I've had a really rough day and I'd like to reply in depth point by point to your questions but I can't really think straight right now, more so than usual Have you ever tried to help your spouse hook up a DVD player on an outdated TV? I think we need an RV modulator and an S output cable? And that was the highlight of my day.
Well, to sum up, of course most laws have their basis in morality (some don't have any basis in morality but were just enacted for business/political purposes), and in the West that morality would be the Judeo-Christian ethic based on the Ten Commandments. And, as you said, all people have the natural or moral law within, as well, that forms the basis for civil law. And, to an extent, certain laws do help in restraining rampant immorality by making known the acceptable standards of a given society, but even the best intentioned citizen can only obey imperfectly, at best, thus my belief that you can't really legislate morality, per se. If you could, everyone would be perfect.
I guess my point was that legislation doesn't always work as planned, i.e., Prohibition and the current War on Drugs, in particular. I can see the rationale behind both, in that the legislation was/is aimed at eliminating the harm to society of the effects of alcohol abuse and/or illicit drug use. But it doesn't work. In attempting to alleviate one problem, a host of other problems are created in its place that are equally devastating, or more so, to society than the problem that was intended to be eliminated by the legislation that imposed criminal penalties on the undesirable behavior in the first place.
Something is desperately wrong when a youngster can stand on a corner and earn $1,000 a day or more selling illegal drugs. There are not enough cops to go around to keep on top of the problem, and even if there were, at that lucrative rate, the drug dealers would find a way to continue doing business. The profit has to be taken out of it, and the only way I see that happening is to decriminalize the industry and regulate it. Take it out of the hands of the criminals. Make staying in school and getting a legitimate job seem like a wise alternative.
I am not advocating alcohol abuse or illicit drug use. I am saying that legislation designed to solve the problems didn't have their intended benefit to society.
Also, there are numerous immoral behaviors that are not specifically deemed illegal by this or other societies, with resultant criminal penalties for the practice of such immoral behaviors. So, in that sense, I don't see a perfect correlation between civil law and morality. What is the criminal penalty for not honoring your parents? For coveting your neighbors goods or spouse? For not loving your neighbor as yourself? For lying to a friend, for gossiping?
Also, civil law, although based on natural or moral law, is still subject to man's understanding of that law, or a society's understanding of that law. For instance, in the 1600's Puritan legislation in England closed the theatres and forbade the performance of dramas (including Shakespeare), recitals, the performance of popular music, dancing, outlawed statues, stained glass windows, etc., in churches and cathedrals. In New England, their counterparts in the New World legislated against the celebration of Christmas (public and private celebrations) because of its pagan influences, with civil penalties meted out for violations, and other societal restrictions that seem outlandish and over-the-top, today, but that to the Puritans, I'm sure, seemed rational and moral.
As for the Ten Commandments, as a believer, Christ has fulfilled the requirement of the Law on my behalf and has taken the penalty of my violation of them upon Himself, freeing me from "the curse of the Law", allowing me to live in newness of life because of and through Him. No, for me, the Law has not been done away with, or rescinded, but has been fulfilled perfectly on my behalf by Christ through His finished work on the cross.
God's Law demands death for the smallest infraction, we can't forget, not merely a civil or criminal penalty for not pefectly obeying it. And it doesn't count if we "almost" make the grade, or try a little harder than the next guy (the Law doesn't grade on the curve). It requires perfection.
The primary purpose for the giving of the Law was and is to show people that they can't perfectly obey it and thus lead them to a child-like faith in, and dependence on Christ, as the one who perfectly obeyed it for them, taking their punishment, and as the one who is more than willing to bestow His benefits upon them, freely, by His grace, "because of the great love with which He loved us".
I hope I've beter explained where I am coming from, Stephen.