Tag Archives: Declaration of Independence

Endowed, Not Evolved: Why Man’s Origin Matters to Our Rights

By Gary Palmer

The recent attack against Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s belief that mankind was created by God raises deeper questions than the usual “evolution” questions.

It appears that there is more to these protests than concerns for science or the typical hypersensitivity that many liberals have any time a high-profile leader says anything that disputes their orthodoxy concerning the origin of man. Skepticism about the belief that man is the product of random chance or evolved in the same way as other species strikes at the core of what some people believe about man and government.

In America, the rights of man are inseparably linked to the origin of man. If mankind evolved from the slime of the earth as the result of a completely random mixture of chemicals and elements, then he obviously has no Creator. If there is no Creator, then there is no endowment of rights and the Declaration’s assertion that “all men are created equal” and are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” is meaningless. If man has no rights that pre-date government, then any rights we may have are not unalienable and we are simply at the mercy of government.

Moreover, the whole scope and purpose of government is changed. If there are no endowed rights that precede government, the Declaration’s assertion that the legitimate purpose of government is “to secure these rights” is also meaningless. Rather than deriving its power from the consent of the people for the purpose of protecting the people’s God-given rights, government becomes the originator of all rights and the grantor of all benefits and entitlements.

It is clear that the Founding Fathers agreed wholeheartedly with the Declaration’s assertion that we have a Creator whose law of human rights precedes and supersedes all laws of man and government. To believe anything else would deprive them of the firm basis for the form of government they designed: a government whose purpose was to protect their God-given rights and whose power is derived from the consent of the people. Sam Adams and James Otis wrote, “the right of freedom being the gift of God almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift.” They added, “There can be no prescription old enough to supersede the law of nature, and the grant of God almighty, who has given all men a natural right to be free ….”

Alexander Hamilton wrote, “The sacred rights of mankind are not to be rummaged for among parchments and musty records. They are written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the Hand of the Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.” And Thomas Jefferson, the principle author of the Declaration, wrote that the sole basis for American freedom was the conviction among the people “that these liberties are the gift of God.”

Consequently, attacking those who believe that God created man extends well beyond an argument about the origins of life; it is also includes the origins of our government and the relationship between the people and the government as understood and intended by our Founding Fathers. The entire blueprint of the United States is based on a belief that God made man and that He endowed all men, regardless of their race or religion-or absence of religion-with unalienable rights. If man is nothing more than the result of millions of years of random processes, then there is no basis for our rights other than the dictates of whatever government happens to be in power.

If we are not God’s creation, then it is logical to conclude that every supposition for the purpose and scope of government as understood by our Founding Fathers is irrelevant and subject to repeal. If we, as a nation, no longer believe that our rights are endowed by our Creator, then those rights are not unalienable and we have no basis for complaint when federal bureaucrats or activist judges take them away.

In that regard, a politician’s belief about the origin of man could well be an insight into what they believe about our unalienable rights and the power of government over us. A recent Rasmussen poll indicated that 69 percent of Americans no longer believe our current government has the consent of the people to govern.

Consequently, the debate over the origin of man has a deep importance to our nation.

Gary Palmer is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.

Thomas Jefferson, the American Mind and the Cosmic System

By John W. Whitehead

On May 26, 1776, John Adams, who represented Massachusetts at the Second Continental Congress, wrote exultantly to his friend James Warren that “every post and every day rolls in upon us independence like a torrent.” Adams had reason for rejoicing, for this was what he and others had hoped and worked for almost since the Congress had convened in May of the previous year. It helped, to be sure, that George III had proclaimed the colonies in rebellion and this encouraged the Americans to take him at his word. Later, George Washington proceeded to drive General Howe out of Boston. This demonstrated that Americans need not stand on the defensive, but could vindicate themselves in military strategy quite as well as in political.

