Part 1 of a 10-part series
Recent court decisions have raised questions about how to read and interpret both law and scripture. Disagreement about the right way to do so is being passionately debated in each discipline; even Supreme Court judges are stepping out of their normal posture of polite and measured disagreement to make rather strong declarations in criticism. The claim of each is no less than an assertion that their colleagues lack the basic understanding of how to interpret the law. Meanwhile, Jewish and Christian leaders, unharnessed from concerns for collegiality by the importance of their disagreement over what the bible may or may not say about marriage and sexuality, are almost ranting as they take their positions.
Little noted is the fact that the different ways the law and the scripture get interpreted is rather closely matched. That is, the modes of interpretation are pretty much the same for each. For example, there are legal analysts who read constitutional law as “strict constructionists,” and there are biblical analysts who read scripture by using a matching school of interpretation.
This should be of significant interest generally, given the ever-pressing question of how religion and society relate, and therefore the importance of how the disciplines of law and theology may clash and match. In particular the recent decision of the United States Supreme Court regarding the language of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) and the decision to recognize the constitutional right and equality of marriage between people either of the same or of the opposite sex has highlighted the different ways the judges read constitutional law, and the matching ways Jewish and Christian leaders interpret scripture.
(Do the personal opinions arise from the school an analyst chooses or do the personal opinions dictate the most effective analytical way to reach them? Either way, it is important for people of faith to understand, and even to choose, how to read and interpret scripture.)
Perhaps it will be interesting to approach the Christian interpretation of scripture related to same-sex marriage, and other issues of particular relevance to LGBT persons, through a comparison, on the one hand, of the modalities of interpretation of constitutional law and, on the other hand, of the constitutional foundation of the faith in scripture. Read More…