The above warning to "the people", from an anti-federalist in 1787, about the hazards of increasing the powers of government, can be seen as prophetic after the span of over 225 years. This quote shares an underlying assumption with the Preamble to the Constitution. The assumption is that the powers of government originate in "We the People". But before starting the inventory of American jurisprudence by examining the preamble, we should see how Bible-interpretation policies are foundational to viewing the Constitution through a Bible-based metaconstitution.
When a clique of seemingly clever lawyers tried to trap Jesus in His words, they did so by asking Him about the validity of paying a poll-tax to Caesar. They said,
"Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?" But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, "Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax." And they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?" They said to Him, "Caesar’s." Then He said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s." (Matthew 22:17b-21, NASB)
This distinction between rendering Caesar’s to Caesar versus rendering God’s to God is reflected by Paul in Romans 13:1-7. The apostle there speaks of rendering to all governing authorities what is due them. Although citing the distinction between Caesar’s coin and God’s coin is a Divinely clever way to sidestep interrogation by shysters, it also postpones detailed articulation of what constitutes the underlying distinction between What is Caesar’s? and What is God’s?. Reading the New Testament makes it obvious that articulating these distinctions in all their multifaceted complexity was not crucial to Jesus’ ministry, nor to the ministries of any of the apostles. Instead, articulation of the difference between What is God’s? and What is Caesar’s? is like the Great Commission to take the gospel to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:16-20). Both articulation of the difference between What is God’s? and What is Caesar’s?, and the satisfaction of the Great Commission, are tasks Christ and the apostles left for subsequent generations. Although there is nothing ambiguous about the distinction between a denarius and a shekel, the distinction between What is God’s? and What is Caesar’s? is full of ambiguity for ignorant people like us who have not grasped the full wisdom of Christ. The issue still demands articulation for those of us among Christ’s followers who are still slow on the uptake. So what may appear to us as a studied ambiguity is really a challenge to figure out the boundaries between these two jurisdictions.
The questions – What is God’s? and What is Caesar’s? – are really questions aimed at distinguishing the collective jurisdiction of the people dedicated to serving God, from the jurisdiction of Caesar’s government. Although it’s undeniable that the distinction between What is God’s? and What is Caesar’s? involves distinctions between eternal law, natural law, and human law, it’s also undeniable that distinguishing these two jurisdictions sufficiently for 21st-century, earthbound sinners necessarily requires focusing especially on human law. Under such circumstances, what’s at issue is not God’s jurisdiction specifically, but the various jurisdictions of human beings. Because these ambiguities have existed for thousands of years, it’s reasonable to wonder why, after these thousands of years of Judaeo-Christian history, anyone should believe that we have developed a theology that’s based securely on Scripture, that answers these God’s? / Caesar’s? questions.
Following the lead of Saint Augustine and the "magisterial reformers" of the 16th century, we try to interpret the Bible through a set of interpretational policies called the analogy of faith. Even though our commitment to the analogy of faith is real, we also recognize that the analogy of faith as it has been practiced over the centuries is not adequate to the task of distinguishing What is God’s? from What is Caesar’s?. This inadequacy is evident by the relationship between "the magistracy", the secular authorities during the time of the Reformation, and the followers of the "magisterial reformers". This relationship between this faction of the visible Church and the princes, magistrates, and city councils, i.e., "the magistracy" of the time, was not entirely consistent with reliable interpretation of the Bible. In fact, neither the Radical Reformation nor the Magisterial Reformation was entirely on target in its doctrines of Church and State. But at least the magisterial reformers (Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, etc.) were basing their Bible interpretation on a reliable foundational conception of what the Bible is. We believe the failure to properly define and implement reliable Church-State boundaries relates directly to deficient interpretational policies on the part of all parties to the Reformation. We believe these inadequate interpretational policies plague the visible Church to the present day, and we believe these deficiencies are directly related to the social crises currently existing in America and around the world. To get to reliable interpretational policies, it’s crucial to build on reliable foundations, rather than reinvent the wheel.
