By Doug Newman
July 5, 2007
Posted at Old
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America, we hear time and time again, was founded on Christian principles. However, we almost never stop to examine what this means.
Another July 4 has come and gone. Like most holidays, it is not a time for philosophical reflection. Rather, it is for fireworks, trips to the beach or to the mountains, cookouts, baseball games and sales at the mall. Oh sure, your pastor may say something thanking God for the liberty we Americans enjoy. But this is about as far as it goes.
231 years ago in Philadelphia, 56 men signed their names to a declaration, not only of independence from Britain, but of a set of philosophical propositions for human government. While the Declaration of Independence is not ostensibly a Christian document, God’s Fingerprints are all over it.
Consider this passage from the Declaration of Independence.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
This passage presupposes the following:
In addition to this passage, the Declaration of Independence refers to God three other times. The first paragraph speaks of “Nature’s God”. The last paragraph speaks of “the Supreme Judge of the World” and “the Protection of Divine Providence.” Some of the Founders were Christian and some were not. Some of them had beliefs that were downright zooey. However, they were far more Christian in their views on government than most of today’s “Christian conservatives.” Indeed, I would rather be governed by Thomas Jefferson and 1300 of his philosophical soul mates than by James Dobson and his 1300 staff members at Focus on the Family.
“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” have their roots in Scripture. Genesis 2:7 says that God gave us life. Galatians 5:1 says that Christ made us free and that we shall no longer be yoked into bondage – period. Ecclesiastes 3:13 exhorts us to pursue happiness.
The idea that we are created equal has profound biblical underpinnings. Time and again in Scripture, we see that the high and the mighty have no special position in God’s Eyes. King Solomon had more wealth than Bill Gates, more wisdom than Socrates and more women than Mick Jagger, and yet he concluded that it was all vanity. Jesus, The King of the Universe, never held an office, never commanded an army, never wrote a book, never invented anything, never broke a record and never had a dime. However, He lived the most amazing life in human history. God may give us various gifts and talents, and He rebukes those who waste them -- Matthew 25:14-30. However, none of our worldly achievements sets us above anyone else in God’s Eyes.
Malcolm Muggeridge, the late British author, journalist and Christian apologist had this to say about equality: “Only as children of God are we equal; all other claims to equality -- social, economic, racial, intellectual, sexual -- only serve in practice to intensify inequality.” Consider “equality” in a communist country: one percent of the people are equalizers, while the other 99 percent are equalizees.
Since we are all created equal, no man should have too much power over another. Modern mega-government – with its endless laws, regulations, taxes, courts, fines, licenses, permits, police, prohibitions, mandates, censorship, numbering, surveillance, raids, prisons, labor camps, forced migrations, pogroms, gulags and holocausts – is not of God. It renders to Caesar not merely what is Caesar's, but everything Caesar demands -- Matthew 22:21, Luke 20:25. (1) Christians are to be servants of others – Matthew 20:25-26 – and not their masters. While God ordains civil government – Romans 13 – Christians are never to be other people’s slaves – I Corinthians 7:23 – or slave masters – I Timothy 1:10.
This idea that if we just elect enough Christians and they just pass enough laws we will arrive at some sort of optimal Christian society has no biblical basis. Christianity cannot be imposed – Revelation 3:20. Oh sure, we can pass laws that sound Christian until the cows come home. However, these laws are superficial at best and they do not restrain our sinful appetites – Colossians 2:20-23.
Let us now consider the example of the Life of Jesus Christ. He only initiates force one time, i.e. when He drives the moneychangers out of the Temple -- Matthew 21:12. However, He is within His rights to do this as they are defiling His Father’s House. Other than this He never initiates force. He has no political agenda. He never joins a party of a faction. He never puts a sword at anyone’s throat and says, “Follow Me!” If the King of the Universe never implements force in the conduct of His Ministry, where do modern day followers of Christ get off supporting the initiation of force both domestically and overseas and calling it “Christian”?
