Monday, January 5, 2015

Torture: A Biblical Perspective

Image Courtesy of Shankar S.
At the outset I feel obliged to acknowledge that torture is a technical and complicated legal issue. However, the issue of torture also implicates God’s eternal law; the law which we must all one day answer to. Simply put, the Biblical truth-claims involved in dealing with government torture are necessarily the very same ones that literally form the basis for how we approach other human beings in every facet of our lives.

As Christians we have come to the correct conclusion that the word of the one true God (the Bible) is completely authoritative over all areas of our lives, including justice and public policy. This doesn’t mean that the Bible explicitly deals with every moral and ethical quandary we may face in life, but the principles of the Biblical narrative, taken as a whole, must primarily guide our beliefs. This is why a Christian’s worldview must be a Biblically consistent one. Remember Luther’s  battle cry: sola scriptura. Does the Bible speak directly and/or explicitly on the issue of torture? No, but it does provide the necessary principles to come to the correct position to this issue.

The more important question here is are we willing to let the Bible frame our position on the issue of torture  no matter how uncomfortable or insecure it may make us?

The word “torture” comes from the Latin tortus, which means to twist. From a legal perspective, there are a myriad of definitions already in place from statues to the UN Convention on Torture, to the Geneva Conventions. They are generally very similar in nature, but I cite one below for a general reference. According to Part 1, Article 1 of the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, torture is defined as:
For the purposes of this Convention, torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
Whether or not you agree with the release of the Senate report on the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program, it is clear, even if the report is biased, that the U.S. Government engaged in at least some acts of torture under the premise of protecting American citizens against Islamic terrorism. But can such a reason, or any reason for that matter, be Biblically justified? In a word, no. Many  Christian leaders have articulated this position, people like Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet. To date, I have seen only one commentator even attempt to use the Bible to support the use of torture. Unfortunately, the article itself was very near torturous in its misapplication and misunderstanding of the Biblical text.

Allow me to briefly frame the issue of torture before delving into it. We are dealing with action by the government, not individuals. This distinction is important because it leads us directly to Romans 13:1-7. This passage stands for the proposition that God instituted governments among men, that they have been delegated with limited authority to administer temporal justice here on earth, and that they bear specific tools toward their designated end. As Jesus noted, what defiles a man comes from within (see Mark 7:20-22). While it is clear that sin originates within the heart (Matt. 15:19, Matt. 5:21-23, 27-28), governments are only authorized to punish the outward manifestation of sin in the form of deeds or omissions (compare Jeremiah 17:10, with Romans 13:3-4, Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15). From Romans 13 we see that the government is given only the sword (to kill) and the ability to tax (including civil fines). God hasn’t given the Government complete authority over the administration of justice, because we, as limited, sinful beings, are incapable of correctly providing complete justice. It is the process of justice that renders justice in a temporal sense because we cannot look into a man’s heart and mind. God provides eternal justice. (See Jeremiah 17:10).

Romans 13:4 notes that government serves as an “avenger” or “revenger” (literally one who inflicts punishment in return for an injury or offense). The key point here is that government’s limited role in justice is that of paying back for offenses, not doling out punishment for the state of a man’s heart or for prospective crimes (see Leviticus 24:17-22). Governments can’t kill a person because they might or even will kill again; governments kill people because they have killed in the past and have been tried and convicted. (Deuteronomy 16:20). It is holy to kill a murderer for taking, or sometimes even attempting to take, a life. (Genesis 9:6.) It is holy to kill an adulterer for having a single affair. (Leviticus 20:10.) It is not holy to torture a man in the hopes that even a million sinful lives can be temporarily spared. No terrorist can justly be tortured for the sake of saving one person or a million in the future because there are no “innocent” people for a government to save (see Romans 3:23). As Christians we must remember that the authority of government in providing justice is narrow, limited, and but a shadow of the true justice Christ will bring. (Matt. 10:28.)

