New Kind of Christianity: Bible as Constitution revisited
A reader writes:
I've been taking a refresher law course at Stanford, and this week we are looking at the US constitution. I was going through the readings and came across something I think you'd find interesting.
Following on from your discussion in aNKoC, encouraging bible-readers not to view the cannon as a Constitution, but a diverse library, I'd like to submit that for those who find it hard to 'demote' the Bible to an (inspired) collection of historical sacred works, truly viewing the bible as a constitution may not be such a bad thing at all.
This isn't an original thought, but I think the problem with many fundamentalists...... scratch that. The problem with many of us is that, rather than take the Bible seriously (as they/we evidently try to in earnest) (and don't hesitate to remind us/others), they/we denigrate the scriptures by not taking them seriously enough. I'd argue we err by treating the scriptures akin to a book of spells which fell from the sky, rather than respectfully submitting them to the same (if not more) scrutiny than we would a Constitution.
In case you don't want to read it all.. two quotes which sum up the argument:
"Fidelity to the Constitution requires judges to ask not how its general principles would have been applied in 1789 or 1868, but rather how those principles should be applied today in order to preserve their power and meaning in light of the concerns, conditions, and evolving norms of our society."
"Ultimately, what accounts for our enduring faith in the Constitution is not that we have rigidly adhered to original understandings frozen in amber or to so-called strict construction of the text. It is that we have continually interpreted the Constitution’s language and applied its principles in ways that are faithful to its original purposes and to the social context in which new challenges arise. "
There's a really interesting discussion towards the end of the chapter looking at the fallacy of judicial activism/restraint, and a critique of "originalism".
This is not to say I don't 'get' what you mean in aNKoC re a Constitution - for me at least, a more helpful analogy would be a Statute or Regulation.
No need to reply Brian, I know you're busy, just thought I'd share with you.
Thanks for sharing ... In the year since the book came out, I've realized more deeply how it's not just the idea of the Bible as constitution (or legal code book) that's deeply rooted in people, but the practice of using it that way ... chapter-and-versing, and so on. Which suggests that, until people get a good bank of practice in using the Bible in an alternative way, they won't trust "a new kind of Bible reading." Many of us, of course, have experienced that alternative way, and for us it has proven far more rich, meaningful, ethically responsible, and honest. For those interested in sampling that way of reading the Bible - I also have a podcast series that presents a Bible overview in seven movements or episodes that might prove helpful.