“The Legal Basis for a Moral Constitution” by Jenna Ellis: Some reflections in response.


Regular readers of this blog will know that I am British and may wonder why I would deal with a book looking at the American Constitution, there are several reasons for this, firstly, I am married to an American citizen. secondly, I owe a debt to many American Christian thinkers and especially the work of Francis Schaeffer. The most important reason to respond is that I applaud the Author’s determination to uphold Biblical morality. Obviously as a Briton, I am not used to having a written constitution, our constitutional settlement is made up from several strands of law going back to the Magna Carta and the development of both representative democracy and the constitutional monarchy. However, the erosion of the biblical basis of both societies is similar.

It is vital that evangelical Christians stand for biblical morality against the growing forces of humanism but sometimes our understanding of various issues linked to these issues will differ.I want to make it clear that any disagreements expressed below with some of the author’s positions are meant to be constructive criticism. I hope that any discussion will be civil and will show the love and respect that Christians should show to one another. For a quick summary of my own position on the importance of being pro-life please read my https://pneumaandlogos.com/2012/10/18/what-does-it-mean-to-be-pro-life/                 and also on the issue of marriage see  https://pneumaandlogos.com/2013/01/08/letter-to-the-british-prime-minister/

The author is absolutely right to maintain that any document including the Constitution must have an original meaning which must be maintained. If any organization is governed by a Constitution then the meaning the authors assigned to the text must be maintained. The American Supreme Court has treated the constitution as though it can mean different things at different times which to my mind goes against the whole of idea of a constitution having a fixed meaning to guide the governance of a society, state or church. When I was part of a team that drafted our Church constitution we intended every word to have a fixed meaning and the same is obviously the case with the drafters of the American Constitution.

Social Contract Theory: Jenna Ellis rightly critiques Jean-Jaques Rousseau’s view of the social contract theory and on the basis of that critique claims that the American constitution is not influenced by social contract theory. However I am not sure that this judgement is correct because historians have often said that the Founding Fathers of the United States were influenced by the philosophy of John Locke. John Locke’s social contract theory was written by a man who claimed to be a Christian and examines the Biblical text in his writings. To not engage Locke in this book is a real oversight his form of Christian rationalism had a great impact in Great Britain and in Early American colonies. Until I had started reading this book I had not read anything by John Locke for over forty years but I have started reading him again. One of the things that has come to light is how similar Locke’s critique of tyranny is to the quotes from the founding fathers in this book. Locke also refers to the work of Hobbes who also held the social contract theory. These two authors and the impact they had in their day make me very hesitant to agree with the author on the matter of the social contract. If she had engaged with Locke and Hobbes in the same way she did with Rousseau I might well have been convinced. At this point I am not saying the author is definetly wrong but rather she has not proven her case because of insufficient evidence.

Marxism: I mus admit I groaned inwardly when I saw the “Naked Communist” quoted, I thought that this work had been discredited many years ago. Just looking through “The Naked Communist” makes me wonder if the author had read much of Karl Marx. I have huge problems with some of his assertions,  in the 1960’s British Communist Party officials told me that the permissive society was a threat of social change as it risked leaving the workers more content with their chains. At this time, I was shown a booklet printed in Moscow highlighting the dangers of the permissive society. I find it fascinating that the President of Russia, who is a former KGB official holds to quite a strict moral code, this is in line with what I was told in the sixties by prominent British Communists.

One sentence on page p148 is just wrong, we are told that “Marxist theory is rooted in Communism” This is to get things back to front we should have been told that Communism is rooted in Marxist theory, I don’t know if this is just sloppy thinking at this point or what. but having studied Marx and Marxism quite closely The original statement does not make sense to me. My three lectures critiquing Marxism are still availble for purchase (These were given in 1977 or 1978)

http://soundword.com/l-abri-rollings–david-marxism—part-1.html

One of the problems with the Naked Communist and many other reactions to Marxism and Socialism is that they are seen as a monolithic whole rather than understanding the differences of emphasis and at times worldview. Many Social Democrats who would call themselves socialist are definitely not revolutionary Marxists but work within the democratic structures to bring about social change.

Is Violent Revolution consistent with biblical revelation? Obviously, Jenna Ellis thinks the answer to this question is yes she believes that the American colonies were warranted in their rebellion because of my own background of political involvement I would like to have found reasons in Scripture to justify a revolution but I cannot find them. On the contrary I find numerous trxts that lead in the opposite direction. Romans 13:1-7 leaves no room for revolution but rather calls for submission to the Roman authorities, Titus 3:1-2 contain the same teaching and the Apostle Peter also says much the same thing in 1Peter 2:13-17 these passages collectively and by themselves show that we are to rebel. But this does not rule out civil disobedience to unjust laws, we have examples of this in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament, but civil diobedience recognizes that we may have to face the cobsequences of being punished by the State. We see this in the book of Daniel and again in the Book of Acts.

Pacifism: some have already asked me whether I am a Pacifist, The answer to that is no I am not. I however do believe that the use of nuclear weapons is always unjust as is Chemical warfare. A just war tries to repel evil using the minimum force necessary. In our modern world warfare is often engaged in before other options have been explored.

If you have not read the book I am engaging with and you are interested in the issues raised you can obtain the book from Amazon. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Legal-Basis-Moral-Constitution-Constitutional/dp/1512722758/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qi

or http://www.amazon.com/Legal-Basis-Moral-Constitution-Constitutional/dp/1512722758/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=146348

My purpose in engaging in this whole excercise is to offer consructive criticism, I repeat again that what we stand against unites us more than divides us and we both serve and love the true and living God.

 

 

About pneumaandlogos

David Rollings was born in Luton in1949 and raised by my Christian parents in the Gospel Standard Strict Baptist denomination( Hyper-Calvinistic} in the sixties I rebelled against this background and got involved in left-wing politics. I became a Christian in 1969 and soon started reading Francis Schaeffer's books and came to embrace a Christian Worldview. I had the privilege of being on the staff of L'Abti Fellowship from1975 - 1979. After L'abri I studied at London School of Theology where I gained my BA.(1983) A few years later I studied for my MA by distance learning with The Nazarene Theological College Manchester (1999) For the last 22 years, I have been an elder of Shoreham-by-Sea Baptist Church. I also regularly attend the Christian Doctrine Study Group of the Tyndale Fellowship.
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One Response to “The Legal Basis for a Moral Constitution” by Jenna Ellis: Some reflections in response.

  1. Phillip Binnie says:

    Thank you David. Not able to take in all the details at the moment of your well written article. Just a couple of comments…I agree that the British colonies had no Biblical basis for a violent revolution against the British monarchy. At one worker’s meeting we had an interesting debate between Barry and Udo who disagreed with each other. Also, I was pleased with your comments on the US constitution. Justice Scalia, who recently died, interpreted the constitution by “original intent” of the framers. At least one other justice at this time agrees with this. Others view it as a “fluid document” where original intent is set aside and interpretation by contemporary culture prevails. As you know cultural interpretation is in a constant state of change or “fluid.” As I am sure you know, in the American context, the traditional “mainline” denominations are losing thousands from their pews every year due to the same method of interpreting scripture. The “mainline” and the general culture have the same message except one is in the context of religion and the other secular. There is no good news. Thank again.

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