As a creation of God, human governments are capable of and required to administer their limited authority in a holy manner. In fact, holiness is required of each of us even in our fleshly bodies (1 Peter 1:14-16). Borrowing from the law of God, we have a template for holy governance. Capital punishment then, is necessarily a holy act. And if a holy act, it is fundamentally an act of love to all involved, even to the one put to death. This understanding lead Abraham Kuyper in his lecture, “Calvinism and Politics,” to exclaim:
"Thus God, ordaining the powers that be, in order that, through their instrumentality, He might maintain His justice against the strivings of sin, has given to the magistrate the terrible right of life and death. Therefore all the powers that be, whether in empires or in republics, in cities or in states, rule “by the grace of God.” For the same reason justice bears a holy character. And from the same motive every citizen is bound to obey, not only from dread of punishment, but for the sake of conscience.”
Government must ever be cognizant of human dignity in the administration of its solemn duties. Torture for information and/or to stop a prospective threat can never be described as an act of love toward the tortured since it is focused on only one side of this equation. In that context, torture consists of using a human being as a means to an end for the benefit of other sinful human beings. This cannot be.

Perhaps we should focus on whether or not it’s wrong not to do everything theoretically possible to prevent murder. We as a nation agree with the Bible that the answer to this is 'no.' Consider our policy not to negotiate with terrorists. This position tragically and necessarily leads to some deaths at the hands of terrorists, but our government bears no culpability for those heinous crimes. Simply put, to torture a terrorist is to become a terrorist regardless of one’s motivation because whether as punishment or an exercise of force to procure information, torture fundamentally undermines human dignity.

This leads to another argument I have come across as a justification of torture. The argument suggests that a person by engaging in sinful acts justifying capital punishment somehow forfeits their human dignity. However, this argument falls flat from a Biblical perspective.  No one has the ability or authority to forfeit their image bearing status, no matter how depraved (I don’t care what Aquinas said).  I think those that appeal to the human dignity argument are really appealing to imago dei, but the fact is this: the most evil men in history bore the image of God. It’s not something that one provides himself so it’s not something one can lose or give up. We only live because Christ sustains us. The terrorist may forfeit his right to life for planning, organizing, and contributing to acts of terrorism, but he can’t give up his right to human dignity because it isn’t dependent upon him. His human dignity remains intact while Christ sustains the life in his veins. As the Hebrew denotes, we are a “shadow” of God. We are all of equal value in that sense. Therefore the government killing a person justly convicted of a capital offense is nothing less than an expression of pure love. Indeed, the capital offenses contained in the Old Testament relate directly to the breaking of the greatest commandments according to Jesus (loving God and loving others). It is out of respect for human dignity that we kill for certain crimes, but only upon a conviction or in defense of an immediate threat of death. Compare these verses:
"Say to them, ‘As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?’” (Ezekiel 33:11 ESV)
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.” (Psalm 116:15)
The argument for the legitimacy of sacrificing one for the sake of the many has only one application in all of history. It occurred when the sinless God-man was crucified and purchased with his blood all those who would accept him. When a government does what ours did to people (yes, islamic terrorists are people) under its enhanced interrogation program, it isn't keeping its people safe; it's sinning, which is never "safe." I submit that it is not naive to stand on moral principle, even in the face of Islamic terrorists. Doing so recognizes that to remain faithful to the solemn and holy task of justice, we must recognize and distinguish between right and wrong even when plumes of smoke from falling buildings fill our streets, our eyes, and our lungs, while grey clouds of ash and disintegrated cement envelope us into a fog of confusion, anger, and fear.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas: Why the Virgin Birth?

 Image courtesy of Flickr user woodleywonderworks.

The celebration of the birth of Messiah is not a sacrament. It is not doctrinal. It is neither sanctioned nor is it prescribed by the Bible. In fact, for a majority of Protestant history, Christmas was considered to be a pagan celebration of the Catholic Church. From Calvin, to Jonathan Edwards, many Church leaders have recognized this point, not only did they refuse to celebrate Christmas, but they were stalwart in their opposition to it.

