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America’s Heritage: Constitutional Liberty

by Herbert W. Titus and Gerald R. Thompson


JURISDICTION AND LIBERTY

The Bible as a Basis for Liberty
Jurisdictional Limits Secure Liberty for All
The Liberty of Self-Government
Religion and Freedom of the Mind
An Analysis of Educational Liberty

But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does.  [James 1:25]

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.  [1 Peter 2:13-16]

Many have objected to the Bible as the foundation of America’s legal system on the ground that it would usher in tyranny, not liberty. They fear that a biblical system of law would authorize the civil ruler to eliminate any belief or activity inconsistent with the ruler’s “approved” views of righteousness. Such an objection, though widely held, is totally erroneous. Instead, only a biblical foundation for law guarantees true freedom of thought and action. All other foundations lead either to anarchy or totalitarianism.

THE BIBLE AS A BASIS FOR LIBERTY

The key to understanding liberty is found in a biblical framework of jurisdiction. No human institution may lawfully exercise total authority over its subjects, for all human authority is limited. For example, when God created man and woman, He gave them dominion over the earth and every living “thing” on the earth. But, God kept for Himself the jurisdiction to rule man. Man’s authority was limited by God to certain purposes which man could not enlarge. The failure to acknowledge God as the source of human authority makes man the measure of his own authority. Under this view, human authority is rarely limited. The inevitable result of ignoring God is that “might makes right,” so that man’s liberty is based on power, not authority. This is the very antithesis of true liberty.

The lesson of Romans 13:1-2 is that every person is subject to authority wielded by someone else. Since all authority is from God, resistance to lawful authority brings judgment. In God’s reality, “right makes might,” not the reverse. No human authority is inherent, but is delegated originally from God. God grants man authority as a matter of grace, not obligation, to accomplish some divine purpose. No human authority is absolute, but is limited to the terms of its delegation. In sum, unless a man has been expressly given authority, he does not have it.

However, not all human authority is based on an immediate grant of authority from God. For example, civil authority is delegated mediately by the people pursuant to their authority from God. Men cannot claim a divine right to be appointed to civil office. This proposition was well known and widely accepted in early America. The founders of our nation had rejected the legal and political doctrine of the “divine right of kings,” adopted by the Stuart kings to support their claim to rule England by divine appointment. The “divine right of kings” contravened the unalienable right of the people to constitute and consent to their civil rulers. Thus, the doctrine was contrary to the nature of civil authority, and antithetical to true liberty.

It is important, therefore, that “liberty” be properly defined. There are many enemies of liberty, and many false notions of liberty. Indeed, it is rare that men openly oppose liberty. Rather, they redefine liberty in a way which accommodates a hidden agenda, deceiving people into thinking true liberty is being pursued when it is not. It is not possible to enumerate all the false notions of liberty, but the false liberty offered by the world may be summarized as “be all you want to be.” It is nothing more than the license of self-determination, which the Bible describes as vanity. This false liberty of the world is evident even among political and judicial conservatives, as illustrated by Supreme Court Justice Byron White’s concession to his pro-abortion majority colleagues:

I can certainly agree with the proposition – which I deem indisputable – that a woman’s ability to choose an abortion is a species of ‘liberty’ that is subject to the general protections of the Due Process Clause.

This example of false liberty is described generally in Ecclesiastes 8:14-15: “eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we may die,” as if liberty equals pleasure. But this “play philosophy” is futility, for tomorrow often comes sooner than expected. See Ecclesiastes 9:10-12. Equally vain is the “work philosophy” described in Ecclesiastes 5:18-19, attempting to find satisfaction in material goods. But, material wealth is transient. See Ecclesiastes 6:1-2. These, and other philosophies based on goals established by man, are based on the premise that liberty can be obtained apart from the law of God.