For the sake of allaying suspicion that this work is an invitation to heresy, we’ll here go through a brief survey of the analogy of faith as practiced by these works. 2 First we’ll briefly describe the analogy of faith as it has been used historically, going back to Augustine. Then we’ll briefly describe what additional interpretational policies must be added to the analogy of faith hermeneutic in order to see that the natural-rights polity exists in the Bible, and arises naturally and rationally out of the Bible.
In his book, Knowing Scripture, Dr. R.C. Sproul writes vividly about the importance of the analogy of faith:
Originally the procedure of interpreting the Constitution followed the so-called grammatico-historical method. That is, the Constitution was interpreted by studying the words of the document itself in light of what those words meant when they were used at the time of the formulation of the document.
Since the work of Oliver Wendell Holmes the method of Constitutional interpretation has changed radically. The current crisis in law and public confidence in the nation’s highest court is directly related to the underlying problem of method of interpretation. When the court interprets the Constitution in light of modern attitudes, it in effect changes the Constitution by means of reinterpretation. The net result is that in a subtle way the Court becomes a legislative rather than interpretive agency.
The same kind of crisis has occurred with biblical interpretation. . . .
. . . When the [Magisterial] Reformers broke with Rome and claimed the view that the Bible was the supreme authority of the church (Sola Scriptura), they were very careful to define basic principles of interpretation. The primary rule of hermeneutics was called "the analogy of faith." The analogy of faith is the rule that Scripture is to interpret Scripture . . . This means . . . that no part of Scripture can be interpreted in such a way as to render it in conflict with what is clearly taught elsewhere in Scripture. 3
Implicit in this description of the analogy of faith are the beliefs that the Bible is "the inspired Word of God", and that because God is omniscient and infallible, He "would never contradict himself." So this is the most fundamental interpretational policy posited by the set of interpretational policies we’re calling the "analogy of faith": that the Bible has rational integrity, because God doesn’t contradict Himself.
To ensure that the Bible is interpreted with rational integrity, it’s critical to interpret it literally, but to encompass such literalism in "genre analysis".
One of the most significant advances of biblical scholarship during the Reformation was gained as a result of Luther’s militant advocacy of the second rule of hermeneutics: The Bible should be interpreted according to its literal sense. This was Luther’s principle of interpreting the Bible by its sensus literalis. . . .
. . .
. . . The principle of literal interpretation is a principle that calls for the closest kind of literary scrutiny of the text. To be accurate interpreters of the Bible we need to know the rules of grammar; and above all, we must be carefully involved in what is called genre analysis. 4
In contrast to the Bible, the Constitution does not present itself as anything other than a foundational legal document. So there is very little need for someone seeking its literal meaning to first do genre analysis on it. But this is absolutely not the case with the Bible. The Bible is composed of many different kinds or genres of literature: lyric poetry, epic poetry, caselaw (legal briefs and judgments), historical narrative, hyperbolic expressions, symbolic literature, metaphorical language, and more. If the genre is not ascertained as a precursor to taking a passage literally, then taking the passage literally will probably miss the sensus literalis. For example, in John 10:9 Jesus says, "I am the door". If this is not first understood to be a metaphorical expression, then the literalist must necessarily conclude that Jesus must be claiming that He has hinges instead of arms and legs. The sensus literalis demands that this passage first be understood as metaphorical language. So if genre analysis is understood to be a crucial aspect of finding the Bible’s literal meaning, finding the literal sense or meaning can be understood to be the second crucial principle of Bible interpretation, the first being the principle that the Bible has rational integrity and interprets itself. The analogy of faith is both the name of the first principle and the name of the whole collection of hermeneutical rules and principles.
