"Originalist"

Written by Drew on November 2nd, 2005

President Bush’s nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court has created a maelstrom of liberal protests. You’d think the world was coming to an end.

What’s the reason for their concern? Alito is described as a justice with an “originalist” philosophy. An originalist, or constructionist, interprets the Constitution based on the Framers’ precise words and the meaning they intended at the time. Alito’s opponents believe the Constitution is a “living document” that evolves with the majority view of society at a given time.

Judge Alito has been compared to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, which has earned him the nickname “Scalito.” If he is like Scalia, there can be no doubt as to his respect for the original intent behind the Constitution’s writing. In a speech given at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Scalia said, “The Constitution is not an organism, it is a legal document.” He argued that without an originalist or “textualist” approach, voters will choose and demand judges based not on their ability to interpret the Constitution but on the political positions they hold. He explained that an originalist takes meaning from the Constitution “from its text, and that meaning does not change.” This statement makes transparent the enemies of originalist philosophy; they want change. Since they cannot get it through the legislative branch, which is controled by elected officials, they attempt to advance their agendas by loose interpretations of the law.

The church faces similar opponents when it comes to interpreting God’s law. Many argue that the New Testament is a “living document,” susceptible to cultural influences. It can sway, they say, with the winds of time. However, Jesus and His apostles held to a very different view. They believed the Bible to have been “breathed” (i.e., inspired) by God (2 Tim. 3:16-17), its very “words” taught by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:13). Those words, also known as the words of Christ, will be used to judge mankind on the last day. Jesus said, “He who rejects Me, and does no receive My words, has that which judges him–the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (Jn. 12:48).

Those who sniff at a textualist approach to Bible authority ignore the intent behind divine revelation. It was not given to legitimize every whim and imagination of man. It was delivered to inform us of the “mystery” of Jesus Christ (Eph. 3:4).

 

1 Comments so far ↓

  1. Kevin Rhodes says:

    Excellent comparison, Drew. The parallels are unmistakable.

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