So why do we never learn about this in the schools? Many Christians decry the supreme Court’s 1962 decision removing prayer from the schools. While this was a bad thing, a far worse thing was when Christians acquiesced in the gradual federal takeover of education in this country. Government schools have no basis either in the Bible or in any of America’s Founding documents. State education is, however, a policy prescription of the Communist Manifesto.
I am very thankful for the dedicated Christians who teach in government schools. However, no matter how many Christians are involved in government education, it has no basis in Scripture. It cannot be Christianized. Notre Dame is run by the Catholic Church, so therefore it glorifies Catholicism; BYU is run by the Mormon Church, so therefore it glorifies Mormonism; government schools are run by the state, so therefore they glorify statism. As government expands, liberty contracts and the church and the family become increasingly irrelevant.
This is happening incrementally in America. Why? Because we have disregarded our Founding principles. Christians, who have a huge stake in sustaining these principles, have by and large rejected the Kingdom of God and embraced the kingdom of man. (2) We have exchanged God's gift of liberty for the false promises of the modern superstate. Is it any wonder so many of us are so frustrated? We have lost our Christian worldview.
Before he went to bed on July 4, 1776, King George III made the following entry in his diary: “Nothing important happened today.” In all fairness to the deranged monarch, telecommunications did not yet exist, so he had no way of knowing of the day’s events in Philadelphia. The implications of what happened that day were profound, not only historically and politically, but also biblically.
Let us remember the biblical roots of our liberty every July 4. Better yet, let us remember the biblical roots of our liberty every day.
(1) Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution delegates 18 powers to the federal government. The Tenth Amendment forbids Uncle Sam from engaging in anything not specifically authorized here.
(2) For a wonderful examination of the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of man, listen to these sermons by Pastor Gregory Boyd of Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, Minnesota. His thesis is that, while God ordains civil government, the more Christians immerse themselves in the kingdoms of the world, they become worldly in the worst way.
America may or may not be a Christian nation, but one thing is for sure, Jesus did not condone the notion of "nation." No one following the principles and practices of Jesus would have anything to do with establishing a "nation." Christians might; Jesus--NEVER! -- NNIt is my understanding of the work of the money changers in the Temple that they were engaged in a coerced market rather than a free market. They had, apparently with the collusion of Temple priests, cornered the market on so-called Temple shekels. These were then exchanged at a very high mark up, exclusively by these preferentially treated exchangers. In other words, there was already coercion and fraud on the side of the money changers to justify intervention by force. So, I do not regard this incident as a clear example of initiatory force. Rather, it appears to me to be justifiable retaliatory and defensive force. -- JD
It is a certainty to those who have studied the issue that Jesus Christ had a deep effect on the political structure of Israel and Rome . . . but without being "political". His lesson to us is to have no concern with the comings and goings of national politics, but instead to "seek ye first the Kingdom of God". I am still consistent in saying that I would NEVER say that the Church should refrain from speaking on political issues, however, in doing so, it should not let itself be drawn away from our Foundation and Source in the Word of God, and into dialectical arguments that make our failure inevitable. We should denounce evil and evil doers, just as Christ did. In this way, we both fulfill our commission to be witnesses ("martyrs" in Latin) and also we'll have a side-effect on the [dialectical] politics around us.
I am changing my thinking here.
Another small detail has come to mind lately. Doug, where in the Bible does God lay out and describe the "rights" or "inalienable rights" He has bequeathed to us, according to Americanism? Nowhere? A friend helped me see that the Word does point out what God DID give us: He didn't give us "rights", but He gave us COMMANDS.
Now please put up with me a little longer. "Rights" come from military and social constructs and Enlightenment philosophy; (you know: "human rights", "The Rights of Man", "civil rights", etc.) the Enlightenment placed natural "science" and human equality on the same plane as Scripture and revelation and man as equal before God, and so we are told this resulted in the defeat of "superstition"; modernism is "detente" between Man's will and God's will, between science and revelation. What modernism really means is the end of the supremacy of revelation in human affairs and the ascension of science in its place (or at least on par). We don't fully appreciate the drastic effect of the predominance of dialectics and science in our daily living. -- TH
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Freely Speaking: Essays by Doug Newman