However exciting to some, America was going through the difficult process of being born. In any event, the stage of history was being set. On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia introduced three resolutions calling for independence, foreign alliances, and confederation. Some wanted unity and voted to postpone the final vote for three weeks. This allowed time for debate and for the hesitant and fainthearted to come over or step out. Meantime, Congress appointed a committee to prepare “a Declaration of Independence.” This committee consisted of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, and Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson had come to the Continental Congress the previous year, bringing with him a reputation for literature, science, and a talent for composition. His writings, said John Adams, “were remarkable for their peculiar felicity of expression.” In part because of his rhetorical gifts, in part because he already had a reputation of working quickly, in part because it was thought that Virginia, as the oldest, the largest, and the most deeply committed of the states, should take the lead, the committee unanimously turned to Jefferson to prepare a draft declaration.

We know a great deal about the composition of that draft. Jefferson wrote it standing at his desk (still preserved) in the second-floor parlor of a young German bricklayer named Graff, and he completed it in two weeks. We have his word for it that he “turned neither to book nor pamphlet” and that all the authority of the Declaration “rests on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or in the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, etc.” We can accept Jefferson’s statement made fifty years later that the object of the Declaration was to be “an appeal to the tribunal of the world”–that “decent respect to the opinions of Mankind” invoked in the Declaration itself. However, in Jefferson’s words (as he wrote to James Madison in 1823), it certainly was “not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of; not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take. Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion.”

The Declaration of Independence, then, was an expression of the American mind that was prevalent in the colonies of that time. As Jefferson stated, the Declaration contained no new ideas, nor was there any originality in it on his part. He merely articulated what people of that day were thinking.

The basic elements of the American mind are set forth in the opening paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration opens by stating:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands, which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

The opening paragraph of the Declaration states that the colonists are impelled or required to separate from Great Britain for certain reasons:

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,–That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

This preamble sums up with lucidity, logic, and eloquence the philosophy which presided over the argument for the American Revolution, the creation of a new political system, and the vindication of the rights of man–all in less than two hundred words. Here we find expressed what is universal rather than parochial, what is permanent rather than transient, in the American Revolution. Where most of the body of the Declaration is retrospective, the preamble is prospective. In the years to come, it would be translated into the basic institutions of the American republic.

Consider the opening words of the Declaration: “When, in the Course of human events…” That places it, and the Revolution, at once in the appropriate setting, against the backdrop of not merely American or British but universal history. That connects it with the experience of people everywhere–not only at a moment in history, but in every era. This concept of the place of American history is underlined by successive phrases of the opening sentence. It points to a future of hope and optimism.

Thus, the new nation is to assume its place “among the powers of the earth.” It is not the laws of the British empire, or even of history, but of “Nature and of Nature’s God” which entitled Americans to an equal station. Moreover, it is “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind” that requires this justification. No other political document of the eighteenth century proclaims so broad a purpose. No political document of our own day associates the United States so boldly with universal history in the cosmic system.

The American mind of the colonial period did not acknowledge a different order of truth, one for the lofty realms of mathematics, another for the more earthbound regions, and still another for society, politics, and the economy. While clearly discernible in the natural world, the cause of “Nature and of Nature’s God” applied equally to the world of politics and to the law. Benjamin Franklin, as a young man, said:

How exact and regular is everything in the natural World! How wisely in every part contriv’d. We cannot here find the least Defect. Those who have studied the mere animal and vegetable Creation demonstrate that nothing can be more harmonious and beautiful! All the heavenly bodies, the Stars and Planets, are regulated with the utmost Wisdom! And can we suppose less care to be taken in the Order of the Moral than in the natural System?

From such a God-ordered system, certain truths are self-evident. To Jefferson, these self-evident truths formed a total reality. He listed seven of them:

1. That all men are created equal;
2. That human beings are endowed by their Creator with “unalienable” rights;
3. That these rights include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;
4. That it is to secure these rights that government is instituted among men;
5. That governments are instituted to derive their powers from the consent of the governed;
6. That when a form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it becomes illegitimate and a citizenry may alter or abolish it; and,
7. That people have the right, then, to institute new governments designed to effect their safety and happiness.
Continue reading

Ohio Right To Life-Definitions & Candidate Endorsements

On 2 November, Ohioans will elect or re-elect many state officials. From governor to state representatives and senators, those elected will influence the outcome of a number of important and on-going issues including education, economic growth, jobs, health care, and others. Most importantly, the furtherance of fundamental rights like freedom of religion, free speech and press, and the right to life will be effected by those who Ohioans elect to office. Along with powerful special interest groups like ACLU, ACORN, AFL-CIO, NEA, Chamber of Commerce, Tea Party, Ohio Right to Life (ORTL), elected officials and their party shape the definitions of our inherent and legal rights.

