The Constitution Emphasizes God-given Limits to “Just” Political Power

America’s constitutional republic lies on the singular belief that the ultimate source for political authority is God, not man, which enables and makes possible democracy and just rule.

Contrary to popular assumption, the God of the Bible did not establish “theocratic” governments. In both Old and New Testaments, authority given by God is a responsibility to serve. Governments exist for the good of the people, which is why in many cases political positions are referred to as offices of “public service.”

Throughout the Bible, leaders were chosen by the people, referred to as elders, princes, foremen, and heads. Casting lots was a customary process for decision making to determine leaders and actions. Those casting lots understood that no matter a person’s class or background everyone had an equal opportunity to draw the winning or losing lot, also agreeing to support the outcome.

In Equality and Liberty, Harry Jaffa argued,

men who founded our system of government were not moral or political relativists, as those terms are understood today. In affirming that all men are created equal, they expressed their conviction that human freedom depends upon the recognition of an order that man himself does not create.”

When God swore by His right hand instituting covenants, He did not institute a theocratic dictatorship. He created mutually agreed upon covenants within a relationship among Himself and His people.

Covenants establish conditions and promises to be kept within an agreed upon relationship– by all parties. A covenant is both a mutually and permanently shared responsibility– for life. The Bible’s numerous descriptions and examples reveal a trifecta for political authority: God, leaders, and the people (Exod., Num., Deut., Chron., Hosea, 2 Sam.).

There was always a response by the people of an entire community who agreed or disagreed to take responsibility for their own governance. As such, Founders followed suit. The preamble to the U.S. Constitution begins with, “We the People of the United States,” It continues:

… in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

The Founders made clear: the people themselves, American citizens, were first and foremost responsible for their own governance, to:

  • Unify as one people,
  • Ensure justice is served,
  • Promote peaceful living,
  • Provide security and defense for its people from threats both Foreign and domestic,
  • Institute civil order, and
  • Safeguard liberty for themselves and future generations.

A constitutional republic demands that the people hold the greatest responsibility; it is their duty to serve for the good of everyone. Matthew and Mark recorded numerous teachings of Jesus who emphasized servant leadership, as did Peter and Paul in their instructions recorded in Acts, 1 Corinthians, 1 Peter, and Romans. Leaders and the people were responsible to each other and to God as acts of service for the betterment of society.

Any government can enact evil policies with or without the will of the people, which is why the Founders emphasized the necessity for restraint. Checks and balances of three governmental institutions was one method, another the Bill of Rights, another representation, and others ranging from legal avenues to public protesting and overthrowing the corrupt who rule for power not to serve.

Actions, laws, and authority were identified as specifically limited. The Declaration of Independence clarified that the government’s “just power” (not power, or unlimited power) originated from the people. Popular consent to an unjust authority is unConstitutional.

Highly leaning on John Locke’s Second Treatise on Government, the Founders were clear that all governments and their citizens were first held accountable to God– because they understood that human life and human rights pre-existed any social contract, covenant, or law.

If political authority is given by God, intended to be mediated by leaders and the people, then giving rulers unlimited power to enact unjust laws violates the foundational purpose for the Constitution. In other words, evil leaders who cause societal destruction are destroying God’s property intended for good.

Divine authority enabled human responsibility for self-governance. Governments are responsible for instituting and enforcing right and just policies. Citizens are responsible for prohibiting and ousting leaders who promote unjust policies.

July 16, 2015

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