AN OPEN RESPONSE TO MARTIN SELBREDE AND ARCHIE JONES’ “BOOK REVIEW”1 OF: BIBLE LAW VS. THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION: THE CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE
Dear Mr. Selbrede and Mr. Jones,1
I feel honored you considered Bible Law vs. the United States Constitution (hereafter BL vs. USC) weighty enough to review in the Chalcedon magazine Faith for All Life, although I would have preferred a more accurate review. With that said, I would like to comment on some of your points. After you have read my response, I hope you will view the book and this entire issue in a different light.
First, I would like to make one request of you. Although some of my remarks are pointed (as were some of yours), please do not read anything more into them than that. I am not angry with either of you for what you wrote. In order for us to get to where I think all three of us want to go (i.e., a greater degree of Christian dominion), this kind of debate is necessary and will hopefully prove helpful toward achieving that goal. Regardless our differences, I’m extending my hand in fellowship for the purpose of working together for the sake of our King and His kingdom.
Mr. Selbrede, near the beginning of your comments, you hit the proverbial nail on the head, although not quite in the fashion you intended:
What was missed entirely by Weiland was the key point made repeatedly by Rushdoony: that the U.S. Constitution provides us with a procedural morality, not a substantive morality. Therefore, it’s no surprise that Weiland doesn’t find a substantive morality in the Constitution, which was designed for aggregating thirteen Christian states under a covenantal (federal) bond for common defense and several other heavily delimited purposes.Despite Weiland having listened to Rushdoony’s lectures on the U.S. Constitution and citing The Nature of the American System, no acknowledgement of this critical point (which shapes the entire discussion) is found in this book. I can only conclude that it was omitted because the point conflicts with Weiland’s thesis.
Your claim that “no acknowledgement of this critical point ... is found in this book” is simply untrue. On page 449 you will find the following:
R.J. Rushdoony described the Constitution as “a good procedural manual”2 to be employed by Christian government. But how can something so contrary to Yahweh’s laws be a good procedural manual for those same laws? Gary North, Rushdoony’s son-in-law, commented on this “procedural manual”:Rushdoony says that the Constitution’s procedural morality can be and is legitimately religiously neutral, and that any interest group can adopt the Constitution’s procedural morality to create whatever law-order they choose, without violating the text of the nation’s covenanting document. But the text is all there is of the underlying religious foundation. If the text were silent, then there would be no formal underpinning. But the text is not silent. The text [Article 6] categorically prohibits the imposition of the biblical covenant oath in civil law. Let us put it covenantally: what the text of the U.S. Constitution prohibits is Christianity.
There can be no dualism in a covenantal document. It either serves the God of the Bible or some other god. There can be no neutrality. Constitutions are inherently substantive, but this ethical foundation is manifested in its procedural stipulations.3
Although the entire book speaks to this point, I admit that after reading your review, I wish I had written more specifically about this point. You couldn’t be more correct: this point is critical and shapes the entire discussion. Tragically, it is employed by Rushdoony and others (including yourself and Mr. Jones) to dismiss anything that otherwise proves by the Bible that the Constitution is not a Christian document. However, it is employed in vain.
Even if the Constitution was intended to provide “a procedural morality, not a substantive morality,” this does not negate the specific substantive instances (in nearly every article and amendment) in which the Constitution unequivocally dictates Biblically unlawful procedure for the federal government and the states, as demonstrated in BL vs. USC.4 Consequently, the entire book addresses Rushdoony’s point and demonstrates time and again that his point cannot be employed to dismiss these numerous substantive instances in which the Constitution is clearly unbiblical, antinomian, and non-Christian in its “procedural morality.”
You wrote, “It’s no surprise that Weiland doesn’t find a substantive morality in the Constitution.” What I find surprising is that two pronomians such as yourselves cannot see and/or admit the substantive immorality in the Constitution.
If one were to float an agenda such as Weiland advocates, one needs to deal with opposing evidence and do so fairly. Yet the omissions in the book are many (no mention of M.E. Bradford, Marshall Foster, Verna Hall, etc.).
