Saturday, November 12, 2011

America IS A Christian Nation, Part XI, One Nation Under God, Why That Is Important

In the last couple of installments in our series, American IS a Christian Nation, we have learned that the Declaration of Independence is, but in an ideal sense, what the Constitution is in a practical sense. The Declaration is the message, the Constitution is the means.  The Declaration is the source of authority.  The Constitution is the use of authority.  We also contrasted the American form of government, under the authority of Jesus Christ of the New Testament scriptures, with that of Great Britain, another nation which proclaims its submission to the Holy Trinity, and thereby Jesus Christ, Who according to those same scriptures owns all authority in Heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18).  Any nation that effectively 'buys into that,' also buys into submitting to the authority of the New Testament scriptures.  So both nations profess to be 'nations under God.'

But just because a nation professes to be under the authority of God of the Bible and New Testament, that does not mean that its people lose all autonomy or free will in how they vote, or operate their chosen government, or their daily lives.  Absolutely not!  Even in a nation ostensibly founded under the Christian God's authority, there is a role for popular opinion.  So let's talk about the role of popular opinion in America's form of government.  We illustrate that role though by again looking back at Great Britain.

Remember, Great Britain has no comparable constitution as that of the United States of America.  America’s mother country has a system of laws that essentially passes to Parliament its sovereign source of law-making authority.    Some refer to that system of laws that dates back to the Magna Charta as the British Constitution.  That system however does not serve the same function as the United States Constitution.  British law is essentially what the Parliament says it is.   Unlike American law, British laws are enforced with no question as to their 'constitutionality.'  The British laws are part and parcel of that constitution.  Each new law is effectively a new amendment to the British Constitution.  The British Parliament has unlimited prerogative to make law within the British national purview of sovereign authority.  Because the Parliament is directly elected by popular vote, the only remedy for unpopular law is for the people to vote unpopular lawmakers out of office.  Their hope can be that new lawmakers will be more “popular.”  Therefore, as British popular opinion changes, so one might expect their laws and constitution to follow in order to reflect the new prevailing opinions.  In that manner, the British Constitution allows for the direct input of unbridled popular opinion.  Because it allows the direct input of prevailing opinions and preferences, there is no effective check on the law-making power of the majority of popular opinion in the British system.  That system can be said to be “highly democratic.”  A nation such as Great Britain can be thought of as a nation floating on a sea of popular opinion.

But by contrast, and in theory, the American system of government only allows laws to change if they can show logical derivation from the basic rules established under the Constitution.  As Lincoln professed, and as has been demonstrated logically to be the case, the basic rules of the Constitution carry primal American national authority only when understood to approximate in law the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence.  (This must be true because, as we have demonstrated, the authority by which the Constitution was first proposed can show derivation to a primal source of American national sovereign authority only if reasoned to be that same authority implied to pursue the ideal intentions of the “good People of the colonies.”  No other source of authority can demonstrate a logical derivation to what might be considered a primal root.)  Therefore, in order to adequately check the powers of government and to preserve the endowment of unalienable rights and equality for all men, the Constitution was conceived and authorized.  That document’s purpose was (and is) to list the specific limited purview of authority the people, and the states, wished (and wish) to delegate to their federal government.  For this reason , as opposed to a nation floating on a sea of popular opinion, America might be better understood as a nation floating on a sea of popular opinion, however staked to a somewhat stubbornly movable buoy.  Because new enactments of law must show practical derivation from the basic rules of the Constitution, and because those basic rules can only carry sovereign authority if they can demonstrate to logically derive from the source of all primal American authority, and because the source of all primal American authority can show derivation only when understood to pursue the ideal intentions of the “good People of the colonies” expressed within the Declaration of Independence, in a theoretical sense, one conclusion regarding the purpose of the Constitution logically follows:

The authoritative purpose of the United States Constitution is to provide that all enactments of law and functions of government are fundamentally consistent with the ideal steering principles expressed in the Declaration of Independence.

The steering principles of the Declaration are what I referred above as the 'stubbornly moveable buoy.'  

Although popular opinion certainly has a role to play in the decision-making process of the American system of government, unlike that of Great Britain, the American Constitution provides that the role of popular opinion, as a source of authority, is not unbridled under the auspices of the present revolutionary document.  In that same theoretical sense, popular opinions from which America's laws derive, may only carry primal American national sovereign authority, which authority comes from God, and thereby “authoritatively” affect the American system of laws and government, when those opinions can demonstrate consistency with the nation’s constitutional rules.   Providing the nation’s constitutional rules and system of laws are reasonable practical approximations of the steering ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence, AKA, God's Natural Laws; and providing those interpretations of the Constitution and Declaration remain as they were first intended by the “good People,” which was to fulfill God's will on earth, the Theory of America predicts that America, by the divine Providence “relied” upon by the Founding Fathers, will continue to be protected from the effects of a fallen world.

Conversely, if America’s Constitution, its laws or their respective interpretations ever diverge from the original 'ideal intentions' expressed in the Declaration, the Theory of America predicts that America would travel down a perilous pathway.  The result of such a course would be an America, simply another nation among nations, in wait of the next despotic ruler to come along.  This is the same fate that Israel of the Old Testament faced each time it turned away from God.  Whenever any of the twelve tribes of Israel turned away from God, they were conquered by opposing world forces.  As of the time that Jesus Christ came into the world, only one of the original tribes of Israel remained, one remnant, the tribe of Judah.  According to the Theory of America, if America, of its own free will, turns from God, the very same fate awaits.  God gives America and its citizens the right of free will.  God of the Bible and New Testament will never force obedience on anyone.  But that God of the New Testament only protects those who respect His authority, who thereby profess faith in His Son, and by their works obey the Son's commands.  Men have free will to form their own personal opinions and preferences regarding how their governments and laws should operate.  Men are free to institute governments according to those opinions.  But God has free will too.  And God's covenant of protection for His people only extends to those who submit to Him.  The Theory of America predicts that any nation under God, which forgets its source of authority, and thereby forgets its very purpose, just like the eleven lost tribes of Israel, will become a people scattered to the wind, fallen as the prey to the world's despots.  We should all take note; what I describe is the history of the world.  In that world, only the strongest survive.  In that world Darwin was exactly right.  After all, it is a Darwinian world which does not respect the authority of God.  But the scriptures promise a greater power exists in the believer than that is in the world.  
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. (1 John 4:4)
According to the Theory of America, to combat the world's forces formed against them, Americans would be wise to draw upon that power.  That is because according to the scriptures,
No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.  (Isaiah 54:17)

These scriptures are portions of God's covenant with mankind.  The Founders understood man's responsibility to live under God, and their own responsibility to design their new nation as One Nation Under God.  Perhaps at this juncture, the reader is beginning to more fully understand all that passed through the minds of the Founders as they stood in line to sign the Declaration of Independence.