The true liberty from God is the freedom to be all He created us to be. God has created man to behave in a certain way, and man’s liberty is found in conformity to God’s will for his life. As James 1:25 and 1 Peter 2:13-16 indicate, the perfect law of liberty is to do the work of God. Freedom, not bondage, comes from obeying the law, and true freedom is God’s desire for each man. See Galatians 5:13. In God’s framework for liberty, man’s authority is circumscribed by his obedience to do his duties. If a man exceeds the bounds of his duties, either by failing to perform them or by performing duties assigned to another, he exercises no freedom, but only license. True liberty is constrained by true duty, or lawful authority.

On the other hand, true liberty necessitates that a man has the right to exercise his authority. Just as liberty is constrained by duty, so liberty is meaningless in the absence of the right to perform the duties a man has. In other words, liberty is the freedom to perform one’s duties. The opposite of liberty is when one ruling authority prevents a man from performing the duties he owes to another ruling authority as he sees fit, particularly the duties he owes solely to God.

This inevitably brings the world’s false liberty and God’s true liberty into conflict. Whenever the pursuit of man-centered goals is made preeminent in society, it will necessarily hinder the pursuit of God-centered goals by individuals in that society. Indeed, this conflict is manifest even within the life of each Christian, as indicated in Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” See Romans 7:25; 8:11-14. Obviously, the desire of the flesh is the enemy of liberty.

Conflict also arises between Christians and non-Christians relating to different worldviews of liberty. Galatians 4:21-31 indicates that much of the conflict between nations of the world is rooted in the differing desires of the flesh and the Spirit. John 15:20 and 2 Timothy 3:12 warn that Christians will be persecuted (i.e., denied their liberty). This is exemplified in Acts 4:1-22; 5:17-42, when Peter and the other apostles were denied by the Sanhedrin the liberty to proclaim the gospel. In effect, the ruling Jewish council attempted to interpose themselves between the apostles and God, claiming that the duty to preach was subject to regulation by Caesar. Peter replied, in Acts 5:29, “We must obey God rather than men.”

JURISDICTIONAL LIMITS SECURE LIBERTY FOR ALL

To minimize this inevitable conflict, the various institutions of human government have been designed by God to preserve and secure man’s liberty. Security lies in the limitation of each institution’s jurisdiction solely to those matters which God has granted to each. It is not enough that a man recognizes evils to be corrected, or wrongs to be righted. He must first ask whether he has the authority, or jurisdiction, to do something about it. In essence, a man has “jurisdiction” when he has the right to declare the law. That is, a man has jurisdiction over a matter when he has been given the authority to discover or state the law which governs it and apply the known law to the matter.

No man has the authority to enforce all the laws of God. For example, no one had jurisdiction to punish Cain for the murder of Abel, even though Cain was guilty. In Genesis 4:15, God affirmed the lack of any human authority to punish Cain by marking him with a sign, and pronouncing a sevenfold curse on any potential avenger. The problem was not that Cain was innocent, or that his guilt could not be proved. Rather, God had not yet granted any man the authority to punish murder. This authority was later granted in Genesis 9:6 as part of the Noahic covenant, including the authority to inflict capital punishment. The enduring principle, however, is that in God’s eyes, avenging wrongdoing without proper authority or jurisdiction is as bad as, if not worse than, the wrong sought to be corrected.

Indeed, action taken without authority invariably violates someone else’s jurisdiction. But, authority truly delegated by God to be exercised among men in one capacity cannot violate the liberty of men exercising authority in another capacity. In a lawless society, however, man will seek to justify his taking action without authority. This is often accomplished by “balancing” rights and duties against each other. A biblically based framework for liberty does not weigh rights in a balance, or find rights in conflict. Rights granted by God do not conflict with each other, because God is not the author of confusion. Rights are absolute, and a system of liberty is preservative of them all.

God’s liberty framework specifies which human institutions are to govern certain human affairs, and which human affairs are reserved for His governance alone. The result is a diffusion of authority among men, as follows. First, everyone is subject to multiple governing authorities. Second, each governing authority has been entrusted with its own purposes for governing, which delimit its jurisdiction. Third, a man may be vested with multiple authorities, but can exercise them only one at a time. Fourth, every man is accountable for the exercise of his authority, and the performance of duties, solely to the person from whom such authority is derived or duties owed. Therefore, all men have multiple duties to discharge concurrently, each with its own limited jurisdiction.

