Menu Close

Conservative v. Liberal Views of Rule of Law4 min read

Listen to this article

Sorry to be a contrarian, but… I found the aforementioned article on the Rule of Law (ROL) to be a little overly simplistic, painting both conservative and liberal positions in an incomplete light. Also, it failed in presenting a nice picture of a Christian view of government – it made it sound like Christians support a theocracy similar to the Islamic state!


The author makes the conservative position seem inflexible and bound by traditional understandings. He should have mentioned that while the conservative understanding of ROL bases law in unchanging, objective laws, it is flexible in that, as our understandings of said laws expands, or needs clarification, we have the flexibility to update it. Hence the many amendments to our Constitution. As a good example, the prohibition against slavery was not a more evolved position, it was the natural extension of the original idea of "we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." Same with women’s suffrage.


He also makes the liberal position sound based totally in the subjective. While I agree, in general, the liberal position is one of shifting, subjective reality, most liberals would probably chafe at such a simplistic portrayal. However, here is why I think Liberals reject the idea of objective morality as reflected in the idea of ROL:

(a) Many Liberals Do, In Fact, Believe in Subjective Morality
This sad fact was clearly emphasized in the article. I think that liberals are comitted to subjective truth because:

  • They limit their search for truth to empirical science, and reject revealed truth, so all sources of revealed truth are spurned. So what claim to objective truth do they have? Perhaps the laws of nature or societies as revealed in history, but again, the interpretation of history is subjective, so perhaps they must rely on the shifting sands of human assumptions
  • Instead of divine law as the measure of mankind, they measure man by man. Then, if it’s just a battle of human opinion, who can say they are objectively right?

Unfortunatly, for example, this reasoning would go as far as to say, if your society condones infanticide, than it is ok because your society has agreed upon it as a norm. This extreme position, unfortunately, can allow the base nature of man to destroy himself and society.

(b) Liberals Often Reject Objective Truth Because We So Strongly Associate it With Divine Law
Our founders chose well the words "we hold these truths to be self-evident." Rather than appealing directly to divine law, they appeal to reason and naturalistic law. This is important because Liberals rightly want to avoid a theocracy of any type. If we appeal to the laws of nature (and nature’s God), we do better than appealing directly to the Christian Scriptures. By being careful in this way, we give room to liberals who, by use of reason, recognize that *some* issues of morality and law are objectively consistent across cultures and time. If we clothe it merely in scripture, we are bound to be rejected.

(c) Liberals Often Reject Objective Truth Because We Make No Room For the Gray Areas
The intellectual sin of our times is the presentation of unbalanced, polarized truths. We take one half of a truth paradox, and exclude the other. In this case, we forget to mention that some truths are self evident and timeless, but lesser ones are not so clear, and should be left up to the individual nation, group, or individual. This quote echoes that sentiment:

In the essentials, UNITY (we should push for unanimous agreement) In the non-essentials, LIBERTY (we should allow each to decide for himself) In all things, CHARITY (in any case we ought to be kind)

When discussing objective truth and divine law, we need to remember to remark that not every issue can be codified, and government is limited to the big things.