Guest Blog by: Donald Balla
Rule of Law refers to the Christian value that calls for obeying the laws of the land.
I’m a Rule of Law fan. Still, as Lemuel Washburn wrote, “It is necessary to distinguish between the virtue and the vice of obedience.”
We apply Rule of Law to immigrants to explain why they should obey immigration laws. (I’ll save this topic for later.) We apply it to ourselves by obeying laws that order us to impose sanctions on these aliens.
I don’t let my students write, “The Bible says” unless they have checked the entire Bible. They may cite “Paul taught,” but must reserve “The Bible says” for consistent scriptural concepts. That’s why my Rule of Law logic came down to this:
1) the Bible says to obey secular authority, and
2) it never says not to obey secular authority, and
3) secular authority orders Christians to sanction undocumented immigrants,
Then: Christians must obey
Armed with this logic, I checked the biblical evidence. Premise Two failed!
While it’s true that the apostles teach obedience to secular authority, it is not true that the Bible never says otherwise. The clearest examples of God’s endorsement of civil disobedience are Daniel and the three Hebrew children. In the New Testament, Peter tells authorities, “We obey God, not men.”
So I had to refine my Rule of Law logic. This one works better:
1) the Bible says to obey secular authority unless it conflicts with what God says, and
2) it never says to obey secular authority that conflicts with what God says, and
3) secular authority orders Christians to sanction undocumented aliens, and
4) God never says anything that conflicts with such orders,
Then: Christians must obey the secular authority.
Without going into the details, the evidence shows Premises 3 and 4 to be false. I found that most state anti-undocumented-immigrant laws violate our Constitution, and in the Bible I found God saying that we should welcome—not sanction—immigrants as if they were Jesus.
I conclude that Rule of Law Christians have two new duties: Learn God’s rules for treating immigrants, and know what our Constitution says on this issue. We may no longer dismiss welcome-the-stranger passages with, “The Bible says we obey secular authority.” Nor dare we obey legislatures and Congress when they order us to violate another’s constitutional protections.
For Rule of Law Christians, obedience to secular authority starts at the top.
Donald Balla is an attorney and a Professor of Business, Law and Economics at John Brown University, a Christian institution. If you are a lawyer or just want the detailed research, contact [email protected].
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