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Criminal Law and a Christian View

Hello, my name is Dr. Caleb Fisher. I’m presenting a lecture here on biblical principles of criminal justice and government. And the first topic I want to discuss is kind of just the broader definition of how is justice even defined. Not just from scripture, but just in general, how do people define justice? And there are competing, competing definitions. Now not all those definitions are relevant for this class, but it’s helpful to kind of know philosophically where those big ideas are. The first one and these two ideas are, are linked, is retributive justice, redistributive justice rather. And social justice, which basically means you can imagine that those that are less fortunate, that were given less of an opportunity are some of the benefits of society from those that have done really well and have had a better opportunity. The benefits are spread around a bit that everybody has equal outcome, if you will. Now we’ll discuss reasons why that we would have a problem with that from a biblical perspective. But that is one very popular idea today. Social justice slash redistributive justice. And I’ll make the case later that the Bible has a different definition of social justice. Not that it rejects social justice, but as a slightly different definition of it. Another perspective on justice is utilitarianism, which is basically what is the greatest good for the greatest number of people. And there’s a lot to be said for that perspective. Of course. You don’t get to have the tyranny of the minority. But one of the problems with utilitarianism is that it also often allows for the tyranny of the majority. Where some people, the rights of the minority are excluded, case in point slavery in America, case in point abortion today. So we would reject that because rejects basic inalienable rights of life, liberty and property for all. Obviously, the other perspective we see is rights-based perspective. We’d probably at the Liberty unit universe would be, we’d be more comfort with life, liberty property, protecting those rights, making sure that those rights, that government protects those rights. And obviously, we’d be very much in favor of that. The caveat is that we can’t take a stand for those rights. The expense of caring for the poor, at the expense of social justice. So how do we balance those? And we’ll talk about that a little bit further. We can also talk about virtue perspectives, things like virtue, kindness, love, compassion, justice, all those things are all kind of these nebulous but very wonderful sounding goals that will, well, how do we embrace those? Those are more about the individual heart attitudes, if you will, an individual behavior. But does that really speak to all of society? That’s a question we’ll try to answer today. And finally, retributive justice, which I misspoke. I said that earlier I was saying redistributive justice, retributive justice. If you do something bad, you’re going to get it. And obviously there’s a place for that. It’s scripture, there’s a place for that, a need for that in society. But justice, as we’ll see from scriptures, not only defined by punishing bad guys. Which brings us to our next point. What does the Bible say in fact, about justice? Well, first of all, if you look at some of the keywords in Hebrew, words like Miss Pat, if for instance, MIS age PAT. We have an emphasis that justice includes not just a judge making a ruling, but a king making a right ruling. People making laws in a right and just manner. So it speaks to the executive, judicial, and legislative functions. We also see that justice is a heart attitude. And yes, in Scripture, true justice involves caring for the poor. We can’t separate that from just punishing those that have done wrong. And finally, in Scripture, we have the promise that when it’s all said and done, the law, a sense of right and wrong, justice will be written in our very hearts, which speaks to that emphasis on virtue ethics that we mentioned in the previous slide. So that’s very important as well. As we emphasized that in scripture all these ideas are brought together. Now, we also have to answer the question from scripture. Well, if, if the Bible is our guide, than, than what laws from scripture do we apply today? Effort to uphold justice? And this is an important question because if you look at the Old Testament, there are a lot of laws in there. A lot of very severe and stringent laws like stoning witches and homosexuals and rebellious children. Are we supposed to do those things today? Let’s talk about what the Bible says. We know that God is, His character has not changed, She’s not inconsistent. He wasn’t an angry God in the Old Testament and just a nice, loving, gentle gotten the New Testament. He’s the same God today as he was yesterday and as he will be in the future. So let’s look at in particular mosaic lot. Mosaic Law can be divided into three components, the moral law. And that’s the component, the Ten Commandments. That’s the part that God has promised to write in our very hearts, the sense of right and wrong. