The Bible & American Law
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The Bible and its Influence on American Law
Many people today think that the Bible is narrow minded and outdated and should not be used as a basis for law. Many people also say that America is not a Christian nation, but the fact is almost all of the framers of the U.S. Constitution were Christians and every president has taken the oath on the Bible and all of the 50 state constitutions have a reference to God in them. Obviously America is a Christian nation. The purpose of this paper is to show how and why the Bible was used as a basis of American law and why it should still be used today and to show how Christian beliefs founded our laws.
Noah Webster, one of our Founding Fathers once said, "The moral principles and precepts contained in the scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws. All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery, and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible." So Americans used the Bible as a source for common law. This was the standard for law beginning with the Mayflower Compact through the constitution.
The founders of the first state constitution (Fundamental Orders of Connecticut) thought that every part of it should be based on the Bible. This document was a model for other state constitutions as well as the U.S. Constitution. Biblical laws offered an agreement that allowed people to have freedom but everything wasn�t chaotic. In the Declaration of Independence, it states that we have �unalienable rights.� These rights are unalienable because they were given to us by God. Many of the governments now and in the past based their laws on whoever is ruling the government at the time.
Because Americans agreed that the Bible was the truth, if a lot of people rebelled against the government then all they would have to do is appeal to the bible to overcome them. People who speak out against the bible today are actually some of the ones who benefit the most from the bible because the freedom of expression is actually a result of our biblical system. Another part of our government that comes from the Bible is the Rule of Law. This comes directly from the Ten Commandments and the Hebrew law. This, combined with rights from God, helped guarantee that every individual�s livelihood was respected.
The next important aspect to the constitution is that the founders understood the idea that basically all men are sinful, which also came from the Bible. The result of this was that the founders came up with a system of checks and balances. This can be seen in the different branches of government and in the different levels of government such as the federal versus the states powers.
In biblical thought, civil government is the least important part of the government. The most important part of the government is for an individual to govern himself and that�s why religion should be encouraged. The second most important is the family and the third most important is the church. The least important, as stated before, is civil government and within the civil government, the Founding Fathers stated that the federal government was not as important as the local and state government. Even though the Constitution limits the powers of the federal government, it is often not followed.
According to the Bible, the purpose of civil government is to be God�s servant to restrain evil and reward good (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14). The Bible states that Christians should obey and pray for the government (1 Timothy 2:1-4). The only exception is if it forbids what God requires or requires what God forbids, in which case Christians cannot submit, and some form of civil disobedience becomes inevitable (Acts 4:18-31, 5:17-29). Christians are also supposed to influence government because all life is under God�s authority (Psalm 24:1; Psalm 83:18; Isaiah 42:8; Matthew 28:18-20; 2 Corinthians 10:5). In a democracy, Christians are actually obligated to take part in civil government (Matthew 22:21).
There are some ways that the American legal system did fail however. Slavery is one such example. This is not caused by the Bible like some people think. It is actually caused by not implementing the Bible. A form of slavery is allowed in the Bible but it is not the same slavery as we think about. It was only allowed as a way that people could pay off debts. The Bible is actually totally against slavery (Exodus 21:16; 1 Timothy 1:10). It makes a point that everybody is equal such as in Genesis 1:27 when it states �So God created man in his own image�. Another example is in Galatians 3:28 where it states �There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.�
Another such example is uncontrolled capitalism. America has initiated anti-trust laws and environmental laws. These laws go along with biblical capitalism and not Darwinian capitalism. Modern American capitalism uses the law to provide equal protection under the law instead of capitalism being thought as being based only on the survival of the fittest. Biblical capitalism emphasizes service over selfish ambition.
The failures of the legal system do not come from biblical Christianity, but instead they come from the failure to implement it. While poverty will never disappear (Mark 14:7), it would greatly be lessened if the compassion of Christ dominated society. The distribution of wealth would not be the solution to this. The solution would be emphasis on biblical ethics.
In conclusion, refer to the Pledge of Allegiance. It basically sums up our way of life. It is based on God, liberty, and justice which make up a three- legged stool. If you don�t have one you can�t have the other two. If God is missing from the government, rights and ethics are basically whatever the person in power tells you they are. The government should continue to use the bible as a basis for our laws and ethics. I fear that soon, biblical ethics will no longer be truly absolute. Soon our freedoms and liberties will no longer exist as we once knew them because the government will take over where our biblical consensus left off.
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