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Friday, March 12, 2010

Privacy as a Biblical Concept

Can the Bible teach us anything about the notion of privacy? The law has been concerned with privacy quite dramatically over the past century, wrestling with questions such as: What is privacy? When does private conduct receive public protection? How does the law regulate these?

American jurisprudence has indeed based many rulings on this notion of privacy, and has expanded it dramatically over that process. The Supreme Court of the United States has relied on privacy interests to rule in Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U.S. 390 (1923), and Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 268 U.S. 510 (1925) in favor of parental rights; in Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965) regarding martial privacy; in Eisenstadt v. Baird, 405 U.S. 438 (1972) regarding contraceptives for unmarried individuals; in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. 833 (1992), regarding abortion, and Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558 (2003) regarding privacy for consensual sexual conduct in one’s own home.

Consider Genesis 3:8. Adam and Eve thought they could seek privacy. But is there any privacy from God? No, He is omniscient. There is nothing hidden from Him. He knows all, then and now. So is privacy a biblical concept? Consider Romans 1: 20- 2:1. God has kept nothing about Himself private, not even His wrath (v.20) but freely reveals all He is if we seek Him. Indeed, Paul notes in v.21 that God has made it all plain to us. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” And precisely because we are without excuse, true believers do act as set forth in Romans 1, and we simultaneously have no excuse to pass judgment (2:1). So why is privacy such a mystery to lawmakers? The Bible offers great insight into this mystery of privacy. Consider Psalm 25:4-14:
Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths, guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long.

Remember, Lord, Your great mercy from and love, for they are from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways, according to Your love remember me, for You are good, O Lord. Good and upright is the Lord, therefore He instructs sinners in His way. All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of His covenant. For the sake of Your name, O Lord, forgive my iniquity though it is great. Who then is the man that fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him. He will spend his days in prosperity and his descendants will inherit the land. The Lord confides in those who fear Him. He makes His covenant known to them.

God knows all, even if we think we can keep something private from Him; furthermore, He desires for us to know Him, and wants to afford his protection, and blessings in our lives. Privacy is something to be guarded for good. And God wishes there to be no privacy between us and Him, for “the Lord confides in those who fear Him, He makes His covenant known to them.” (v.14). There is no privacy between God and those He loves – which is every one of us. The biblical concept of privacy reveals that He knows all, and desires for us to know all through Him. And through Him, we are free from any notion of privacy that might expand into a trap. “My eyes are ever on the Lord, for only He will release my feet from the snare.” Psalm 25:15. Yes, privacy is a biblical concept – one that can be easily twisted by human nature, but freely reveals all knowledge of Him.

~ Prof. Lynne Marie Kohm, Regent University School of Law

1 comment:

Scott Pryor said...

God has not revealed everything of himself to humans. See Dt 29.29.

The Mosaic covenant provides what might be characterized as a zone of privacy for homeowner/debtors. See Dt 24.10-11

It is not clear in what sense God loves "every one of us." See Rm 9.13.