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September 22, 2012

"A Biblical Value in the Constitution: Mercy, Clemency, Faith, and History"

The title of this post is the title of this interesting new paper by Professor Mark Osler now available via SSRN.  Here is the abstract:

The United States Constitution is a strikingly secular document, and claims that the United States was founded as a “Christian Nation” find little support there.  However, the majority of Americans are Christian, and it should not be surprising that many of them look for a reflection of their faith’s values in the government that is structured by that secular Constitution.

This article urges that those who seek Christian values in the government processes allowed by the secular Constitution pay greater attention to the neglected pardon clause. The exercise of mercy is a fundamental Christian imperative, and the idea of pardon is an important and compelling theme in the gospels themselves: Jesus was nearly granted clemency by Pilate, and Jesus himself grants a pardon to the woman who is about to be executed in John 8.  To the serious scholar who believes in both the imperatives of Christ and the secular limitations of the Constitution, the pardon power provides a rare instance of those roads running together.

September 22, 2012 at 04:36 PM | Permalink


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Would that it were the case that most Christians acted like it.

Posted by: Guy | Sep 23, 2012 5:19:59 PM

Why does the lawyer protect, support, empower evil? Because evil generates lawyer fees. Victims generate nothing, and may rot.

I demand that Prof. Osler utter the V word. He can't without choking.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 23, 2012 8:13:50 PM

“urges that those who seek Christian values in the government processes…pay greater attention to the neglected pardon clause” “Jesus was nearly granted clemency by Pilate”

American Christians paid enough attention to codify the procedure, and so long as you speak not of murderers and rapists, perhaps you are right.

Howbeit, I urge that Mark Osler start with first words of Jesus in Mark, i.e. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom God is at hand,
Repent ye, and believe the Gospel” (1:15).

If Mark Osler even believes in repentance and that Jesus existed, he might move on to Mark12:7-9 for what He describes as proper treatment of murderous thieves, and might move on to these ensamples:

(1)The "thief on the cross" --|lestes|was probably a violent robber such as in Mk 12--who was forgiven & promised eternal life by Jesus but still executed, with no objection from those present. cf. Lk23, Mk16.

(2) Jesus, who actually indicated that the just punishment for murder is execution in Luke 19 & 20, & Matt 26.

(3) Paul, who said: "For if I be an offender, or have committed any thing worthy of death, I refuse not to die". Acts 25:11

God is love yet that he instructs us to so deal with murderers who are worthy of death.

Posted by: Adamakis | Sep 24, 2012 10:19:20 AM

\\"The United States Constitution is a strikingly secular document"//

[Yes, striking to one ignorant of the non-secular document known as the Bible, as well as the links betwixt her 10 Commandments, Torah and NT, Magna Carta, English Common Law, and the American law and Constitution.]

The Declaration was not so striking, neither Congressional Bible printings or Senate Chaplains prayers, nor Supreme Court frescoes of Moses or the 10 Commandments.

Who here really want to play this revisionist, a-theistic game?

How about issued currency, mottos, and the like just for a genre of proofs of government –of-the-people-of-the-Bible, e.g.,
round about 1782, the Great Seal of the U.S. was created by William Barton with:
"He [God] has favored our undertakings" brackets in original [[Annuit cœptis]]”
and the eye above the pyramid, adapting the earlier Cont. Congress version with
"Deo favente which alludes to the Eye in the Arms, meant for the Eye of Providence…For Barton, Deus (God).”

[“Barton chose to accompany the design were Deo Favente ("with God's favor", or more literally,
"with God favoring") and Perennis ("Everlasting").’]

The national motto of the 1860s—In God we Trust--derived from the Star Spangled Banner of the war of 1812, but previously and frequently by colonialists from Penn to G. Washington, (and his mum Mary) to S. Adams among many others of the 18th century.

Posted by: Adamakis | Sep 24, 2012 10:23:38 AM

If someone made a pitch like Prof. Osler's in favor of a conservative point of view, he would be derided as a Bible-thumping wahoo who really wants to impose Christian beliefs as a quasi-state religion without being honest enough to admit what he's up to.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 24, 2012 6:03:27 PM

"If Mark Osler even believes in repentance and that Jesus existed"

The piece notes that he is a Christian. Elsewhere, we learn he a former prosecutor. His breed of Christianity is disputed, including by some around here who find it absurd on some points, but nothing new there.

He underlines that he doesn't want to "impose" beliefs but only that there is a secular/Christian overlap on certain points. Though I was under the impression "a conservative point of view" would appreciate his thoughtful citation of the Bible, this would work no matter what side uses it.

[Some will reject appeal to the Bible even for liberal ends they agree with, not a fan of the document or religion as a whole. Some will not be consistent. This is standard business on both sides though. It is of a "water is wet" variety.]

We would then have to debate the merits of secular law that furthers "Christian" goals. For instance, a secular policy that overlaps with Jesus' views on divorce would probably not sell well. Anyway, the "conservative point of view" in various cases advances causes liberals agree with too. There is common ground there. It takes a creative application of Christian principles, e.g., even conservatively tinted, to make them totally un-liberal in reach.

Thus, basically the need of some who think Christian principles "absurd" from the right to basically reject them. This is of course their call.

Posted by: Joe | Sep 25, 2012 10:33:30 AM

Mercy, contrition, and repentance are essential components of justice. As reported about the most famous Jewish Rabbi:

1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.

2 And early in the morning he came again into the atemple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.

3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a awoman taken in badultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

5 Now Moses in the alaw commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger awrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without asin among you, let him bfirst cast a cstone at her.

8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own aconscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

Posted by: anon1 | Sep 25, 2012 6:33:22 PM

Joe... that man said it best!

I am truly about as far right leaning as one could get and yet daily I am reminded, that not every person who offends in any way, will ever do it again. Will anyone ever be perfect? No, not here.

We have a system, it is made by men and not perfect, people slip through the cracks every day, good people and bad people. I do believe people need to be held accountable... unlike the woman in this story some refuse to have that true 'come to Jesus meeting' to aknowledge and if nothing less, TRY to know your sins and sin no more.

Soooo, even if we for secular sake, take the Jesus meeting out of the whole equation... BUT leave the line in the story, let he among you who is without sin, cast the first stone... could any non-believer still cast that first stone?

I could not. I read what Newt wrote and think back when I was a teen and even in my early to mid-twenties... I did not killl anyone, I did however do many wreckless things that very easily could have injured or kille someone, and because I was not caught doing stupid things (biggest on my list drinking underage and drinking and driving) (I have not taken a drink in almost 20 years now) my wrecklessness did cause many problems for a multitude of folks of whom I did not think of nor care about what I put them through for years with my self-pity and self-indulgences... I am humbled daily still all these years later at the love that surrounded me and never gave up on me and continued to teach me to love and forgive like them and who they learned from.

A bleading heart liberal I am a far cry from, but I know love, redemption and forgiveness!

Posted by: Smith | Sep 25, 2012 8:50:35 PM

Great Article!
Thanks for Sharing!

All the best,

Posted by: Robert Gerard | Feb 22, 2013 4:34:08 PM

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