundamentally true, if you believe scripture teaches morality. I don’t believe it does, but that is another question. I would argue Paul meant that authorities should be obeyed as it pertains to moral rule, but not if it ordered immoral action, like worshiping Caesar. I imagine Liberty university might take exception to a lot more Roman policy than Paul, but I don’t think they would disagree that the state is not the highest authority and one does not have a moral obligation to obey every order it gives.

    • I think it can be moral to disobey authorities. I just don’t think Romans 13 supports that. She could easily have appealed to Acts 5:29, with its emphasis on obeying God rather than people when a choice must be made.

      • Michael Wilson

        Which is contrary to the point Metha is trying to make, or maybe that isn’t the point he’s making, but just isn’t a deep thinker.

        It is true that Paul doesn’t elaborate on when one may disobey authority. Hell he doesn’t elaborate on what is authority. Are we obligated to do what any one with a clenched fist demands? But he isn’t writing political tracts but a one off message for a particular circumstance. But I don’t think he would have thought any order was to obeyed, no matter how vile, do you think he would? What the dean is using this for through is Paul’s idea that government is sanctioned by God to persecute evil doers. In this concept government need not be Christian to be approved by God but it must use the sword against the wicked. Presumably then if someone said they are the authorities, but engages in crime and wickedness and persecutes the good, they aren’t really the authorities. Simple?

        • One can speculate about unspoken nuances of Paul’s thinking. But I think it is fairly clear that what Paul actually wrote in Romans 13 is not what the dean in the video claims that he did.

          • Michael Wilson

            Her claim is that Romans teaches that governments gain their authority from God. I don’t think that is out of line with its meaning. I don’t see how she is misrepresenting Paul here. She isn’t quoting Romans, again only citing that the authorities legitimacy comes from God. I think that is an accurate understanding of this, that Paul does not acknowledge the Romans own belief about the legitimacy of their Empire, but says that it is nonetheless legitimate because God gives it authority, that apart from God’s authority, Rome has none of its own.

            Metha takes exception to this, but really I imagine, he is bothered by the belief that “scripture” is the standard by which to judge law. I doubt he would be so condemning of a law dean that argued that one didn’t have an obligation to obey a law requiring discrimination against minorities or to commit war crimes.

        • Phil Ledgerwood

          I think that Paul is basically saying, “Right now, the Roman government is the only thing keeping an angry Jewish power structure from killing us in the streets. So, do what they say so we’ll stay on the right side of all this. If we start disobeying or rebelling, we’ll find ourselves on the other end of their sword just like our persecutors.”

          What ramifications this has for American legal theory, I’m not sure, but it probably isn’t that we can disobey any law that doesn’t come from the Bible.

          • Michael Wilson

            Phil, I took time today to watch her full address and I recommend others do so if there interested in this snippet from RWW.

            I think when people gere scripture, they assume meanings that are not intended. Progressive Christians believe governments should pursue law in accordance with their understanding of scripture and so do the people at Liberty. This does not mean leviticus. This means applying what they call scriptural morals, which she believes means also freedom of religion and speech. The specifics I’m not sure about, but ultimately I wager it conforms to an idea of just law. It doesn’t mean you don’t have to register your car if that isn’t in the bible. Most of Rome’s laws and taxes are not found in the bible. They have a theory of biblical justice here just as progressive Christians do, they just have a different system to determine it.