In our next installment of America IS A Christian nation, We will gaze into the figurative 'test tube' in which the American Experiment is performed, and we will continue to learn about the relationship between life inside that test tube. 

Join me then.  I'll be back soon.

-Hank

Monday, October 31, 2011

America IS A Christian Nation, Part X, Contrasting the 'Divine Rights of Man' and 'Divine Right of Kings' Systems of Human Government

In the last installment of America IS a Christian Nation, we derived that the Declaration of Independence, as the nation’s charter, is the superior state document of the United States of America. The pursuit of the People’s original ideal intentions as expressed or directly implied in the Declaration is the only legitimate source of primal authority for the American nation's government. The Union of States and its Constitution were founded with and depend upon that source of primal authority.

We also noted that America, and its government are authorized by ideals, statements describing the perfect condition, perfect in the eyes of God. The Constitution is a practical mechanism meant to approximate those ideals in an imperfect world.

There are other nations ostensibly designed to live under certain ideals portrayed as God's Laws.  So America is not unique in that one respect.  These other nations, however, begin with entirely different and even incompatible assumptions regarding what God's Laws actually are.  Let's look at one of these, Great Britain.

Great Britain boasts of a constitution, however that constitution is not simply one document, such as we know the American Constitution.  That constitution is somewhat ethereal.  It is comprised of a series of documents and court cases that date back as far as the Magna Carta.  Because over time, cases may be decided on opposing principles from previous cases, the resulting principles of which derive the 'Common Law,' the supreme law in Great Britain is subject to change, not so much from acts of Parliament, but from acts of the courts.  Because the primary influence on newly decided cases is a certain prevailing standard of the day, the meaning of the British Constitution changes with each newly decided court precedent.  In this manner, popular opinion has a direct role in the meaning of British Supreme Law.  Although it is an imperfect instrument of supreme law, at least in theory, the United States Constitution is founded on authoritative ideals, ostensibly Natural Laws of God, and not prevailing societal opinions. 

But according to the British Supreme Law, the head of the government remains in the person of the monarch, the King or Queen of England. It has to be that way because, according to the supreme law, sovereign authority for Great Britain flows from God, to the monarch, from the monarch to the government, and from the government to the people.  In this manner, the people receive authority from God, but the authority they receive is a mere remnant of the authority first passed from God to the monarch.

But that seems to fly in the face of what we are taught, that Britain is a democracy; that its parliament is elected by the people, the "commoners."  That is true, but only by contract, not by authority directly from God.  By contract with the monarchy does the House of Lords receive authority.   By contract with the House of Lords does the House of Commons receive authority.  And only because the House of Commons allows itself to be elected by the people does Great Britain resemble a democracy.  The House of Commons could change that simply by changing the laws.  THe House of Commons owns sufficient authority to do that.  But the chances are great against it, because if they did, they would likely have a revolution on their hands.  A revolution could change the very nature by which authority is conveyed.  Therefore, popular opinion, and possibly fear of reprisal, keeps Great Britain resembling a democracy, at least to the extent that it does. But to the extent that it resembles a democracy, it does so only out of a series of historical agreements that emerged for various reasons, and at various times, those agreements being between and among the monarchy, the Lordship and the commoners.

Not lost in all of this transfer of authority, however, is that sovereign authority enters the British system of government through the monarchy.   As much as it may seem differently, Great Britain still holds to the 'Divine Right of Kings' model of national government.  That is why the monarch is referred in Great Britain as 'the Sovereign.'  And because of this close relationship, ostensibly with God, the monarch is the actual head of the Church of England. And this is why each succession to the throne is performed under coronation ceremony in Westminster Cathedral, by the second in charge of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

So in Great Britain, sovereign authority flows in the following manner:

God >> Monarch >> Lordship >> Commoners

Authority for government flows in the following manner:

God >> Monarch >> House of Lords >> House of Commons >> Commoners

So it is easy to see who is really at the bottom of the pecking order of authority in Great Britain.  At the very bottom are the people.  Only by contract, and indeed contract entered into through coercion, were any rights to govern ever wrested from the monarchy.  Still, officially, and legally, the British Monarch is more than simply a figurehead.  The British Monarch is still the head of state in Great Britain, receiving authority directly from God, or so the laws express.

But the American Founders understood a different flow of authority, inherent in the Scriptures of the Bible, than are evident in the design of the British Divine Right of Kings model.  Using the scriptures as the basis of their reasoning, the American Founders acted on the self-evident truth that, rather than national sovereign authority flowing from God, to a monarch, on its way to the people, God instead endows that authority directly to each individual.  And with that authority, the people decide whether they will authorize a government to take on certain roles they feel may be necessary.  In this fashion, the American flow of authority might be better understood as the "Divine Rights of Man" model.  The American model of the flow of sovereign authority is thus.

God >> Individuals >> Government

Recognizing that these models for governing are fundamentally incompatible, because the Founders reasoned the authority for their actions in defiance of the king, and did so directly from the same scriptures the king read from, they were able to justify the authority necessary to break the political bonds that connected them with Great Britain, and did so within a jurisdiction in which the King, himself, was bound, the King James Scriptures.

