Jacksonville, Texas: A man robs a Holiday Inn. He is sentenced to fifty years in prison.
Boston, Massachusetts: A man is convicted of first degree murder. If he serves Massachusetts' median average jail term for this crime, he will be paroled in about two and a half years.
Something is wrong - radically wrong - with the criminal justice system in the United States. Crime has been on the rise since the mid-1960's. The courts are clogged. The jails are overflowing, yet convicted criminals return to lives of crime upon release. The public is increasingly contemptuous of the criminal justice system. What is the problem?
The problem is this: there is today no agreed-upon public standard of justice. The courts are too liberal to suit the public, yet voters do not seem to know what the right sentence ought to be in any given case. The public is politically paralyzed because no one agrees on what constitutes justice. The entire criminal justice system reflects this paralysis. Sentences swing from the appallingly stiff to little more than a wrist slap.
Charles Colson, convicted Watergate felon, author of Born Again, and founders of the Prison Fellowship ministry, has identified the biblical solution:
Recently I addressed the Texas legislature. . . . I told them that the only answer to the crime problem is to take nonviolent criminals out of our prisons and make them pay back their victims with restitution. This is how we can solve the prison crowding problem.
The amazing thing was that afterwards they came up to me one after another and said things like, "That's a tremendous idea. Why hasn't anyone thought of that?" I had the privilege of saying to them, "Read Exodus 22. It is only what God said to Moses on Mount Sinai thousands of years ago."
Victim's Rights is a detailed study of Exodus 21 and 22: the case laws. It identifies the fundamental principle of biblical civil justice: the obligation of the civil government to defend the interest of the victims of crime, and the obligation of the criminal, not the State, to pay restitution. The criminal does not owe a "debt to society." He owes a debt to his victim.
Because modern Christians have neglected or rejected the case laws of Exodus, they are now in judicial bondage to humanists, who see criminals as the victims and the law-abiding public as the aggressor. "Society" is said to be at fault. This the philosophy of environmental determinism. Result: injustice on a wide scale. What is needed is exactly what Colson recommends: a return to the case laws of the Bible. Victim's Rights shows what judicial changes this would require and how such a system could work today.
"Why is there so much injustice in the world?" This is a universal question. It has a universal answer: "Because mankind has departed from biblical law." But nobody believes this answer today, including evangelical Christians.
Evangelical Christians and secular humanists have entered into an unofficial but politically powerful agreement. They insist that the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is not legally binding on modern society. They vote in terms of this agreement.
The goal of this implicit alliance is to remove God from all political discourse. Above all, God's Bible-revealed laws are to be removed from all political discourse.
This is not a new alliance; it was in operation in the United States long before there was any government called "the United States." It began late in the seventeenth century. And decade by decade, American civil law has become more unjust and more tyrannical. God is not mocked.
The justification of this alliance has always been grounded in natural law theory. There is supposedly a whole system of moral and civil laws that Christians and non-Christians can agree on, if they are sufficiently rational in their search for truth.
Then came Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution through naturel selection. The over-whelming success of Darwin's theory dealt a death blow to natural law theory. it has never recovered intellectually. The survival of the fittest, not rationally discovered civil laws, supposedly governs the supposed evolutionary process.
Who is most fit? No one can say for sure. Which legal order is most fit? No one can say for sure. Truth is relative over time; it depends on who is on top at any given time.
One thing is sure: Christians today are not on top. Until they break their alliance with the humanists, they will not be on top. Incredibly, humanists have even persuaded them that they should not seek to be on top. So, who is on top? The humanists.
The result is the collapse of civil justice. What else did we expect? God is the author of justice, not autonomous man. God will bring perfect justice on judgment day. His people are required by Him to announce and then, if unable to do so, enforce His standards of justice in history. This includes civil justice.
What are these standards? We see them most clearly in the case laws: the specifics of the law of God. These laws, as they appear especially in Exodus 21 and 22, inform us of God's fundamental principle of civil justice, namely, victim's rights.
This principle was completely ignored in modern jurisprudence until the mid-1960's. Then, ever so tentatively, legal theorists and even local judges began to rethink the modern humanist theory of justice. The humanist programs of rehabilitation were not working. Modern criminology had been found wanting in practice, yet nothing seemed to be available to replace it.
There is something to replace it: the biblical principle of victim's rights.
The biblical system of jurisprudence answers many questions, such as: "What does the criminal owe to the victim?" "Who should set the penalties?" "Who lawfully initiates the lawsuit, the victim or the State?" "Can the victim lawfully show mercy to the convicted criminal?" "Can the judges lawfully override the decision of the victim?" "Is leniency appropriate if criminals confess in advance of trial?" "Is the death penalty still mandatory?" "What is the ultimate foundation of the 'victim's rights' principle?"
Victim's Rights presents for the first time a comprehensive inquiry into this universally neglected and rejected biblical legal principle.
The 17 chapters of this 300-page book are an extract and expansion of material found in North's colossal Tools of Dominion. Here North sets out the biblical view of crime and punishment, arguing that in all cases biblical law works to restore the victims while punishing the criminal - the reverse of the modern judicial practice, which leaves the victim in his suffering and seeks to rehabilitate the criminal. North takes up case by case the teachings on crime and punishment handed down by God to Moses on Mount Sinai, discusses what these meant in that society, and suggests implications for today.