Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Law and Theology: A Marriage?, Part II.

Lawyers and theologians may be mistaken for each other.

Doubt it?

Let's recap three reasons from our first part in this series (here):

1. Both elevate texts;
2. Both use rules of interpretation to interpret them; and
3. Both involve advocates who contend for a conclusion (based on 1 and 2).

This post adds a fourth reason: both employ similar imagery. The Bible is replete with examples displaying a lawsuit rubric. Our discussion of the Covenant Lawsuit (here) illustrates one. Romans' portrayal of sinners being in the dock (e.g., Rom. 3) provides another.

This post focuses on Jesus' role as mediator. It examines whether the biblical metaphor (“For there is ... one mediator [ ] between God and men, the man Christ Jesus [1 Tim. 2:5-6; NASB]) comports with the modern, legal understanding of mediator. It doesn't.

In the legal context, mediators are by definition "neutrals"--dispassionate people with no interest in the dispute they are trying to resolve. (Cal. Evid. Code Section 1115(b).) According to California law, a mediator "must maintain impartiality toward all participants ... at all times." (Cal. Rule of Court 1620.5.) Moreover, a mediator may be disqualified or required to withdraw upon a party's objection regarding impartiality. (Cal.Rule of Court 1620.5(e).)

Viewing Jesus' work as a mere mediator (in the modern sense) would cause one to overlook His advocacy role in reconciling God and humanity. "And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." (1 John 2:1; NASB.) He is hardly disinterested.