Just War, Rebellion, and the American Revolution: John Keown and Modern Critiques on Whether the War of Independence was Just.
Part 7: Scripture and Rebellion, Scripture on the Rule of Law
By Leonard O. Goenaga
On the rule of law, Scripture also emphasizes the authoritative role that law has above the ruler.1 In detailing this authorial hierarchy, Deuteronomy 17:18-20 lays out the king’s need to copy and adhere to the Mosaic Law:
And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.
The law was then used to guide and check the king, as well as to guide and check the prophets. In 2 Samuel 12, we find Nathan the prophet rebuking King David for breaking God’s Law, thus reflecting an actual occurrence where our aforementioned balance of powers and the importance of the rule of law intersect.
1 Such treatment begs distinctions between God’s Law and civil laws. The nation of Israel stands unique in political and theological history as the only true theocracy, with God himself as its ruler. Thus, God’s divinely revealed laws are to be the civil laws of the Israelites. Given we are not currently in the nation of Israel, our laws are not necessarily based upon the laws of the Old Testament (we do not find their ceremonial laws literally applicable, but do use the moral laws and principles derived from the ceremonial ones to evaluate all civil law). Noting this distinction, it is still valuable to ponder the principle inherit in the role the law had above the ruler. Such a principle is valuable for modern polities, and may very well be the first incident of Constitutionalism in history.
The Moral Liberal Research Writer, Leonard O. Goenaga, is a Baptist Associate Pastor (assigned to the Youth) at Glory of God Christian Fellowship, Raleigh, North Carolina; a Mentor (Computer Lab/Technology) at the Wake Forest Boys & Girls Club; a husband (to Katrina); and rugby coach. He holds a B.A. in Political Science (with a specific concentration in Political Theory, Social Contract, and Constitutionalism), a second B.A. in Religious Studies (with a concentration in World Religions and Early Christianity), a Master of Divinity in Christian Ethics, and an A.A. in Entrepreneurship. He has begun Ph.D with a concentration likely centered on an analysis of Locke’s Social Contract, H.L.A. Hart’s Legal System, American Constitutionalism, and Baptist Ecclesiology of Covenant. Visit his website at Leonardooh.com