An Unjust Law is not a Law

MLK Birmingham jail

There has been much said about Kim Davis and her refusal to give out marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Many of us see her action or civil disobedience as a stand for religious liberty. While others see it as just disobedience to a law adjudicated by the Supreme Court. The refrain is that same-sex marriage is the law of the land and therefore it must be obeyed. They go on to say that because conservatives are about the rule of law we should not challenge the decision of the court or the law. In other words, we propagate criticism of hypocrisy if we promote ourselves as the law and order group while celebrating civil disobedience.

These thoughts and ideas were clearly articulated on Fox News as Sheppard Smith and “The Five” all took issue with the stance of Kim Davis and Gov. Huckabee’s support of her. None of their statements were a surprise to me knowing the “Fair and Balanced” programming of Fox News has been anything but fair and balanced, at least on this issue. My suggestion is that they tread lightly on this issue and possibly get a few evangelicals to express why we find same-sex marriage so objectionable, and why we think it is not only alright to demonstrate through civil disobedience but that there is no contradiction in our stance supporting law and order.

In Dr. King’s letter from a Birmingham jail, he makes clear how one can be for one law and against another. King said, “You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, it is rather strange and paradoxical to find us consciously breaking laws. One may well ask ‘How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?’ The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just and there are unjust laws. I would agree with Saint Augustine that ‘An unjust law is no law at all.’ . . . A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law.”

I believe Dr. King would say that all the Jim Crow laws of the South banning places where Blacks could eat or drink, sit, stand or congregate were unjust laws. I believe he’d put the Dred Scott decision legalizing slavery throughout the U.S. in the unjust law category. Then add the striking down of the Civil rights act of 1857, which prohibited segregation in public accommodations. Plessey vs. Ferguson establishing separate but equal doctrine would also fit the unjust law category. We could add Roe vs. Wade legalizing abortion and the latest decision, making same-sex marriages legal. There are probably more laws or decision by the U.S. Supreme Court has decided that could be in this category but time or space will not permit.

The point is that for conservatives, who take the Bible seriously; the new law created by the US Supreme Court is an unjust law on two levels. On one level, they believe that there is no law in the constitution or anywhere else that grants same-sex couples to wed; furthermore, the Justices created law out of thin air. They actually subverted the Constitution, which gives the power to create a law to the Congress, not the courts. Secondly, the new law is in conflict with biblical teaching. Dr. King mentioned that an unjust law is “a code that is out of harmony with the moral law.” The Bible is clear on its rejection of same-sex marriage from Genesis 1:26-31 where God creates human beings as Male and Female in His image and commands them to be fruitful and to multiply and subdue the earth. Somehow the distinction between being male and/or female reflects God’s image. The command to have children (to fill the earth with God’s image) is not possible in the scenario of same-sex marriage. The command simply can’t be carried out. These passages to have children also contradict the laws making abortion legal. God says have children while the man-made unjust law says you can abort them if that’s inconvenient for you.

If you add to Genesis 1 the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18-19), Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13 you’d understand that homosexual practice is considered an abomination. In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul says that homosexual practice is a judgment from God (Rom 1:18-27) against those who refused to worship and honor the Creator. Paul says in “Rom. 1:26, 27:  For this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

These are the same passages that Barack Obama called an “obscure line in Romans” (The Audacity of Hope, page 222). There is nothing obscure about Paul’s argument defending the Righteousness of God, and highlighting the sinfulness of mankind. However, in I Corinthians 6:9-11, Paul acknowledges that homosexual attraction is not immutable. Paul says, “… Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (I Cor.6:9-11). Paul lists a number of vices and declares that those who practice these shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. However, he goes on to say that those he is writing too used to practice these vices but have changed because they have been “washed,” “sanctified” and “justified.” Their status has changed because of their faith in Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. They are no longer practitioners of the vices Paul delineates. In other words, none of these sins are immutable including homosexuality. Christ has died to deliver us from such practices and Paul can now say, “To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours…” (I Cor. 1:2 ESV).

Given this understanding of homosexual practice—that it is deemed sinful and called an abomination—but that Christ gave his life to redeem us from all sinful practice—it is impossible to see how a true believer could agree to support of same-sex marriages. It is inconceivable for a believer to agree that same-sex marriage constitutes a just law by any stretch of the imagination. Therefore, we have no choice but to disobey. Obedience to an unjust law or a law that contradicts the Word of God would cause the believer to act in contradiction to his or her beliefs. Their actions would deny their beliefs and being forced to do so would be in conflict with the First Amendment.

Hence, those of us who take the Bible serious need to follow the example of the Peter and the Apostles who when told not to teach in the name of Jesus anymore by the Sanhedrin and the High Priest (the supreme court of their day) said, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29). Consequently, it doesn’t matter what popular opinion is, the courts or even what Fox News says. We will obey God over against what men or others may say. The final authority is God. May God strengthen us that we be so bold!

Default Comments (1)

One thought on “An Unjust Law is not a Law

  1. Col. Al Lassiter, Sr. says:

    Outstanding Dr.Wallace, you covered every base: constitutional, Biblical, moral, historical, nature.
    Your analysis can not be refuted– only by an irrational person who desires to ignore reason.

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