Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Food for thought: Law

Burnett states that the Law stands in relation to the Lawgiver, irrespective of the mode of promulgation. Now a lawyer is versed in this, but this comes as a new articulation of what we all have lived with, but most have never heard explicitly stated.

Because law must cover the general, and deal with the particular (ie: exceptions, extension, etc), a twofold system exists. Written law (statuatory) contains the general case, while the unwritten (as with common law) resides in the record of decision. All must be used together to arrive at a just extension in each new case of particular fact, each is delivered from the lawgiver.

The French, after the revolution, attempted to throw out accumulated body received decisions, and only have simple statutes. The folly of this, Burnett observes, is that within 20 years the French had an additional 50 volumns of law, and by 1828, over 100! As GKC says, when you throw out God, you don't get freedom; you don't even get anarchy. You get the little laws. One is inclined to observe that our propensity for regulation is an unfortunate following in these footsteps.

If you have trouble following what I've just written, then I highly recommend Burnett's book; he's far more articulate!

Jumping ahead of Burnett's thought, it seems clear to me that what he's on to is that God as Lawgiver, delivered not only statute law, but a record of decision; and there is a long record of it in Holy Scripture. We see this record of decision in the work of Judges, Prophets, our Lord, and the Apostles. Yet the protestant wishes to apply as statute the scriptures, without the authoritative application of the record of decision, a record existing unbroken to this day. In this he makes himself judge of the law.

The twofold system Burnett discusses makes more sense to me when I recall that the basis of law is the articulation of the natural law, and as such, it's particulars are constant; hence a statute, or what is received through common law, have one and the same source, of which the first cause is God Himself.

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