"Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." ~ Santayana

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Magna Carta

If you visit the National Archives in Washington, you will find that among the various documents there, there is a copy of the Magna Carta. What was the Magna Carta? Most people would be able to answer that it was a document created in England by certain government officials to stop the tyrannical powers of King John. It became to England what The Constitution is to us: the basis for law. But what is so important about it to give it a place in the National Archives? Allow me to try to answer that question by explaining the origins of the Magna Carta, its purpose, and just how important it is to America.

First, it is important to know that the history of the Magna Carta I referred to above is not entirely correct. To see why, read the opening to the document:
John, by the grace of God King of England, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy and Aquitaine, and Count of Anjou, to his archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, barons, justices, foresters, sheriffs, stewards, servants, and to all his officials and loyal subjects, greeting.
Know that before God, for the health of our soul and those of our ancestors and heirs, to the honour of God, the exaltation of the holy Church, and the better ordering of our kingdom, at the advice of our reverend fathers Stephen, archbishop of Canterbury, primate of all England, and cardinal of the holy Roman Church, Henry archbishop of Dublin, William bishop of London, Peter bishop of Winchester, Jocelin bishop of Bath and Glastonbury, Hugh bishop of Lincoln, Walter Bishop of Worcester, William bishop of Coventry, Benedict bishop of Rochester, Master Pandulf subdeacon and member of the papal household, Brother Aymeric. . . .

And it goes on and on. But what we see here is that the barons did not start the rebellion against King John. It was the church. If that wasn’t a big enough change from what most people think try this clause:

First, that we have granted to God, and by this present charter have confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired.

The Magna Carta asserts that the English Government cannot do anything it wants. There are restrictions on its power. Also, The Magna Carta states that the rights of the people and church from government oppression come from God, the Christian God. This is definitely not the common history of the document that textbooks give.

Now that we know the true origins of the Magna Carta, what was its purpose? If it was created with Christianity in mind, could it have been only political? American Vision’s Gary DeMar says this:

Magna Carta wasn’t drafted by the barons, and the English liberties did not come from a political struggle. The liberties of England came from the Church, based on the ideological foundation of the faith in Jesus Christ, and the application of His Law in the English society. The signing of Magna Carta was the culmination of a centuries-long war between the pagan and the Christian concepts of law and power. At Runnymede the Church won the victory for Christianity, and by this victory England—and consequently America—was blessed with freedom more than any other nation in Europe.

Finally, how does any of this relate to America? The Magna Carta was an English document, and the English colonized America. Five hundred and fifty years later the principals of the Magna Carta were written into our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. One of the most important (and most debated) clauses in the Bill of Rights states that:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

This means that the Government cannot encroach on the church’s rights, unlike how it is misinterpreted today, which was the exact purpose of the Magna Carta. No wonder the document is in the National Archives. As Americans we must remember these facts and continue to protect our rights. Gary DeMar concluded his study on the Magna Carta best when he said:

There is an important lesson for us in all this. If England and later America were the beacon of liberty to the world for many centuries, and if that liberty came from the church and its willingness to stand for the reign of Christ in the culture, the modern loss of liberty in America can be traced no farther back than the refusal of the churches in our land to stand for the truth of God. When the churches retreated to their cloisters of personal evangelism and “church business,” the candidates for absolute political power have grown strong. There is only one ideology that can defend freedom successfully: the religion of Jesus Christ. And there is only one institution that can declare that ideology of liberty to the world: The Church of Jesus Christ. When the church remains silent, and when the pastors refuse to remind their congregations of the liberties they have for their birthright – as Archbishop Langton reminded the Englishmen of his time – we will see the progressive triumph of tyranny in this land. If our pastors refuse to follow Archbishop Langton’s example and lead us to liberty, they are not worthy of the name “pastors.” The restoration of liberty can start only from the restoration of the message of comprehensive Biblical worldview, and the crown rights of Jesus Christ over every area of life. Anything less than is treason against the High King and will lead to tyranny.

Read the full American Vision article here:The Forgotten Clauses of the Magna Carta

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