Jurisdiction: A thought experiment

I had intended to post this sometime in the next couple of months, and something different today, but between the lack of time to write what I’d originally planned and the amount of political rhetoric filling the blogosphere of late, I’ve changed that plan. So. In discussing the various issues that are so politically charged of late, consider the following thought experiment:

Suppose the Texas legislature—or for that matter the UN General Assembly, the US Congress, or even the Michigan state legislature—passed a law, or the courts in any of those jurisdictions decreed, that the capital of Michigan is Minneapolis, or Timbuktu.

Even if this were to take place, and were affirmed by every executive whose signature was required and every court in which it was challenged—and every law, order, or rule contradicting it struck down as “unconstitutional”—that would not change the fact that neither Minneapolis nor Timbuktu is in Michigan. And, with the sole exception of (perhaps!) the Michigan legislature and courts from the list above, that even if they were, the law or decree would be void because none of those governmental bodies (except, as I said, possibly the Michigan state government) has the jurisdication to set Michigan’s capital city.

Now, a human law, regulation, rule, or judicial decree may define its terms in whatever counterfactual way it likes, much like the club I once read about (possibly never actually existing, but the point is good) that forbade dogs on its premises, but said that “Any animal leading a blind person shall be deemed a cat.” But even in that example, that rule does not make a seeing-eye dog a cat, and in particular it does not mean that a seeing-eye dog—let alone a French poodle—should be eligible to win “best in show” in a cat fanciers’ show.

However, for every other purpose, the meaning of terms like “marriage,” “morality,” “human life,” “homicide,” and so on are not up to any human or temporal government, culture, or other institution to decide, and whether any action is just, moral, and in fact lawful (for “an unjust law is no law at all”) depends solely upon God—not just any so-called god, but the Triune Creator God who introduced himself to us in the Bible—and upon his Law. As I explained in my exploration of the purpose of government, just as laws enacted by state legislatures in the United States must be consistent with the federal Constitution to be valid and legally enforceable, any “leader, ruler, or government has legitimacy because of its place within God’s government of the whole world,” and for a government to set itself in direct contradiction to God’s law is to discard the legitimacy from its authority.

And there’s also this point that C. S. Lewis makes in Mere Christianity:

But there is a difficulty about disagreeing with God. He is the source from which all your reasoning power comes: you could not be right and he wrong any more than a stream can rise higher than its own source. When you are arguing against Him you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all: it is like cutting off the branch you are sitting on.

If a law defines itself in terms inconsistent with God’s Law, it has defined itself in inconsistent terms, period.


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