However, the right to life was defined at the founding of the United States. In the Declaration of Independence, the right to life was “endowed by our Creator” (God) as an unalienable right,” which means neither government nor any other authority has a right to deprive any citizen of it. The only exception was first delineated in the Declaration and reiterated in the 5th and 14th Amendments. Government only has authority to deprive citizens of life for a capital crime i.e., murder, treason, etc. after due process of law (trial by jury for such crime).

The word “life” implies all developmental stages including conception, birth, and the like. From a developmental point of view, abortion is the deprivation of human life, and the only reasonable exception is when a pregnancy actually threatens the life of a mother.

The unborn can commit no crime. And, even if a pregnant mother did commit a capital crime, the unborn human could not be charged as an accessory because a developing child could not be regarded as a member (limb) of the mother’s body. Although attached by cellular DNA and umbilical cord, the developing child is still a separate human.

The views of those elected concerning life and abortion are important to the future of our state and nation. It is important because all other rights are contingent upon the right to life. Democrats tend to favor the right to kill the unborn and many Republicans tend to oppose it. Many Democrats often qualify their position by claiming they want to make abortion rare while failing to pass relevant legislation to achieve that goal. To achieve such a goal, legislation would have to make abortion legal only for a narrowly defined set of exceptions. If Democrats passed such legislation, they would be opposed by a majority of the political Left. Yet, not all Republicans oppose abortion. Many are closet proponents. They get elected by either avoiding the topic or by promoting the party position.

One can only hope those political candidates endorsed by the Ohio Right to Life are genuinely pro-life. Nevertheless, the following list are those men and women who the OTRL believe will defend Ohioans right to life.

Executive Branch
John Kaisch for Governor
Jon Husted for Secretary of State
David Yost for Auditor of State
Mike Dewine for Attorney General
Josh Mandel for Treasurer of State

Supreme Court
Judith Lanzinger for Supreme Court
Mareen O’Connor for Supreme Court

Ohio House of Representatives – Greene County
Jarrod Martin (Beavercreek) District 70
Robert Hackett (Springfield) District 84

For other Ohio District Representatives and Senators, go to Ohio Votes For Life

The ORTL also endorses several candidates for the U.S. Congress. They include

Steve Austria (Beavercreek) for U.S. House of Representatives and
Rob Portman for U.S. Senate.

For more information, go to The Ohio Right to Life (ORTL) voter website at www.ohiovotesforlife.org.

Can America Restore Its Judeo-Christian Heritage?

By Prof. Paul Eidelberg

Do you know that the American Declaration of Independence is a theocratic as well as a political document? Do you know, as Lincoln knew, that the Declaration contains the philosophy of the American Constitution?

The signers of that revolutionary document justified their rebellion against the laws of Great Britain by appealing to a Higher Law, “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” Judging, however, from the Senate confirmation hearings of Sonia Sotomayer and Elena Kagan, neither of these new Supreme Court justices understands or agrees that only God can endow the American people with the rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” and make them “inalienable.” Mr. Obama and his appointees do not understand that without this Higher Law doctrine, the Declaration’s long list of grievances against the British Crown would be nothing more than arbitrary expressions of discontent having no moral justification.

In the absence of that Higher Law, however, the Court can rule that “everything is justiciable,” including those inalienable God-given rights. These smug, know-nothing individuals would strip the Constitution of any moral foundation and open the door to unlimited government or tyranny.

Americans needs reminding that the laws and institutions prescribed in their Constitution were designed to preclude the evils enumerated in the Declaration. The Framers of the Constitution effectively translated into political and institutional terms the theological manifesto of that document.[i] Yet, no one deemed the Government established under the Constitution a theocracy—quite apart from the First Amendment’s clause regarding religion. That Amendment, as initially understood, simply prohibited Congress from establishing a State religion. Revolted by the example of England, the American Founding Fathers refused to sacralize the modern nation-state, which they deemed powerful enough without investing it with religious authority. America’s monotheistic culture was opposed to a state religion.

