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Christianity: Its Role in America’s Founding … And in Our Nation’s Future

The Declaration of Independence did not appeal to the approval of any nations or nor to mankind itself for approval, instead, it appealed “to the Supreme Judge of the world”. Why? Because even the few (NOT many) deists among them held that God created the world and set forth the rules by which humans should act. Thomas Paine, a deist, admitted, “It is the fool only, and not the philosopher, nor even the prudent man, that will live as if there is no God.” As Lincoln said, the Declaration and Constitution are based on permanent truths “applicable to all men at all times”. Instead of men’s will and force, principle would be the basis of America. The Rule of Law, not men, would be based on eternal truths revealed by God in the Bible and Natural Law.

Historian Larry Schweikart says that American Exceptionalism is based on four principles. See, A Patriot’s History of the Modern World, Schweikart & Dougherty, Penguin Books (2012), pp. 4-5.

1. Common Law, i.e., is the belief that God and Nature gave law to the people, and the ruler’s job was merely to enforce the laws that everyone observed and understood as divinely inspired. Authority went UPWARD from the people to the ruler, hence, there’s no such thing as the “divine right of kings”. This common law view came from the Bible and German, then Anglo-Saxon traditions of law and government formed in England over 900 years of experiment and experience. Almost all the rest of Europe adopted civil law, where the government is supreme, from the Romans. For instance, in criminal cases under civil law, you are guilty until proven innocent, and your judges are also your jury. Much of the Common Law was based on Scriptural principles. Deut. 30: 11-20.

2. Christianity with a mostly Protestant (Reformation) view of good and evil, Mankind and its nature before God. They held that each person should read and understand the Bible for himself. Hence, they believed everyone should be educated and able to reason for himself. Church government (and therefore secular government as well) should be democratic and local. Therefore, they were primarily anti-authoritarian in outlook. Mankind was fallen, and though God gave light through revelation and education so that Mankind could accomplish good things, men in power must be checked in that power by Law, and never placed above the Law. They followed the Biblical rule that only good men could rule well. “Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain, and you shall place these over them, as leaders of thousands, and hundreds, and fifties, and of tens.” Exodus 18:21.

3. A free-market economy. Until 1932, America had the freest economy in the world. By 1900 it was the world’s most powerful economy, and has remained so ever since. Again, the Bible encouraged capitalism. God states that He gives us the ability to create wealth. Deut. 8: 6-10, 17-20. Jesus Himself ordered His disciples to do business with the things He gave them until He returned. Luke 19:12-27. Paul said to engage in business, support our families, and that to be idle is a sin. 1 Thess. 4:11-12; 2 Thess. 3:6-10; 1 Tim. 5:8.

4. Finally, Americans believed that ownership of property was a Natural Right, and the government’s job was to protect a person’s right to own and profit from his lands, labor, ideas, and inventions. The Constitution guarantees our rights in contracts, patents, and forbids the government to take private land except for public use by paying just compensation. Again, early Americans believed that Jesus had taught the right to own property and protect it. Matt. 21: 33-40. They believed that He endorsed employers and workers bargaining for labor and wages. Matt. 20:1-16. John Locke, the 17th century philosopher of freedom, to whom the Founders looked for many of their principles, said, “I, have, truly, no property in that which another can by right take from me when he pleases, without my consent. Hence, it is a mistake to think that the supreme legislative power of any commonwealth can do what it will and dispose of the estates of the subject arbitrarily or take any part of them at pleasure.” In his classic Two Treatises on Government “, Locke quoted the Bible over 1,600 times!

It is these four principles that have made America great.

“[T]hat to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” says the Declaration. Early Americans believed they had a duty to vote, and to vote for godly men of principle. “Let each citizen remember at the moment that he is offering his vote that he is…executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God<.” Samuel Adams. They also believed that it was their duty to serve in government if called upon, “because no one lives only for himself.” Rom. 14:7. Our forefathers held the duty to vote so important that through 1841, (50 years after our founding) the participation of qualified voters was 99%!

How did the founders decide, though, when there were no godly people to vote for, as happened in our 2018 election? Founding Mother Abigail Adams tells us. She was having trouble deciding whether to vote for Aaron Burr or Thomas Jefferson for president. Burr was a scoundrel who later committed treason against the US. Jefferson, once a close friend of Abigail and John Adams, had become John’s bitter political rival. Resigning as his vice-president, he directed a scandalous, libelous, campaign to undermine Adams thereafter. In addition, he had been in favor of the French Revolution, even with its mass murders. Abigail wrote:

Never were a people placed in more difficult circumstances than the virtuous part of our countrymen are at the present crisis. I have turned, and turned, and overturned in my mind at various times the merits and demerits of the two candidates. Long acquaintance, private friendship and the full belief that the private character of Jefferson is much purer than Burr…inclines me to Jefferson…. If we ever saw a day of darkness in America, I fear this one.

Like us in the last election, her choices were not the best, but she chose the one she believed would do the least damage to the country. Her example should be followed. Rather than a compromise of principle, she believed she was doing what she could to SLOW decay instead of ignoring the choice and therefore accelerate the rot if Burr won. Jefferson’s private character won out, was a pretty good president, and a few years later, made up with the Adams’ and was like a brother to them again. It was on this principle that I voted FOR Trump, AGAINST Hillary. Trump is turning out better than I expected, though not a Conservative. He claims to have found Christ and has rolled back government control in many areas.

Heeding the teaching and practice of our founders, let start NOW to find someone for 2020 that fulfills in practice the qualifications of Exodus 18:21, from dogcatcher on up. Once that’s done, then all godly people should vote.

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Greg Hopkins

Greg Hopkins is a recovering lawyer, city prosecutor, police Use-of-Force law instructor, former city judge in two towns and criminal defense lawyer. He’s been teaching the Bible to teens and adults for 40 years. He now trains CCP holders and armed church security teams in self defense law. He also does expert witnessing in firearms and self defense cases. His book is A Time To Kill: The Myth of Christian Pacifism, on the Bible and Self Defense.