Why is murder a crime but idolatry isn’t?

May 5, 2022 by

Should Christians avoid campaigning against abortion for the sake of unity? asks Andrew T Walker, World:

Why do we criminalize murder but not idolatry? Answering that question sets the stage for evangelicals to think clearly about the purpose of the state and the unity of our witness concerning politics.

Last week, Pastor Tim Keller posted a thread on Twitter calling for evangelicals to maintain unity and not to divide over politics.

Before I register my disagreement, let me state my admiration for Pastor Keller. His book The Reason for God was profoundly influential on me as a college student, opening my mind to the intellectual coherence of the Christian faith. As the news was shared of his cancer diagnosis, I was deeply saddened. I regularly pray for his healing and comfort.

In the thread, Pastor Keller suggests that evangelicals have misread their Bibles on matters of politics. He states that “many Evangelicals have no coherent understanding of how to relate the Bible to politics.” He says evangelicals are too fast to elevate certain issues where the Bible offers no clear roadmap and draw hard lines resulting in needless division. He thus wants to prevent “disunity over debatable political differences.” For Keller, the Bible does not give a clear roadmap on how issues the Bible considers sin—such as idolatry, abortion, and same-sex marriage—should be handled in society. In Keller’s reading, because evangelicals allow for idolatry to be legal but want to make abortion illegal, this reveals a failure of principles in determining grounds for division when it comes to politics.

I’d like to respectfully take Pastor Keller up on the challenge by taking his argument seriously. I think he makes some category errors, not just in distinguishing between sins and crimes, but also in separating sins that can be properly restrained by civil law versus sins that cannot. There is a difference between sins that exist because of fallen human nature that civil law cannot eradicate versus sins that can be reasonably policed as crimes because of demonstrable harm done to others.

We cannot legislate idolatry out of the human heart like we can legislate abortion as a crime. Martin Luther King Jr. once quipped, “It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can stop him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.” King’s insight is a valuable one.

Read here

See also:

Roe v Wade: US Supreme Court may overturn abortion law, leak suggests,
from BBC News: The US Supreme Court could be about to overturn the nationwide legal right to abortion, according to an unprecedented leaked draft of a court document.

Is SCOTUS really going to quash Roe v Wade? by Michael Cook, MercatorNet

The truth about Roe vs Wade, by Charles Moore, Spectator [£]
“…overturning Roe vs Wade, though undoubtedly a momentous decision, would not banish abortion from America.”

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