According to the analogy of faith, the third crucial principle of Bible interpretation is the "grammatico-historical method". Like the grammatico-historical method in interpreting the Constitution, the grammatico-historical method in Bible interpretation "focuses our attention on the original meaning of the text lest we ‘read into Scripture’ our own ideas drawn from the present." 5 This "method focuses attention . . . upon grammatical constructions and historical contexts". 6
These "three primary principles of interpretation", (i)the analogy of faith, (ii)the literal sense, and (iii)the grammatico-historical method, form the basis for reliable Bible interpretation. These principles are crucial to our discovery of the metaconstitution within the Bible, and we claim that we have relied on these principles, sometimes consciously, sometimes intuitively, in our discovery of the natural-rights polity. But even though this is true, and even though we claim we have not gone outside the bounds of these three principles in the process of discovery, we also need to make a couple of admissions. The first is that we’re human and therefore prone to err. So reader beware: Scrutinize all our claims for yourself before accepting any as true. The second admission is that even though we accept the "three primary principles of interpretation" as absolutely valid, there are also "Practical Rules for Bible Interpretation" subsumed by these three principles that we’ve had to tweak. 7
One of the most important rules that we’ve had to tweak is "Rule 3: Historical Narratives Are to Be Interpreted by the Didactic". 8 All the arguments that Sproul posits in favor of this rule we accept as valid. We even accept that, "Building doctrine from narratives alone is dangerous business." 9 Even though we accept these warnings and constraints as valid and worthy, we also recognize that "interpreting the narrative by the didactic" implies constraints that might need to be measured far more carefully. 10 A crucial claim undergirding this inventory is that building doctrine from the Bible’s historical narrative has been "dangerous" largely because of a failure for many centuries to recognize important legal concepts within the historical narrative. For example, most of the Bible’s most fundamental covenants are posited in the Bible’s historical narrative. Being a very special kind of contract, the Bible’s covenant, like all contracts, has terms, where the terms of a contract / covenant are laws to those party to the contract / covenant. Such facts, that some people would surely claim are extra-biblical, are really no more extra-biblical than the rules of grammar that are crucial to the grammatico-historical method, or the rules of logic that, though discovered by Greek philosophers, are really not extra-biblical because they are universal.
Following this idea that the entire Bible is rational, the Bible’s historical narrative is also certainly rational, and the narrative therefore follows rational rules of jurisprudence. Because the distinction between law and fact is fundamental to rational jurisprudence, it must also be true that the Bible’s historical narrative inherently contains the distinction between Biblical law and Biblical fact. Following the idea that the four basic types of law are eternal law, natural law, divine law, and human law, and combining this idea with the idea that the Bible is composed of a system of covenants, it follows that each of these kinds of law is merely a set of terms within covenants. Because contracts and covenants can be understood to define jurisdictions, it becomes obvious that jurisdiction is an absolutely crucial concept in properly understanding the historical narrative. — This is merely a sample of the kinds of concepts that should be understood to arise exegetically out of the Bible, and to be confirmed by reliable extra-biblical jurisprudence. By approaching the historical narrative with a clear understanding of grammar, a clear understanding of logic, and a clear understanding of such basic jurisprudential concepts, the Bible confirms itself more emphatically than ever. This is not eisegesis. This is allowing the historical narrative to speak profoundly out of its own objective nature, and is therefore a kind of exegesis that magnifies Christ’s kingdom and Christ as King profoundly, because it manifests the kingdom’s laws. In fact, by distinguishing historical narrative into Biblical law and Biblical fact, it becomes clear that Biblical law is a distinct genre, and like other genres, it has its own rules for proper interpretation. These rules arise out of the field of jurisprudence. But being a human endeavor, jurisprudence is error prone. But Biblical law can correct jurisprudential error if Biblical law is understood to have a universal status, like rules of grammar and logic.
It’s true that most if not all these jurisprudential concepts are implicit rather than explicit in the Bible. This fact is not negated by rule 4 in Sproul’s list of practical rules for biblical interpretation. Rule 4 says, "The Implicit Is to Be Interpreted by the Explicit". 11 In general, the biblically explicit doesn’t conflict with these biblically implicit jurisprudential concepts. Quite the contrary, these implicit jurisprudential concepts form a context for better understanding what is biblically explicit. In fact, these implicit concepts together are founded firmly in general revelation, like the heliocentricity of the solar system as opposed to its geocentricity, and like such scientific facts, they are nowhere in conflict with what’s explicit within the Bible.
