The Law of Man
February 20, 2020 · C.E. Carter
One of the peculiar facts about man is that he considers himself to be a distinct entity from the Natural World which he inhabits. In his own eyes, he is the Great Explorer of the Universe; he cannot tear his gaze away from its beauty and possibility, nor does he desire to make his hands rest from productivity and creativity. To cease exploration and work would be to cease a great deal of human activity. This is how the ancient Hebrews conceptualized death: in Sheol (the nether world), there is no activity, no work, no progress, no way to praise God. Life is characterized by activity; in death, there is no activity.
We have discussed previously how man accomplishes his great Exploration using his faculties of Observation and Reason, from which he is able to discern the existence of the Laws of Nature. Man’s ability to set himself apart from the workings of the Universe, at least in his mind, allows himself to consider the meaning of such Observations with respect to the Laws of Nature. He is able to remove himself as an agent of “mechanism” from whatever phenomenon he observes, except in the case when he is acting as the causal initiator of an experiment. Neither his mind nor his being have any bearing on the mechanism of The Law of Gravitation, for example; the Law is something distinct from him, which he himself is distinct from.
The ability to create an abstraction of a phenomenon is a great philosophical advancement that has allowed him to make monumental leaps and bounds in all disciplines of thought. However, ambiguity is confronted when he turns the microscope on himself. The more that man sees himself as a sovereign individual observer of the Created Order, and not as part of that Created Order himself, the greater his tendency will be to believe that he is only an observer of Law, above Law, such that no Law exists which governs the way which he ought to be. Perhaps he thinks he is too complex to have a Law, or perhaps he thinks that he needs to make his own Law to govern himself. In either case, when man regards himself as a separate entity from the Created Order, he ceases to believe that he is under Lawful governance.
We know from Observation and Reason that all things within Nature have a Law, and that they have a Law because God transacted a Law to them. The World acts in ways that can be comprehended by Reason, and therefore we infer that God created the World by means of Reason. Therefore, man is like any other created thing. He is an aspect of Creation, and therefore his being and his actions are governed by Law, just as the movements of objects with mass are governed by the Law of Gravitation. There is a natural and harmonious Order that man ought to act according to. Even the presence of Free Will in the mind of man would not be enough to refute its governance by Law. An apple governed by the Law of Gravitation ought to fall to the Earth when it is dropped, just as Law of man governs the Free Will of man by prescribing the way that it ought to behave. man ought not to commit murder or to commit adultery; he ought instead to be peaceful, forgiving, chaste, diligent, and righteous.
It is important to understand that the Law of man, also known as Moral Law or simply as Morality, is not a complete constraint on the mind of man that guides its every action. Within the scope of the Law, there is freedom to act in a multitude of ways. Moral Law forbids drunkenness, but it does not prescribe exactly how much alcohol is appropriate to drink, or when it is ok to drink, or what is appropriate to drink. There is room within the Law for the enjoyment of different kinds of alcohol in many different contexts. Some enjoy a couple drinks of whiskey or beer with friends, some enjoy a glass of wine with their spouse, and some choose not to drink at all. All are permitted under the Law. Lawful minds do not turn off their ability to think, or choose, or decide; to the contrary, they exercise great intentionality in their thinking and decision making.
Yet even the freedom given to act, create, and live within the parameters of the Moral Law is too little for the mind of man to be content with. He is a great peculiarity in the Universe, exercising his will to transgress the Moral Law and failing to behave as he ought to. man relegates his mind to violent acts of murder, slander, selfishness, and depraved fantasy. He willingly submits his body to all kinds of addiction, sexual deviance, violence, and uselessness. His transgression against the Law of man reaches down to the very core of his being: no fiber of his body and no stirring of his consciousness can escape the slavery of Lawlessness that he has subjected himself to. man is orients himself towards disharmony with himself and with others. Ironically, the guilt, shame, and self-hatred that man experiences by means of his conscience is some of the weightiest evidence that he is not only under Law, but is a transgressor of the Law written on his soul. “I am not perfect; I do not do everything I ought to do”, says man, his conscience informing him of the dysfunction within himself. Incapable of acting the way he ought to, he continues on in Lawlessness.
Thus, man is not only under the Moral Law, but is Lawless and incapable of restoring himself to Lawful behavior. Without this fact, there would be no use for Christianity. Christ came to restore Lawful order to a Lawless human race, not from without as human government and religion attempts to do, but from within by regenerating individual people one at a time. Christ’s death functions as a means of legal substitution for man, because He was willingly punished for man’s Lawlessness. Christ’s resurrection functions as an impartation of life, for if we die as He died, then we shall be raised as He was raised, for we are in Him. Christ’s ascension to the Father functions as an impartation of being made Lawful, for He ascended in order to send the Holy Spirit, who sanctifies the faithful. Thus, just as God wrote the Law of Gravitation and the Law of Man, so God wrote the Law of Grace, by which He would restore fallen man to right relationship with Himself: by faith, righteousness is imputed to man by the death of Christ, and by faith, righteousness is infused into man by the sanctifying work of the Spirit. Thus from within and from without, the grace of God restores man to Lawful order.