The Higher Law in Civilization
When World War Two came to an end in Germany in the spring of 1945, a roundup of Nazi and German war criminals was begun. Finally, in the summer of 1946, many of these war criminals were put on trial at Nuremberg, Germany to account for their horrible crimes against humanity.
The defense put forth by these criminals is that they were only obeying the laws of Germany and the commands of their leaders. A Dr. Stahmer, defense attorney for Herman Goering basically argued that the Nazis were not amenable to American, British or Russian law since they were not citizens of these countries. He also argued that there was no so called “international law” in existence at that time by which they could be judged (qtd. in The Trial of…, 1946 b, 18:106-107).
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, one of the prosecuting attorneys at the Nuremberg trials said, “As an International Military Tribunal, it rises above the provincial and transient and seeks guidance not only from international law but also from the basic principles of jurisprudence which are assumptions of civilization and which have long found embodiment in the codes all of nations” (qtd. in The Trial of…., 1946 c, 19:388, July 26).
Dr. Thomas B Warren said, “Now a higher law which transcends the provincial means that it is law that is not merely the law of single geographical area. To that that it transcends the transient means that it transcends the law passed by human beings just during a certain period of time. So this higher law could nothing more than the law which relates to the ultimate good who is God” (Insight Radio).
In his debate with the atheist Dr. Antony Flew, where the matter of the Nuremberg trials was discussed as to what law was broken, Dr. Thomas B. Warren made the following argument:
1. If the moral code and/or actions of any individual or society can properly be subjects of criticism (as to real moral wrong), then there must be some objective standard (some “higher law which transcends the provincial and transient”) which is other than the particular moral code and which has an obligatory character which can be recognized.
2. The moral code and/or actions of any individual or society can properly be subjects of criticism (as to real moral wrong).
3. Therefore, there must be some objective standard (some “higher law which transcends the provincial and transient”) which is other than the particular moral code and which has an obligatory character which can be recognized. (Warren and Flew 173)
The higher law then which transcends the provincial and transient can be nothing less than the law of God. That law is embodied in the Bible, God’s Word.
The Trial of German Major War Criminals (1946 b), Thursday, 4th July, 1946, (Vol. 18, Part 7 of 8). London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office.
The Trial of German Major War Criminals (1946 c), Friday, 26th July, 1946, (Vol. 19, Part 1 of 12). London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office.
Warren, Thomas B. Insight Radio, Script # 260, “The Debate of the Century”, Part 3, p. 4
Warren, Thomas B., and Antony Flew. The Warren-Flew Debate on the Existence of God. 1977. Ramar: National Christian, 2004.