The distinction between Biblical law and Biblical fact derives from the concept that Scripture is the manifestation of a covenant between God, creation, and mankind. If it’s a covenant, then it is primarily about law. This doesn’t mean that it’s primarily about human law, or about natural law. It’s primarily about eternal law, which includes natural law, divine law, and human law as subsets. The distinction between law and fact is essential whenever questions about jurisdiction arise. Because the issue of jurisdiction is pervasive in both the historical narrative and the didactic, the distinction between Biblical law and Biblical fact is crucial to both genres. Because the distinctions between eternal law, natural law, divine law, and human law are also crucial to the proper interpretation of the divine law, the Bible, the relationship between these four paramount kinds of law, on one hand, and Biblical law / Biblical fact, on the other, is also important. This relationship is probably comprehensible as a function of the following proposition: It’s probable that in God’s court, where eternal law is the highest law, there is no need to distinguish law from fact, because all law IS fact, and all fact is law. But in all fallible courts, it’s inherently essential for the court to make a preliminary decision about what laws pertain to what facts. The same essential idea pertains to divine law, and human law. In each there is a feedback loop between law and fact. One of the effects of viewing Scripture through these lenses is that simply because something is both eternal law and natural law, it doesn’t necessarily follow that that thing is also biblically prescribed human law. An important part of distinguishing biblically described natural law from biblically prescribed human law is the distinction between topical exegesis and chronological exegesis.
Because God does not change, God-centered issues are best approached topically, with biblical chronology playing an almost negligible role in the exegesis. On the other hand, because humans do change, biblical chronology plays an absolutely critical role in the exegesis of man-centered issues. To keep the man-centered issues God-centered, it’s critical to use the God-centered topical exegesis as a control in the man-centered chronological exegesis. Didactic passages are generally crucial to the God-centered issues; so the Reformed rule that historical narratives are to be interpreted by the didactic is crucial to the reliable performance of topical exegesis. So topical exegesis is crucial to the reliable performance of chronological exegesis. So every passage needs to be understood within its own sensus literalis before being integrated into larger literary units.
By taking a chronological approach to Genesis – with an emphasis on distinguishing Biblical law from Biblical fact – it’s obvious that human contracts existed before any human law was prescribed by God through special revelation. Prior to the existence of human contracts, there were Covenants between God and human beings. These early Covenants define terms that exist between God and humans, but they do not explicitly prescribe human law that humans impose on other humans. Immediately after the flood, God made His third and last global Covenant. By global, we mean that the Covenant applies to all humans for all subsequent time. In this third Covenant, God makes His first prescription of human law. This prescription pertains to the shedding of human blood (Genesis 9:6). Analysis of this verse leads to the conclusion that the Genesis 9:6 bloodshed is largely equivalent to what in traditional Anglo-American jurisprudence is known as damage. Damage is essentially a situation in which there is a dead, damaged, or injured human being, and another human being is deemed culpable. Reason demands that damage can arise out of two and only two distinctly different circumstances: (i)where there is a contract between the damager and the damagee, and the damage is governed by the contract; (ii)where there is no such contract between the damager and the damagee. So within the first nine chapters of Genesis, these interpretational policies discover three jurisprudential concepts that are crucial to human law: (i)damage; (ii)damage that arises out of a contract; and (iii)damage that does not arise out of a contract. So these hermeneutical principles also discover the same two overarching sources of legal action that exist in traditional Anglo-American jurisprudence: (i)actions ex contractu (out of a contract) and (ii)actions ex delicto (out of a delict). So we find, providentially, a large amount of harmony between Scripture and traditional Anglo-American jurisprudence with respect to the origins of judiciable disputes between humans: They derive entirely from delicts and contracts.