In America, the Puritans, like the reformers themselves, abhorred the celebration of Christmas such that they made it specifically illegal.
"For preventing disorders, arising in several places within this jurisdiction by reason of some still observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept in other communities, to the great dishonor of God and offense of others: it is therefore ordered by this court and the authority thereof that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way, upon any such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for every such offence five shilling as a fine to the county."
From the records of the General Court,
Massachusetts Bay Colony
May 11, 1659

However, other respected Church leaders like Luther and Charles Spurgeon, allowed for this celebration notwithstanding its fundamentally pagan roots. Spurgeon, in  his 1871 sermon on Christmas, said:
"We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas: first, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or in English; and, secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Saviour; and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority... It was not till the middle of the third century that any part of the church celebrated the nativity of our Lord; and it was not till very long after the Western church had set the example, that the Eastern adopted it.... Nevertheless since, the current of men's thoughts is led this way just now, and I see no evil in the current itself, I shall launch the bark of our discourse upon that stream, and make use of the fact, which I shall neither justify nor condemn, by endeavoring to lead your thoughts in the same direction. Since it is lawful, and even laudable, to meditate upon the incarnation of the Lord upon any day in the year, it cannot be in the power of other men's superstitions to render such a meditation improper for to-day. Regarding not the day, let us, nevertheless, give God thanks for the gift of his dear son."
Therefore, since its widespread acceptance among Evangelicals, the celebration of Christmas has become an important tool in emphasizing the veracity and import of the gospel message: that God sent His only begotten Son to die as a ransom for many in order to establish for Himself the Kingdom of Heaven. Right or wrong, the story of the conception and birth of the Lion of Judah remains known as the “Christmas story.”

That being said, I think that the significance of God’s ingress into time and space cannot be overstated. The entirety of the gospel hinges on the authenticity of this truth-claim. If Jesus did not fulfill every prophecy that foretold Messiah, then He was not Messiah. One prophecy in particular has stood out to me this year:
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14 (NASB)
NOTE: I understand that there is some ambiguity in the translation for the word "virgin" in this passage. This word may very well have a double meaning: (1) "A young woman of marrying age" in reference to Isaiah's wife, AND (2) "a virgin" since the gospels explicitly affirm the virgin birth. We must always use the entire context of the Bible when interpreting Scripture. Therefore, I believe that this prophecy had a typological fulfillment in the time of Isaiah, but its ultimate fulfillment was in the virgin birth of Messiah.

What is the significance of the virgin birth? Is it just to affirm the deity of Christ or is there some ancillary meaning associated with Messiah being born of a virgin?

Before we delve into these questions, let us revisit Jesus’ conception.
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus… The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” Luke 1:31,35 (ESV)
I think most Orthodox Christians would affirm that Yeshua was indeed virgin born, that it happened to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy, and that it confirms His identity as Immanuel (God with us). But I think that there is much more to God’s decision to send Messiah in this way. In fact, I think this was the only way Messiah could have come.  This thought originates from the book of Leviticus:
For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life… 14For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off.” Leviticus 17:11, 14 (ESV) (emphasis added).
As the Bible articulates it, life is within the blood. When God breathed into the nostrils of His first human, life was infused into his bloodstream and he became a living being. Today we understand blood to be,
“the fluid circulating through the heart, arteries, capillaries, and veins, carrying nutriment and oxygen to body cells, and removing waste products and carbon dioxide. It consists of the liquid portion (the plasma) and the formed elements (erythrocytes, leukocytes, and platelets).”[1] 
Accordingly, the Leviticus passage does an adequate job of relating the anthropological and theological origin story found in Genesis 2:7 to the actual biological processes found within the human body. Life is contained within the blood. The blood carries fresh oxygen from the lungs to the body and removes that which is toxic as it leaves. Blood makes life possible. According to the Genesis account, not only do our bodies run on oxygen just as the animals do, but there is also a transcendent component to the breath in our lungs that separates us from them.[2]However, there’s something else to know about Adam: the origin and meaning of his name. This statement may seem odd, but I think it is vitally important to the theological underpinnings of the New Testament. Below is a chart of two Hebrew words. The first is the Hebrew word for blood. The second is the Hebrew name, Adam.

