The Timeless Constitution

There is some debate about whether the U.S. Constitution embodies eternal truths or is a living document that must change with the times. Personally, I’m on the side of eternal truths. It is an imperfect document made by imperfect men that reaches for the unchanging light, but never quite gets there. It can approximate, but that is it.
What are some of the eternal truths it embodies? Can we list any of them? Yes. 1) The human person is imperfect and therefor, will always be an imperfect ruler no matter who he is or what he’s done. Because of this, the structure of our government was made to inhibit the damage any such imperfect individual could do. There are three branches of government and a system of checks and balances. The particulars of the three branches are not eternal; it doesn’t matter if the President serves a four year term or a six year term. That won’t impact the truths the constitution is based on. The same can be said for the notion of checks and balances for the powers that be. Another eternal truth is 2) All men (humans) are created equal. It’s just a bad idea, not to mention immoral, to run a government that doesn’t embrace that principle. There are likely other truths emblazoned in the U.S. Constitution, but those are the first two that strike me.
A living document can be changed and fundamentally altered as history deems proper. According to this approach, it is the historical context of the times that determines how the constitution is to be interpreted and applied. I don’t support that view. The essence of the constitution cannot be changed except by some method that retains the eternal truths the document was founded upon. Our constitution, as is, allows such modification through the amendment process. We don’t need to rewrite the whole thing every fifteen years as the living document theorist might surmise.
The strongest point in favor of the living document theory, though, is the advance of modern science. The forefathers could never have foreseen the rise of science and the explosive growth of scientific knowledge. Therefore, it is an obvious fact that the document they gave us cannot deal with this influx of understanding. That may be true, but that does not mean the principles upon which the document was based are no longer true. Like it or not, science or no, man is imperfect and that has not changed. It is up to us to navigate these difficult waters, to find the path that adheres to the constitution despite the problems the modern world might throw in our path.


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