Within those Scriptures, the Founders' view of God's authority to men is inferred from Jesus' sermons, given directly to the people, bypassing local governments, bypassing local religious authorities.  The Apostle John wrote of this flow of authority.  When Judas betrays Jesus, and as a result Jesus is brought before the court of Pontius Pilot, Pilot demands Jesus to cooperation in the proceedings.  When Jesus refuses cooperate, Pilot speaks,

"Do you refuse to speak to me? Don't you realize I have power [authority] either to free you or to crucify you?" (John 19:10)

To which, Jesus responds,

"You would have no power [authority] over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin." (John 19:11)

Because God's authority to govern one's self extends directly to men, that authority is unaffected by powers assumed by an unelected government.  Unelected by the people, and therefore owning no real authority to govern, Jesus understood that Pilot had no authority over Him. Had Pilot owned authority, it would have been given to him by God above, which it was not.  To crucify Jesus would therefore be the act of a despot, a tyrant, a king, such as King George represented to the American Founders.   And so, according to Jesus Christ, the greater sin than even the crucifixion by Roman government, by men following orders according to man's law, however unauthorized by God, was a voluntary act of betrayal by Judas.  Judas possessed God's authority to utilize his own free will.  But Judas used that authority against God.  Although both are sins, according to Jesus, personal betrayal of God is sin greater than that of crucifying God by the power of a despot.  And therefore, the individual who betrays God is owed the greater punishment.

And so the lesson here is that the two basic models of government, the American "Divine Rights of Man" model, and the British "Divine Right of Kings" model, practiced in their basic forms, are incompatible.  The Founders drew authority from the Scriptures to break from the king's supposed authority.  And they did so by nullifying the king's authority, holding that it was invalid according to the Scriptures.

Interestingly enough, however, under the terms of the Treaty of Paris of 1783, the both sides decided to peacefully coexist.  Under that treaty's terms, neither side validates the others source of authority; but both sides hold to that their claim that their respective nations are authorized by the "most Holy and Undivided Trinity."

Next in our series, America IS A Christian Nation, we will begin to discover just what it means to be 'one nation under God.'

Sunday, October 23, 2011

America IS A Christian Nation, Part IX, 'A More Perfect Union'

From the previous installment of America IS a Christian Nation, we learned that the very authority of the Constitution derives directly from the meaning of the Declaration of Independence.  So one major lesson we can now understand is that the Constitution can only be correctly understood when interpreted in the light of that meaning.  For this reason, any correct constitutional interpretation must respect, and therefore preserve, the true meaning of the Declaration of Independence.  The Constitution must preserve the Declaration of Independence; or if it does not, it loses all legal authority.  In Lincoln's terms, to preserve itself, the Constitution must preserve the Declaration of Independence, "the apple of gold preserved in the picture of silver."

And we also learned from the previous installment that this intricate relationship between the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence that we are talking about is no vicarious result, no accident.  No, that relationship was anticipated by our Founders, and is the product of intelligent design.

But today, we will look at the term, 'self-government,' how that term derives with respect to America's founding documents, and how it relates to the type of government America instituted under the Constitution.

One common misconception is that any particular nation’s sovereignty is recognizable only upon the establishment of a formal national government.  On the contrary, as of the signing of the Declaration, The United States of America existed as a sovereign nation, but it had no formal government.  That fact demonstrates the very heart of the American Theory.  The United States of America is governed by its people, and with the consent of those same people.  Lincoln referred to that concept as “self government,” or government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”  Within the Declaration of Independence is a statement of steering ideals.  Those ideals steer because they authorize.  They  authorize only certain actions, certain 'roads' for the government to take.  These ideals are like guardrails on the highway.  They do not allow America to venture far off course before America runs out of authority.  For that reason, they tend to steer the American government only to act according to the ideals of the declaration. American authority may therefore be thought of as 'ideal authority,' the authority that is derives from striving for perfection, the perfect state of government, self-government.

Ideally, people who understand that they are all created with equal rights with respect to their lives, their freedom and their daily pursuit of happiness, should all be able to get along together, work together, play together, respecting each others' rights, as they would have theirs respected.  In such a neighborhood, or town, or city, or even such a nation, no formal governing body would be necessary.  The Declaration of Independence is a description of an ideal world.  The Declaration of Independence is a description of life in Heaven; or perhaps more accurately described as life should be

'on earth...as It Is In Heaven.'

Knowing however that, practically speaking, the American ideals could never be lived to, one reasonable question might be to ask the tangible benefit that such a statement of ideals could bring to those who might subscribe to them.  Lincoln offers us his opinion.  He steadfastly maintained that in stating the ideals as they did in the Declaration of Independence, the founding fathers:
set up a standard maxim for free society, which could be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere.
They used the assertion that “all men are created equal” as:
a stumbling block to those who in after times might seek to turn a free people back into the hateful paths of despotism,
for if:
such (despots) should re appear in this fair land and commence their vocation they should find left for them at least one hard nut to crack.
One, two, three.

So in an ideal world, self-government requires no formal common governing structure.  In that world, everyone always does the right thing, respecting each others' rights, helping each other through life.  But the founding fathers knew that life in America, populated by a people who were subject to the corrupting influences living a natural world with limited resources, though those people might live under the bright promise of the “blessings of liberty,” that life could never approach the common conception of “Heaven.”  Understanding that in that world, Americans could not on a daily basis live up to the ideals of the Declaration, in authorizing that document, the 'good people of the colonies,'  through their representatives, authorized their successors to approximate those ideals in a practical, livable governing mechanism.  The founders authorized that pursuit expressing one certain 'self-evident truth' in the Declaration, one that their successors could utilize to authorize a formal governing structure.  According to the Declaration, in order to
secure these [human] rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
Acting with the authority implied by that truth, the Founders' successors subsequently justified the authority necessary to create the present day constitutional document and United States Government.  Some disagree, saying that the Constitution authorizes itself and needs no authority from any previous agreement.  Well, that cannot be, and here is why.  In its preamble, the Constitution invokes its source of authority.  That authority is “We the People of the United States.”  But “The United States” to which “the People” refer, as we have demonstrated in previous installments, was itself created with the primal American authority first reasoned to exist in the Declaration of Independence.  And so we can know that the authority for the Constitution is the same authority for the Declaration of Independence.

