[FT] Fw: What About Government? Covenant Law -- Constitutional Law

Julia jewen at bellsouth.net
Sat Jan 10 02:04:40 PST 2009

Subject: What About Government? Covenant Law -- Constitutional Law

What is the Covenant? What is the Constitution?

The Covenant is a promise by the covenant maker (God) to the recipient (the People)--it stands unless or until the maker of the covenant voids it or modifies it.  It is unsecured except by the reputation of the maker of the covenant. Its validity is not conditional upon the performance of the recipient. Certain rewards may not accrue to the recipient due to nonpeformance of duties specified in the covenant, but that does not void the agreement. To be valid the covenant must be agreed to by the recipient. The agreement may be verbal or written. The consent may be spoken, written or by the performance of an action, or all three. The parties to the agreement are generally not equals. The covenant maker is the one with the power, money, etc. to initiate and carry it out. 

A contract, by way of contrast, is a reciprocal agreement between two equal parties. It is a negotiated agreement. It contains requirements for performance for both parties. If either party fails to perform, penalties can be applied to either party, and nonperformance by either party can void the contract. If one party unilaterally leaves, the agreement ceases to have validity. There is often some kind of collateral or security exchanged or placed with a third party to guarantee performance of the contract. The reputation of either of the parties may affect the terms but it is generally not  the sole basis by which the reliability of the contract is judged.

A law is an imperative statement either a positive demand to do something or a prohibition against doing something. It is issued by someone whose authority is recognized. Because the authority behind it is recognized as valid, people respond by doing what is demanded or refraining from doing what is prohibited, and they submit, or coerce each other to submit to consequences in the case of noncompliance. Noncompliance does not void a law. It can be voided by the authority that issued it or it can be voided by the loss of authority on the part of the issuer of the law. 

We like to say that we are "a nation of laws", and that the highest "law of the land" is our Constitution. But is the Constitution a "law" or is it another sort of document? 

It is not really a "law", because prior to the adoption of the Constitution there was no recognized national government that could make laws. We lived under the Articles of Confederation, which was a loose association of the former colonies, and any action the federation took was agreed to on an as needed basis by the states' legislatures ratifying it. The authority(ies)  from which the Articles came were the state governments of the former colonies, not directly from the People of all the states. The "laws" or actions of that federation were actions that originated with the member states. (Very different from our Constitutional government. It is not just a "tightened up" Articles of Confederation on steroids!)

Before you can have a law you must have a recognized authority to issue it,  and generally that authority is described in a document. The  Preamble of the Constitution is the document that describes the authority from which the structure of the government arises, and the government derives its authority (second hand) from the authority described in the Constitution: "We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union...etc..do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

The Authority is named: We, the People. 
The document then describes what the people promise to do: ordain and establish this Constitution. 
The document then names the party that is the recipient of this promise. It is the (soon to be) United States of America ( We, the People). 
Until the Constitution is adopted and signed by all the states, submitting to that authority,the Constitution will not legally exist, and the document will not be valid. The mechanism for validation is specified.

These are all characteristics of a COVENANT!  

Once the covenant has been signed or agreed to verbally, the recipients no longer affect the validity of the covenant. Only the maker of the covenant, the People, in the case of our national government, can undo what has been done. In other words, the only way to resolve the Union legally is by national referendum!Unilateral secession based on a vote of a state legislature or a single state's referrendum is insufficient. That is the way Lincoln and other Unionists understood this document, and the "legal basis" from which they answered the "states' rights separatist" claims of the Southern states. The Southern states did not understand this document as a covenant issued by the People. They saw it as a contract. The states had set up an entity called the United States and had, under contract, ceded certain of their powers to this entity, conditioned on performance. If this entity the USA failed to perform or aggregated to itself powers that had not been specifically contracted to it, then the terms of the agreement had been breached and no state was obliged to continue participating. The contract was void as far as they were concerned. So were any laws that had been enacted by that entity. The Authority behind those laws was void, because the contractual basis on which the Authority rested was void. The separatists did not necessarily claim that the contract was voided for other states, because each state had a separate ratification and separately signed on. It was illegal of the USA to force them to perform their end of a contract that had been voided by the contracted entity or by other signatory parties, other states. We fought a war over this "small difference" between contract and covenant. The Covenant interpretation won. No state is entitled to leave unless ALL the people have decided to to vote the USA out of existence!