That culture was rooted in the Judeo-Christian heritage, in which not the State but the People are sovereign under God.[ii] If we think within the context of such a culture and maintain intellectual detachment from our present culture of Triumphant Secularism, it will be obvious that the First Amendment does not prevent Congress from passing laws supportive of the ethical monotheism or universal moral principles of the Declaration.

The ethical monotheism of early America was of paramount significance. Many early American statesmen and educators were schooled in Hebraic civilization. The second President of the United States, John Adams, a Harvard graduate and signer of the Declaration, had this to say of the Jewish people:

The Jews have done more to civilize men than any other nation…. They are the most glorious Nation that ever inhabited the earth. The Romans and their Empire were but a bauble in comparison to the Jews. They have given religion to three-quarters of the Globe and have influenced the affairs of Mankind more, and more happily than any other Nation, ancient or modern.[iii]

The curriculum at Harvard, like those of other early American colleges and universities, was designed by learned and liberal men of “Old Testament” persuasion. Harvard president Increase Mather (1685-1701) was an ardent Hebraist. His writings contain numerous quotations from the Talmud as well as from the works of Sa’adia Gaon, Rashi, Maimonides and other classic Jewish commentators.

Yale University president Ezra Stiles readily discoursed on the Mishna and Talmud with visiting rabbinical authorities. Hebrew and the study of Hebraic laws and institutions were an integral part of Yale’s as well as of Harvard’s curriculum. Much the same may be said of King’s College (later Columbia University), William and Mary, Rutgers, Princeton, Dartmouth, and Brown University. Hebrew learning was then deemed a basic element of liberal education.

This attitude was not merely academic. On May 31, 1775, almost on the eve of the American Revolution, Harvard president Samuel Langdon, addressing the Congress of Massachusetts Bay, declared: “Every nation … has a right to set up over itself any form of government which to it may appear most conducive to its common welfare. The civil polity of Israel is doubtless an excellent general model.” (Emphasis added.)

Although Jefferson was no admirer of the Hebrew Bible, he framed the Declaration with a view to galvanizing the Bible-reading public in support of the Revolution. When he became President he supported Baptist churches.

During the colonial and constitution-making period, the Americans, especially the Puritans, adapted various Hebraic laws for their own governance. The legislation of New Haven, for example, was based on the premise that “the judicial laws of God, as they were delivered by Moses … being neither … ceremonial, nor ha[ving] any reference to Canaan, shall … generally bind all offenders, till they be branched out into particulars hereafter.”

Of course, the Jewish roots of the American Constitution should not obscure the fact that America is first and foremost a Christian nation (Barack Obama to the contrary notwithstanding). This was confirmed in a ruling of the U.S. Supreme Court as late as 1892! In the case of Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States, Justice Brewer wrote:

? If we examine the constitutions of the various states, we find in them a constant recognition of religious obligations. Every Constitution of every one of the … states contains language which, either directly or by clear implication, recognizes a profound reverence for religion, and an assumption that its influence in all human affairs is essential to the wellbeing of the community.

? Even the Constitution of the United States, which is supposed to have little touch upon the private life of the individual, contains in the First Amendment a declaration common to the constitutions of all the states, as follows: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”… [and yet] also provides in Article I, Section 7, a provision common to many constitutions, that the executive shall have ten days (Sundays excepted) within which to determine whether he will approve or veto a bill. There is no dissonance in these declarations. … They affirm and reaffirm that this is a religious nation…. These are not individual sayings, declarations of private persons. They are organic utterances. They speak the voice of the entire people.