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shall not covet things like that. You shall not lie. You’ve got the ceremonial, all the types of sacrifices and all the temple feasts and holidays and things of that nature that was fulfilled when Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead. We don’t do those ceremonies anymore because the final sacrifice has been completed through Jesus Christ, Amen. Then you’ve got the judicial component, which is the unique punishment in terms of pushing the bad guys that was specific to the Mosaic Law. In fact, if you look at other covenants before the Mosaic Law, you things like, you see things like capital punishment in Genesis. You see that no way a covenant Genesis 96, He that sheds man’s blood by man, muss his blood be shed. That’s a commandment that all murderers must be killed. That’s found in the New Covenant, even though it’s echoed in the Mosaic covenant, we would still firm that today, but we don’t affirm things like You shall kill homosexuals or, or witches are rebellious children. Do you see the difference there? So there are certain things that have been true and required of government from the beginning of time today. But the, the, the judicial component of Mosaic Law we do not uphold today because that’s been replaced in Christ. That leads us to another question, is, what role as the force play today in society? What role can government have in using its force? Because of the new covenant? We have a purse relation with God through Jesus Christ. We don’t do the sacrifices anymore. We are, We put our faith in Jesus Christ and He unites us with a father to the power of the Holy Spirit. So what role, what role does government have if it does not enforce those? The judicial composed of Mosaic Law? And I think a good way to ask that question is in general, when can you use physical force? When can you use coercion? You can use it to protect yourself, to protect your family, to protect those around you, to protect their property. In other words, we’re basically talking life and death, death situations. Now, think about that in the context of social justice. The Bible is clear that we’re supposed to help the poor. But you don’t see anything in scripture where government is required to use redistributive policies to take taxes, to take from someone, give to others to help the poor. That’s what I would argue, a misuse, of course, of force. You use the force of government to protect life, liberty, and property. In turn, you and I, as Christians in society, have an obligation to care for the poor among us. And that means we can rely upon the biblical idea of covenant. Now covenant embraces the good of the many while carrying for the rights of the individual all throughout the Old Testament, into the New Testament, which you would really more accurately say the old covenant versus the new covenant. We see this emphasis on God coming down and making this very intimate relationship with you and I. And he gives us rights and freedoms in that, in that relationship and therefore responsibility. And as a result of that, we in turn enter into covenant with one another. And that means that we have obligations to one another. We’re accountable to one another. And by learning to really care for one another, It’s really love one another. We actually make all these different competing aspects of what does the best way of justice, utilitarianism or social justice, how’s it all achieved? It’s achieved through covenant. Because the keyword and covenant that really makes it work, that really sets it apart from other type of legal arrangements is the Hebrew term has said, which means loving fulfillment of covenant obligation. And the essence there is that it’s not just a duty you have to someone. You’re also supposed to carry out that duty in a loving manner. So let’s say we’re on societal, we understand this. We’re supposed to love our neighbor as ourselves are supposed to care for one another. So no, we’re not just going to rely upon a government agency or bureaucracy to really care for the poor. We’re going to link arms with other people in the community, businesses, churches, non-profits, and yes, as appropriate government agencies to work together to care for the needy among us and to really enact social justice in a way that doesn’t involve a heavy handed course of misuse of power from government. This is what we, excuse me, this is what we know is sphere sovereignty. In a covenantal system. You see the notion that power is shared among different spheres of society. It’s not just the government solving all of our problems. And then you and I, it’s family, it’s churches, it’s businesses, it’s non-profits as community organization groups. It’s all these facts, groups working together to solve problems. So no one source or entity has all the responsibility. And more importantly, no one source has all the power and one that you don’t have, one person with all the power, you don’t have tyranny and abuse of power. Now one more point about different types of justice as it relates to covenant. We’re seeing kind of a growing trend in the criminal justice arena specifically, which is known as restorative justice, gets a notion that you have the wrongdoer. And it’s not just that the wrongdoer as offended, the state must therefore answer to the state. That is certainly a part of it. But the wrongdoer has to answer to the victims and the families and the community. So we’re starting to see community groups and families and victims coming together to work with the B, the, the criminal to decide on punishments. To allow the victim to have a voice and expressing how they, how they were hurt. And it really allows a more holistic perspective on justice and criminal justice. So be looking for that idea as you go through this class, restorative justice. Thank you for your time.