It might come as a surprise to many that morality also operates according to definite law–moral law.
The laboratory where moral law is observed in operation is not equipped with test tubes, flasks, Bunsen burners and embalmed specimens. It is populated instead with real persons, moral agents who live, move, love, suffer, struggle, hope, and sometimes rejoice.
Some people do attempt to account for human behavior by ascribing it to physical causes only (brain cells, stimulus response associations). But human values and moral actions go far beyond physical considerations.
True, physical law and moral law do operate side-by-side. They do affect each other. But, and this is fundamentally important, they are separate and distinct from each other and operate in different areas.
Physical law does not govern moral action, and moral law does not directly govern physical action. Moral law governs people who live in the world of substance, but moral law does not govern substance itself. It governs morality and moral relationships, including what people do with their physical world.
Physical law governs everything that is involuntary, including matter and involuntary states and actions of the mind. Everything is under physical law except free will and what is caused by free will. Physical law is the law of automatic sequence, necessity, force. It is cause and effect.
Moral law is the law of free will, including what is caused by free will. It is the law of intelligence, the law of liberty, the law of responsible choice. It operates by persuasion, not coercion. It does not force, but holds up to the intelligence the values to be chosen and the consequences of free choice. It moves by motivation. It rules by reason.
If a moral agent will not be governed by reason, external restraints may be applied to safeguard society. But, strictly speaking, moral law operates only in the area of free will. Whatever is not the action of free will or the result of free will is under physical law, not moral law. Please keep this clearly in mind.
For example, Joe decides to steal Bill’s watch. He plans how he is going to do it. He waits for the opportune moment. Then he carries out his plan. His hand reaches out and takes the watch. Swiftly, his feet carry him away from the scene of the crime and he is lost in the crowd.
Now, where does moral law apply directly? To the emotional excitement of planning the theft? To the movement of the hand to grasp the watch? To the muscular action of the body as Joe hurried away?
Did Joe’s hand reach out of its own accord and grab Bill’s watch against Joe’s will? Can Joe say, “I just don’t know what I’m going to do with this thieving hand of mine. It just keeps stealing things against my will”.
Of course not. Joe’s hand cannot take anything unless Joe wills for it to do so. in other words, the sin of theft takes place in Joe’s heart (choice), not in his hand.
So moral law applies directly to the choices involved–the choice to commit the act in the first place and the choices involved in carrying it out (which are a continuation of the original choice). Thoughts, emotions and physical actions are the direct and indirect results that follow necessarily from the choices. They are under physical law, the “law of necessity,” the law of automatic sequence. They derive their moral character only from the choices, the willing, that produced them.
In other words, the guilt is in the heart; that is, the will, intention, purpose. What is in the heart is carried out into the life. “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin; and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (Jas. 1:15). Lust or desire conceives the moment it gains the consent of the will.
Continues at “IT ALL ADDS UP TO LOVE… THE ESSENTIAL QUALITIES OF MORAL LAW”
By: J.W. JEPSON
Copyright 1977, 1984, 1995(Revised)
All rights reserved, including the right to grant the following permission and to prohibit the misuse thereof:
The Author hereby grants permission to reproduce the text of this book, without changes or alterations, for non-commercial distribution for ministry purposes.
Published 1995 by
GOSPEL TRUTH Ministries
P.O. Box 6322
Orange, CA 92863