Yesterday we looked at natural law, and what principles of law we can glean from it, which principles we would then expect to find in moral law as well. And yet we usually struggle to see moral law as being as “real” of a law as natural law. We see the forces of gravity and magnetism as universal and uncompromising, yet believe we can make bargains about moral rights and wrongs. Not only that, but we believe that if there are moral laws, we can transgress them, and yet avoid consequences through bargaining or concealment.
Why is this? A major reason is because we have human “laws” which defy all of the principles we found in natural law. Where the forces of nature never change, apply equally to all, and are cannot be petitioned for cancellation, both the laws of government and the trends of society do change, do not apply equally, and can be petitioned for cancellation.
Our first lesson in this likely occurred when growing in our childhood homes. Parents are forever inconsistent in how they respond to the same behaviors. Sometimes they let misdeeds slide and sometimes they don’t, they might punish incorrect behavior at a severe level one day and at a more measured level the next, sometimes they let one child get away with a certain action but never the other child. Parents can be persuaded and bargained with to let go of their principles. In short, parental law is extremely organic, based a great deal on their mood in the moment, and teaches a pattern that morals are flexible.
In school we learn about our governments, and the principles and laws upon which they are founded. We are told that those laws are meant to be administered universally and indiscriminately, but obviously they are not. Different officers and judges of the law act on different biases. What is more, their presence is not total enough to respond to all queries or misdeeds, making holes in the law’s coverage of the nation. Laws can be changed and even abolished, and the laws of one nation are different from the laws of its neighbors, an artificial boundary changing the legality of one’s behavior like the flipping of a switch. This starts to make us believe that moral law only applies so far as it can be seen. That it can be compartmentalized, hidden from, and vetoed by a strong enough consensus.
Social law, of course, is the most flimsy of all, the same behaviors being simultaneously applauded and condemned by different circles at the same time. There is absolutely no consensus whatsoever, a million different voices saying a million different things. This suggests to us that moral law is worse than organic, it is non-existent. All that we call morality is opinion, and has no universal binding whatsoever.
Our mistake is taking all these imperfect forms, and trying to extrapolate from them how Divine Law must work as well. We assume that certain commandments no longer apply, because society has come to a consensus to vote them out. We assume that if we hide our sins, then we need not pay the price of guilt. We assume that if we butter God up with love in other ways, then He might give us a pass on our misdeeds. We use the strategies that work with our fellow man, and try to apply them where they can never work. Divine Moral Law, to be Divine Moral Law, must be constant, universal, unchanging, non-negotiable, all-reaching, and all-encompassing. And even more than it needs to be all those things, we need it to be all those things. For with anything less than a totally sure foundation, nothing permanent can ever be built.