Law is a system of rules and regulations imposed by an authority commanding what is right and forbidding what is wrong. It includes both a set of specific statutes and general principles. In the biblical sense, the word law (torah) usually refers to God’s law given through Moses on Mount Sinai. It also includes man’s law devised by him as he sees fit in the areas that have not been explicitly addressed by God. Both of these types of laws should be consistent with the law of nature as well as God’s general will and design for life as revealed in Scripture.
According to Blackstone, the primary purpose of law is “to establish standards, maintain order, and resolve disputes.” In addition, it must be clear and publicized and enforced consistently. It should be fair and equitable, with judges who are accessible, educated, ethical, independent, and impartial. These judges should reflect the makeup of the communities they serve and aspire to the highest level of professional excellence. They should also be willing to admit when they have erred and should not be influenced by their own sense of right or wrong.
A judicial system is not complete without legal precedents, which are case laws that have been established by past judgments. These are meant to guide future judges in making decisions and should be considered in light of the principles of justice, which are defined by several international legal instruments. A judicial system should also be flexible and allow for the adjustment of rules to meet changing social needs through a process of interpretation and creative jurisprudence.
In addition to establishing standards, maintaining order, and resolving disputes, a judicial system should protect the liberties and rights of its citizens. In a modern context, these include the rights to life and property, freedom of expression, free association, and freedom of religion. In a constitutional state, these rights should be guaranteed by the constitution. In the broader context, they may include the right to privacy, the right not to be tortured or arbitrarily detained, and the right to due process of law.
Some nations have systems of law that are better at serving all of these purposes than others. For example, an authoritarian government may keep the peace, but it will often oppress minorities and political opponents. On the other hand, a constitutional democracy may maintain peace and promote social change in a relatively peaceful manner. However, it may be unable to protect individual liberty or preserve property rights. The varying success of nations in meeting these purposes can be attributed to many factors, including their history, culture, and economic structure. Nevertheless, the principle of law is fundamental to human existence and must be protected in every country.