Sjolander Road Fellowship




Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

sacred documents

5/13/14

 

I note with some irony the way many promote two sacred texts as guiding our nation. One is the Bible and the other the Constitution. Both documents are seen as rule books, constraining the limits of acceptable behavior, one individually and the other in the practice of human government.

 

Since the founding fathers are assumed to be ardent Bible believers, many view the Constitution as bearing the imprimatur of God, being written with the Bible in the background. This perhaps accounts for the obvious way many in the institutional church show extreme reverence for the wording of the Constitution, not unlike the respect they claim for the Bible.

 

If one pays particular attention to the Constitution, you observe it to be a lawyerly document, laying down the roles and restrictions applicable to our governmental system. As such it has been incessantly studied and evaluated throughout our national history. Given the many disagreements about its meaning and intent, one can justly conclude that it is not particularly lucid, legally speaking. Some may insist that its meaning is quite clear in all its particulars, but just like the Bible, its interpretation has spawned countless debates about interpretation, suggesting no such clarity.

 

Like all legal documents the Constitution strives to establish parameters which define an agreement. It is a contract describing rights and responsibilities under that binding agreement. As such, its purpose is to provide a mechanism which projects and protects the underlying guiding principles of our nation. This is where the Constitution and the Bible are conjoined in the minds of many, the scriptures defining those principles. A significant number of others question just how effectively the legal language of the Constitution actually reflects our national principles, Bible based or not.

 

I have heard it suggested that the real source document for our national character, aside from the Bible, is not the Constitution but rather the Declaration of Independence. Its soaring verbiage is definitely more principle oriented and inspiring than the legalese of the later creation. The Declaration's enunciation of the divine endowment of equality and the associate rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to which human government is to be committed is infinitely more basic than any element of the Constitution. Those who hold the Constitution as sacrosanct and forever inviolate must deal with the issue of how well the latter projects the principles of the former.

 

Of course, basic to that determination is the question of equality- what that means and what government should promote in pursuit of that equality. The history of our country is a long standing exercise in trying to understand that very thing.

 

The close connection drawn between biblical principles and the Constitution is based much more on the Old Testament scriptures than the New. That is evidenced by the emphasis we see placed on the Ten Commandments as the synopsis of those guiding principles. Rarely, if ever, does anyone propose the context of the Sermon on the Mount or the Golden Rule as applicable to the operation of human government. Thus the insistence that our governmental operations honor Bible principles is limited in the minds of most by what they perceive as practical. More ethereal principles, like unconditional love, humility, and self sacrifice, are summarily eliminated from consideration, and rules given solely to OT Israel are embraced instead.

 

In like fashion the narrow focus of political attention on the wording of the Constitution is a diversion from our real founding principles, those declared in 1776. Equality, by any measure, is also an ethereal principle, one that challenges our most basic assumptions about personal rights and responsibilities and the associated role of government.