The fact is that all law is ‘religious.’ All law is based on some ultimate standard of morality and ethics. Every law system is founded on the ultimate value of that system, and that ultimate value is the god of that system. The source of law for a society is the god of that society. This means that a theocracy is inescapable. All societies are theocracies. The difference is that a society that is not explicitly Christian is a theocracy of a false god.
God is a God of covenant, and covenant means there are obligations to be met by both parties. Since God formally gave the law to Moses, He has viewed all departures from His law as acts of rebellion and treason. Even before the giving of the law to Moses, individuals and nations (such as Sodom and Gomorrah) were judged for their breaches of the law. How could this be? It was known to them, since the original revelation given to Adam.
If we break the commandments, we are judged. Abraham said to God, “…shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?” (Gen.18:25).
Thus the burden of the Old Testament prophets was always to call Israel back to the law, pointing out where Israel had departed. The prophets did not announce something new to Israel; they were not innovative but were conservatives, endeavouring to bring Israel back to the ancient paths God had laid down, hundreds of years earlier. And they made this abundantly clear: do nothing, and you will be judged.
God through Isaiah the prophet reproached Israel, “if only you had paid attention to My commandments! Then your well-being would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea” (Isa.48:18).
Amos warned Israel, “… For three transgressions of Judah and for four I will not revoke its punishment, because they rejected the law of the Lord and have not kept His statutes…” (Amos 2:4).
The Bible’s standard individual attitude is promoted in the Psalms:
“…his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night” (Ps.1:2).
“the law of his God is in his heart; his feet do not slip” (Ps.37:31).
“…how blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments. His descendents will be mighty on earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed” (Ps.112:1-2).
God said that “Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws” (Gen.36:5). Jesus instructed us that “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me…” (Jn.14:21). He also indicated that “if you keep My commandments you will abide in My love…” (Jn.15:10).
Paul commands us to “bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal.6:2).
Thus the church has no reason to be conservative, unless that conservatism is based in the law of God. In fact, any person, institution or nation that is not committed to the law of God is ultimately going to be judged by God.
The foundations of all law are in essence religious and theological: they are questions of ultimacy and moral necessity. Law without faith is an impossibility. Every law order is a moral and a theological order, a structuring of society in terms of a fundamental faith.
Christians who say today, “Oh, but we are under grace, not under law,” generally don’t know what they are talking about. Sinful men have always needed God’s grace to relate to Him. If we don’t receive grace, we will receive judgment. Grace is a fundamental necessity for us to relate to God, but law and grace are not opposites in scripture. They are both fundamentals of our relationship with God.
Man has always needed a framework of appropriate behaviour to live by. We get it from the law of God. That was its purpose.
Only when we return to a Biblical foundation for law shall we again have a return to justice and order under law. ‘Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain that build it.’ ”