And because it is the same authority, subject to the same conditions, which conditions are synonymous with original theoretical intentions of the people represented by the Founders, the Constitution can be understood to be an authoritative document only when understood, even in the most theoretical sense, as pursuing those same original intentions. And therefore, the authority to have even proposed the Constitution for ratification demonstrates a link to the solitary source of primal American authority only when understood to have been an effort to fulfill of those same original intentions.  Recognizing the derivative nature of the authority distributed within the American government by the instrument known as the Constitution, one is therefore forced to recognize that the United States as a national body of sovereign authority, its Constitution and republican system of government all depend on the ideal principles of the Declaration of Independence as their sole and thus “primal” source of authority.

Furthermore, by “appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions,” the Founders established (quite brilliantly) that only “the Supreme Judge of the world” possessed sufficient authority to judge their assertions of truth, their motivations and actions.  Having aligned their new system of human cooperation to respect the intentions of God, as the Founders understood those intentions from the Scriptures, all-powerful God theoretically underwrites the Peoples’ authority to carry out their ideal purposes, which by definition are God's purposes on earth.  Thus, in summary, according to the Founders’ theory, the Creator underwrites the authority conveyed from the “good People of the colonies,” to their representatives, to carry out the ideal intentions announced in the Declaration of Independence.  In this elevated sense, God underwrites those intentions because they are ideal.  Those intentions are perfect in the eyes of God.  Those intentions theoretically align with His intentions and therefore are not subject to debate by mere men.  For this reason,
The Declaration of Independence, as the nation’s charter, is the superior state document of the United States of America.  The pursuit of the People’s original ideal intentions as expressed or directly implied in the Declaration is the only legitimate source of primal authority for the American nation's government.  The Union of States and Constitution were founded with and depend on that source of primal authority.
America is authorized by ideals, statements describing the perfect condition, perfect in the eyes of God.  The Constitution is a practical mechanism meant to approximate those ideals in an imperfect world.

Note that since its ratification, the Constitution has been changed 27 times. Therefore, in a certain sense, the American system of government has been changed 27 times.  But each time, no matter what the circumstances or theme of the revision, the basic purpose of each amendment has been the same, and that is “to form a more perfect union.” The term, 'perfect' in the Constitution's preamble refers to the perfect description of human cooperation in the Declaration of Independence, perfect self-government, perfect in the eyes of God.

Even the term, 'good,' which in the Declaration describes the 'people of the colonies' those who authorized their representatives to sign that document, expresses the notion of the ideal.  The 'good people of the colonies' were 'good' only because they intended to fulfill God's will in declaring independence for their new nation under God.  Christian Scriptures require that 'good' is 'good' only if God agrees that it is 'good.'  'Good' in God's eyes is nothing short of perfection. So the 'good people' are 'good' because they intended their new nation to pursue perfection in God's sight, fulfilling God's will on earth. 

But whereas the Constitution has changed many times, the Declaration of Independence never changes and it never will.  The Declaration of Independence is the description of the founders’ perfect theoretical union in an ideal sense, one that the Constitution can only approximate in a practical sense.  Whereas the Declaration is the vision, the Constitution is the vehicle.  Whereas the Declaration shows the path, the Constitution makes the path.  During such occasions that the Constitution may turn away from America’s founding principles, the Declaration is the shining light just over the hill that lets America understand when the Constitution has wandered astray.  Without the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution has little meaning.  The Declaration is the meaning; the Constitution is the means.  The Declaration of Independence is, in an ideal sense, what the Constitution is in a practical sense.  Yet both documents have the same purpose.  And that is the purpose of, in the end, creating a perfect union, perfect in the eyes of God.

In the next installment of America IS A Christian Nation, I will extend these remarks and contrast the American version of the perfect union with certain other unions which depend on authority from God.

Thanks very much for your readership!

-Hank

Thursday, October 20, 2011

America IS A Christian Nation, Part VIII, the Product of Intelligent Design

From the previous installment of America IS A Christian Nation, we understand Lincoln's position that the Constitution, the Supreme Law of the United States of America, derives its purpose and authority from the Declaration of Independence.  According to Lincoln, one primary purpose of the Constitution is to provide the direct means by which the principles of the Declaration, which serve to authorize America as a nation, along with its government, are preserved. In this installment, we will look to verify what Lincoln proposes taking that position.

As we understand from past installments, the means by which the Declaration of Independence declares sovereignty for America is by the use of a certain set of principles, crafted into a sequence, which constructs a rationale.  Essentially, using this technique, the Founders 'reasoned' America was into existence.  That America was born a nation among nations is not a simple declaration. It is a logical conclusion.  The constructed rationale that reasons America into existence proposes various universal truths, ostensibly Laws of God, which if true, when applied to the circumstances at the time, results in the justufied right of the American people to declare independence, away from the authority of the King of England, and define a new source of authority, that source being the 'good people of the colonies.'  But to be clear, those people owned the authority to reclaim their sovereignty from the King of England ONLY by virtue of the particular supporting rationale documented within the Declaration of Independence, agreed and signed in 1776. Other than the reasons offered in the Declaration of Independence, there would be no reason, even today, for America to assume among the powers of the earth those powers to act as a nation among nations. 

Key to Lincoln's understanding in all of this is that the Constitution codifies the year 1776, of course implying July 4 of that year, as the date on which the United States of America became 'reasoned into existence.'  That fact is on display in the Constitution's Article VII, which "date stamps" its proposed ratification on
the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth (which twelfth year directly references the year 1776, implying July 4).
Using this sort of date stamp, one which places its proposed ratification relative to July 4, 1776, the Constitution directly recognize that portion of the Declaration of Independence that serves the primary purpose of underwriting the sovereignty of the United States of America.  And so for this reason, that the United States of America was founded in the year 1776, is codified as America's supreme law, just like any other provision of the Constitution.  And in so doing, Article VII also accepts the conclusion of rightful American sovereignty in the Declaration of Independence, as Supreme Law as well, that recognition certified by reference. 

