Widespread is the notion among secular thinkers that liberty cannot exist in the context of government established upon Christian principles. A revisionist view of the ideas and forces that led our founders to throw off the shackles of tyranny in these United States is not only pervasive but being propagated with renewed vigor from the purveyors of political correctness. The notion that liberty is the result of enlightenment thinking has all but replaced the reality that is the polar opposite: liberty is actually grounded in the bible.
Further, a politically correct agenda is being forced upon the American people as well as the views connected to that agenda to the exclusion of all others views. From U.S. Senator Barack Obama’s recent attack on the Christian right, to the Montgomery County Board of Education in Maryland simply declaring in its newly approved school curriculum for children that some babies are born homosexual, to hate-crimes legislation, to U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein’s looking into reviving the fairness doctrine concerning radio broadcasters, a concerted effort to suppress all views but those deemed acceptable by the liberal elite is underway. These developments demonstrate the reality that a rejection of the biblical God is that which is destructive of liberty.
Of course, history tells a different story when it comes to the nexus of Christianity and freedom. Not only are Christian principles compatible with liberty, but true liberty cannot be sustained within any context other than a context grounded in and committed to the biblical principles that under gird that liberty. It was Nietzsche’s atheism that led to Hitler’s totalitarian genocide supported by racism and the notion that only supermen could determine what was right for the masses. It was Marx’s atheism grounded in relativism that led to any number of Communist dictatorships that counted individuals as mere pieces of property to be expended for the so-called good of the whole. After all, it was Marx who said, “Force is the midwife of every society pregnant with a new one (Gary North, Marx’s Religion of Revolution, p. 85).”
Contrast the above and the varying tyrannical regimes of which they are only representative with the United States of America, the one nation in the history of the world that dared to ground its government in biblical principles, and indeed the one nation in the history of the world that has put on glorious display the biblical notions of liberty and justice for all. Americans have not always put those principles into practice as they should, but that sad truth is owing to the failure of individual men and/or generations and not the principles upon which the nation was founded. While those principles have been set aside at times, it is the principles themselves that far from quashing liberty, actually establish liberty by law.
Note the opening words of 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…” The theology upon which the nation was founded is obvious.
First, the truths mentioned in the opening line of the Declaration are “self-evident.” The fact that they are self-evident means that they require no proof. They are woven into the fabric of the natural order of things and are plain for all to see and deduce. To those who believe in the biblical God, the equality of all men is self-evident. Only those who deny the biblical God deny such things. Herein is a declaration that nature and natural law are grounded in something outside of themselves, namely, “Nature’s God,” as the founders put it.
Second, beyond that, the notion 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,” is grounded in at least two biblical principles. The first principle is that all human beings are created in the image of God. As such, they have essential dignity by virtue of the image of God in them. If God created them such, then they are free moral agents and cannot be coerced by others: they have liberty. An attack on them is an attack on God Himself. The Scripture is clear: “Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God He made man (Gen. 9:6).”
The second principle flows from the first. The rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not granted by government but by God. It is God who is the Creator. No man has the right to take from someone what God has given Him whether it be life or liberty. Again, the Scripture is plain: it is the Lord who gives and the Lord who takes away (Job 1:21).
Third, the role of government is limited as the Declaration says. It is limited to securing or preserving those rights that have been granted unto the citizens by God. The expansion of government into other areas is an expansion that goes beyond the bounds of Scripture and cannot be anything other than destructive of the liberty that government is charged to preserve. Biblical natural law addresses all issues including abortion, taxes, homosexual marriage, welfare, schools and school curriculum, religion in the public square, establishment, the fairness doctrine, free speech, etc. The only way to understand any of these things rightly is to understand the principles upon which a free society can exist. The only way to understand those principles is to apply the Scriptures to civil society and civil government. A failure to make that application will necessarily and ultimately lead to the loss of that free society.
Fourth, the fact that government derives its just power from the consent of the governed is grounded in the unalienable rights granted by God to men. If no man has the right to take the life of another, then a man may defend himself or his family if attacked. (Self-defense is a biblical principle (Lk. 22:36) that does not negate other biblical concepts of martyrdom, accepting the plundering of one’s home joyfully (Heb. 10:34), or turning the other cheek (Matt. 5:39)). It is the fact that individual men have a right to self-defense or self-preservation that under girds the role of government to defend or preserve a citizenry. The people have a right to enlist a government to serve as their agent in such a task. The concepts of unalienable rights granted by God, individual liberty, and limited government as an agent of the people enables a free and civil society rather than a chaotic or civil society by tyranny to exist.
Each of these four dynamics is grounded in the reality of God and His revelation to us. If Americans who are not Christians, and indeed Christians who are Americans, cherish the notion that “our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” and if we are resolved “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” and if we don’t want these high sounding words to be just that (as they were/are merely to even some who utter them), they must not only repeat the words, but embrace the principles upon which the words are founded and live by them. Let us understand from whence our freedom comes and let us teach it to our children and pray for our government “that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and reverence,” free from tyranny (1 Tim. 2:2).
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About Paul Dean
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
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