Meghan Hill, Lindsay Slone and I walked into a book store in Detroit, Michigan. Sounds like the beginning of a joke, right? It gets better.
Just inside the store, on the impulse buying rack, was a book: Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar. You can’t walk past a book with a title like that so I read the subtitle as I picked it up: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes. Interesting.
The back cover was topped by a Groucho Marx quote: “These are my principles. If you don’t like them, I have others.” It occurred to me that Groucho had, in a fit of wit, summed up the basic, apathetically disconnected relationship most of the world has with eternal truth.
The book turned out to be an amusing way to remind me of philosophical ideas that I already knew. The jokes did a good job illustrating the ideas, although many of the jokes were a tad off-color in their themes. And the tounge in cheek cartoons were priceless. Read it with discretion if you buy it. Mike and Matthew read it also so they can give their take on it if they choose to.
There are three major ways to view laws. 1) Virtue jurisprudence says that laws are made to teach us what is right; they instruct us through information and consequences. 2) Utilitarianism, in the realm of law, says that good laws produce the best results for the greatest number of people; this way of thinking doesn’t consider whether or not laws are inherently or altruistically good. Its concern is that laws are functional in creating the best outcome for the masses. 3) Deontology says that laws are made for the purpose of reminding us of our duty to society; these are duties that we should already understand and know without the existence of law. The law simply compiles and brings into a code things that we should all believe.
All of this thinking about earthly laws made me reconsider the purposes of God’s laws. It also has me considering if it’s important which of these three views of earthly laws that I hold to in relation to God’s laws. And I’ve decided it really could be important.
Before I go on, I want to say that I believe God’s laws take in all three ideas in some ways. His laws teach, correct, bring the most good for the most people, help us comply with His will and speak of our purpose. But I think we have possibly focused to much on the correction and compliance end of things.
I grew up in fear of God and His laws. I saw them as only teaching me lessons in how I continually failed. His laws reminded me I wasn’t able to be good enough for the masses; that I wasn’t achieving enough personal righteous to have some left over to share with others. I felt like I constantly sat in the chair across from the principle’s desk with him reading a litany of how I wasn’t living up to the code. I sat a lot of years in that chair waiting to be finally scared badly enough to change. But change was seldom the outcome and sustainable transformation was almost non-existent.
“Instead of giving you God’s Law as food and drink by which you can banquet on God, they package it in bundles of rules, loading you down like pack animals.” -Jesus, from John 23: 4 (The Message)
“The kingdom of heaven is not come even when God’s will is our law; it is fully come when God’s will is our will.” -George MacDonald