"We are in the midst of a constitutional crisis with sweeping implications for our system of government," was the message from Jonathan Turley, constitutional lawyer and Professor of Law at the George Washington University School of Law. He and others were testifying before a congressional committee about the president's unprecedented use of "executive order" to make and change laws, a power that the Constitution reserves exclusively for the legislative branch of government.
The Constitution's Division of Powers Is Based on the Biblical Worldview of the Founders
America's Founders divided the powers of government and provided various checks and balances because they held to a Biblical world-view, which recognizes that "man" in his present condition is flawed because of sin and cannot be trusted with "power." They would agree with the adage of Sir John Dalberg-Acton who, after extensive studies of both secular and religious history, declared, "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely."
This was the view of the early Puritans to whom the Founders were indebted for much of their thinking. Most of them would have agreed with William Bradford, five-time governor of Plymouth Colony, who spoke of "man's fallen state" and declared that "all men have corruption in them." In this fallen state human beings cannot be trusted with power; hence the division of powers and other checks and balances in our country's founding documents.
Clueless, Power-Hungry Politicians
Our president seems unaware of this world-view of fallen and flawed humanity as the basis for the limits placed on the different branches of government by our Constitution. This was made obvious when he recently remarked, "That's the good thing about being president; I can do whatever I want."
Although the statement has a particular context, it seems to reveal an unhealthy and uninformed attitude and mindset about the executive office. The Founders placed clearly defined limits on what a president can and cannot do; because the Founders knew that the president, whoever he may be, is also a flawed human being, and not to be trusted with "power."
Benjamin Hart stated it well in his excellent treatise, "Faith and Freedom." He wrote:
Whether one talks about a priest or king makes little difference since both are subject to original sin. The corruption in human nature is magnified when it is transferred to human institutions. A man with a gang is far more dangerous than a man without a gang. With this view of man in mind, America's founders sought to decentralize political authority, through the separation of powers, states' rights, executive veto, judicial review of legislation, specifically enumerated governmental responsibilities, and all the various checks and balances that were instituted to prevent government from dominating all of life (Benjamin Hart, Faith & Freedom, 39).
The problem, of course, is by no means confined to the current president and his political party. Washington, D.C. is filled with power-hungry politicians on both sides of the political aisle who seem all too willing to sell their souls in order to gain and maintain political power and control. The current condition of our capital city surely confirms the statement of Dalberg-Acton that, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
The Founders Did Not Trust Power in the Hands of One or a Few
The underlying problem is that our society has given up the biblical view of the flawed human condition, held by the Founders, that was the basis for their decision to divide the powers of government. They were, in fact, so intent on limiting individual power that they also, in Section 9 of the Constitution, forbade the government from granting honorific titles of nobility to anyone and forbade anyone holding a government office from accepting a title or office from a foreign king or state without the consent of Congress.
The Founders held the traditional Christian belief that humanity had been created a noble creature in the image and likeness of God, but that this image had become flawed as a result of the fall and sin (Genesis 1-3). Salvation through Jesus Christ restores this image, but this restoration is a process that is not completed in this world. Humanity—even Christian humanity—in this flawed condition cannot be trusted with unlimited power.
Whereas modern liberalism claims that human nature is essentially good and that people only need a change of environment and circumstances to improve and perfect their behavior, the Founders held no such utopian view of the human condition. In fact, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, both signers of the Constitution, pointed to Jeremiah 17:9 as an underlying principle for the separation of powers provided for in that document. This passage reads, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?"
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