The covenant between God and his People works something like that. God makes the covenant and offers it to the People. The covenant is not in force unless or until the People agree to it. Once agreed to, however, you can't just walk away from the deal--not unless God says so. The Authority that issues the Law (Love) is this Covenant (Word) of God. It is hard to say where a person and his spoken word divide from each other. For all practical purposes you and your word are one and the same thing. Your word does not exist apart from you. You must make it "public"--state it verbally or in writing-- it in order for people to know what it is. Your word/Covenant is your will or intention made known to others. It is the Authority for the directives (law) describing how the agreement will be carried out--what will be done and what will not be done, and specifies the rewards and penalties for performance and nonperformance of these directives. 

There are many covenants (or updates of the covenant) in the Bible, but they all have these provisions: God promises to be our God always.Unconditionally. We reciprocate by promising to be his People--and give our loyalty to no-one/nothing else. In reciprocating, we have accepted his Covenant. Now, even if we want to get out of the deal, we can do so only if God decides that the deal is void. There are certain clauses in the "document" stating that if we perform all the directives (law) that we will get certain rewards and if we fail to perform there are specific penalites. But nowhere does the law say that we can cancel the agreedment.  God's people are called Chosen, because God has the choice about whether to be in covenant with us. We are not called the "choosing People" because we gave up the right to make other choices when we agreed to this deal. 

The 18th century Deist notion of God, however, did not resonnate with the immediacy of a Covenant maker riding herd on and keeping tabs on the performance of the recipients. They thought God had set up the universe, set it in motion like a piece of clockwork and then had gone off somewhere. The Bible was the maintenance manual that he had left behind. Working from that document we were supposed to keep the machinery operating, because it was in our self interest to do so. If the "clock stops" the universe ceases to function! This is where we got the idea that the written document, whether the Bible or the Constitution was "the" Authority. Because it is the written word that is avialable to all readers to see what we need to do to keep things going, for our own good. We have tended to lose the personal relationship between the Covenant Maker and the Recipient, which was really the point of having made a covenant. And it is in the relationship that the validity or authority lies. Without guidance from the Maker of the Covenant to interpret it, people have looked only to the document and tried to interpret it to suit their own convenience, as if the recipient were free to alter the terms of the covenant. This is the origin of many a bad law, and politically motivated interpretation has influenced many a bad court decision. A good Supreme Court would provide a "discernment" fail-safe in regard to the people's intention when Congress forgets what that is. Congress in exercising the law-making (directive issuing) function of covenant acts in proxy for the Covenant maker (the People) and should discern carefully what the people want and need. But they do all too frequently run to their own notions.

The Bible provides a history of the relationship between the Covenant Maker and his People, which is context for the law (directives). In order to know how to interpret the law, you need to know the parties and how the relationship works. 

The Constitution sets up a structure within which laws are made and carried out, but the Authority behind the laws is the People, and the recipient of the document is also the People. Essentially the Bible says, "Law is whatever God says it is." Similary our Constitution says, "The law is whatever the People say it is." God made his Law, and he can  establish it,enforce it, amend it, rescind it, ignore it. The People of the United States can enact a law, enforce it, amend it, rescind it or ignore it.The Constitution is the vehicle by which we do these things. Our federal court system provides the interpretation of law that forms the historical context within which we do these things. But it is the relationship with each other as creators of this government and recipients of this government that carries the authority and ultimately defines who and what we are as a country, a People. Similarly it is the relationship betwen God and his People that contains the Authority behind the Law and ultimately defines where we are going as a People of God and why we are going that way.

Jesus as Son of God has God's proxy for standing behind the unconditional Covenant of God. He has (IS) the Authority that can interpret the Covenant's terms and the Law that is derived from it. Jesus summarized the law in two parts: First, love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength and Two, love your neighbor as yourself. 

If we understand our Constitution as a covenant, modeled on God's Covenant to his People, how would our national life change?
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could come up with a two-sentence summary of the (covental) Constitution?  
Would it look like Jesus's Two Commandments?
What laws would we have to repeal in the light of it? What laws would be neede that we don't have now?

Julia Ewen

(This concludes the current Bible study on Government)

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