as viewed by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Thomas Hobbes and the Bible.

 Law should be the foundation of any government. Whether law is based upon moral absolutes, changing consensus or totalitarian whim is of crucial importance, says Kerby Anderson in Christian View of Government and Law.
Something that must be obeyed, is one of the definitions of the word law as defined by the 21st Century Reference Dictionary.
    Different thinkers of different times have come up with a view on what the law is and its binding power. I will be looking at the views in the Bible of the law as well as Jean-Jacques and Thomas Hobbes perception of the law. These three sources or three views represent different periods of time, thus representing different people as well as political, moral and social milieu.
LAW in the Bible
    The law in the Bible is not a result of human ideas or collective human views but is a revelation from God. According to Anderson, Law is rooted in Gods unchangeable character and derived from biblical principles of morality.
Anderson presented in his article entitled Christian View of Government and Law the two important figures in the history of law  Samuel Rutherford and William Blackstone. The treatise of Rutherford, according to Anderson, challenged the foundations of the 17th century politics by proclaiming that law must be based upon the Bible, rather than the word of any man. Similarly, for Blackstone, the two foundations for law are nature and revelation through the Scriptures. According to Anderson, Blackstone believed that the fear of the Lord was the beginning of wisdom and thus taught that God was the source of all laws.
For these two important figures in the history of law, the Bible contains the laws that must govern mankind for these laws are ordained by God. In the Old Testament of the Bible is the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses. The Ten Commandments are the laws that are to be strictly followed even up to the present century for all who believe in the Bible and the sovereignty of God as the Creator of mankind and the universe. There are also other laws in the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, dealing with social activities and issues in the society. There is a law concerning the slaves, law concerning violence, law concerning property, laws of restitution and social and religious laws. The penalties for violations of the laws were so severe that they may even amount to death. However, in the New Testament, Romans 614 says, For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Romans 7 7-13 discusses the law and sin. The law is not sin, as clearly stated in the Bible. Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, You shall not covet. In verse eleven and twelve of the same text, the apostle Paul went on saying, For sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy and just and good.
In the Old Testament, violations of the law may even bring immediate death. But today, after the death of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary, Gods grace abound.
LAW for Thomas Hobbes
    Thomas Hobbes had a more pessimist view of man who is for him is a solitary being. He views the life of man as poor, nasty, brutish and short. He believed that people have competing interests. Professor Cunningham in his discussion of Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau, views that one of the objectives of Hobbes was to contribute to stability, peace, and welfare of mankind. For him, there has to be a social contract to be entered to not between the citizens and the ruling power but among the citizens. This contract shall manifest their acceptance to the rule of central authority. The society then forms a commonwealth  the leviathan.
    It is true that Hobbes saw law as commands, but it is probably a misunderstanding to see him as legal positivist. He was a contract theorist, but his ideas on the character of the social contract are both complex and controversial and extend far beyond a justification for governments, says Tracy Lightcap in her review of Claire Finkelsteins Hobbes on Law.
    The law that has been entered into by the people shall be enforced or implemented by a sovereign who is not to be subjected to the laws. However, even if the citizens had already accepted the rule of the central authority, they retain certain inalienable rights or retained rights.
LAW for Jean-Jacques Rousseau
    Jean-Jacques Rousseau views the law as arising from humanity itself which he viewed as naturally and originally good. There is a natural law that is so engraved in all of us. These natural laws work against its violators by methods that are also innate in an individual just like our conscience.
    For Jean-Jacques Rousseau, as cited in the article written by David Oppenheimer, the natural law is a law that is so entwined to us since our conception and even though it is unwritten and underappreciated, its violators, even the most encompassing and conniving are guaranteed to face permanent resistance at all points. On the other hand, Rousseau further said, as presented in the same article, that those practices that do not conflict natural law have more than sum of its parts (supporters), the permanent effects of reason will further these applications.
    Rousseau claims that even though man is not a social but a solitary being, the original man was for him healthy, happy, good, and free. According to him, the vices of men only dates from the time men formed society. For him, vices were products of society and not nature. It is in Discourse that he explained how men had lost their liberty in the past. After Discourse, he wrote another book entitled the Social Contract which begins with these words  Man was born free, but he is everywhere in chains. He fought that men should not be in chains. Thus, he introduced the social contract. For him, if the society or a state is based on a genuine social contract, as against the fraudulent social contract referred to in the Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, men would receive a better kind of freedom in exchange of their independence. This better kind of freedom is manifested in a true political or republican liberty. For him such liberty is to be found in obedience to a self-imposed law.
    There is a dichotomy between true law and actual law for Rousseau. For him, actual law only protects the status quo. However, the true law, as presented in the Social Contract, is a just law and its being just is ensured because it is made by the people in its collective capacity as sovereign and obeyed by them in their capacities as individuals subjected to it. The laws, following his discussion on the Social Contract, could not be unjust because the people would not make unjust laws for themselves.
    Other than the apparent similarities as well as contrasting views of the law by Hobbes, Rousseau and in the Bible in the above discussions, I would like to highlight some of the similarities on their view of the law. Rousseau is similar to Hobbes in his view that under the contract entered to by man, they totally alienate themselves and all their rights to the whole community. Both thinkers also agree with regard to the state of nature. They both viewed the original man as a solitary rather than a social being. However, they differ with regard to their view of the nature of man. Rousseau believed that man is originally healthy, happy, good, and free while for Hobbes man must have been poor, nasty, brutish and short. Furthermore, for Rousseau, the contract implies that the ruler is the peoples agent, not their master. On the other hand, Hobbes viewed a ruler as the absolute authority.
    In the Bible, the law is a command from God. This view of the law is different from that of Hobbes and Rousseau. Rousseau viewed the law as the expression of the will of man. For Hobbes, the law is a command- the people entered into a pact and bestowed upon the ruler the absolute authority and the right to enforce the law.
    On the other hand, Kerby Anderson believes that even Rousseau, as a humanist, noted in his Social Contract that one needs someone outside the world system to provide a moral basis for law. According to him, Rousseau says that It would take gods to give men laws.
    The Bible, Rousseau and Hobbes may have different perspective of the law, however I believe that the aim of the law for every thinkers is the same and such objective will linger no matter what period we are in. There is a law for everyone of us to obey in order that we will be able to live under an orderly, peaceful and harmonious relationship towards a progressive society.


Post a Comment