Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hang On to the Original

The other evening my friend Allan and I drove over to the university to hear a remarkable man speak on the subject, "Constitutional Interpretation." Sounds riveting, doesn't it? The speaker was Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. I have never seen so many lawyers and judges in one place at the same time. (My brother Jerry is a lawyer and I call him whenever I hear a new lawyer joke. My favorite? Do you know why they bury lawyers 21 feet down? Because, deep down, they are really nice guys.)

Anyway, I must say that Justice Scalia is an impressive intellect and a wonderful communicator. He talked about his approach to interpreting the constitution calling himself an originalist. Scalia believes that the original context and meaning of the document is what matters most and must be the beginning point for interpreting the constitution for today.

I guess I'm an originalist when it comes to interpreting the Bible, too. Seems like lots of people today want to read the Bible backwards, starting with the views and values of contemporary culture until the scripture ends up sounding like we wrote it ourselves. I can't buy that approach.

I have to believe that we will all be better off if we let the wisdom of the scripture help to shape our values and beliefs, and resist the temptation to rewrite the Bible to suit our society's misguided priorities and perspectives. The Bible is a true original if there ever was one.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I still don't think that joke is very funny! -- Jerry

Mike Ruffin said...

It's even more important to be an originalist when it comes to the Bible, given that we take it to be inspired by God, which, as remarkable a document as it is, the Constitution is not.

Still, the "original" intent is only a starting point in our application of either document. The hard part is bridging that gap between "then" and "now." Both documents are still applicable and relevant. The challenge is to arrive at relevancy while still taking intent, in so far as we can ascertain it, into account.