The Cross and Civil Justice
by Francis A. Schaeffer
“… The problem always was, and is, What is an adequate base for law? What is adequate so that the human aspiration for freedom can exist without anarchy, and yet provides a form that will not become arbitrary tyranny?
In contrast to the materialistic concept, Man in reality is made in the image of God and has real humanness. The humanness has produced varying degrees of success in government, bringing forth governments that were more than only the dominance of brute force.
And those in the stream of the Judeo-Christian worldview have had something more. The influence of the Judeo-Christian worldview can be perhaps most readily observed in Henry De Bracton’s influence on British Law. An English judge living in the thirteenth century, he wrote De Legibus et Consuetudinibus (c. 1250).
Bracton, in the stream of the Judeo-Christian world view, said:
And that he [the King] ought to be under the law appears clearly in the analogy of Jesus Christ, whose vice-regent on earth he is, for though many ways we are open to Him for His ineffable redemption of the human race, the true mercy of God chose this most powerful way to destroy the devil’s work, he would not use the power of force but the reason of justice.
In other words, God in His sheer power could have crushed Satan in his revolt by the use of that sufficient power. But because of God’s character, justice came before the use of power alone. Therefore Christ died that justice, rooted in what God is, would be the solution. Bracton codified this: Christ’s example, because of who He is, our standard, our rule, our measure. Therefore power is not first, but justice is first in society and law. The prince may have the power to control and to rule, but he does not have the right to do so without justice…
What the Reformation did was to return most clearly and consistently to the origins, to the final reality, God; but equally to the reality of Man – not only Man’s personal needs (such as salvation), but also Man’s social needs.
What we have had for four hundred years, produced from this clarity, is unique in contrast to the situation that has existed in the world in forms of government. Some of you have been taught that the Greek city states had our concepts in government. It simply is not true. All one has to do is read Plato’s Republic to have this come across with tremendous force.
When the men of our State Department, especially after World War II, went all over the world trying to implant our form-freedom balance in government downward on cultures whose philosophy and religion would never have produced it, it has, in almost every case, ended in some form of totalitarianism or authoritarianism.”
– Francis Schaeffer, A Christian Manifesto (Crossway: 1982/2005) pages 27-29.
[Summary: God does not act out of power alone, but rather His power is displayed in acting righteously according to His Law. Thus, we see the significance of the Cross and the character of God in a democracy where the law curbs the power of its rulers. Countries that do not grasp the justice of God revealed in Christ’s work on the Cross (justification) are prone to being ruled unjustly by those with the most power. We can thank God today for His Law and for His Son and for His declaration that those in His Son’s blood are free from guilt! He is both just and the justifier (Rom. 3:26). … Have a great 4th of July! … “For freedom Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5:1).]