? In People v. Ruggles (1811), Chancellor Kent, the great commentator on American law, speaking as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of New York, said [in a case involving blasphemous publications]: “The people of this state, in common with the people of this country, profess the general doctrines of Christianity as the rule of their faith and practice, and to scandalize the author of these doctrines is not only, in a religious point of view, extremely impious, but, even in respect to the obligations due to society, is a gross violation of decency and good order. . . . The free, equal, and undisturbed enjoyment of religious opinion, whatever it may be, and free and decent discussions on any religious subject, is granted and secured; but to revile, with malicious and blasphemous contempt, the religion professed by almost the whole community is an abuse of that right.

? Nor are we bound by any expressions in the Constitution … either not to punish at all, or to punish indiscriminately the like attacks upon the religion of Mahomet or of the Grand Lama, and for this plain reason, that the case [before us] assumes that we are a Christian people, and the morality of the country is deeply engrafted upon Christianity, and not upon the doctrines or worship of those impostors.

Chancellor Kent’s denigration of Muhammad and the Grand Lama is of course shocking. But we were speaking of the Judeo-Christian heritage underlying the Declaration and the Constitution.

This heritage of “natural rights” or of “natural law” has been eviscerated by the academic doctrine of moral relativism and its political counterpart the Progressive Movement. Although the institutional structure of the Constitution remains largely intact, the Supreme Court’s amoral and government-expanding interpretation of various constitutional amendments has spawned unfettered freedom of expression and indiscriminate equality, which have vulgarized and secularized America and buried the meritocracy that was to coexist with democracy. America now has a leveling and meaningless or “evolutionary constitution.” The immutable “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” have been replaced by historical relativism. Evolution has produced a leviathan, a “nanny state,” dispensing “entitlements” which not only stifles entrepreneurship. Rewards without effort undermine the sense of shame.

This is the smug, know-nothing agenda of America’s first anti-American president. Can America overcome this degradation and restore its Judeo-Christian heritage?


[i] I do not ignore the influence of Locke and Montesquieu, whose mentality, however, is hardly conceivable apart from the Biblical tradition.

[ii] This paragraph (except for references to the Torah) is indebted to Professor Will Morrisey in an email to the author. I am especially grateful for his reference to the cultural aspect of the First Amendment.

[iii] Cited in Pathways to the Torah (Jerusalem: Aish HaTorah Publications, 1988), p. A6.2. See Paul Eidelberg, The Philosophy of the American Constitution: A Reinterpretation of the Intentions of the Founding Fathers (New York: Free Press, 1968; University Press of America, 1988, Appendix 2.

Source: Edited transcript of the Eidelberg Report, Israel National Radio, September 6, 2010.

States’ Rights and Nullification?

By Andy Myers

Are you kidding me. Of course I’m for it. Why? Well for one thing it was paramount in establishing limited government so that we could enjoy what so eloquently was stated in 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, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

This of course was just a pretext leading up to even more limitations upon the government as the Constitution outlines in Article I Section 8.

So why then with the supreme law of limited government so expressly written by the founders could so many have such difficulty in understanding limited and government? Granted those two words define irony.

Fortunately though these statesmen came up with these amazing amendments to the Constitution called the Bill of Rights. Now these aren’t your rights. These are restrictions and limitations put upon the government so that you could enjoy the unalienable rights mentioned above. But wait. It gets even better. To make sure, as if it wasn’t clear enough that government was to be limited to the extent that the states and the people were to be sovereign, they included the ninth and tenth amendments which in a nutshell says, Article I Sect. 8 is ALL the powers you are granted and that if it isn’t in that clause..to bad Jack–the power is retained in the States and or the people. You really only need a grade school education and a little common sense to vindicate this side of the rule of law.

But the declaration above cannot survive the atmosphere of big government that we have today.

In his commentary published on Friday in Xenia Daily Gazette’s Opinion section, Steven Conn was correct when he said, “Lincoln was really the first ‘big government’ president.” And he was correct in pointing out the irony of the tea party folks holding a rally in front of a memorial of a president who shredded the “rule of law” which is what the tea party folks are supposedly championing-limited government, states rights, individual liberty, free markets and a limited foreign policy based on our charter documents.

I guess in today’s mental climate the above stated declaration and the rule of law is just some “blank piece of paper” according to a recent executive and too many others. All three branches have been treasonous and both major parties are guilty of crimes against the very documents they swore to uphold.