Do you have any idea how long BL vs USC would have been had I dealt with every author who wrote favorably of the Constitution? To have done so would have been verbose and redundant, particularly since nearly all arguments on behalf of the Constitution are essentially the same. Following is a list of those whom I did quote and address: John Adams, Gary T. Amos, Douglas S. Anderson, Tom Anderson, Israel Ward Andrews, Chuck Baldwin, Timothy Baldwin, Mark A. Beliles, David Barton, David J. Brewer, Warren E. Burger, Gary DeMar, Greg Loren Durand, John Eidsmoe, William J. Federer, Malcolm M. Feeley, Brian E. Fisher, Benjamin Franklin, Charles B. Galloway, David Gibbs, Jr., David Gibbs, III, Horace Greeley, Thomas Cumming Hall, Alexander Hamilton, James Iredell, T.D. Jakes, John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, Archie Jones, Dr. D. James Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, James Madison, George Mason, Stephen McDowell, Benjamin F. Morris, Ron Paul, Ronald Reagan, Benjamin Rush, R.J. Rushdoony, Rick Scarborough, Cleon W. Skousen, Joseph Story, Herb Titus, Rus Walton, George Washington, Daniel Webster, Noah Webster, James Wilson, numerous court cases, and the Federalist Papers.
As you pointed out yourself, there are 592 endnotes. The bibliography alone is thirty pages. Now, don’t you think your statement is misleading, at best? Perhaps, you should be judged by your own words (Matthew 7:1-2): “if [Selbrede] is found faithful in small things, then perhaps he could be trusted with bigger issues. If he is misrepresenting the situation, then to that degree his [book review] and its credibility justifiably suffer....”
My critique here is ... with the methodology. If the methodology is unsound in a key place, that leaven will leaven the whole lump.
Indeed! But, I would ask you, whose methodology is unsound? There is only one standard by which everything, including the Constitution, must be judged: Yahweh’s moral law as codified in His commandments, statutes, and judgments. This applies to BL vs. USC, as well. I am disappointed that you and Mr. Jones, as pronomians, did not review my book from this standard. Nor have I yet to see you do so with the Constitution. Instead of examining the Constitution by Yahweh’s substantive righteousness, you’ve chosen to judge the Constitution as if it exists in a moral vacuum—that is, by its own alleged “procedural morality.”
As I did in my cover letter to you and others to whom I sent complimentary copies of my book, I appeal to you to maintain consistency and to renounce any standard other than Yahweh’s law for judging the Constitution. I ask both of you to consider the serious implications of your use of Rushdoony’s “procedural morality” argument in defense of the Constitution. In principle, is it any different from the antinomians whom Jude wrote “turn[ed] the grace of our God into licentiousness [i.e., a license to sin or, in this case, to condone what is unequivocal constitutional lawlessness]” (Jude 1:3-4)?
We all owe Rushdoony a debt of gratitude. However, this does not justify condoning his errors.
Next, you mention Archie Jones’ book review of Gary North’s Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism, which you describe as a friendly “war of the Titans.” Not everyone views it in the same fashion. I received an email in which the sender commented that it’s “more like Bambi vs. Godzilla,” with Bambi representing Jones and Godzilla representing North.
You then wrote, “Archie’s dissertation (University of Dallas, 1991) was entitled Christianity in the Constitution: The intended meaning of the religion clauses of the First Amendment.... It’s hard to know if Weiland is even aware that Jones was awarded a doctorate defending a position that Weiland insists is utterly without foundation.” Had I known this, it wouldn’t have changed what I wrote in the least. First, the only thing a doctorate proves is that Jones put in a lot of time researching and writing his dissertation. It doesn’t prove he wasn’t biased or that he used the correct methodology or that his position was established upon the right standard. I have no way of knowing whether or not he was biased, but having read his review of North’s Political Polytheism, I know his methodology was fatally flawed because his critique was not based upon the only standard pronomians should begin from—Yahweh’s moral law.
You then wrote, “Taken in conjunction with Rushdoony’s statement concerning procedural versus substantive morality [i.e., the wrong methodology—judging the Constitution by the Constitution] and its implications, the following discussion [Mr. Jones’ comments regarding BL vs. USC, some of which will follow] goes to the heart of the difficulties that mar this large volume.”
Let’s see if this is, in fact, true. Mr. Jones begins:
Mr. Weiland has grossly misrepresented my argument for the Christianity of our Constitution ... not only by attempting to evade the plain implications of the key words of Article VII, but also by taking but one of my arguments and making it seem as if it were my only argument for the Christianity of our Constitution.
