More Law, Less Wisdom

If we become dependent upon having our behavior legislated, we lose the ability to think wisely, and we crave more law.

Christians are famous for adding legislation to law and over again, in order, it is hoped, to more and more precisely regulate behavior. We know, for example, that the 7th commandment prohibits adultery. We rightly see that any sex apart from
marriage is forbidden. But the temptation scares us, and so we place restrictions around our own actions. We don’t ask our girlfriend up to our apartment or we don’t touch or whatever.

So far, not necessarily bad. But then we decide that these restrictions ought to be in place for everyone, and before long we are telling our young people they should not dance. We start with something good, and we add and add and add until the law becomes something burdensome, but safe.

Many of us crave such legal boundaries because it does feel safe. Some are drawn to churches and other communities that are highly law structured. In such communities, we are free NOT to think, but to simply do what we are told. We think this is holiness, but this is not what God desired for his children.

I was made to think of this the other day while reading The Atlantic. John Staddon, in an article entitled “Distracting Miss Daisy”, argues that US roads are cluttered with unnecessary signage. He makes a fascinating case that the more signage on the roads (stop signs, speed limits signs, slippery when wet [duh!] type signs) actually makes our roads less safe. The proliferation of signs distracts us and (this is the fascinating point) makes us actually less safe drivers because we grow to depend upon the signs and not upon driving smart and defensively.

I find the same pattern among Christians navigating their lives.

Staddon says this:

When you’ve trained people to drive according to the signs, you need to keep adding more signs to tell them exactly when and in what fashion they need to adjust their behavior. Otherwise, drivers may see no reason why they should slow down on a curve in the rain.

When we train Christians to live according to law, we end up having to proliferate law, because people lose the wisdom necessary to live their lives naturally to the glory of Christ. the reality is, with less law, Christians are not less holy; they are as holy and more joyful.

At least, that makes sense to me.

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3 thoughts on “More Law, Less Wisdom

  1. MagistraCarminae

    What a painful tendency this is. I see it not only in Christian circles, but in the workplace (at least here, where there are dangers in the workplace, but so many rules that no one any longer has to think about what may be really dangerous or exercise common sense!) I’ll look forward to reading the article.ChrisP.S. I found out from my ddil in IN that she is a regular reader here, too. That takes you up to at least 4!!

  2. snowbot

    Great post. I immediately thought of Derek Webb’s song, “A New Law”:Don’t teach me about politics and governmentJust tell me who to vote for Don’t teach me about truth and beautyJust label my musicDon’t teach me how to live like a free manJust give me a new lawI don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easySo just bring it down from the mountain to meI want a new lawDon’t teach me about moderation and libertyI prefer a shot of grape juiceDon’t teach me about loving my enemiesDon’t teach me how to listen to the SpiritJust give me a new lawWhat’s the use in trading a law you can never keepFor one you can that cannot get you anythingDo not be afraid

  3. Randy Greenwald

    Chris and Keith,Both comments add to the post and show that at least two of you ‘got it’. I hope that means that more did. It’s tough, though, as I think about applying wisdom to parenting, for example. It is easier to proliferate rules than it is to instill wisdom. You’d think I’d have that figured out by now. But, I guess as well, you could say that time spent on the baseball diamond does not make one a gold glove winner. Thanks!

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