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Understanding the differences between natural law, biblical law, and human law can be confusing at first; therefore, a few definitions and a brief discussion of each will be a helpful start to this assignment. First, natural law is God’s revealed truth about morality outside of Scripture (the Bible). He “established the laws of heaven and earth” (Jeremiah 33:25, NIV). It is not a code of law, but rather moral principles that are applied universally. These are objective, transcendent moral truths. God created humanity in His image (Genesis 1:27) with an innate moral sense. We were made to know God and to have a relationship with him. When humans decided to act immorally (this is what sin is), God gave them biblical laws to help restrain immorality, to magnify the human condition. You will find over 600 biblical laws in the first five books of the Bible (sometimes referred to as the Torah, the Pentateuch, or the Laws of Moses). These laws were instructions that point to the ideal. Humans, as well, set up their own rules to regulate the actions of those who they govern (these rules are our written laws). Murder, for example, is an immoral act that violates natural law, biblical law, and human law, but some immoral acts (sins) do not violate human law. Thus, human law does not necessarily define morality. To assess whether a behavior is moral or not, evaluate the act, which includes the motive, the consequences, and the character of the actor. Natural law applies to all people and provides the foundation for a standard of morality on which all human law ought to be based.
The law (human law) indicates the minimum level of our moral obligation to society. It provides the boundaries for moral (acceptable) behavior (not our moral beliefs). Therefore, a behavior is considered a crime when essential elements (harm, legality, actus reus, mens rea, causation, concurrence, and punishment) are present. (Defined in your textbook are these seven elements of a crime.)
For this assignment, you will be studying a criminal act from a legal and a moral position. Find a crime or a court case that interests you and has taken place within the last 30 days. (Crimes or court cases that have occurred more than 30 days ago will not be accepted. Place a link to the article or court case at the bottom of your paper.)
The following Websites may help you in your search:
1. First, provide a concise description of the crime. (What happened?) In your explanation, identify and discuss the seven elements of a crime (i.e., harm, legality, actus reus, mens rea, causation, concurrence, and punishment) as they specifically pertain to your crime. (If some of these essential elements are not present, discuss their absence).
2. Second, since the suspect or defendant’s behavior in the crime that you have selected was deemed criminal, we know that this person violated some level of moral responsibility to society. You are to discuss why the suspect or defendant’s behavior was morally wrong.
The following information may help guide your discussion.
When morally assessing a behavior, we are to consider the rationale for the act. What conceivable motive did the suspect or defendant have for this crime? (Since you do not know what the defendant was thinking, this will be a reasonable guess.) Base your moral assessment on facts, not opinion. (Moral truths are not matters of personal perspectives, but rather inferences based on facts. Moral assessments are objective, based on facts, not subjective, based on feelings.) Next, give thought to the consequences (the harm) of the violation. (Perhaps there was an infringement of someone’s unalienable rights or constitutional rights.) Lastly, consider the applicability of the law to the behavior. Perhaps you do not believe the behavior was morally wrong, but rather the law was unjustified. (An unjustifiable law could be one that forces someone to do something that violates their religious beliefs. An example would be a law that forces a doctor to perform abortions.)