With this cursory introduction to the hermeneutics used in discovering the natural-rights polity, it’s possible to return for a fresh look at What is God’s? and What is Caesar’s?. In those days, the Roman government presumed to impose a system of jurisprudence on all peoples who became part of the Roman Empire. But that system did not attempt to eliminate local governments and local jurisdictions, but merely to force the local governments to pay tribute to Caesar, and to submit to Roman jurisdiction sufficiently enough to enhance commerce within the Empire. The system was federal, similar to the way the States of the united States are federated into a single entity, the united States, but nevertheless retain local jurisdiction. So the issue, What is Caesar’s? / What is God’s?, is really a question about original jurisdiction within a federal system. Like the Roman Empire, the federal system of the united States has morphed into a system of tyranny. Like the Christians under the Roman Empire, the Christians in the united States face a momentous problem: what to do in response to the tyranny. No one should doubt that the Christian community in those days responded in a way that was appropriate for their times. Also, no one should doubt that the appropriate response should be a function of the visible Church’s comprehension of the biblical prescription of human law. Under the Roman Empire, the visible Church had very little understanding of the biblical prescription of human law. But the visible Church under the united States is, or at least should be, different. This is because, in the words of Abraham Lincoln, the united States were founded as "a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal". 12 But even though the united States were founded on a better conception of human law than Rome was, no sane person has ever believed that the united States are beyond criticism. In fact, the united States improves best through constructive criticism (rather than through violence). Unlike some people who have unflagging confidence in the system even as they deny overwhelming evidence that it’s crumbling, those of us who are aware that our rights are abused on a daily basis have no such confidence. Where do we go for help? To church leaders who have sold themselves into a state-controlled system reminiscent of the Soviet Union’s neutered orthodoxy? To church-goers who have abandoned basic biblical principles because they are satisfied to seek succor in the pap of hirelings? To politicians who care little about anything other than their own self-aggrandizement? To courts that compulsively strain gnats and swallow camels? Where? To whom? — If the nation does not move forward through constructive criticism, then it will move backward to the same brute depravity that marks the bulk of human history. Likewise, if the visible Church does not discover the biblical prescription of human law, which we contend is synonymous with the natural-rights polity, then the visible Church will fail to be properly armed with constructive criticism.
Under the circumstances, it’s fitting to start this application of the natural-rights polity, the biblical prescription of human law, the metaconstitution, to American law, by examining the Preamble to the Constitution.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, 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.
It’s clear from all the historical evidence that the framers of the Constitution were at least making some reasonable effort at creating a system that had some commitment to natural rights. But it’s also clear, from their willingness to compromise, that they were not overly idealistic in their efforts.
The framers’ original intent was (i)"to form a more perfect Union"; (ii)to "establish justice"; (iii)to "insure domestic Tranquility"; (iv)to "provide for the common defence"; (v)to "promote the general Welfare"; and (vi)to "secure the Blessings of Liberty" to themselves and their posterity. This description of motives does not prescribe human law, as does most of the rest of the Constitution. But it does tell us the parameters within which human law arising from the Constitution should exist.
Given that it’s obvious that these are the framers’ intentions, it’s reasonable to ask exactly who "We the People" are. It might seem obvious that it included the framers, the people who signed the Constitution. But Article VII makes it clear that the people who signed were signing as witnesses, not necessarily as parties. It’s clear that those signatories intended for the document to be submitted to the thirteen States for ratification or rejection. So if each of the States ratified it, then who would this "We the People" be? All the people in each State, even those who never had the opportunity to study the Constitution and decide whether to consent or dissent?
From the perspective of the natural-rights polity, people generally do not become parties to human contracts without cognitive consent. 13 The Constitution is certainly such a human contract. Did the framers arrange things so that the Constitution would be ratified in a way that would allow every human being under its jurisdiction to consent or dissent? — No! In spite of the claim in the Declaration that "all men are created equal", all men were not given the opportunity to consent to participation in the Constitution, and neither were all women. — Given that this preamble merely expresses the motives of the framers and founders, there is no real human law that arises immediately out of it. It indicates that "We the People" define this contract’s in personam jurisdiction, but it doesn’t go to any significant length in defining more specifically what this personal jurisdiction consists of. Nevertheless, it’s clear that whoever "We the People" are, it is they who "ordain and establish this" contract.
