"Talk no more so very proudly,
let not arrogance come from your mouth;
for the LORD is a God of knowledge,
and by him actions are weighed."
One of the benefits of living in a western liberal democracy is the individual freedoms of opinions that we can express. We have freedom in love, religion, and politics. A foundational principle in many democracies is that what the majority wish is what is best for them. Unfettered this notion can have dangerous consequences.
What has brought this up recently for me is promotion of laws liberalising illicit activity, such as drug use. As a neuroscientist I have a particular interest in the use of illicit drugs and the damage they cause.
I understand how many of them work, and how they affect our brains and bodies. While our understanding of many of the effects of drugs, including marijuana, is far from complete, it is clear that they have tremendous potential for harm. Despite how societies' opinions have changed towards illicit or recreational drugs, their harm to our bodies and souls remains unchanged. In short, legalisation of drug use and other illicit activities does not eliminate their harmfulness, it only normalises sin.
As a scientist it is important for me to remember that the truth of something never changes, only our understanding of the truth changes. The objective and scientific facts of nature were the same 1000 years ago, though our knowledge of the truth was far less. This line of thinking can also be applied to law and morality, what is right or wrong doesn't change, only our understanding of it.
There are many instances in which different societies have practised behaviours which we consider abhorrent, but to them was normal. There have been countless genocides, enslavements, murders and rape that were considered culturally acceptable throughout history. Few however would argue that these were ever good, despite what people at the time believed. Our justice system also obeys this principle, a crime is a crime whether the criminal believes their actions were justifiable or not. In short, our opinion of the law does not change the applicability of the law to us.
Furthermore, the harmfulness of something is not dependent on whether we believe it is harmful. An excellent modern example of this is smoking and asbestos. It is now thoroughly established that smoking and asbestos are harmful, though we never used to believe this to be the case. As such we are still reaping the continuing harmful effects of both today.
Our belief that something is safe does not affect whether it is actually safe or good. This is why we have regulatory bodies and research, because our beliefs must be informed by truth. In situations like this we have to consider the purpose of law in our lives.
19Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God. 20Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God's sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
The Bible makes it clear in many instances that the purpose of the law is to remind us of our sin. This is because as fallen people, sin becomes normal and we no longer can tell what is right. God's law, which I believe we should model our law upon, serves to protect us from harm.
The purpose of the law is to protect us and let us know what is good for us, because we need constant reminding (Romans 3 verse 20). The law should not be a matter of the opinion of the masses, because we don't always know what is good for us.
When we consider the law in government, we should always consider "what is good for us?" This should always be informed by knowledge and truth of God's law.
Nathanael Yates from Perth, Western Australia, is an award winning young scientist completing a PhD in the neurobiology of schizophrenia
Nathanael Yates' previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/nathanael-yates.html