A Note from Our Editor: Evangelical Chauvinism -- By: John Warwick Montgomery

Journal: Global Journal of Classical Theology
Volume: GJCT 08:1 (May 2010)
Article: A Note from Our Editor: Evangelical Chauvinism
Author: John Warwick Montgomery

A Note from Our Editor: Evangelical Chauvinism

John Warwick Montgomery

A recent promotional e-mail from Jay Sekulow’s American Center for Law and Justice informs us that “a Justice Souter replacement [on the U. S. Supreme Court] will more than likely maintain a strict view of church-state separation, will apply international precedence to the U.S. Constitution, and will be strongly in favor of abortion rights.” This is no doubt an accurate assessment, but it is interesting to observe that among the future evils sure to accompany a liberal judicial appointment Sekulow includes the indictment we have italicized: the importation of international (i.e., non-American) legal notions into the American legal scene.

This is a common criticism among conservative American, and especially evangelical, jurisprudents. In line with traditional American isolationism, we are told in effect that American law is always best, and is invariably contaminated by notions deriving from other legal systems and especially by international law. “Stay away from the foreigners,” is the byword. “Above all, do not ratify international conventions and treaties.” “Do not allow foreign law to serve as precedents in American legislation or judicial decision-making.” The justification? An assumption that American law is, by definition, more in line with revelational, i.e., biblical, law than is the law of any other nation—and certainly more so than any international law could be.

May we go on record as opposing, root and branch, this philosophy? Not because we live in Europe (or because we love French cuisine more than hominy grits) but on strictly scriptural and factual grounds.

First: no human legal system or constitution is divinely inspired; only Holy Writ offers an inerrant revelation of the Divine Will. The U. S. Constitution, though it reflects the morality of Scripture in many wonderful ways, never mentions Jesus Christ, atonement, redemption, the proper distinction between law and gospel, or the central, salvatory message of the Bible. The reason, of course, is that the leading “Founding Fathers” (Jefferson and Franklin, as egregious examples) were in no sense believing Christians: they represented the Deism of the 18th century, so-called “Enlightenment,” which held that—in the words of Thomas Paine—the “Book of Scripture” needs to be replaced by the “Book of Nature”—both individually and societally. (Cf. Montgomery, The Shaping of America [Minneapolis: Bethany, 1976]; available from www.ciltpp.com).

It follows that there is no guarantee of infallibility for American law or the American legal system. Scriptural principles must stand in judgment over our legal activities in exactly the same way as they do over the legal actions of other countries operating nationally or intern...

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