Law and morality? : some theological perspectives

Smit, Dirkie (2009)

CITATION: Smit, D. 2009. Law and morality? : some theological perspectives. Scriptura, 101:341-351, doi:10.7833/101-0-644.

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The essay reflects on the well-known poem “What abou’ de lô?(1961) by Adam Small in order to raise some aspects of the complex relationship between law and morality. Written in the years of struggle against the apartheid system, the poem clearly questioned the legitimacy of so-called positive law, suggesting that legality and legitimacy are not necessarily identical and that justice is not merely the application of the existing law of the day. But what is then the alternative, what could be the norm with which to measure the law? Three possible answers to this question are considered, all of them implicitly suggested by the poem – some form of moral law, some notion of justice, or some form of divine or revealed law. All three are represented and defended by influential theoretical traditions, yet all three also lead to ambiguities and new problems. In conclusion, some brief theological comments are offered.

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