Readers can decide for themselves whether I attempted to evade the plain implications of the key words of Article VII or whether you read more into Article VII than was intended by the constitutional framers. Following is what I wrote in Chapter 10 of BL vs. USC:Christians are desperate to make the Constitution a Christian document. For example, consider how much Archie Jones read into the phrase “in the Year of our Lord,” which dated the signatures of the thirty-nine state delegates and the Convention secretary:…the plain implications of the reference [“in the year of our Lord”] are the same as those of the similar references in the Articles of Confederation (or anywhere else!): The Bible is true. Christ is the Savior. Christ, risen from the grave, ascended into heaven, and seated at the right hand of God the Father, is also the Lord, the sovereign Ruler of heaven and earth. The people of these United States are under the authority of Christ, whom they collectively acknowledge to be Lord. They have a special, covenantal relationship with Him, and that relationship, premised on His providential intervention in and rule of history, involves His blessings on the nation which has faith in Him and keep His commandments, and curses on the nation which collectively turns from faith in Him and so violates His holy laws. Hence, the nation must look to Him, and it and its civil governments must obey His laws.5
Moreover, since Christ’s lordship is recognized in the Constitution, the American nation has a covenantal relationship to him. This covenantal relationship recognizes his lordship, his providential rule over history, his providential relationship to the American civil government and people.6
If what Jones claims is true, certainly somewhere in the Convention minutes, the copious Federalists Papers, or the constitutional framers’ personal correspondence, one of them would have remarked that this was, in fact, their intent. Nothing Christian can be proven by the use of the term “in the year of our Lord” anymore than the declaration “God bless America,” declared by so many politicians today, proves their Christianity. The only thing we know unequivocally about the use of “in the year of our Lord” is that it was a means of dating. Christians who were opposed to the Constitution during the ratification debates because it failed to mention God and Christianity were not reassured by the phrase “in the year of our Lord,” and, in fact, the opposition knew better than to attempt to persuade them with such flimsy “evidence.”
Even if each and every one of the signatories would have agreed with Jones, their rejection and replacement of Yahweh’s laws with their own traditions eradicated any Christian implications. The phrase “in the year of our Lord” does not make the Constitution a Christian document, nor does it exonerate the framers of the sedition and treason against Yahweh found throughout the document. What proves the Constitution is not a Christian but a secular, humanistic contract are its “laws,” not its terminology.
The test of lordship is not found in mere words, but instead in doing the will (the law – Psalm 40:8) of the Heavenly Father and fulfilling the words of His Son:
And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: He is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great. (Luke 6:46-49)
Would Jones accept “in the year of our Lord” as a genuine profession of Christian faith from someone wanting to place membership in the church he attends? The previous Scripture demonstrates that such simple declarations, by themselves, mean nothing to Yahweh. Even if the framers intended this statement as an acknowledgment of the God of the Bible, Jesus declared that, if their works proved otherwise, He would still reject them. Christians are grasping at straws when they claim the statement “in the year of our Lord” makes what is otherwise unchristian Christian. That this is the best Christian Constitutionalists can come up with only further proves that the Constitution is, in fact, not Christian.
I do not debate that the phrase “in the year of our Lord” has Christian implications. What I do debate is that this and “Sundays excepted” in Article 1 is anywhere near enough evidence to make the Constitution a Christian document. What cannot be debated is that “God [has been] marginalized to the peripheral role of timekeeper in the United States Constitution.”7
Later, you wrote, “Mr. Weiland’s flippancy may enable him to fool ignorant or thoughtless readers. (I hope that’s none of you reading this!) It does not, however, enable him to evade the manifest—and manifestly Christian—implications of the Christian method of dating which I sketched in the material he quoted.” Mr. Jones, please, be so kind as to answer the following question: If President Obama were to begin dating his writings by the same means, would you then ascribe the same Christian character to his writings, regardless their antithetical and hostile content to Yahweh’s morality as codified in His law? You and I both know the answer.
As for allegedly “taking but one of [your] arguments and making it seem as if it were [your] only argument for the Christianity of our Constitution,” nowhere did I state that this was your only argument, and I provided the documentation for both quotations (as I have also done in this response) so that anyone wanting to read all of your arguments could do so. Furthermore, mine was not a book review and, therefore, I was under no obligation to present all of your points in behalf of the Constitution. The remarks I did choose were relevant to Article 7, which Chapter 10 addresses. I make no apologies for not presenting all of your points in behalf of the Constitution anymore than I do for not having done so with the list of authors provided above. Had I done so, I suspect you still would not have been satisfied with my critiques.
You continued: “Those implications [from this Christian method of dating] ... are solid, sturdy planks, firmly fastened to the bridge of the Bible....” I agree they might possibly have been just that (we have no hard evidence from the framers to know for sure) had they not been negated by what otherwise is an antinomian, seditious document against our God and King, the evidence for which I provide in thirty-two of BL vs. USC’s thirty-four chapters, and which neither you nor Mr. Selbrede addressed in your book review. Hmmm! I wonder who’s really guilty of selective analysis?
