THE SANCTITY OF PROMISES
State intervention into the setting of the terms and prices of contracts has become a double-edged sword. Not only have such policies as maximum hours and minimum wages, comparable worth, and unconscionability undermined the liberty of contract, they have threatened to subvert the sanctity of one’s own promises. Without assurance that people will be held to perform their contract promises, the stability and confidence of commercial relationships will be lost. Recent efforts that have substituted a situation ethic for God’s absolute standards in the performance of contract promises, if allowed to continue and to multiply, could send America’s business world into a chaos of uncertainty and confusion.
Contract law in the western world has been based for years upon a Biblical foundation. Hugo Grotius, a Dutch jurist of the 17th century, wrote:
- On this subject we are supplied with noble arguments from the divine oracles which inform us that God, himself, who can be limited by no established rule of law, would act contrary to his own nature if he did not perform his promises. From whence it follows, that the obligation to perform promises, spring from the nature of the unchangeable justice, which is an attribute of God, and common to all who bear his image in the use of reason.32 From this premise Grotius concluded:
- It is a most sacred command of nature and guides the whole order of human life, that every man fulfill his contracts.33
An eighteenth century Swiss jurist, Emerich de Vattel elaborated upon this conclusion as follows:
- It is shown by the law of nature, that he who has made a promise to any one, has conferred on him a true right to require the thing promised . . ..34
- Vattel further observed:
There would be no more security, no longer any commerce between mankind, did they not believe themselves obliged to preserve their faith and to keep their word.35
ALWAYS BEAR IN MIND THAT YOUR OWN RESOLUTION TO SUCCEED IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ANY OTHER ONE THING
WHAT IS POLICY?
A POLICY IS A DELIBERATE SYSTEM OF PRINCIPLES TO GUIDE DECISIONS + ACHIEVE RATIONAL OUTCOMES. A POLICY IS A STATEMENT OF INTENT IMPLEMENTED AS A PROCEDURE OR PROTOCOL. POLICIES ARE GENERALLY ADOPTED BY A GOVERNANCE BODY WITHIN AN ORGANIZATION.
WHAT IS EDUCATIONAL – POLICY?
EDUCATIONAL – POLICY CONSIST OF PRINCIPLES + GOVERNMENT POLICIES IN THE EDUCATIONAL SPHERE AS WELL AS THE COLLECTION OF LAWS + RULES THAT GOVERN THE OPERATION OF EDUCATION SYSTEMS. EDUCATIONAL POLICY ANALYSIS IS THE SCHOLARLY STUDY OF EDUCATION POLICY.
WHAT IS THE EDUCATIONAL POLICY OF EVANGELICAL ALUMNI FOUNDATION?
“THE GOD OF THE BIBLE IS NOT A GOD OF MAN’S OWN MAKING OR CHOOSING”
WE ARE A FOUNDATION FUELED BY CHRISTIAN ETHICS + BY GOD THE CREATOR, WHO SET NATURE IN ORDER + MOTION IN ACCORDANCE WITH NATURAL LAWS; GOD THE LAW-GIVER WHO COMMANDS ALL HUMAN CREATURES TO FOLLOW THE PRINCIPLES OF NATURAL LAW + NATURAL RIGHTS; GOD THE JUDGE WHO CALLED HIS PEOPLE TO “ESTABLISH COURTS OF JUSTICE” FOR THE PROTECTION OF JUSTICE + MERCY IN EACH COMMUNITY;
GOD THE COVENANT – KEEPER WHO CALLED HIS CHOSEN PEOPLE OF ISRAEL TO FOLLOW THE PARTICULAR COMMANDS OF THE TORAH;
AND GOD THE INTELLECTUS AGENS WHO GUIDES EACH GOOD PERSON TO SELF-EVIDENT TRUTHS + GUIDES EACH GREAT LEGAL TRADITION, MOST NOTABLY THE COMMON LAW, TO EVER GREATER APPROXIMATION OF DIVINE JUSTICE.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, God has warned man to pay to God that which he has vowed.36 That law was revealed by God through Moses in Deuteronomy 23:21:
- When thou shalt vow a vow unto the Lord thy God, thou shalt not slack to pay it: For the Lord thy God will surely require it of thee; and it would be sin in thee.
The sanctity of a vow to God is absolute. Neither fraud nor foolishness justifies its nonperformance.37 Therefore, the writer of Proverbs has warned that “it is a snare to the man . . . after vows to make inquiry.”38 Even so, if a man keeps a vow even to his own hurt, God has promised to bless him richly.39
These Biblical commands concerning man’s vows to God are not limited to man’s relationship to God. Rather, the sanctity-of-promise principle has been extended to man’s relationship to his fellow man:
- You should be careful to perform what goes out from your lips, just as you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God, what you have promised.