But, Mr. Conn is wrong in that “states rights” aren’t an avenue worth exploring. The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798-99 proved the threat of nullifying or interposing unconstitutional laws gave the states-and the people the last say-so. Thomas Jefferson put it plain and simple when he said,

“When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks of one government upon the other, and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from what we separated.”

Folks, what makes America unique is are uniqueness. We are not a one-size fits all people. Human nature will never allow it and until we accept the fact that what may be good for you might not be good for me, government is going to continue to enslave us. States’ Rights and Nullification is a tool that brings power back to the people. It has worked in several states issues such as Real ID, Firearms Freedom Acts, Medical Marijuana Acts just to name three. You as an individual wouldn’t come onto my property and threaten me with force to live and do as you see fit. So why then would you appoint a group of people-government to do what you cannot or would not do as an individual? That is tyranny. Which even a fifth grader understands is the opposite of liberty

Andy Myers is a resident of Jamestown and is a policy analyst for The Ohio Freedom Alliance.

Freedom’s God

By Daniel Downs

Last Friday, August 28, America commemorated the famous I Have a Dream speech of Martin Luther King, Jr. Throughout his pivotal protest speech, King alluded his religious faith, hope, and expectation of the freedom from oppression and the mundane challenges of realizing justice. He repeatedly referred to all people as God’s children. This expectant faith for freedom climaxed in the last three paragraphs in which King proclaimed:

… when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual,

… “Free at last, free at last.

… Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”

The negro spiritual directs us back to the source and beginning of social, economic, and political freedom. The God of the Bible. This God liberated the Jews from Egyptian slavery. He is the God of Jesus who was sent to set free those enslaved by addictions, poverty, immorality, despair, as well as effects of oppression. Yet, the liberated are not free from a life without God. That would to return to Egypt or to some other source of bondage.

Is that not exactly what America has done?

The struggle for freedom that Americans enjoy began long ago in halls of Western Christendom. The legal and theological struggle for justice resulted in a long history of natural law rights that included life, liberty, property, and happiness. They were not vague principles as some seem to believe. Legal battles, social conflicts, and wars were fought against those authorities intending to deprive the descents of Anglo-Saxons and others of their inherent and inherited rights. America is an inheritor and promulgator of that long fought heritage of rights law that was firmly rooted and legitimated by biblical principles and right reason, none of which was outside the social or political geography of Christianity.

That is why the Continental Congress established the United States of America by a two-fold covenant: a covenant with God and a social compact with all citizens. That also is why America was established by a two-fold legal compact: a document defining the nation under natural law, the Declaration of Independence, and a document defining the type of government to fulfill the objectives of the national definition including the protection of those rights and perpetuate the right so defined, the Constitution.

King’s promissory note analogy of rights based on the equality of human nature is part of America’s national definition. Thomas Jefferson knew America was already in trouble with God because Negro slavery was made an exception to that equality and the enjoyment of those rights. It was made an exception by removing the clause from the national definition that would have ended slavery forever. Jefferson apprehension of divine judgment for this came to pass. Both the Civil War and the violence during the Civil Rights movement were proof. War, natural disasters, and similar tragedy represented to divine judgment to nearly all early Americans. That was the consensus view of the citizenry and leaders of Christian America until at least the beginning of the twentieth century.

The language of Abraham Lincoln’s speech the Emancipation Proclamation parallels the Declaration of Independence invoking God’s favor for an act of justice rooted in the Constitution. However, that justice was defined in the Declaration not the U.S. Constitution. The 13th Amendment did not become law until 1865. The Emancipation Proclamation was given on January 1, 1863. The language of Section 1 of the 14th Amendment (1868) references the Declaration as well.

Freedom’s God is nature’s God. Nature’s God is humanity’s God who created them. God created humans with an equality of worth and dignity because human nature is a reflection of himself. God created them in his image and capable of his likeness. Natural rights are constituted in socialibility of human nature. Jefferson saw them as gifts of God. They are the goods of the promise land that had to be fought for and must be maintained by a strong defense.

