The Rule of Law?


One thing that many genres of literature throughout the ages have tried to do is describe or prescribe the world as it should be – what are called utopias. Plato’s The Repulblic, T.H. White’s The Once and Future King are a couple of examples of this. Others go the opposite direction by trying to warn us about what to avoid. George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World are a couple of examples of what are called dystopias. The latter two stories show how politics and technology can be harnessed to create power for rulers to oppress their peoples in the name of justice and peace. Even King Arthur’s story in The Once and Future King is an example of how such an enlightened concept as the rule of law can be turned on its adherents by his unscrupulous illegitimate son, how uses Arthur’s hard-won legal system to destroy Arthur’s wife and best friend.

A modern genre that can function along these lines is Science Fiction. Isaac Azimov’s stories about robots include a safety feature he builds into his intelligent machines: the Three Laws of Robotics. These form what are called in the movie (loosely based on the book by the same title) I, Robot. “the perfect circle of protection.”

    Law 1: A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
    Law 2: A robot must obey orders given by human beings except where such orders conflict with the first law.
    Law 3: A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the first or second law.

One would think that these laws should keep humanity safe from robotic harm or oppression. The must protect and obey us – it’s hard-wired into them, isn’t it? The film explores the fatal flaw in every law-based system: they form a closed logical loop that inevitably leads to the overthrow of human initiative and freedom to the priesthood of the law-enforcers.

In this case, the robots must overthrow humanity in order to protect human beings from themselves. Humans are too violent and corrupt to be allowed to rule themselves, so the robots must take over, even at the cost of a few human lives for the sake of the whole. The robotic logic is irrefutable by the Three Laws. Robots must not allow the majority of human beings to come to harm by inaction…

Hmm… How very human. Law was not designed to rule over humanity. It was designed, by God, to be instruction in wisdom. Deuteronomy 4:5-7 shows the essential element to keeping God’s law wisely: the presence – the closeness – of God!

The co-hero of the movie turns out to be a robot that was designed to be able to ignore the Three Laws. That enabled it to act outside of the logic-loop that leads to domination. What we human beings need is a hero who is able to function outside of the Law in order to bring us back to God.

Oh, right… We have one: Jesus Christ. God, who became man.

When Jesus was on earth, he used the law to instruct rather than to judge. He also called Himself the Lord of the sabbath (just like He is Lord over everything else). He is the Lord of the Law, not its servant. We are servants of Jesus Christ, not of the mere Law, which also serves Him. Only Jesus Christ can tell us how to properly use the law. That is what He means when He tells us that the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath. It is not the ruler of a servant of Jesus Christ – only Jesus is!

The Kingdom of God is not defined by the rule of law, but rather the rule of God. Let us not be confused and place the created above the Creator. Jesus is the Lawgiver, but the law was given by Him – not placed over Him. He has the right to tell us what to do with it. If we are not using it to show wisdom in the presence of God, what are we using it for? Without His presence and inspiration, the Law is useless to us. All it does, on its own, is lock us in a logic loop that leads to degradation of one another as we struggle to live holy lives without the heart to do just that.

Jesus provides that heart.

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About John Valade

I facilitate and teach in Wascana Fellowship. I have been married to Wanda since 1984. M.Div. from Briercrest Seminary, SK in 2011 and B.R.E. Canadian Bible College (now Ambrose University College) in 2000.
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