The diffusion of authority among men is indicated in a variety of Scriptures. When Romans 13:1 says for every person to “be in subjection to the governing authorities,” it acknowledges that every person is subject to not just one, but multiple authorities. These are not merely different civil authorities, such as local, state and federal governments, but include the non-civil authorities of self-government, family government and church government. These four kinds of government (individual, family, church and civil) comprise all of the fundamental kinds of authorities established by God among men. All human institutions are either one of these governments, or a voluntary association formed to effectuate the goals of one or more of these governments.

These multiple institutions of government are reflected in 1 Peter 2:13ff. 1 Peter 2:13 begins by commending submission to “every human institution,” then focuses on the “king as the one in authority, or … governors as sent by him” through verse 17, referring to the civil sphere of government. Verses 18-25 of 1 Peter 2 focus on servant-master, or employer-employee, relationships, which are the product of a voluntary association formed to carry out dominion purposes. Chapter 3:1-7 considers the husband-wife interaction in family government, and verse 8 concludes with, “To sum up, let all be harmonious . . ..” Later on, in 1 Peter 5:1-5, church government is discussed, making the analysis complete.

The jurisdiction of each ruling authority among men is not overlapping as to purposes. This means that the concurrent jurisdictions of human government are non-hierarchical, for God never delegated authority to two governments to accomplish the same purpose. Man’s duties under each jurisdiction are owed directly to God, apart from the superintendence of any one of them over the others. The civil ruler cannot lawfully interfere with the performance of non-civil duties. Rather, one of the objects entrusted to the civil ruler is to preserve the liberty of the people to freely perform their non-civil duties owed to God. At the same time, the proper functioning of family and church governments preserves the civil order.

Overall, men who rule over others for one purpose may be ruled by others for another purpose. The operation of this rule avoids any conflict between the various concurrent jurisdictions. For example, a man may be a husband and father, an employee, a church elder, and a civil official. He is at the same time authorized to rule over others for some purposes, and subject to the authority of others for different purposes. A man cannot exercise his authority as a father or church elder in his capacity as a civil official. Nor can he exercise civil authority in the home or in the church. In the eyes of the law, a man is not exclusively a father, church elder or civil official, because he is all of them at the same time, although for different purposes.

Consequently, a man does not become free from his obligations as an employee, merely because he is also a church elder or city councilman. A family is not immune from civil police regulation merely because the family is a concurrent and coequal government with the civil ruler. Similarly, the jurisdictions of church government and civil government extend over some of the same people. The law of jurisdiction does not divide a people into mutually exclusive governmental units, where some people are the family, some are the church, and others are the state. Each jurisdiction is defined by the nature of the duties assigned to it, and none has an exclusive claim on any individual.

Every man is therefore accountable for the exercise of his authority, and the performance of duties, solely to the person from whom such authority is derived or duties owed. How could it be otherwise? God’s exclusive governance of the family free from interference by another ruler would be entirely subverted if the family were accountable to such other ruler for the performance of its duties to God. Man’s authority is always delegated for the purpose of performing a specified duty. Thus, man’s accountability for the performance of his duty, and his stewardship in the exercise of authority to perform that duty, are always the same. Authority, duty, and accountability are inseparable.

THE LIBERTY OF SELF-GOVERNMENT

The balance of this chapter will focus on two aspects of the liberty of individual self-government, namely, freedom of worship and belief and freedom of the mind. These two liberties will be examined in some detail to illustrate the framework for liberty just described. Both freedom of worship and belief and freedom of the mind are the gift of God (hence, are unalienable), both pertain to man’s individual duty to discern God’s will for his life, and man is held accountable solely by God for the exercise of each.

Freedom of worship and belief and freedom of the mind are two of the most cherished liberties of man. But, how are they secured? The first step is to recognize the limited jurisdiction of man, whether in the individual, family, church or civil government context, to govern matters of the mind and religion. This will consist largely of a biblical analysis. We will also examine the historical treatment of these liberties at common law, before finally considering the constitutional guarantees intended to secure these liberties.