Unfortunately, it seems that that defense has been weakening because the Supreme Judge of the world has been ignored. Maybe God had been ignored for such a long time because America’s intentions has not been rectifiable before the divine bar of justice and truth. Consequently, the Protection of divine Providence cannot be expected. In fact, America officially seems to disregard divine Providence even after disasters like 9/11, Katrina, the great economic recessions, and the like.

Nevertheless, freedom has always been and will always be a divine gift based on moral law and human conformity to it. Without God, freedom progresses to various forms of slavery.

“We Hold These Truths” Americans Have Wandered Out of History, Part III

by Rev. Nate Atwood

In the second installment of Rev. Atwood’s sermon on the biblical basis of our nation’s legal history, he focused on the definitive biblical aspects of the Declaration of Independence. Secular authors like Alan Dershowitz argue that its primary author, Thomas Jefferson, was a deist. This is the point at which we begin the third installment of Rev. Atwood’s sermon.

* * * * * * * * * * * *


Now some of you are thinking, “But Thomas Jefferson was a deist, not an evangelical Christian. How can we claim such firm Biblical footing for his document?” First of all, it’s important to note that Thomas Jefferson was not the sole author of the Declaration of Independence. In June of 1776 a committee of five people were tasked by the Continental Congress to write a Declaration. John Adams, the devout and deeply Biblical Christian, was the chairman of that committee. He tasked Jefferson with the work of writing as he recognized Jefferson’s literary talent. But it must be said that the work came out of Adams’ committee and under his oversight. It also must be said that while Jefferson was not an evangelical Christian, he was still deeply affected by the Biblical imprint of his time. Thus, in reflecting on the Declaration of Independence, he wrote, “We do not claim these rights under the charters of kings or legislators, but under the King of Kings.”

The truth of the matter is that liberty had been developing as a national idea for many years. Jefferson and Adams, as well as the whole of the Continental Congress, did not live or write in a vacuum. Franklin Cole, in a book entitled, They Preached Liberty, extensively studied the sermons preached from Colonial pulpits during the years leading into the Revolutionary War. His thesis was that all of the ideas found in the Declaration were first found in America’s pulpits. For example, in 1768, Reverend Daniel Shute of Hingham, Massachusetts, declared, “life, liberty and property are the gifts of the Creator.” (Sound familiar?) In 1770, in an election sermon Rev. Charles Turner insisted, “The Scriptures cannot be rightfully expounded without explaining them in a manner friendly to the cause of liberty.” In 1768 Rev. Richard Slater of Mansfield, Connecticut assured his listeners, “God never gives men up to be slaves till they lose their national virtue, and abandon themselves to slavery.”

Given this careful devotion to God in the writing of the Declaration of Independence, it is not surprising that when it was first read publicly on July 4, 1776, a bell was rung to call the people of Philadelphia together. That bell is the “Liberty Bell,” and you can still read on it the inscription placed on it for that day. . . . “Proclaim liberty unto all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof.” In case you don’t recognize it, that’s a Bible verse Leviticus 25:10. In fact, this might well be called America’s verse. Yes, our forefathers knew it and built their lives upon this truth . . . it was God who gave us liberty. And because liberty came from God they entitled it “the holy cause of liberty.”

Furthermore, because liberty came from God and was therefore sacred, these signers of the Declaration of Independence were more than willing to die for their convictions. Adams and Jefferson survived the war without great loss. Other signers of the Declaration did not fare so well. Of those fifty-six men, five were captured by the British, tortured, and then executed. Twelve had their homes ransacked or burned. Two lost their sons serving in Revolutionary Army.
Another two had sons captured. Nine of the fifty-six fought and died in the war from wounds or the hardships of battle. Indeed, they did pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. Such were the sacrifices of the American Revolution. These were not wild-eyed, rabblerousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more. And they valued liberty, because they knew that liberty came from God and was therefore holy. Remember, these fifty-six men were the ones who added two more clearly Scriptural references to God to Jefferson’s version of the Declaration as it came out of Adam’s committee. The historical record is clear: they were motivated by their belief in God (God as He is defined by Scripture). No wonder they were willing to put their lives on the line. . . . After all, during the war one of the favorite slogans of the Americans was “No King but Jesus!”

