Constitutional Concepts

Are constitutions living or dead? Words have meaning -- but meaning is determined by context. In other words, the meaning of a word is how the author is using it. The Scriptures were written in dead languages, which means in context, they are unchanging languages. Unlike American English, which is considered a living language, in that new words (like to "text" someone) are added or changed in meaning. Although we have the Scriptures in dead languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Latin for example), the Hebrew writer tells us, "the word of God is quick (NIV = living), and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12).

Although Liberals, both secular and religious, consider our Constitution and/or the Scriptures as Living or changing documents, they are considered stable and unchanging by the whims of contemporary culture to the strict constitutionalist. Although the U. S. Constitution makes it acceptable to amend or change it, the Scriptures do not make them subject to change by man. In the religious realm, Liberals consider those that accept the Scripture as the Christian constitution as Literalist in as much as they accept the Scriptures meaning what they say, and saying what they mean. For example, Genesis chapter one tells us God created the heavens and the earth in six days. This is a fundamental of the Christian faith. Liberals consider anyone that believes this to be ignorant of scientific "facts," and a Literalist or Fundamentalist. However, in Luke 13:32 Jesus calls King Herod a "fox." I know of no one that visualized the king as a four-legged animal.

In connection with the current discussion about the U.S. constitution being a "living document," the word "originalism" has become prominent. Originalism simply has reference to what the author or authors had in mind when the text was originally penned. This has relevance to both the Constitution and the Scriptures. Words have meaning. If you say a word, in its context, means that, and I say it means this. We both cannot be right! Either you are wrong or I am wrong; or both of us are wrong. When Jesus promised to build His church or "ekkleesia" (Matthew 16:18), He did not have reference to the calling into assembly the citizens of a Greek city-state (as used by the Greeks of the first century) to carry out town business. Jesus was speaking of the fact that those that heard the Gospel and obeyed Him were called out of the world to be a separate body of the saved called the church.

"Literalism" has also become a part of our current discussion on the Constitution. The term simply contends the language means what it says. Why is this so obvious in the secular discussion but is so prejudicial in the study of the Scriptures? The bottom line is, "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God" (2 Timothy 3:16). Jesus stated, "the scripture cannot be broken" (John 10:35). In other words, God said it and that settles it!

Dale I. Royal, Elk City, OK