Laws Produce Compliance, Not Virtue

            John Lennox in his second interview in Labastide, France on Socrates in the City says something about the limits of the laws of physics that has enormous implications when applied to all types of written laws.[1]  

            Lennox says that the laws of physics will never move a billiard ball in a million years, but a person with a cue-stick can. 

            The laws of motion can describe a billiard ball striking another billiard ball and where they will each go in terms of physics.  But first someone has to supply the movement of the billiard ball before physics can describe what happens. 

            A second example given by Lennox is that the laws of mathematics cannot create money. 

            Dr. Lennox credits C.S Lewis with the original thinking on this.

            “One plus one” will never actually put two dollars in our pocket.  We have to get the first dollar, then the second dollar, and only after this does mathematics describe the correct calculation of my having two dollars in my pocket.

            These examples by Dr. Lennox are given within the context of the discussion of the origin of the universe at the time of the Big Bang, refuting the statement by the famous physicist Stephen Hawking in his book The Grand Design (with Leonard Mlodinow, 2010) that “because there is a law of gravity, the universe can and will create itself.”

            The point here is that laws do not create anything…they do not produce anything physical.

            Laws in the natural world are descriptions, not causations.

            The laws of physics are abstract.  They cannot move a billiard ball, put two dollars in my pocket, or create the universe.

            Here may I suggest watching on You Tube: The Return of the God Hypothesis: Interview with Stephen Meyer[2] where he discusses the quantum mechanics around a singularity at the Big Bang beginning of the universe.

            Apparently, it turns-out according to quantum mechanics there must be a guiding Physicist prior to the Big Bang to manipulate the mathematics to enable an infinitely dense singularity of mass/energy to pop-out of “nothing.”

            This is similar to the need for a person to move the billiard ball using a cue-stick, the laws of physics only coming into play after something physical has happened.

            A correct understanding of this distinction when applied to human systems of government reveals the insightful truth that laws by themselves do not produce good character values and virtuous living.

            Laws that abolish human slavery will not eradicate racial prejudice.

            There are no laws that can be enacted that will universally produce unselfish kindness and thoughtfulness.

            No law could be so well-written that its wording could guarantee that every high school and college student would legitimately achieve A-grades in all math classes up to and through calculus.

            No legislated law no matter how well crafted, has the power to do this.

            To get every student to excel in mathematics requires some approach other than merely enacting a law.

            We can write laws against drunk-driving, but we cannot write laws preventing people as alcoholics from ruining careers, marriages, and families.

Extending this line of reasoning more broadly, this is why the Law of Moses cannot produce righteousness.

            The Ten Commandments written on the stone tablets by the finger of God Himself cannot produce virtue and righteousness any more than the laws of physics can move a billiard ball.

            God knows this better than anyone.

            The question then becomes: Who better moves the billiard ball in terms of perfecting our created destinies…God or ourselves?

            Who is the better life-coach…ourselves or the God of the Bible?

            Is right human living based upon the self-realization of the performance of good-works codified in laws?

            Laws accurately and fairly judge all of us, without exception, of falling short of absolute perfection?

            Or is virtue and righteousness actualized into human life through God-composed journey of faith life-scripts after the pattern of the biblical narrative stories of faith, through spiritually born-again hearts and minds motivated through free-will choice to pursue virtue (Mt. 5:6)?   

            Christians today chafe at the unbounded tolerance in our modern “liberal” culture that tolerates essentially anything and everything.

            But tolerance exists within the realm of values governed by character rather than laws.  Setting boundaries around acceptable tolerance regarding some areas in society and culture requires good character that cannot be influenced by the enactment of laws.

            We enact a number of laws like a speed-limit of 25 mph when driving a car near a school, or the requirement to wear a seat-belt while driving a car, or the mandating that elementary school children be vaccinated against communicable diseases.

            But as mentioned above, we cannot enact laws that prevent people from becoming alcoholics because this involves the character values of making right choices that fall above and outside of the effective reach of the minimum standards of laws.  

            The existence of this radically polarized dichotomy (breadth) within the contemplation of the open marketplace of ideas, of the widely disparate roles of laws and values, is inexplicable in a purely materialistic universe.

            What frame-of-reference could go beyond a purely material world to make the galactic leap of being able to discern the subtle differences between complying with laws and the higher optional choice of doing the right thing voluntarily through character values and virtue?

            Here I sense that we are exploring concepts of free-will choice that exist at the very heart of reality, transcending above the confines of matter and energy.

“For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”        (Rom. 1:17)

“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall be no flesh justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”                                                                                  (Rom. 3:20)

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”                                             (Rom. 5:1-2)

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  For the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”                                (Rom. 8:1-2)


[1] John Lennox: Socrates in the City in Labastide, France, Part 2, Jan. 23, 2018 on You Tube.

[2] The Return of the God Hypothesis: Interview with Stephen Meyer.  Streamed live on May, 13, 2020 on You Tube, Dr. Sean McDowell.

Author: Barton Jahn

I worked in building construction as a field superintendent and project manager. I have four books published by McGraw-Hill on housing construction (1995-98) under Bart Jahn, and have eight Christian books self-published through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). I have a bachelor of science degree in construction management from California State University Long Beach. I grew up in Southern California, was an avid surfer, and am fortunate enough to have always lived within one mile of the ocean. I discovered writing at the age of 30, and it is now one of my favorite activities. I am currently working on more books on building construction.

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