All that being the case, a meaningful question to consider would be whether any authoritative interpretation of the Constitution might “rightly” deny the preceding portions of the Declaration, the portions which serve collectively as the supporting rationale by which America’s “rightful” sovereignty was originally concluded.  Asking this question more generally and with respect to principle, if one might accept the validity of any certain logical conclusion, as the Constitution does, knowing that such a conclusion is expressly dependent upon a particular supporting rationale, which it is, might one at the same time “rightly” deny the validity of the supporting rationale?  No, the only legitimate means to “rightly” deny a supporting rationale upon which an accepted logical conclusion expressly depends, would be to discount that original rationale and offer another rationale, one that would as fairly support the same conclusion. 

So unless the Constitution offers a new and different rationale, one that would otherwise as fairly support its accepted conclusion of "rightful" American sovereignty, which it does not, the question before us specifically becomes to decide whether any justifiable interpretation of the Constitution may “rightfully” discount that one remaining rationale that serves as the only “rightful” basis for the conclusion of American sovereignty, that one remaining rationale which is offered within the expressions of the Declaration of Independence.  The answer again, is simply, no.  America must have a reason to exist.  America does not exist on its own for no reason.  And the only reason or reasons for America's existence are those offered within the Declaration of Independence.  That being the case, understanding that the authority of the Constitution itself depends solely upon the “rightful” conclusion of American sovereignty underwritten by the rationale of the Declaration of Independence, any judicial interpretation of the Constitution, which by its terms discounts the Declaration’s rationale, (which incidentally requires among other things that God exists), coincidentally undermines the legitimate authority of the Constitution itself.  And if the legitimate authority of the Constitution were undermined by such an interpretation, any constitutional interpretation built upon the premise of a that interpretation would be illegitimate and unauthoritative as well.
And so because the very authority of the Constitution derives directly from the meaning of the Declaration of Independence, one major lesson we can understand is that the Constitution can only be correctly  understood when interpreted in the light of that meaning.  For this reason, any correct constitutional interpretation must respect, and therefore preserve, the true meaning of the Declaration of Independence.  The Constitution therefore must preserve the Declaration of Independence; or if it does not, it loses all legal authority.  In Lincoln's terms, to preserve itself, the Constitution must preserve the Declaration of Independence, "the apple of gold preserved in the picture of silver."
That the Constitution can be thought of conceptually as the frame around an apple of gold, is no vicarious result, no coincidental by-product of the American founding. No, this relationship is by design.  The American Founders could have established their new nation on any particular construct of authority. They could have simply told the King of England that they were tired of his meddling in their affairs and established America as the result of a coup d'├ętat.  But they did not.  And this intricately woven relationship that exists between the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution, is the result of intelligent design.  No doubt Thomas Jefferson's overwhelming intelligence and his thorough understanding of the principles at work in the Declaration of Independence were the reasons the Founders chose him to author such a landmark document.  Lincoln understood Jefferson's importance, his intelligence and vision, at the 2nd Continental Congress.  Of Jefferson, Lincoln wrote
All honor to Jefferson--to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression.
Imagine a young man, such as Thomas Jefferson, being given the task of constructing a rationale that would yield the rightful overthrow of the British Monarchy.  Such an individual would have to possess each of the traits to which Lincoln referred--coolness, to keep his head on straight as he labored, forecast, the vision to understand the future consequences of his work, and capacity, the intelligence to perform such a daunting task.  So today, we can know that the resulting relationship inherent between the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence is not a vicarious result, not an accident.  No, that relationship was anticipated, and is the product of intelligent design.
 
Having demonstrated the validity of Lincoln's apple and picture analogy, in the next installment of America IS A Christian Nation, we will delve further into the relationship between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and discuss in practical terms, what it means that our Constitution is no stand alone document, rather that it depends on the Declaration of Independence for its own theoretical, and even legal, validity and integrity.  And when we are done we will discuss why it is so important that the principles put to pen in the Declaration of Independence be preserved.

And once again, thank you for taking part in this series.  Right here is one of the few places, perhaps even the only place, you might ever uncover this information.

-Hank

Saturday, October 15, 2011

America IS A Christian Nation, Part VII, The Apple of Gold and Picture of Silver

In our last installment of America IS A Christian Nation, we began to see how Lincoln not only understood the theory of the American Founders, but also relied upon the precepts of that theory, the assumptions of that theory, as he made the decisions that would ultimately guide America through its most significant endurance trial, the American Civil War.

But the precepts and assumptions that underwrite the meaning of America were not new to Lincoln as he took office as president.  No, in fact, it was Lincoln's heartfelt regard for the meaning of America's founding that motivated him to seek the presidency in the first place.  Evidence of Lincoln's knowledge of the meaning of America's founding is found in early records of his pronouncements.

In one such account, having witnessed the repeal of the Missouri compromise in 1854, the future 16th President displayed his understanding of the American Theory as he echoed the earlier remarks of Washington and the other early presidents.  He urged the adoption of national harmony with the principles of the Declaration of Independence.  In so doing, Lincoln offered the result that millions of free happy people shall be “blessed to the latest generations.”  (And Who, of course, might be better equipped to bless that many people than God?)
Let us re-adopt the Declaration of Independence, and, with it, the practices and policy which harmonize with it…If we do this, we shall not only have saved the Union, but we shall have so saved it as to make and to keep it forever worthy of saving.  We shall have saved it that the succeeding millions of free happy people. The world over, shall rise up and call us blessed to the latest generations.
As the theory of America goes, leading up to its ultimate conclusion, the actual statement declaring independence for America, the Declaration of Independence lays out a train of rationale, incorporating certain of God's Laws, each derived from the New Testament, which entitled the American people to break the political bonds it had with Great Britain.  The Founders theorized that a nation obeying these laws, and in so doing performing God's will for man and mankind, God would bless America, protecting it from the effects of a fallen world, by divine Providence.  That was their theory, the Theory of America. In quotation above, Lincoln recognizes that theory for what it is and urges Americans to Re-adopt the precepts of the Declaration, and with it, 'the practices and policies which harmonize with it.'  Lincoln proposes that if that goal can be accomplished, happiness among the America would abound, and people all over the world would recognize God's Providence for what it is, and agree that America was blessed among the other nations of the world.