Strong’s H1818 – dam (Blood)
Strong’s H120 – ‘adam (Adam)
 Phonetic  Pronunciation
 Phonetic Pronunciation
Outline of Biblical Usage
  1. Blood

Outline of Biblical Usage
  1. Man, mankind
    1. Man, human being
    2. Adam, first man
Etymology: From אָדַם (H119) which means red

Firstly, notice that “Adam” comes from a very similar root that means “red,” the color of blood. In gematria, א represents the number 1. Adam’s name is the word “blood” with an additional letter at the beginning (Hebrew reads from right to left). That extra letter is “Aleph.” It is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Also, this letter happens to have special significance. To the Hebrews, their alphabet served also as a numbering system. From the earliest Jewish traditions, gematria has played a special role in understanding concepts within words or phrases. I am not suggesting that there are “Bible-codes” or anything of the sort. I’m simply saying that for millennia, Jews have used their alphabet to express numeric values, especially within the scriptures to help them better understand the concepts that God relays through them.

What makes this so interesting to me is how poignantly meticulous God is in His redemptive plan from the very beginning. In summation:
  1. The name, Adam, comes from a root that means red, which is the color of blood and it’s spelling is almost identical.
  2. Adam consists of the word “blood” and the letter aleph, which represents the number 1.
  3. Several scriptures, including 1 Corinthians 15:45 and Romans 5:14 show a special connection between the first man of creation and the firstborn over all creation.
This information together leads me to believe that God placed something beautiful in Adam’s name. I think that, in addition to its plain meaning, “Adam” means: First Blood. Adam is the beginning of the human race. We all come from common blood. We all share some of the life that was breathed into the veins of Adam by God himself. Adam was a type, his anti-type being Christ.  This by itself is a beautiful thought, but it is focused on humanity as much as it is God.

What effect did The Fall have?

Genesis 3 recounts The Fall of man. In it we see death instituted as a consequence for disobedience. In addition, the Bible paints the picture of The Fall in such a way that it serves to condemn every individual, and it does so in a very peculiar way. Here are a few verses to illustrate the point.

  • “… from before birth you were called a rebel.”Isaiah 48:8 (ESV)
  • “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.”Psalm 51:5 (NASB)
  • “The wicked are estranged from the womb; These who speak lies go astray from birth.”Psalms 58:3 (NASB)
  • “… for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.’”Genesis 8:21b (ESV)
  • “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned… Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.”Romans 5:12,14 (ESV)
This Romans passage affirms, like many others, that the consequence of The Fall rests on us all. It rests on us from birth. If both my parents are sinful to the core, then I will necessarily be corrupted from conception. Why? Because the life in my veins was created through the union of my parents.  When a man and a woman conceive a child, the child is an amalgamation of the genetic material of the parents. This unification of genetic material, borrowing from the two sets to create one, renders a unique DNA set. The Fall of man effected humanity to its core. It corrupted the pure life that God breathed into Adam and his wife, who would only now (after The Fall) be called Eve because she was to become the mother of all the living.

It is an established physiological fact that the mother’s blood is neither the source nor supply of the blood in the unborn infant’s veins.[3] Without the vital contribution of the male no blood could be produced because the female, of herself, does not produce the elements essential for the production of new blood. Gray’s Anatomy, a recognized medical authority, states:
The fetal and maternal blood currents traverse the placenta, the former passing through the blood vessels of the placental villi and the latter through the intervillous space. The two currents do not intermingle, being separated from each other by the delicate walls of the villi. Nevertheless, the fetal blood is able to absorb, through the walls of the villi, oxygen and nutritive materials from the maternal blood, and give up to the latter its waste products.”[4]
Therefore, it is only the contribution of the male which leads to the development of new blood. While the female’s ovum is the basis for the production of human flesh, it is the male’s introduction of sperm that allows for the creation of life according to the understanding of life from the Leviticus passage above. This biological fact renders Christ’s virgin birth essential to His efficacy as a blood sacrifice that could actually serve to remove sin from humanity.[5]
The blood of animals cannot take away the sins of menHebrews 10:4 (NASB)
I think the passage below shows the clearest picture of the significance of the virgin birth of Jesus and how the biological aspects of blood are pivotal in understanding how Christ, as the second Adam, could be sinless despite taking on flesh.  

