How Far Human Laws Bind the Conscience

One of the most constantly relevant and important ethical questions in the Christian life is how far human laws and commands bind us.  We are constantly presented with commands in school, work, in the family, in the Church and in our State which are less than obviously, morally necessary.

The best strand of historic, reformed theology, including Perkins and Rutherford, has answered that only God’s natural, moral and positive laws can bind creatures.  Human, positive commands bind only insofar as they reflect God’s laws.

While we are to honor God-given human authorities (by God’s moral law, the 5th Commandment) and are to seek to prevent scandal (by God’s moral law, the 6th Commandment), yet human authorities can add no morally binding obligation whatsoever to a matter; rather, they are to use their God given office, station, power and resources to enforce God’s moral law, and in so doing, they exercise true authority from God’s Will.

Hence human laws and commands bind only insofar as they reflect God’s laws in the situation, and to that degree only.  As all authorities have only been given authority from God for good, truth and edification, any action other than that is outside the powers of their office (ultra vires) and does not inherently bind.

All this is to say that all persons and authorities are to obey God’s natural, moral and positive laws, even when authorities do not rule accurately according thereto, as God is to be obeyed before men and as He is the Lord of the conscience alone.

Learn from the best of reformed theology and walk more closely in the Lord’s paths:

How Far the Laws & Commands of Human Authorities Bind the Conscience