You continued: “[Those implications] are but parts of a much larger structure of evidence—which, of course, Mr. Weiland chose to ignore and to hide from his readers.” Which Weiland, of course, chose to hide from his readers? That’s a judgment of motives and thus my heart, something only Yahweh can do. Best we both refrain from judgments neither of us have any way of knowing.
For the record, I did not choose to hide anything from my readers. I simply chose to not address information I didn’t think especially pertinent, such as much of what follows in your part of the book review.
You next enumerate ten items, described as “pertinent bodies of evidence,” which you believe prove the Constitution is Christian and Biblically based. However, they prove no such thing. Except for Numbers 6, 7, and 10, they prove nothing about the Constitution itself. Instead, they represent the Puritan legacy, which I’m confident you will admit had been greatly compromised by the late 1700s.
All ten “pertinent bodies of evidence” do point to Christianity and the Bible in the general culture. However, as pertaining to the Constitution, they amount to nothing when weighed against the substantive immorality found throughout the document itself.
As for Numbers 6, 7, and 10 (“the logic of the debates on the First Amendment,” “the debates on the ‘religion clauses’ of the First Amendment,” and “the powers delegated to the central government, forbidden to the same....”), we’ll have to leave that debate for another time. Readers can decide for themselves. For your perspective on these points, they can go to your materials. For my perspective on the First Amendment, I recommend Chapter 11 “Amendment 1: Government-Sanctioned Polytheism” of BL vs. USC. Regardless, none of these outside “pertinent bodies of evidence” can prove what the Constitution itself disproves. The same goes for everything else you provided in the remainder of your review of BL vs. USC.
You followed up your ten “evidences” with “Mr. Weiland (from what I have seen) appears to gloss over or dismiss all of this evidence.” I did not gloss over it. I dismissed it entirely because your methodology and therefore your conclusions are invalid, making them completely irrelevant to the real question: Is the Constitution itself found to be substantively immoral when contrasted with Yahweh’s law? Others felt the same, as demonstrated by another email I received from a reader of your comments:
[Selbrede’s and Jones’] arguments are what you call red herrings. They divert the debate from the Constitution itself to the supposed Christian character of all its proponents. Of course, they ignore that the strongest Christians fought against it in the ratification debates. But the big question is so what? so what? so what? So what if they were the truest, bluest Christians that ever walked the face of the earth? If they gave us an unbiblical document, all of those arguments are totally irrelevant. They divert attention from the primary source documents to secondary source documents that are often subjective in nature.It would be interesting to count up in your book, maybe even summarize in a little table, the number of times the Constitution directly contradicts the Biblical case laws. Challenge them to answer those point by point and stop diverting attention with all of the diversionary smoke screens.8
This gets to the core of the issue at hand. Perhaps you would like to do another book review.
Before closing, let me return to your concern that I did not treat you fairly because I did not include “the full range of your extended argument”:
Mr. Weiland has ... not sought to deal fairly and honestly with my arguments (as I did with Dr. North’s....) He has stolen from me through his procrustean distortion of my argument, bearing false witness against me as a result. He has also stolen from his readers by hiding most of my arguments from their view. Where, I wonder, is “Obey God’s laws!” in this?
I wonder if you may not want to recant this paragraph. Since you certainly did not provide all of North’s argument in your review of Political Polytheism, might he not be inclined to level an accusation of hypocrisy against you? Of course, I cannot speak for Mr. North. I will, however, speak for myself, and say, “Shame on you!” for employing such shallow and baseless tactics.
Furthermore, I will accuse you (while choosing not to hold it against you) of hypocrisy. You accuse me in this paragraph of breaking Yahweh’s law by bearing false witness against you (which I flatly deny) and then turn right around in the very next paragraph and bear vicious false witness against me:There is an obvious issue in Mr. Weiland’s book: What is the Biblical standard for determining if someone is a Christian? Mr. Weiland’s answer seems to be: A Christian is one who says that we must obey God’s laws and who, in fact, obeys God’s laws revealed in the Bible. This standard would fit a Jew who denies that Christ is the Savior and Lord.... (Of course, the man who loudly and repeatedly proclaims that we must obey God’s laws revealed in Scripture would also describe a Pharisee and a hypocrite.)...Mr. Weiland’s standard, if it includes faith in Christ (believing on the Son) as a premise....