Hebrews 2:14 (NASB) Therefore, since the children share (koinōneō) in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,
Hebrews 2:14 (KJV) Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of (metechō) the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
  1. To come into communion or fellowship with, to become a sharer, be made a partner
  2. To enter into fellowship, join one’s self to an associate, make one’s self a sharer or partner
  1. To be or become partaker
  2. To partake
God has often worked through a child whose existence is impossible. Notice here that the “children,” that is the human children, are said to be partakers of flesh and blood. Then speaking of Jesus, the King James says that He “himself likewise took part of the same.” The Greek word rendered “took part of the same” (KJV), as applying to Christ, is an entirely different word than “share” (NASB) as applied to the children. The Greek word for partakers is κοινωνέω (koinōneō) and means “to share fully,” so that all of Adam’s children share fully in Adam’s flesh and blood. When we read that Jesus “took part of the same” the word is μετέχω (metechō), which means to take “part”, but not all. This word implies “taking part in something outside one’s self.”  So whereas the Children take both flesh and blood of Adam, Christ (the second Adam) took only part, that is the flesh (from his mother), while the blood was the result of supernatural conceptionAs Timothy Keller points out in His commentary on the Book of Judges:
The Old Testaments births occurred in the shadow of disgrace (the mother being in a state of barrenness ), but Christ’s birth brought disgrace upon both mother and Son. And out of His disgrace, He brought the fullness of the grace of God to mankind.”
Jesus was a perfect human being.[6] He was of the seed of David according to the flesh,[7]but His blood is that part which was the divine addition. This allowed for His physical conception with uncorrupted blood. In the creation of man, Adam’s body was made from the dust of the earth and God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.[8]The first Adam’s blood was corrupted and sin transmitted through it to all mankind. In the last Adam, a new and divine and sinless blood was produced in a body that was still the seed of Adam. This resulted in the production of a new, uncorrupted human bloodline.[9] For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.1 Corinthians 15:22 (ESV)

Mary contributed the body of Jesus. The Holy Spirit contributed the Blood of Jesus.It was Divine blood. It was pure, sinless blood. It was truly innocent blood. And it was specifically prepared to be spilled by those for whom it was made to save.
Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it will not be accepted for you. Leviticus 22:20
Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.Hebrews 9:22 (ESV)
Jesus had to be fully human so as to be an appropriate blood sacrifice, but he also had to have uncorrupted blood so as to be our Savior.
Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 1 Peter 1:18-19
Conception by the Holy Ghost, then, was the only way justice could be fully administered and salvation fully accomplished. And so, Jesus, the second Adam and first-born from among the dead, accomplished on the cross what could only have started in the womb of a virgin.
Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood— and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. Revelation 1:4-6 (NASB)

[1] “ Blood,” Dorland’s Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers, 2007.
[2] The phrase “breath of life” (Hebrew: נשמה חי nĕshamah chay) is different from the similarly translated Hebrew phrase: רוח חי ruwach chay (See, Genesis 7:15), which signifies the general “breath of life” which animals also possess. It appears that the breath of life in this passage is used exclusively for God or humankind, which bolsters the proposition that mankind, as made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), is a distinct being that is fundamentally different from the animal kingdom. Even Deuteronomy 20:16, using the Hebrew phrase כֹּל נשמה kol nĕshamah (suggesting literally “everything that breathes”), is clarified by verse 17, elucidating that the passage is specifically talking about the people groups of the Promised Land. See also Genesis 1:2, which uses kol to signify everything within a specific subset of the animals consistent with this interpretation.
[3] Howell’s Textbook of Physiology, Second Edition, pages 885 and 886, Williams’ Practice of Obstetrics, Third Ed. page 133, Louise Zabriskie, R.N., Nurse’s Handbook of Obstetrics, Fifth Ed. p. 75.
[4] The edition of Gray’s Anatomy of the Human Body. (emphasis added)
[6] See John 10:30 in the context of Matthew 5:48
[9] See Luke 3:8

This post has been republished from my personal blog.

Friday, June 20, 2014

What is Law?