Some people characterize the Preamble and Article VII as the bookends of the Constitution. It’s certainly true that they are the first and last significant portions of the organic document. But they should also be considered bookends because while the Preamble opens by expressing motives, Article VII closes by explaining how this contract is to be ratified. The Preamble explains why the Constitution is to be established, while Article VII explains how it is to be established. Because this plan for ratification, along with other evidence in the terms of the contract supplies evidence regarding who the Constitution’s in personam jurisdiction is, it’s prudent to postpone further discussion of that topic until such evidence arises. This contract’s territorial jurisdiction is also addressed later in the Constitution, so this inventory will also postpone addressing that issue. But more can be said here, based on these claims about motives, about this contract’s subject matter jurisdiction, both according to original intent and according to a metacontitutional interpretation.
(i)"in Order to form a more perfect Union": The framers already had the Articles of Confederation. They had been "Done at Philadelphia in the state of Pennsylvania the ninth day of July, in the Year of our Lord one Thousand seven Hundred and Seventy-eight, and in the third year of the independence of America." 14 In the same way that the framers did not discard all the laws of England in the process of framing the Constitution, 15 it would be foolish for us to assume that they discarded the Articles of Confederation, rather than built on them. One of the reasons the framers were successful is because they built upon the Articles, upon the common law, and upon their knowledge of history and political science, rather than totally trashing the system they had. 16 These facts mean that the Constitution contains terms of art that appeared first in the Articles of Confederation. To interpret the Constitution properly, from the original intent perspective, it’s important to watch for such terms of art.
(ii)"establish justice": Apparently the degree of justice the framers had under the Articles was not deemed adequate. Why else would they attempt to "establish justice"? This expression, "[to] establish justice", corresponds to one of the express powers of Congress. Article I section 8 clause 15 says that "[The Congress shall have Power] . . . To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union". Common sense says that if Congress called forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, it would be calling the militia forth to establish justice which might otherwise be lacking. The Constitution, being the "sheaf of compromises" that it was, provides evidence here that at least one of the mechanisms available to the general government to establish justice was the militia. But as was indicated in the Preface, a militia is obviously an arm of the executive function of a social compact. The social compact in this case is clearly the secular social compact that is the same as this constitutional contract. But this arm of the executive function is "the Militia of the several States". As indicated in the Preface, this militia has its primary roots in local jural and ecclesiastical compacts, and only secondarily in State social compacts. There’s confirmation here of the institutional priorities we claimed in the Preface.
(iii)"insure domestic Tranquility": Apparently, the degree of "domestic Tranquility" the framers had under the Articles of Confederation was deemed inadequate by the framers. If they already had enough, why would they try for more? This expression also points to the militia as a remedy. Where there is a shortage of domestic tranquility, Article I section 8 clause 15 provides Congress with the power to call forth the militia to "suppress Insurrections". So what’s said about the militia and its place within the metaconstitution is also true here.
(iv)"provide for the common defence": Apparently they were concerned about having a lack of "common defence". This expression also points to the militia of the several States. Article I section 8 clause 15 gives Congress power to "repel Invasions", which is certainly equivalent to providing for the "common defence". This again shows the relation between the natural-rights polity and common defense by way of the militia.
(v)"promote the general Welfare": One of the most abused expressions in constitutional interpretation has been this phrase, "general Welfare". In fact, they did not generally envision the Constitution being used as an excuse for building the 21st century Welfare State. The existing Welfare State is simply a system of robbery under the pretense of wealth redistribution. Because this expression also appears in Article I section 8 clause 1, it is discussed in more detail there. 17
(vi)"secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity": If the original intent of the framers was to "secure the Blessings of Liberty", then it’s clear that it was NOT their intent to establish some kind of monolithic government that imposed the curses of bondage. On the contrary, this clearly shows that the framers were reaching for the natural-rights polity, even if they were having difficulty defining it.