Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mandatory Speed Limits and Total Depravity

As a countermeasure to rising fuel prices, Washington contemplates a mandatory 55mph speed limit. This is akin to the same 1974 legislation designed to enforce better fuel economy and ideally lower fuel prices. Aside from the obvious political stupidity this measure says volumes about total depravity.

Politically speaking, why don't all those lobbying for the mandatory speed limit simply choose to do 55mph? Why do we need government to dictate something that can be easily chosen by those governed? It's not illegal to slow down so why do we need a law making it legal? The assumption is we're bound by law to do 65mph unless Aunt Samantha (Uncle Sam's feminist sister) restrains me from doing so. While I try to hold my political cards close the vest, this pot is too rich. "We the people" (i.e. free-market citizenry) can have greater and quicker impact on fuel prices than anything else. It's Economics 101.

I digress. From this we learn far more about our common depravity than our common recession. This issue gives great insight to our approach to the law, but especially God's law.

For example, our 4-year-old daughter is old enough to process things she sees on TV. When an inappropriate advertisement we often shield her eyes from seeing it or distract her from it. She now often senses what material is inappropriate and says, "Dad, cover my eyes so I don't watch that." To that I respond, "Sweetie, why don't you just choose not to watch it?" The assumption is she's going to do what she shouldn't unless she's restrained from something outside herself.

You see, we overestimate the power of the law and even more the fallacy of free will. Take those speed limit signs, for example. They can state the law as a potential deterrent to crime. They serve as a basis of judgment if the law they state is broken. They provide some measure of safety. But of all the things they can do they cannot make us to the speed limit! They're impotent to do the very thing they're designed to do (create law-abiding drivers). Such is a matter of the heart. Drivers must still choose to do the speed limit.

Such is the nature of God's law. As much as it can do, it cannot make us law-keepers. Like my daughter and speeders, we will insist on sin and demand to be restrained. If God doesn't want us to sin then he'll have to stop me because I'm certainly not going to restrain myself.

To insist on the fallacy of free will is to insist you're free not to sin. Try it and see how free your will is, especially when you've the tasted the thrill of 65mph. How eager will you be to throttle down?

What we need can only be accomplished by the change of the heart, not the change of the law. Thus, Paul wrote in Rom 8.3-4: For what the Law could not do (i.e. make law-keepers), weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

We need more than the law written on signs (or tablets), but on the heart. This is what Jesus accomplished in his obedience and gift of the Holy Spirit. By engraving God's law on our hearts the Spirit ensures that we want to God what God commands. We're compelled from within, not commanded from without.

All that to say: drive slower, drive less, vote Bob Barr (did I say that out loud?) and consider how desperately we need Jesus to make us law-keepers.


R. Mansfield said...

Here's one problem though... I have no idea what the speed limit is in Washington, but let's assume it is currently 70. This invariably means that the average person drives closer to 75 mph.

Now, if a person is traveling that same stretch of road and voluntarily chooses to drive 55 MPH, 20 MPH slower than the speed everyone else is driving, I would fear that the circumstances would be ripe for major collisions. If you've ever been driving along and suddenly realized the car you're approaching is going significantly slower than you and you've had to slam on your breaks, your experience bears this out.

Many busy highways have minimum speed limits in addition to maximum limits for this very reason.

R. Mansfield said...

"brakes," not "breaks" of course :-)

Barry J. Maxwell said...

Rick, Rick, Rick,

Don't confuse us all with your angular vortex of irascible logic :). That's why God created a left lane...for passing! Except in TN, where it seems the left lane is for toodling.

However, this is precisely my point. No speed limit sign will make anyone drive the speed limit, no matter what it is. If you've ever slowed down to pass a police car but then sped up when out of sight, your experience bears this out.

To enforce a 55mph limit after we're all used to 70mph, the govt. would have to redouble its efforts to enforce it. More police working more hours on more highways, which equals more taxes. All our supposed fuel savings are now given the govt. rather than private enterprise.

Wait, what was the question?