New article by my pastor: Authority and law: Religious concepts
"Issues of power and authority are inescapably religious. Why do you get to boss me around? What if I don’t comply? How far does your authority extend? What if you command something immoral? How does the example set by Jesus Christ change the power dynamic that is routinely accepted as “normal?”
We’re coming out of a time in which new claims of authority were being made pretty regularly. During the darkest days of the pandemic, even previous laws like privacy restrictions were mowed down in service to a new, over-arching ethic. That ethic, applied by our benefactors to themselves, was this: We must protect everyone.
In practice, this worked out as a license to do whatever we think needs to be done, without regard to how we’ve ever done things in this country previously.
What we experienced was, in philosophical terms, an exercise in “positive law.” By contrast, the commandments of the Scripture are “negative law.” I believe a strong case can be made for recognizing the U.S. Constitution as “negative law” as well.
Negative law only springs into action when its stipulations have been violated. “Thou shalt not kill,” for instance, is a negative law. It only comes into play if someone is actually killed. Until that moment, the law just sits there silently.
A group of negative laws has the effect of setting up boundaries, like a fence around a farmer’s property. Stay within the boundaries, don’t jump the fence, and we’ll have no issues. Government disappears, practically speaking, until the fences are crossed.
Positive law, on the other hand, grants to authorities a sweeping, mostly unlimited mandate to go out and do positive good. If the mandate is to keep us all safe, now positive laws multiply without restraint, making any and all demands. If I have a duty to keep you safe, I need the authority to remove from your life anything I think is unsafe. You have no say, because I, not you, have positive law on my side.
Anytime the functional motivation of the authority is to keep us safe, ensure public health, or defend the environment (to name just a few) the result will be that whatsoever thing the authority wants will magically find its justification in that mission. I can tell you where to go, or not to go, because, “public health,” or I can tell you what to drive because, “I’m saving the planet.”
Romans 13:1-7 limits the role of civil authority. God gives the government a very narrow duty: Protect citizens from actual evil-doers. And, God defines good and evil. Executive orders don’t. If the surgeon general doesn’t like what you had for breakfast, that doesn’t make you evil, or give the government any authority.
I mean, that’s unless we all decide it’s their job to “keep us safe and healthy.” Now, in the words of an old pro wrestling announcer, it’s Katie-bar-the-door!
Our forefathers, both in our faith and in America, were not legal positivists. They were running from that, and in this, among other things, they have proven smarter than us."https://www.qcsunonline.com/story/2022/04/20/opinion/authority-and-law-religious-concepts/23505.html