In 1861, Lincoln jotted down one of the many notes he would keep in the drawer of his desk for future use, perhaps in speeches.  That was his way of retaining certain thoughts he believed were important.  Many of these notes are available to us today.  In this particular note below, Lincoln refers to the principles offered to the world in the Declaration of Independence, and the prosperity that he believes would not have resulted without America's adherence to those principles:
All this is not the result of accident. It has a philosophical cause. Without the Constitution and the Union, we could not have attained the result; but even these, are not the primary cause of our great prosperity. There is something back of these, entwining itself more closely about the human heart. That something, is the principle of "Liberty to all"—the principle that clears the path for all—gives hope to all—and, by consequence, enterprize, and industry to all.
The expression of that principle, in our Declaration of Independence, was most happy, and fortunate. Without this, as well as with it, we could have declared our independence of Great Britain; but without it, we could not, I think, have secured our free government, and consequent prosperity. No oppressed, people will fight, and endure, as our fathers did, without the promise of something better, than a mere change of masters.
The assertion of that principle, at that time, was the word, "fitly spoken" which has proved an "apple of gold" to us. The Union, and the Constitution, are the picture of silver, subsequently framed around it. The picture was made, not to conceal, or destroy the apple; but to adorn, and preserve it. The picture was made for the apple—not the apple for the picture.
So let us act, that neither picture, or apple shall ever be blurred, or bruised or broken.
That we may so act, we must study, and understand the points of danger.
This particular note, documenting Lincoln's thoughts, is ripe with meaning for us to consider today.  According to Lincoln, yes, the Constitution, and the union of American states were vital in achieving the great prosperity of America at the time.  But according to Lincoln, the revered Constitution and the nation to which it applies are NOT the primary reason for the prosperity to which he refers.  No, according to Lincoln, there is something else, 'back of these, entwining itself more closely about the human heart.'  That 'something,' is the Declaration of Independence, and what it means, and the authority that 'principle' conveys to America through its Constitution.

Using the Scriptures (Proverbs 25:11), according to Lincoln, the assertion into the world of that particular principle (the Declaration of Independence) at that particular time (1776) is a word fitly spoken.  That word is golden fruit, a golden apple, to us if we select it.  In other words, the Founders inserted a particular source of sovereign authority into the world, inspired by God, the 'principle,' at a particular time, 1776, which is a 'word fitly spoken.'   According to Lincoln's interpretation of the proverb, a word fitly spoken is therefore a word that not only expresses God's intentions for the world,  but is also spoken into the world at the time God intends. So a fitly spoken word is one appropriate to God's intentions, and also spoken at a time appropriate to carry God's intentions forward.  Because Lincoln derives this meaning directly from Biblical Scriptures, and he obviously understood the authoritative nature of thoseS criptures regarding Constitutional interpretations.

In 1859, in a letter written to a Mr. Henry L. Pierce, in response to Pierce's invitation to speak at an occasion celebrating the birthday of Thomas Jefferson, Lincoln illustrates this same Biblical principle, one of a 'word fitly spoken,' into the world. Although Lincoln declined the invitation, he wrote down certain thoughts the invitation inspired him to consider.  Among those thoughts, Lincoln wrote,
All honor to Jefferson--to the man who, in the concrete pressure of a struggle for national independence by a single people, had the coolness, forecast, and capacity to introduce into a merely revolutionary document, an abstract truth, applicable to all men and all times, and so to embalm it there, that to-day, and in all coming days, it shall be a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression.
The importance Lincoln ascribed to the principles of the Declaration is an overriding theme in many of his writings, but never more so than in these I bring up today.  According to Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson should be honored because he had the 'coolness, forecast, and capacity' to introduce into a 'merely revolutionary document,' an abstract truth applicable to all men and all times, the effect of which was to embalm these principles, preserving them for all time.  The content of these principles, and how they might remain preserved, is the subject of Lincoln's desk note above.  According to that note, the union and Constitution are the 'picture of silver' which 'adorn and preserve' the principles, the 'apple of gold.'

Stay with me here. Lincoln thought deeply.  And if you are to understand this, you must go where he went during certain quiet moments of contemplation.  Here we go...

In embalming the principles of the Declaration, by 'fitly speaking' that word of God, at the precise moment in history God intended, Jefferson's principles would forever provide 'a rebuke and a stumbling-block to the very harbingers of re-appearing tyranny and oppression.'  Vital though would be that the principles of the Jefferson be preserved.  And according to Lincoln,  

Preserving the principles of the Declaration of Independence is the primary purpose of the union and Constitution.

Lincoln writes, "The picture was made, not to conceal, or destroy the apple; but to adorn, and preserve it. The picture was made for the apple—not the apple for the picture."  Lincoln states here his understanding that the Constitution is therefore made for the Declaration of Independence, its primary purpose being to magnify and preserve its principles, and not the other way around.  In Lincoln's thinking, the Constitution can therefore only be correctly understood as document subordinate to, and in service to, the Declaration of Independence. And the Constitution's primary purpose is simply to preserve the meaning of the Declaration for all time, the principles of which being 'applicable to all men and all times.'

In our next installment of America IS A Christian Nation, we will look further into the relationship between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and discover that the Constitution is simply a practical expression, codifying the principles of the Declaration of Independence, an idealistic expression, into certain manageable, workable prescriptions of law.

-Hank


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

America IS A Christian Nation, Part VI, Lincoln Uses the American Theory

In the last installment of  America IS A Christian Nation, we learned what various early American presidents had to say about the 'American Experiment,' and the theory that experiment is designed to test.  We learned that our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, understood the theory behind America's founding and design, and that he spoke to that theory, and the ongoing American Experiment, in his famous remarks at Gettysburg in November of 1863.

