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Religion: The Originalist

web posted February 17, 2016

RELIGION-- The SC primaries took a backseat in the headlines to the news that U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died this past weekend at the age of 79. I am far from a scholar on the Supreme Court or the United States Constitution, but I have known for years of the influence and wisdom of Scalia. In particular in regards to his approach to the Constitution.

Scalia subscribed to a judicial philosophy known as “originalism.” This view holds that the Constitution should be interpreted in terms of what it meant to those who ratified the Constitution in 1788. Originalism is often contrasted with the Constitution as a “living document” that allows courts to take into account the views of contemporary society. The “living document” methodology says you interpret the Constitution based on the changing societal whims of the day.

Scalia argued that originalism—and trying to figure out the Constitution’s original meaning—is the only valid option for judicial interpretation, otherwise “you're just telling judges to govern.” “The Constitution is not a living organism,” he said. “It’s a legal document, and it says what it says and doesn't say what it doesn't say.” (http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/9-things-you-should-know-about-justice-antonin-scalia)

I highlight this fact because one, I agree with him on that matter, but secondly, because I am a Pastor and interpreter of the Bible. The Bible commands the same view on how it is that we interpret and understand it. Today many entire denominations have simply made the Bible say or not say whatever they want it to say.  John MacArthur addresses this problem “In many cases individual feelings and personal experience have replaced sound biblical interpretation. The question “What does the Bible mean to me?” has become more important than “What does the Bible mean?” That is a frightfully reckless approach to Scripture. It undermines biblical integrity and authority by implying that personal experience is to be sought more than an understanding of Scripture. It often considers private “revelations” and personal opinions equal to the eternal truth of God’s inspired Word. Thus it fails to honor God and exalts man instead. Worst of all, it can – and usually does – lead to the deadly delusion that error is truth. (Our Sufficiency in Christ, 1991 p. 32-33)

You see the Bible can’t mean something to me and you today that it did not mean to original audience. I have heard it said that interpreting Scripture is "thinking God's thoughts after Him." So when we see professing Christians blatantly disregard what Scripture says on the family, marriage, sexuality, gender, and the sanctity of life, they have thrown out the plain teachings of the Bible and made it a “living document” that they sit in judgment of how to read and rewrite as they see fit.

So study your Bible as much as you can! But show it the respect that it deserves as God’s own words written to us! 2 Tim 3:16 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…”.  The Bible is a living document and powerful, but it not open to change based on your personal desires. It is meant to change you! Hebrews 4:12-13 “12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable.”

Pastor Phillip

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