Your first paragraph sounds like what we would expect to hear from the antinomians, not something one would expect from a pronomian. But, more importantly, you have falsely accused me of denying Christ and teaching salvation by works of the law, without providing any shred of evidence for such an accusation. As proof you libeled me, I provide the following from Chapter 1 of BL vs. USC:None of this is to say that Christians are under the law as were the Israelites during the Old (or Mosaic) Covenant. The Bible is very clear that New Covenant Christians are not under the law, but under grace (Romans 6:14). We are no longer required to perfectly keep all of Yahweh’s moral laws and additional Old Covenant ordinances for righteousness as were the Israelites under the Mosaic Covenant:
And YHWH commanded us [Old Covenant Israelites] to do all these statutes, to fear YHWH our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day. And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before YHWH our God, as he hath commanded us. (Deuteronomy 6:24-25)
For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. (Galatians 3:10)
It was specifically this aspect of the Mosaic Covenant that Jesus fulfilled on our behalf:For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. (Romans 10:4)
In Galatians 3:11, the Apostle Paul wrote, “no man is justified by the law in the sight of God” and in Galatians 5:4, “you [are] severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law, you have fallen from grace.” Justification (our legal standing before Yahweh) is what provides us our righteousness (our moral standing before Yahweh). Justification, and thereby righteousness, is only attainable through Jesus’ propitiating sacrifice on our behalf.
Having fulfilled the Old Covenant requirement of perfect righteousness – perfect obedience to Yahweh’s laws, which equates with sinlessness – Jesus became our righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). Consequently, “every one that believeth” is justified by the blood-atoning sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus the Christ and is no longer under the law, but under grace.
Did you read BL vs. USC9 before you participated in Selbrede’s book review and libeled me, or are you also guilty of Proverbs 18:13?
He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him. (Proverbs 18:13).
Mr. Selbrede, you titled your book review “Faithful in Little Things?” and then accused me of not being so. I’ll let the readers of both your review and my response decide who has not been faithful in the little things.
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (Matthew 7:2)
Indeed! May Yahweh guide both of you as you consider carefully what should be done with this response. I’ll be posting it on our web page, as well as sending it to our email list. You could begin to prove yourself faithful in little (or perhaps not so little) things by providing this response equal space in the next edition of Faith for All Life.
Serving the KING of kings,
Ted R. Weiland
1. The name of the article by Mr. Selbrede and Mr. Jones is entitled “Faithful in Little Things?” To read their review of BL vs. USC, go to www.chalcedon.edu. After logging in or opening an account, click the button on the top of the page that reads “Faith for All Life.” About halfway down the page, under “Faith for All Life Archives,” click on the May/June 2012 magazine cover, then scroll down to the article “Faithful in Little Things?” Please don’t draw any conclusions regarding either their review or my response before reading both pieces, lest you be guilty of Proverbs 18:13.
2. Rousas John Rushdoony, Interview with Bill Moyers, God and Politics on Earth as It is in Heaven (Alexandria, VA: PBS, 23 December 1987).
3. Gary North, Tools of Dominion: The Case Laws of Exodus (Tyler, TX: The Institute for Christian Economics, 1997) pp. 1210-11.
4. As one example (although nowhere near the most egregious), consider Amendment 8’s substantive interdiction against “cruel and unusual punishments.” How does Amendment 8 measure up against Yahweh’s “altogether righteous judgments” (Psalm 19:9) of stoning, lex talionis, and indentured servitude? For a more complete examination of Amendment 8 by Yahweh’s law, see Chapter 17 “Amendment 8: Fines, Bail, and Cruel and Unusual Punishment” of BL vs. USC.
5. Archie P. Jones, The Influence of Historic Christianity on Early America (Vallecito, CA: 1998) p. 66.
6. Archie P. Jones, “The Myth of Political Polytheism: A Review by Archie P. Jones,” The Journal of Christian Reconstruction (Vallecito, CA: Chalcedon, 1996) p. 280.
7. James C. Harrison, “America’s Christian Roots: How Long Did They Last?,” The Victorious Covenant: From Obscurity to the Rooftops, Spring, 2012.
8. In a subsequent email, the author lists the discrepancies between the Bible and the Constitution provided in BL vs. USC. So far, he’s come up with forty-five violations (or, at least, Scriptural anomalies), and he’s only gotten through the three chapters addressing the Preamble and Articles 1 and 2.
9. Mr. Jones, I did not send you a copy of BL vs. USC because I do not have your address. If you would like a copy, you need only ask. This offer for a complimentary copy of BL vs. USC is extended to anyone who would a like a copy and cannot afford the suggested $19 donation.
For anyone who hasn’t already done so, find out how much you really know about the Constitution as compared to Yahweh’s moral law (His commandments, statutes, and judgments). Take our Constitution Survey at http://www.missiontoisrael.org/constitutionsurvey/constitutionsurvey.php and receive a free copy of the Primer (an 85 page book, normally $7 plus shipping) of Bible Law vs. the United States Constitution: The Christian Perspective.
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