Throughout American legal history, common law courts have asserted jurisdiction only over the acts of men, not their thoughts. This is consistent with the mandate in Romans 13:4 for the civil ruler to execute wrath “upon the one who practices evil.” Thus, a man could be convicted of an act of murder or theft, but not for merely being a murderer or thief. Common law courts have jurisdiction over what men do, not what they are. Likewise, under the Mosaic law, hate and lust were not crimes punishable by men. Though Leviticus 19:17 commanded men not to hate each other, no human penalty was prescribed. Similarly, the physical act of adultery was punishable by death, but the desire was not. See Leviticus 20:10.

The lack of human punishment for hate, lust, and covetousness led the Jewish scribes and Pharisees to assume that they met God’s standards merely by conforming to what men could punish. But Jesus taught in Matthew 5:21-28 that it was wrong not only to murder, but to hate, and wrong not only to commit adultery, but to lust. God’s jurisdiction, and citizenship in the kingdom of heaven, extended to matters outside of man’s jurisdiction. In other words, neither righteousness nor unrighteousness before God is measured by the external standards administered by men. God has exclusive jurisdiction over the heart of man. God has granted no civil ruler the authority to judge the sinner, but authority only to judge his sinful acts.

The common law of crimes reflects this principle of jurisdiction in the Latin phrase, actus reus (meaning guilty act). Criminal intent, unaccompanied by a criminal act, is not punishable. Indeed, no human authority may judge a man’s heart. 1 Corinthians 4:5 states that when the Lord comes, He will make manifest the motives of men’s hearts. While men judge each other on the basis of appearance, God alone judges the heart as the “King of hearts.” See 1 Samuel 16:7 and Psalm 7:8-10. A man may not judge the heart of his wife (Ephesians 5:25), nor his children (Colossians 3:21), nor even his own heart (1 Corinthians 4:4). This is a cornerstone of individual liberty.

The mind of man is under similar jurisdictional constraints. Man’s mind is part of his nature which reflects the image of God, as implied in Genesis 1:26-28. Romans 12:1-2 indicates that God has authority over man’s mind, particularly as to its renewing pursuant to the mind of Christ. See also Ephesians 4:20-24, 1 Corinthians 2:6-12, and Hebrews 8:8-11. Yet, Proverbs 23:7 also tells us that “As a man thinks, so is he.” Thus, man has the authority to “put on the new mind” of self. See Ephesians 4:22-24. That is, men have the authority to control what they watch, read, and hear.

Nonetheless, no man has responsibility for the mind of another, thus, no authority over the mind of another. Man’s authority is to be a witness of the truth, not a convicter. See 1 John 1:1-4 and John 16:7-11. It is in this light that the authority to teach must be viewed. While it is the goal of all Christians to take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” according to 2 Corinthians 10:5, the good teacher “entrusts” the truth to others. See 2 Timothy 2:2. In other words, the teacher only has authority to submit the truth to the hearer, not to force the hearer to learn. This is reflected in the principle that wives should teach their husbands through submission. See 1 Peter 3:1.

While the common law carefully excluded matters of the heart from the civil authorities, it did not similarly protect man’s mind. In the centuries preceding the American Revolution, the common law of treason included “imagining and compassing the death of the king.” Moreover, the common law embraced a variety of criminal “offenses against God and religion,” such as apostasy, heresy, and blasphemy. Several of these common law offenses appeared in the early colonial statutes. For example, heresy and blasphemy were listed as capital offenses in the 1641 Massachusetts Body of Liberties. Consequently, where crimes of the mind prevailed under the common law, individual liberty did not.

