Wednesday, January 16, 2008

God and the Constitution

When Christians argue for some political proposal in the public square, we have the right to make the argument in whatever terms we wish, but that doesn't mean it is prudent or wise to make the argument in specifically religious terms. It is far better to make an honest case that has a chance to be persuasive to voters who have different or no religious convictions. Such arguments are abundantly available with respect to the issues referred to here.

Ted Olsen at Christianity Today comments on this statement by Huckabee yesterday:
I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution. But I believe it's a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God, and that's what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards rather than try to change God's standards so it lines up with some contemporary view of how we treat each other and how we treat the family.
.... A provocative statement, certainly. But what does "amend the Constitution so it's in God's standards" mean? Does it mean that the Constitution does not measure up to God's standards? Is the Constitution anti-God? Would the addition of a human life amendment and a federal marriage amendment make it measure up to God's standards? And is Huckabee suggesting that those who oppose these amendments, say, because of their views on federalism, are trying "to change God's standards"?

I can see how support for a human life amendment and a federal marriage amendment can win votes among some politically conservative evangelicals. But honestly, I'm thinking that this quote probably cost Huckabee more evangelical votes than it won him. The strongest supporters of those amendments have made the case on pragmatic grounds, not theological ones. James Dobson, for example, doesn't say the federal marriage amendment is necessary to bring the Constitution in line with God's standards. He says it's necessary to keep marriage from being redefined legally and culturally.
Update: John Mark Reynolds on Huckabee, the Constitution, and Baptist principles:
[....] Any idea that requires a belief in Christian doctrine or specific Christian revelation cannot be imposed or should not imposed by force on non-believers.

Mike Huckabee appears to have said that the Constitution should match the Word of God. If by the Word of God, Huckabee means the Bible (it is possible he did not), then he is wrong to say the Constitution should conform to it.

A Constitution may agree with Sacred Scripture, but it should not impose that specific revelation on the commonwealth. This takes matters of personal faith and the Church into the public square where they do not belong. These issues may be knowledge of a sort, the doctrine of the trinity is true, but it is not knowledge based on argument to which non-Christians have access.

Huckabee should press for the Constitution to conform to the law of Nature and of Nature’s God, but he should not press for the Constitution to enshrine any law that requires acceptance of any religious claim more specific than that.

I hope and assume that I have misunderstood Huckabee’s position or he has disagreed with one of the most glorious accomplishments of American Baptist tradition. ....
Is the Constitution unbiblical? | Liveblog | Christianity Today, Is Huckabee Confused About the Proper Role of Christianity and Politics? | The Scriptorium Daily: Middlebrow

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