Law is foundational to civil society. Whether they are the rules that apply in the realm of your parent’s house, city ordinances, state law, federal statute, or by decree of the king, the fundamental purpose of law is like that of any legitimate rule in any context:

to preserve, promote, and protect relationships.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church suggests, “[l]aw is a rule of conduct enacted by competent authority for the sake of the common good. The moral law presupposes the rational order, established among creatures for their good and to serve their final end, by the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Creator. ‘Such an ordinance of reason is what one calls law.’”[1]

Law is, in its primary sense, a standard duly established and promulgated by a delegated authority in conformity with the laws of nature and nature’s God, in whom all authority is ultimately vested. In its most familiar context, government is that authority. The point I have asserted here is well stated by Roger Scructon in his article titledThe Good of Government.” The following is an excerpt from that piece:
“Government is a search for order, and for power only insofar as power is required by order. It is present in the family, in the village, in the free associations of neighbors, and in the “little platoons” extolled by Burke and Tocqueville. It is there in the first movement of affection and good will, from which the bonds of society grow. For it is simply the other side of freedom, and the thing that makes freedom possible.”
Scructon’s worldview (based solely on the article linked above) seems ultimately incompatible with that of the Christian. However, he rightly apprehends the government as the guarantor (not the grantor) of human freedom. We cannot not be deceived into a belief, as the sovereign citizen movement has, that Rousseau was correct in suggesting that we are “born free.” Government is not an impediment to human freedom from which one must be unshackled. Rather, it guarantees human freedom by legitimate force through the authority vested it in, not by men, not by itself, by the author of the natural law. 

Scructon argues in his article that “the human individual is a social construct,” noting the fundamental transformation of political and anthropological suppositions, the individual being a hallmark of modern philosophical thought. He appears to assert, I think correctly, that humans are not free “in the state of nature”, but “by nature,” i.e., in accordance with the natural law. He says that this is “because we can become free, in the course of our development,” (emphasis in original) which necessarily involves relationship with others.  Kant’s categorical imperative commanding us to treat rational beings as ends only and not as means does so because real relationship (a prerequisite for humanity) can never be forced. 

Law exists because the family, and not the individual, is the fundamental and irreducible basis of humanity. Relationship is fundamental to human existence, and since, now, humans exist in a state of brokenness, law has been established to promote temporal freedom from the bondage into which we are born.
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4, ESV)

[1] Leo XIII, Libertas præstantissimum: AAS 20 (1887/88),597; cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, STh I-II,90,1.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Remembering A Father In The Law

Last Friday I was with my four-year old son on our first camping trip when I received the message that my dear friend and mentor Tyler Makepeace had gone to be with His Lord and Savior.  Being Father’s day weekend, I realized for the first time how Tyler had in many respects been a father in the law to me.  When I first met him at a Christian Legal Society Conference a number of years ago, he shared his vision for Courtside Ministries with me and how he believed, even as an attorney in Colorado Springs, that the people of Chicago would be enormously blessed by a ministry devoted to praying for those coming in and out of their courts—particularly the busiest criminal court in America at 26th and California where Al Capone often appeared and where on any given day you can sit in on one of 10-12 murder trials.  So he asked me to pray with him for God to bring Courtside to Chicago, and God did.  God did and is still doing abundantly more than Tyler, I, and others asked or imagined he would do here.  In just a year and a half’s time, Courtside Ministries has prayed for thousands of people, led hundreds of people to or back to the Lord and into local churches, and has expanded to four different courthouses in the Chicagoland area alone.  I am so glad Tyler was able to witness the fruition of the seeds he faithfully planted.  I still remember the child-like joy with which he shared the news that Courtside is now operating in California, Indiana, Illinois and Colorado and looking at opportunities at 23 other courthouses across the country and even in few other countries.   

I will miss him, his words of encouragement and wisdom, and his fighting spirit.  But I will remember him with each testimony we receive from the Courtside tables, like the man last week who said to our prayer volunteers as he was leaving the courthouse, "you saved a soul today."

 I am so glad Tyler now has a front row seat to watch the ripple effects of the good work he started.  Before he left us, he encouraged us to share his story with others, so please take a quick moment to hear him in his own words.

And if you would like to support his ministry or see it come to a courthouse near you, please feel free to contact me or visit our website at:

And in honor of how Tyler led his life, and because the rest of us have a lot of wonderful work to do, I leave you with this:

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Cor. 15:58