RELIGION AND FREEDOM OF THE MIND

The freedom of man’s heart and mind from civil constraint was affirmed and strengthened in the American constitutional experience. The approach of Massachusetts in outlawing heresy was not universally adopted elsewhere in the colonies. Drawing on the English experience of religious persecution, most of the states wrote express guarantees of freedom of worship and belief into their constitutions. Section 2 of the Constitution of Pennsylvania dated August 16, 1776 is an example:

That all men have a natural and unalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences and understanding: And that no man ought or of right can be compelled to attend any religious worship, or erect or support any place of worship, or maintain any ministry, contrary to, or against, his own free will and consent: Nor can any man, who acknowledges the being of a God, be justly deprived or abridged of any civil right as a citizen, on account of his religious sentiments or peculiar mode of religious worship: And that no authority can or ought to be vested in, or assumed by any power whatever, that shall in any case interfere with, or in any manner controul, the right of conscience in the free exercise of religious worship.

This statement of religious liberty typifies the approach taken in many early state constitutions. But it did not bar state established systems of religion. Maryland and New Hampshire, for example, had equivalent guarantees of freedom of worship, but also provided for voucher-type systems of religious support, whereby the people were taxed to support religious teachers, but could designate the teacher whom they would support. This approach was based on a “no preference” ideal: the state could engage in matters of religion, but had to do so on a “neutral” basis.

But, the situation in Virginia was different. There, religious liberty was understood to include many duties owed solely to God which were in the same legal posture as worshiping God. Rather than adopting a “no preference” approach, the Virginia Constitution adopted a “no jurisdiction” approach, reckoning all religious duties as being free from any lawful civil jurisdiction. Notice how Section 16 of the Constitution of Virginia dated June 12, 1776 includes a legal definition of the term “religion”:

That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practise Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.

The Virginia Constitution affirmed that the responsibility of each individual to worship God as his heart directs, and to use his mind in accordance with right reason, are both duties owed to the Creator, not to any man. Therefore, the freedom of worship and belief and freedom of the mind are equally part of the guaranteed liberty of religion, that is, “the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it.” This proposition, adopted in 1776, was soon to be tested.

Although the Virginia Constitution had Section 16, it had no anti-establishment clause. For some time, Virginia had taxed its people for the support of members of the state established church – the Anglican clergy. Thomas Jefferson objected to this practice, and in 1779 drafted a Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom. He based his Bill not on the freedom of worship, but on the principle of freedom of the mind.

Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free; that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishment, or burthens, or by civil incapacitations, . . . are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion . . . that the impious presumption of legislators and rulers, . . . who, . . . have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others, have established and maintained false religions . . . [and] that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical. . . .”

Jefferson’s Bill was initially rejected, pending consideration of a plan to permit taxpayers to designate a clergyman of their own sect as a recipient of public funds in lieu of an Anglican. In essence, the legislature proposed that the solution to a preferential established religion was to adopt the “no preference” posture approved in other states. This plan satisfied neither Jefferson nor James Madison, so they lobbied the Virginia legislature until Jefferson’s Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom was passed in January, 1786, and the other plan discarded. The primary vehicle for convincing the legislature to adopt Jefferson’s Bill was Madison’s Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments (1785). In his Remonstrance, Madison argued that the “no preference” approach was inconsistent with Section 16 of Virginia’s Constitution. He further argued that all taxation to fund teaching violated the unalienable right of freedom of the mind, regardless of who the teachers were:

The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable, because the opinions of men depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds, cannot follow the dictates of other men . . . [and] because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator.

. . . While we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess, and to observe, the religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us. If this freedom be abused, it is an offense against God, not against man: To God, therefore, not to man, must an account of it be rendered.

. . . [The present law] implies either that the civil magistrate is a competent judge of religious truths, or that he may employ religion as an engine of civil policy. The first is an arrogant pretension, falsified by the extraordinary opinion of rulers, in all ages and throughout the world; the second, an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation.

This experience in Virginia set the context for the ratification of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1791, which provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Madison originally drafted the amendment to reflect a “no preference” approach, thinking other states might balk at adopting the Virginia approach, but Congress rejected that idea. The First Amendment as adopted is fundamentally a jurisdictional statement, ensuring that Congress has no jurisdiction over religion, either to regulate it or sanction it. It is an explicit rejection of the “no preference” approach, and with it, a rejection of the myth of government neutrality toward religion that approach engenders.

