Justice Antonia Scalia passed from this life on February 13, 2016. The news was filled with comments about the type of man that he was. He was a man of great integrity. He was a Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States for about 30 years. As a jurist he had no equals.
Judge Richard A. Posner wrote in The New Republic in 2011, “the most influential justice of the last quarter-century.” Since his passing, many others have said the same thing.
A few years ago I was given the book “Scalia Dissents” that contained “writings of the Supreme Court’s wittiest, most outspoken Justice” which was edited and commented on by Kevin A. Ring. I found the book fascinating.
Scalia’s humor was often subtle. Here is an explanation he gave of the proper meaning of the term, “modify.” “Modify, in our view, connotes moderate change. It might be good English to say that the French Revolution ‘modified’ the status of the French nobility—but only because there is a figure of speech called understatement and a literary device known as sarcasm.”
Ring points out that Scalia’s approach to the Constitution of the United States was that of looking at the text of the Constitution and then wanting to give adherence to the original understanding of the document or to the intent of its drafters.
Scalia called himself a “textualist.” He believed that the Constitution of the United States says what it means and means what it says. According to Ring, “Scalia thinks judges should focus on the text.” He believed that “a written constitution is needed to protect values against prevailing wisdom.”
Scalia did not think that the Constitution was a “living” document, in that the meaning would change from generation to generation and just keep evolving. Scalia said that he likes his Constitution “dead.” He argued “that only a fixed and enduring charter can keep judges from reading new fads into the Constitution and less popular mandates out.”
He searched for the “original meaning,” which he defined as “the original understanding of the text at the time it was drafted and ratified.” This is a theory of interpretation known as originalism.
Scalia and The Restoration Movement.
Scalia was a Roman Catholic in faith. I don’t know if he ever heard the words “Restoration Movement” but I have a feeling that if he had he would have found our approach to Scripture to be refreshing. As a Catholic he allowed the clergy and the church to interpret Scripture for him. He would have made a great preacher or professor by searching the Word for the original meaning and then teaching that rather than the opinions of men.
On the current view of our North American Christian Convention clergy concerning women preachers, he would have been appalled. He would examine certain texts like 1 Timothy 2:12 and say, “The text says what it means and means what it says.” He wouldn’t do a Ziegfeld song and dance to get around it to appease the masses.
In the matter of baptism I again think that he would have seen that the original word for baptism meant immersion and that would have settled that. The purpose of baptism he would understand from studying the New Testament, not the church history of the Johnny-come-latelies.
The thrust of the Restoration Movement has always been “back to Scripture.” “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak.” “No book but the Bible.”
If he had looked at the Bible as he looked at the law, he have said that “the original understanding of the text at the time it was drafted and ratified” was the proper interpretation.
In looking at Hebrews 4:12 he would have known meant that the “Word of God” was “living” in the sense that is still works today, not that the meaning could be changed to fit every generation.
Scalia and Cincinnati Christian University.
In February this journal told of how the trustees of the Cincinnati Christian University changed a part of the original by-laws of the institution that should never have been touched by them. The founders of the school said that the part that said, “every trustee and teacher must be a member of the Church of Christ (undenominational)…” was never to be changed. They said that the afore mentioned Article “shall remain perpetually in force.”
As one who looked to the original meaning, I have an idea that he would have said “the original understanding of the text at the time it was drafted and ratified” was the proper interpretation. Remember, he believed that “a written constitution is needed to protect values against prevailing wisdom.”
If I may be so bold as to help some understand what is being said here by adding modifying words to a sentence already used, he argued “that only a fixed and enduring charter (bylaws) can keep judges (trustees) from reading new fads into the Constitution (bylaws) and less popular mandates out.”
Two of Scalia’s critics spoke of his importance when they said it “lies in the words and reasoning that constitute his vision, and that vision, when placed in the enduring form of a written opinion, has the potential to shape doctrines and decisions in the near and distant future.”
With the changes the trustees of CCU have made there is no doubt but that they shaping the doctrines of the near and distant future.
The “faith once and for all delivered” will soon become a thing of the past at 2700 Glenway Avenue. With what the trustees have done, how could it be otherwise?