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…


Joe Morris Doss

Joe Morris Doss

By Joe Morris Doss

The former Governor of Arkansas, Presidential candidate, and Baptist preacher Mike Huckabee issued the bold declaration that “women aren’t weaklings!” Wow. And then he went on to explain that they are not “in need of government handouts, including the contraception mandate in Obamacare.”

According to his reasoning, the mandate to provide women with contraception insurance for their health care is an “insult to the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without ‘Uncle Sugar’ coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system.”

Read More…


It is no secret that young people are leaving the Church like never before. How to retain young followers and why they are leaving are both hot topics in religious spheres. In a recent Patheos article, Bruce Reyes-Chow lists the “10 Ways to Disconnect from the Next Generation.” Below, you’ll find Addie Zierman’s own story of turning away, and the ways in which the rhetoric of fellow believers keeps her and other millennials from connecting to their faith.

By Addie Zierman

Addie Zierman is a writer, blogger, and calls herself a “recovering Jesus freak.” She recently published her debut book, When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love and Starting Over through Convergent Books, which was just named one of the Best Books of 2013 by Publisher’s Weekly. You can follow her on Twitter here and on Facebook here.

Addie Zierman is a writer, blogger, and calls herself a “recovering Jesus freak.” She recently published her debut book, “When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith, Tangled Love and Starting Over through Convergent Books,” which was just named one of the Best Books of 2013 by Publisher’s Weekly. You can follow her on Twitter here and on Facebook here.

The statistics are in. The millennials are leaving the church, and nobody seems quite sure what to do about it.

I am one of them. Born in 1983, I belong to the wispy beginnings of the new generation. I turned 30 this year, and I’m raising two small boys. I hold within me both cynicism and hope. I left the church. I came back.

Here is what I can tell you about millennials: We grew up on easy answers, catchphrases and cliché, and if we’ve learned anything, it’s that things are almost always more complicated than that.

When I returned to church, it wasn’t because of great programs, alluring events or a really cool “café” set up in the foyer. I went back not because of what the church was doing, but rather in spite of it. I went back because I needed community, and because, thanks to a steady dose of medication and therapy, I was finally well enough to root through the cliché to find it.

But not all of us are there yet. For some of us, the clichés are still maddening and alienating. Recently, I asked my followers online for the five church clichés that they tend to hate the most. These were the top five responses: Read More…


This is the third installment in a series called “The Quest for Peace in a World of Violence.” Charles deGravelles is an Episcopal deacon, chaplain and teacher at Episcopal High School of Baton Rouge where he teaches a course in peace and conflict studies. In the first installment, deGravelles wrote about his inspiration for the class and its inception. In the second installment, he wrote about class trips he took with his students to show them how the “pieces” of violence interconnect. The series will follow the progress of the class.

A LILY BEYOND GILDING

By Deacon Charles deGravelles

Charles deGravelles

Charles deGravelles

We are driving a yellow school bus from Baton Rouge up a two-lane blacktop to Louisiana State Penitentiary, the infamous Angola Prison. When I tell my seventeen students to be prepared to learn something here about the mystery of violence, no one raises an eyebrow. Angola, after all, is a maximum security facility, the largest and most populous in the country, where roughly eighty percent of the six thousand inmates are serving real life sentences for crimes such as murder, rape and armed robbery. Eighty-three men languish on Angola’s Death Row for particularly brutal offenses, each waiting, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day, for years, even decades, for the moment he will be walked down a hall, strapped to a gurney, and put to death by lethal injection.

I also tell them quietly to be prepared to learn something about the mystery of peace. They ask what I mean. I enjoy their perplexity, but I say nothing. After twenty-five years of ministering at this prison, I’ve learned that words mostly dilute the experience of a person’s first visit; it is a lily beyond gilding. The prison will speak for itself today in ways that will stay with these young people the rest of their lives.

Read More…