Part 4 of a 10-part series

Original Intent
        Application to Law

The school of legal interpretation that is most extreme in an attempt to remain as purely objective as possible is termed “Original Intent.”

Strict Constructionists are especially concerned to avoid having the law become political. Law must remain above the social, cultural, and political fray – especially their unstable and changing realities – to be a means of independent control that effectively limits the conduct of citizens, institutions, and communities. In particular, law is to remain faithful to the reasons for founding the institution or community. Only what has been formally consented to by a legitimate source of authority can be constitutional law.

To go outside or beyond the original intent is to raise the question of the legitimate authority to make law. Courts are not legitimate authorities for the creation of law, and must not usurp the political role or trump the will of the body politic. If law is to evolve and change, then the changes must be overt and established through the given political processes. The only appropriate way to expand or change the constitution is to amend it explicitly. Until then, only the original intention of the ratifiers is legitimate and binding because that intent defines the scope of the consent. Nothing else, certainly no extension of internal logic or interpretive implications can be applicable because they will go outside that scope.

The aim is to limit any and all interpretations to that original intent and then to enforce rules that claim to carry out that intent. What founders or revisers intended in a constitutional article can be found in legislative history, such as in floor debates and media reports, or in evidence, such as articles and books. For example, the Federalist Papers are often examined for interpretation of the Constitution of the United States.

Application to the Bible

Christians try to apply “originalism” to scripture. Most of the time this is an attempt to find within scripture a code of law or of ethics that is absolute, inviolate, and universally to be applied at all times and all places – as applicable in the 21st century as it was in the time and place of the Roman Empire. This is articulated as a belief that “God’s law” is to be found in scripture. Biblical strict constructionists reject the legitimate authority of tradition and reason in interpretation of scripture, viewing each as unnecessary and even as an impediment. This is, of course, based on the perception that the Bible presents clear rules that everyone can understand and should follow. From this outlook, Christians of every day and age stand under Scripture as a rule that others made, or that God made through human instruments. Concomitantly, today’s Christians do not have the authority to make or unmake the rules through interpretation. By this interpretation, the church is to apply Scripture; it is to avoid making or revising an understanding of it. Read More…

by Leonardo Boff, translated by Rebel Girl

Leonardo Boff

Leonardo Boff

On the social networks, I had proclaimed that the future pope would be named Francis. And I was right. Why Francis? Because Saint Francis’s conversion began when he heard the Crucifix in Saint Damian’s Chapel say to him, “Francis, go and restore my house, which as you see is falling into ruin.” (St. Bonaventure,Legenda Maior II, 1).

Francis took these words literally and rebuilt the Porziuncola Chapel in Assisi which still exists inside a huge cathedral. Then he realized that restoring the “Church that Christ saved through his blood” (ibid) was a spiritual matter. It was then that he started his movement for renewal of the Church that was presided by the most powerful pope in history, Innocent III. He began to live with the lepers and arm in arm with one of them, he went along the way preaching the gospel in the vernacular and not in Latin.

It’s good to know that Francis was never a priest but just a layman, Only at the end of his life, when the popes forbade lay people to preach, did he agree to become a deacon, on the condition that he not receive any kind of remuneration for the post.

Why did Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio choose the name Francis? I think it’s because he realized the Church is in ruins because of demoralization due to the various scandals that have affected the most precious thing it had: morality and credibility. Read More…

Dr. Bruce Sloan

By Dr. Bruce Sloan

A statement recently made to me by a gracious Christian lady, firmly stated “A Christian cannot be a Democrat.” Being stunned for a moment, as I am a Christian and a Democrat, I attempted to reflect through that statement. But then as a Southern Baptist, I believe in miracles. Maybe I was that miracle of being both a Christian and a Democrat. Wow, I have received my miracle!

The four-year cycle of electing a President of the United States of America is back. And each time the election season offers new and heart-cringing viewpoints. This year has been the year of pointedly questioning one’s belief in Jesus Christ in politics.

Years ago I remember a street preacher from Chattanooga holding a sign up at both the national political conventions declaring that “Jesus is a Republican.” I was always fascinated how easy and cheaply one can influence the national media. A little paper and pen and you are on the news for your 15 minutes of fame. Sadly, not long after, he committed suicide because of a gender issue. Read More…

Certain of our participants responded to the email message of last week as it regarded the dynamic between creation and kingdom. Some were confused because they were more familiar with the picture of a dichotomy between “earth and heaven.” Others took note of what they suspected were contradictions in a juxtaposition of creation theology and kingdom theology. Bishop Doss was asked to elaborate and perhaps clarify the distinctions he has formed as well as the dynamic of their interrelationship.

The difficulty that has been identified is due in part to the fact that both the popularized Christian theology of North America, and the common secular perspective today find the relationship between world and kingdom paradoxical – at best. In the statement I offered to describe the concrete behavior Christianity expects of discipleship some saw contradictions: God wills us to be at home in the world – God calls us to recognize that we are in exile; God wills us to embrace human life, our specific life, the way things are, as the most precious gift – God calls us to critique the world and change it most radically; God wills that we become fully human – God wills that we yearn for our eternal destiny.  God wills us to bless this world – God calls us to judge the world. And so forth.

Perhaps it will help to tell the story of when I first posited the formulation being examined. Read More…