And we also learned that Lincoln's knowledge of the Founders' theory, and the true meaning of America, are laced throughout Lincoln's speeches and writings, over one million words in total, which are still accessible to us today.  Because Lincoln's speeches and writings articulate his knowledge so well, and indeed because Lincoln used the Founders' theory while administering the American experiment during his time as president, Lincoln is a great resource for us to better understand the truth of these matters today.

Even prior to his remarks at Gettysburg, in 1861, during a special address to Congress, Abraham Lincoln spoke of the theoretical nature of the American nation as he reckoned that the American Experiment had not yet been resolved:
Our popular government has often been called an experiment. Two points in it, our people have already settled---the successful establishing, and the successful administering of it. One still remains---its successful maintenance against a formidable [internal] attempt to overthrow it.
At the time Lincoln spoke, no one could have known that during that test of the Civil War, more than 650,000 Americans would lose their lives fighting for the ideologies they believed in.  No one could have known that countless millions would be affected so deeply by that struggle between the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence and their antithesis.  Yet as Lincoln would ultimately understand, the experimental test trial of endurance, the Civil War, would end as a success.  As he expressed hope in Gettysburg, in the end the nation would live.  Obviously,  Lincoln viewed the Civil War and the circumstances that led to it through the prism of the American Theory.  It may sound strange to say, but viewed in that context, the American Civil War concluded with a successful outcome.

Since America’s founding, in a certain sense the results of the American Experiment have been analyzed by every succeeding generation.  Each day, politicians, business managers and common individuals weigh in their particular results.  Those results take many forms.  Politicians advocate their findings for as many as will lend an ear.  Their motivation is to create a base of sympathizers from which to become elected to a position of political power.  Business managers market to the public as they endeavor to create financial wealth.  Individual Americans continually compare their conditions to those of their peers.  They perform these comparisons, the purpose of which is to assess their own personal success.  If one should isolate the American Experiment for the measurement and prediction of just four parameters—endurance, power, wealth and individual success, and then gauge them against the same parameters measured from any other nation since America's founding, or any other nation prior to America's founding, the data is consistent with the theory that God has indeed Provided for America’s protection and the advancement of the conditions of its inhabitants, relative to those same measurements gathered from other nations. 

Lincoln once acknowledged the success of the American Experiment, noting the increased rate of advancement of the human condition during his lifetime.  When compared to the comparatively dismal  rate of advancement prior to the experiment, he could only reasonably attribute that difference to divine intervention:
Made so plain by our good father in Heaven, that all feel and understand it [the blessings of God over America], even down to brutes and creeping insects…We made the experiment and the fruit is before us.  Look at it—think of it in its aggregate grandeur, of the extent of the country, and the numbers of population—of ship, and steamboat, and rail—
Now whether the Founders, or Lincoln, are correct in their proposition or assessment that God would protect this new style of nation, 'or any nation so conceived and so dedicated,' a nation therefore designed to perform God's will as expressed in the Bible and New Testament, is not anything that I might try to persuade here.  It's just a theory.  But it is also the fundamental assumption from which the American sovereign authority derives.  And so any tool of American government, wielding American authority, must respect this proposition as truth. Lincoln operated in that mode.  Lincoln possessed faith in the truth of the propositions in the Declaration of Independence.  Lincoln possessed faith that God would allow those propositions to live beyond the difficulties that he encountered. And primarily as a result of Lincoln's faith, and because Lincoln trusted God to provide protection for those who performed His will on earth, as the Founders theorizes He would, did Lincoln maintain the strength necessary to fulfill his divine destiny.  At least that is how Lincoln obviously viewed these things.  And of course the results speak for themselves.  Through it all, America is still here and the world is a better place because of it.

In the next installment of America IS A Christian Nation, we are going to get down and dirty with the Theory of America and explore how these ideas interplay with our reading of the Constitution.


-Hank

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

America IS A Christian Nation, Part V, The American Experiment at Gettysburg

In the last installment of America IS A Christian Nation, we learned the Founders' definition of the term, 'despotism.'  And in that vernacular despotism can be thought of as the 'unauthoritative use of the power of government.'  Because American authority flows from God, directly to the people, in the form of unalienable human rights, and because the people convey only a portion of that authority to the government, then any use of governmental power that restricts the rights retained by the people, and therefore NOT conveyed to the government, is power devoid of authority and is therefore what the Founders termed despotic or tyrannical power.

And as a result, we learned that

Because American governmental authority is assumed from God, America's government possesses no authority, the use of which effectively denies that assumption.

Which also means that 
No tool of government, which description includes the congress, the president or the federal judiciary, nor any administrator or officer under their authority, possesses the authority to question that God exists, or that God is the source of authority for the Constitution and all  federal law, or to deny the conspicuous notice of those facts on federal properties.
The American Founders understood that, if they are to remain free, these principles are vital for the Americans to understand. 

But in the last installment we also further confirmed the truth that America is designed as an actual experiment testing the theory that an nation that obeys God's Laws, thus fulfilling God's will on earth, shall be protected by divine Providence.  We read from George Washington's Farewell Address confirming his understanding of that theory, and the experiment that remained ongoing even after his two terms as president, UNDER THE CONSTITUTION.  Thus, from the timing of Washington's remarks we know that nothing about the Constitution changes the nature of underlying theory of America, or the American Experiment designed to test that theory.

Elsewhere in Washington's Farewell address, the first president added
We are authorized to hope, that a proper organization of the whole, with the auxiliary agency of governments for the respective subdivisions, will afford a happy issue to the experiment. It is well worth a fair and full experiment.
In that statement, Washington offers the hope that government, if operated in proper sync with its authoritative responsibilities, should afford a happy result to the experiment.  Conversely, if government might operate beyond it's authorities, then the experiment would become corrupted, yielding no usable data on which to pin a proper conclusion.  And as we will see below, whether a fair and full experiment would complete would eventually come into question.