On the one hand, Congress cannot compel a citizen to perform his duty owed solely to God, for this would redefine the duty as one owed to the federal government instead of God. This is the meaning of the “Establishment Clause.” Neither can Congress deny any citizen the liberty to perform his duty owed solely to God, for this would deny the concurrent jurisdiction of all non-civil governments. This is the meaning of the “Free Exercise Clause.”

AN ANALYSIS OF EDUCATIONAL LIBERTY

If we would but take America’s legacy of religious liberty seriously, we would see that history has repeated itself, and that the solution today is the same as it was 200 years ago. Religious liberty, rightly understood, includes every manner of thought and belief, or freedom of the mind, and the means required to effectuate that object. Thus, religion includes all education. All education necessarily involves the transmission of truth from one person to another, whether the truth concerns the nature of God, or the nature of His creation. Every course of study which relates to the real world, whether mathematical, physical, or otherwise, is necessarily “religion.” Consequently, public education may be regarded as the state established church of our day.

According to Madison, the civil magistrate, i.e., the state tax supported teacher, has no authority to “judge the truth”, because that would be “an arrogant pretension falsified by the contradictory opinions of Rulers in all ages.” Thomas Jefferson maintained that “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.” He also believed that religious opinions were of the same nature as opinions in physics or geometry.

The statements of Madison and Jefferson are in complete harmony with the statement of Jesus in John 18:37 that “To this end, was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.” By this statement, Christ denied that civil rulers have any authority to teach, “to bear witness of the truth.” He claimed the exclusive right to men’s minds, and therefore, the right to delegate authority to teach to whomever He chose. In the Great Commission, Jesus made clear that, while Caesar had no authority to teach, the Church was commanded to assume that task: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations . . . teaching them to observe all that I commanded you . . ..” Matthew 28:19-20.

This command to the church was not limited to “religious subjects,” such as personal salvation, but included all things whatsoever – history, science, law, all knowledge. In Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:3. Paul, for example, in his sermon in Athens taught the foundation of anthropology, history and politics: “[God] made from one blood, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation.” Acts 17:26. Is it any wonder that the Jewish Council, the religious department of the Roman Empire in Israel, ordered Peter and John to stop teaching in the name of Jesus?

Given this early history of the church, we should not be surprised that the modern day “pharisees” of the U.S. Supreme Court have excluded the Bible as the rule and measure of all truth from America’s public school classrooms. See Abington School Dist. v. Schempp and Stone v. Graham. The justices know that the Bible poses the greatest threat to the man-centered philosophy that dominates every subject in the state-operated schools today. The modern Court has rejected the “no jurisdiction” approach of the framers, and has instead embraced a “no preference” approach which leads to the development of a mythical system of neutrality.

But, the teaching in the public schools not only contradicts the biblical truths about creation, theology and other matters. It rests upon the false premise that the civil ruler has authority to “bear witness to the truth.” The early church refused to acknowledge any such jurisdiction as evidenced by their steadfast refusal to comply with the Jewish Council’s order to stop teaching in the name of Jesus.

Having already delegated the authority to teach to others, God left no room for the civil ruler to assume any jurisdiction whatsoever over truth or its instruction. Had Christ given the civil ruler jurisdiction over education, then it would inevitably have encroached upon God’s exclusive jurisdiction over men’s hearts. James Madison was convinced that what men believed to be true and what they taught as truth were duties “owed to the Creator,” and therefore, were not subject to civil rule.

Without question, God has denied civil authorities any jurisdiction over men’s hearts and minds. He has denied civil rulers any authority to teach, because in such authority lay the key to men’s hearts and minds. As Madison put it, the opinions of men “can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.” Because the very nature of civil authority requires the wielding of the sword, God has disqualified it from exercising any jurisdiction over education.

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NOTE

*   Copyright © 1987, 2006 Herbert W. Titus and Gerald R. Thompson. Used with permission.