Word Magic

Playing with the meaning of words: taking the log out of our eye before assessing the court decision on marriage

But what have we done with those simple assertions of our Fathers? We’ve said, in good Supreme Court majority style, that they can also mean several other possible concepts such as Day-Age, Analogical, or Framework. Well, I do not see any significant difference between what we have done with documents that we have vowed to maintain and defend, and what the majority of the Supreme Court Justices have done with the Fourteenth Amendment.

 

By a majority of five to four the Supreme Court has discovered a new principle in the 14th Amendment, namely, the right to marry someone of your own sex.

In a scathing dissent Justice Scalia wrote this: “When the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868, every State limited marriage to one man and one woman, and no one doubted the constitutionality of doing so. They (the majority) have discovered in the Fourteenth Amendment a ‘fundamental right’ overlooked by every person alive at the time of ratification, and almost everyone else in the time since.”

Is it not fair to call this ‘word magic’ – making written words in an important historical document have a meaning never even imagined by the original authors? It’s hardly surprising that those who still believe as the authors of the Fourteenth Amendment did, see this as being dishonest. The founding Fathers of our Nation provided a way to bring new things to the status of law. All that is required is that we the people add another amendment to the Constitution that clearly states that new thing in words that everyone can understand. But such is the level of ethical integrity today that the liberal majority prefers to legislate for the people.

Now the thing that constantly comes to my mind as I read comments about this unwelcome change is how similar it is to what has happened in our Churches. And here I have in mind the conservative remnant Churches of North America, including my own Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC). I say this because of what we have done with the words of our Catechisms and Confession on the doctrine of divine creation.

Our Fathers said (again and again) the God’s work of creation was his making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, and in the space of six days, and all very good. They said this with wonderful simplicity and clarity. And they meant what they said. They did not mean that maybe those ‘days’ were not really days, but ‘millions (or even billions) of years.’ One of the proof texts they cited in support of their thrice-repeated assertion was Exodus 20:11 which says, “In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

But what have we done with those simple assertions of our Fathers? We’ve said, in good Supreme Court majority style, that they can also mean several other possible concepts such as Day-Age, Analogical, or Framework. Well, I do not see any significant difference between what we have done with documents that we have vowed to maintain and defend, and what the majority of the Supreme Court Justices have done with the Fourteenth Amendment.

Because we too have a constitutional way to change what was said by our Fathers. It is by using a process by which texts that we can no longer agree with are changed to say what we can agree with. This, of course, is a burdensome undertaking. It cannot be done by just having a majority vote at one meeting.

We are so used to these things that we become blind to our own sin. How can we condemn these Justices for unconstitutional judicial activism, when we have done something strikingly similar in our own ‘word magic’ with our own Confessional documents?

G. I. Williamson is a retired minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, living in the Orange City, Iowa area. He is the author of study guides on the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and the Heidelberg Catechism.