This law of promise may be illustrated through several examples of mutual agreements entered into by men as recorded in the book of Genesis.
Abraham and Abimilech exchanged promises to resolve a dispute over a water well. They swore not to deal falsely with each other and sealed their agreement with an oath.41 Isaac and Abimilech later affirmed this agreement in like manner after Abraham’s death.42 Abraham extracted an oath from his servant before sending him off to fetch a bride for Isaac.43 Before Jacob fed Esau, Esau promised to sell his birthright.44 In the book of Joshua, Rahab and the Israelite spies exchanged promises as consideration for her hiding them from the Jericho king’s men45 and Joshua and his men honored their promise to protect the Gibeonites from the latter’s enemies.46 Believers and unbelievers alike relied upon the “law of nature and of nature’s God” that obligated a man to perform his promises to his fellow man.
At the heart of God’s law governing the sanctity of promise is God’s faithfulness to perform his promises. Because man is created in the image of God, God expects man to be no less faithful than He. Yet because of sin man has not met that high standard as Numbers 23:19 attests:
- God is not a man that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: Hath he said, and shall he not do it? Or hath he spoken, and shall not he make it good?
This record of broken promises led God to authorize civil rulers to protect those men who keep their promises from the harm caused by those who break their promises, if the activity in which they are engaged is subject to the jurisdiction of these authorities. Thus, Chief Justice John Marshall in 1827 acknowledged that the civil ruler had a duty to furnish a remedy for such breaches of contract. Indeed, the several early state constitutions guaranteed
- That every freeman for every injury done him in his goods, lands, or person by any other person, ought to have remedy by the course of the law of the land, and ought to have justice and right for the injury done him freely without sale, fully without any denial, speedily without delay, according to the law of the land.
The “law of the land” referred to in these early constitutions was the common law. The common law of contracts reflected the Biblical principle of the sanctity of promise. Fordham University law professors, John Calamari and Joseph Perillo, have acknowledged that the “natural law” of sanctity of promise was rooted in the belief that “failure to perform a promise made by a free act of the will was an offense against the Deity.”
Again, Chief Justice John Marshall captured well the sanctity-of-promise principle in his opinion striking down an effort by the Georgia legislature to reacquire land that an earlier corrupted legislature had sold. The Chief Justice ruled that such sale even though obtained through fraud and bribery could not be rescinded if a good faith purchaser had obtained title to the land sold. Therefore, he found the Georgia statute rescinding that sale an unconstitutional “law impairing the obligations of contract.”
For Marshall, the liberty of contract guaranteed by this clause was “hand-in-glove” with the sanctity of obligation created by an individual’s exercise of his liberty. This was so because the making of the contract, itself, created legal obligations that, in turn, vested “absolute rights” that no legislature could annul.
Under such applications of the doctrine of “unconscionability,” courts will inevitably favor the poor over the rich, the powerless over the powerful, and the fool over the intelligent. Yet God revealed to Moses in Exodus 23:2-3 that showing partiality to the poor was a serious miscarriage of justice:
- Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou speak in a cause to decline after many to wrest judgment; neither shalt thou countenance a poor man in his cause.
This principle of partiality was the same as the one governing the judge who is tempted to favor the powerful over the powerless:
- Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment; thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty: But in righteousness shalt thou judge the neighbor.
Not only do the modern doctrines of “commercial impracticability” violate God’s command to be impartial in judgment, they deprive the “excused” promise-breaker from the blessings that God has for promise-keepers. In Psalm 15, David gives testimony that anyone who “sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not” shall abide with God in his “tabernacle” and shall dwell on God’s “holy hill.” So there are significant blessings that a man will receive if he keeps his promises. Moreover, David adds that the one who keeps his promises “shall never be moved,” because those who seek first God’s righteousness shall have every material need met.53
In contrast, those who break their promises are “fools.”54 While they may be relieved of a burden in the short-run, they will not profit in the long-run: “Ill-gotten gains do not profit.”55 Indeed, while he seeks the quick and easy remedy of relieving himself of the immediate cost of his promises, he will inevitably lose the very prosperity that he desires.56 A civil ruler has been established by God to do “good” to those under his authority.57 If he is to perform his God-required duty, then he should enforce contract promises according to the absolute standards of the law of God.
EAUA TEACHERS FUND, LLPEVANGELICAL ALUMNI FOUNDATION