One of the foundational beliefs of Christianity is the supreme authority of Scripture. There is no way of overstating just how important this singular doctrine is to the life and health of the believing church. Without the written Word, we have nothing. I think most people who take the time to read this will agree with me on this point. That said, if our doctrine of Scripture teaches that the Bible serves as our highest authority over all other authorities, then the practical function of this doctrine means the Bible, properly interpreted, serves as 1.) the ground of all true knowledge and 2.) the ultimate standard by which all assertions of reality are tested.

I say this, because the question of defunding and (therefore) dismantling law enforcement is not outside the purview of Scripture. Instead of forging our views of the matter on the ever-changing winds of culture and its deeply imbedded (and hard to prove) social narratives, we need to return once again to our foundational truth—the Scripture. What does the Bible have to say about the validity of law enforcement?

To answer that question, we need to begin with a deeper question…the anthropological question, what is humanity? Who are we as humans? What is our fundamental nature? If we answer that question correctly (from Scripture), then the rest of the question begins to fall into place. Indeed, the Scripture does teach us that we were created in the noble image of the invisible God—endowed with God-like virtues and capacities for good. But the Scripture is also clear that due to the intrusion of sin, the entirety of our human constitution has been corrupted—mind, body and desires (Eph 2:3). We are told by Moses that, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5). Again, Moses asserts, “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Gen 8:21). The prophet Jeremiah reminds us forcefully that the human heart is “deceitful” and “desperately sick” (Jer 17:9). Jesus himself assumes that people are basically evil in his teaching ministry (Matt 7:11). Indeed, Paul speaks of a time when evil and lawlessness will culminate as we near the end (2 Thess 1:9-12). In short, the Scripture teaches that humanity is fundamentally corrupt. This doctrine does not mean that each person is as evil as he or she can be, only that the heart unchanged by grace is fundamentally controlled by human pride.

This doctrine of human depravity applies in at least two ways to the question of law enforcement. First, it establishes the need for law enforcement (however it might be structured or funded in a society). In the days of Noah, human civilization devolved to a point where, “the earth was filled with violence” (Gen 6:11). The solution was a divinely executed “do-over” through a catastrophic deluge. Genesis 6 serves as a graphic reminder of the potential depths of social depravity. This explains why in the post-flood instructions, the first command of justice was given, “Whoever sheds the blood of a man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his image” (Gen 9:6). The means of civil justice (in this case, murder), is human agency, “by man shall his blood be shed….” This is human enforcement of justice. Without it, society devolves into inconceivable expressions of brutality and corruption. The last century witnessed the breakdown of law and order in a number of horrific genocides. The point? Without some means of enforcing justice, society becomes a monstrous and murderous place to live. Paul elaborates on this principle of enforcement further when he declares that, “there is no authority except from God, and…have been instituted by God” (Rom 13:1). And this institution of divine authority, “does not bear the sword in vain” (Rom 13:4). Perhaps it goes without saying, but the sword is the instrument of just enforcement.

The point in all of this is to say that law enforcement is absolutely necessary per our doctrine of depravity and our doctrine of authority. Those who think we can function without it operate from a faulty premise; namely, that people are essentially good and simply need more education and better opportunities.

Yet, there is a second application of this doctrine of depravity that we must not miss either. The simple fact that humans are fundamentally corrupt means that each and every one of our organizations and institutions is also subject to corruption. Sinfulness infects ecclesiastical organizations (aka churches), the Oval Office and…yes…law enforcement. Our doctrine of depravity applies to men and women wearing a uniform and a badge. Does our modern concept of racism infect the hearts of officers? From what I know about human depravity, sadly…yes. I’m sure that it does in some officers—as do the sinful impulses of lust, greed and favoritism. The answer, however, is not defunding or dismantling the very thing that restrains evil! That ends in anarchy. The answer is to discipline the guilty, not demolish the whole—to fix what’s broken, not throw it away. To do so is a classic example of throwing the baby out with the bath water.

As a Christian, I embrace the absolute need for law enforcement AND the absolute necessity of careful, constant and vigilant accountability for those who serve in this office. Too, I should say that I’m encouraged by the biblical truth that there will come a day when law enforcement will be no more—when God makes “all things new.” Then, people will, “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks…” (Isa 2:4). Lord come quickly!

(Originally published 2020)

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