The experimental nature of America would not be lost to other early statesmen. In keeping with an experiment designed to elicit the divine Providence for their nation, in their document's first stanza the authors of the Articles of Confederation spoke of the primary importance of America to please God
AND WHEREAS it hath pleased the Great Governor of the World to incline the hearts of the legislatures we respectively represent in congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said articles of confederation and perpetual union.
Several of America's early presidents offered their thoughts on the matter of the ongoing American experiment.  America’s Second President, John Adams, spoke during his inaugural address of his great satisfaction with the constitutional process associated with the American Experiment, having witnessed it from abroad during the time of the constitutional convention:
Employed in the service of my country abroad during the whole course of these transactions [the constitutional Convention], I first saw the Constitution of the United States in a foreign country. Irritated by no literary altercation, animated by no public debate, heated by no party animosity, I read it with great satisfaction, as the result of good heads prompted by good hearts, as an experiment better adapted to the genius, character, situation, and relations of this nation and country than any which had ever been proposed or suggested.
In 1801, America’s third President and author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, during his first inaugural address, spoke of the theoretical nature of the American Experiment, which as the world’s best hope had thus far kept the new nation free:
I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this Government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this Government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself?
Four years later in his second inaugural address, Jefferson spoke of the free-exchange of ideas allowed under this new experimental system of government, and whether that free exchange would foster truth and reason:
Nor was it uninteresting to the world that an experiment should be fairly and fully made, whether freedom of discussion, unaided by power, is not sufficient for the propagation and protection of truth—whether a government conducting itself in the true spirit of its constitution, with zeal and purity, and doing no act which it would be unwilling the whole world should witness, can be written down by falsehood and defamation. The experiment has been tried; you have witnessed the scene; our fellow-citizens looked on, cool and collected; they saw the latent source from which these outrages proceeded; they gathered around their public functionaries, and when the Constitution called them to the decision by suffrage, they pronounced their verdict, honorable to those who had served them and consolatory to the friend of man who believes that he may be trusted with the control of his own affairs.
No inference is here intended that the laws provided by the States against false and defamatory publications should not be enforced; he who has time renders a service to public morals and public tranquillity in reforming these abuses by the salutary coercions of the law; but the experiment is noted to prove that, since truth and reason have maintained their ground against false opinions in league with false facts, the press, confined to truth, needs no other legal restraint; the public judgment will correct false reasoning and opinions on a full hearing of all parties; and no other definite line can be drawn between the inestimable liberty of the press and its demoralizing licentiousness. If there be still improprieties which this rule would not restrain, its supplement must be sought in the censorship of public opinion.
Next up, America’s fifth President, James Monroe, spoke of the profound success of the American Experiment and pointed to the efforts of Jefferson as having been key to that success:
Of my immediate predecessor, under whom so important a portion of this great and successful experiment has been made, I shall be pardoned for expressing my earnest wishes that he may long enjoy in his retirement the affections of a grateful country, the best reward of exalted talents and the most faithful and meritorious service.
As well, President John Quincy Adams, in his inaugural address spoke of the great results having been gleaned from the theoretical course of the American Experiment based on the “theory of human rights:”
It is a source of gratification and of encouragement to me to observe that the great result of this experiment upon the theory of human rights has at the close of that generation by which it was formed been crowned with success equal to the most sanguine expectations of its founders.
And not to leave his thoughts undocumented, during his inaugural address President Martin Van Buren expressed the gratitude he felt for the American Experiment having conferred such happiness upon the nation:
The success that has thus attended our great experiment is in itself a sufficient cause for gratitude, on account of the happiness it has actually conferred and the example it has unanswerably given.
That the American Experiment would yield the result of 'happiness' is a direct reference to expressions of the Declaration of Independence, and the prospect that God's Providence was presently at work confirming the result.

So all of these men understood the experimental nature of America, that America is designed as an experiment to test the theory that a nation respecting God's Natural Laws, and therefore working to fulfill God's will on earth, should receive God's protection, the protection of the divine Providence.

And knowledge of the American Experiment was not lost to America's 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, a man who during the years preceding his presidency had worked diligently to understand the true meaning the American founders imparted to their new nation.  Evidence of Lincoln's understanding of the nature and meaning of the American Experiment can be found in many of his speeches, not the least of which is one of his most famous, the Gettysburg Address. On November 19,1863, Lincoln sent a message to all Americans, for all time, that the founding
fathers brought forth…a new nation conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. 
Viewed scientifically, a “proposition” is simply a hypothesis yet to be proved or disproved by experimentation.  On that November day, approximately half of the way through the nation’s most cataclysmic test of endurance, Lincoln affirmed and clarified his recognition of the experimental nature of the American nation and his understanding of the Theory of America.  Lincoln continued:

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.

Now let's really look into what Lincoln tells us in his Gettysburg Address.  He tells us that America is a nation 'conceived in liberty.'  What better way to say it!  According to the Declaration of Independence, Liberty is a gift from God to men and mankind.  And so America is a nation conceived out of that gift.  America is a product of God's gift of freedom.  And furthermore, America is an experiment that will test whether a nation conceived out of God's gift of freedom can long endure.  That is precisely what Lincoln is telling us here.  Lincoln understood  exactly what America's true meaning is.  But as many times as the Gettysburg Address has been read over the years since, and taught in schools, very few who read it truly understand what Lincoln is telling us in these lines.

And as fate would have it, Abraham Lincoln would live just long enough to recognize that the test of the Civil War had been a success.  That test of endurance for the American nation was effectively over just days prior to his assassination; Lincoln died knowing the hypothetical proposition that “all men are created equal” had at least been further substantiated.

Of course Lincoln's earthly fate would be decided by the act of a mad man.  But it should not escape us to consider that in a certain respect, at the time of his death, Lincoln's job, Lincoln's role in the American Experiment, was essentially complete.  As president, Lincoln ensured that the American Experiment would not stop short of, as Washington called it, 'a full and fair experiment.'  His work complete, it is not far from this author's thoughts to consider that if the Founders' theory is correct, Lincoln's earthly demise would have been known to God from the beginning of the world.  That being the case, holding the Founder's Theory as true, Lincoln's fate could not have been sealed without the hand of Providence.  Well, at least for some of us, that possibility is interesting to consider.

In our next installment, we will get a little more down and dirty with the American Experiment, and discover for ourselves the theoretical relationship that exists between the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution.

See you soon,

Hank