In 1831, in Albany, New York the French author Alexis de Tocqueville recorded yet another July 4th celebration. Found in his book Democracy in America, in which this celebrated author repeatedly noted the unbreakable connection between American democracy and American faith in God, de Tocqueville recorded that on this particular July 4th he was awakened by the firing of guns in a federal salute and the ringing of all church bells. He came out to see what was going on
and was invited to join in a great parade, devoid of “any real military splendor” but marked by people from all walks of life, floats representing every conceivable occupation, and “three or four old soldiers, who fought with Washington, whom the city preserves like precious relics, and whom all the citizens honor.” They “carried with great pomp a tattered old American flag, bullet torn, which came down from the war of independence.”

De Tocqueville expected the parade to end in some fine government building but was surprised to see it ended, instead, in a Methodist church where the entire Declaration of Independence was read with “much warmth and dignity.” He recalled that the reading was preceded by “a prayer made by a Protestant minister . . . I recall this fact,” he said, “because it is characteristic of this country, where they never do anything without the assistance of religion.”

Let’s remember the lesson of history . . . religion can survive in the absence of freedom. But freedom without religion is tenuous at best and can even be dangerous. George Washington reminded the country of this truth in his farewell address, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” So how might you celebrate the 4th of July? I think the record of history I just went through should give you some ideas. I just hope you will celebrate it. I also hope that you will, as families worshipping together. And perhaps you’ll experience a moment such as I knew and which I recorded in my prayer journal….

See Part II and Part I.

We Hold These Truths” Americans Have Wandered Out of History, Declaration Part II

By Rev. Nate Atwood

(Read part 1)

Last week, I posted the first part of a sermon by Rev. Atwood. He shared the importance of relearning our whole national history. Those aspects that modern education censors out. As he pointed out, scripture was an important part of the rise of political freedom, which resulted from the rule of law. That is God’s law applied through human law. The founding generation emphasized the great value of knowing facts of history because those facts taught them about the causes of oppression, corruption, and failure as well as the means to a good and prosperous society. Therefore, our ancestors created states and bound them together in federation based on their belief in God and on their knowledge of covenantal and world history. To forget what they and their ancestors learned and achieved the hard way will enable tyrants present and future to repeat the same evils that robbed people of God’s gift of life and liberty.

This second part of Rev. Atwood’s sermon focuses on the Declaration of Independence and the role Scripture had to play in its writing.

If we Americans have wandered out of history, let’s wander back into it.

Speaking as a Christian, a teacher of the Bible, and an American citizen, I’d like to make these basic observations with regard to the Declaration of Independence. This isn’t, first of all, a political document. First of all, and primarily, the Declaration of Independence is a religious document. Let me ask you this series of questions, . . . why did the signers of the Declaration think they could declare independence? Why did the signers of the Declaration think that it was morally permissible to rebel against England? Why did the signers
of the Declaration think they, as an upstart, rag-tag, largely impoverished group of people, could defeat the greatest military power on the face of the earth? After all, wasn’t their setting a bit like the Taliban thinking they could defeat the United States? What motivated these men? Even more to the point, . . . what was their authority for making these claims and choosing this course of action? Where did they think human rights came from? How did they understand the role of government in human affairs?

The answer, of course, is contained in the Declaration itself. “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, among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men. . . .” As you read the Declaration of Independence, it is very clear that the moral authority for the drive for independence was found in
God Himself. Even more to the point, this moral authority was found in the Bible itself.

John Adams, in a letter written late in his life to Thomas Jefferson, remarked that the Founding Fathers found their agreement in the “basic principles of Christianity.” This is a remarkable statement, and scrutiny of the Declaration itself suggests just this. Let’s take a moment and step inside the Declaration and “connect the dots” between the various phrases and thoughts found therein and the teaching of the Bible. In fact, let’s begin with the idea of “rights.”
Where did the concept of “rights” come from? Well, it is taught in the Bible. For example, Psalm 82:1–4 refers to the concept of “rights.”

God presides in the great assembly; He gives judgment among the “gods”: “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Selah. Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

What we must grasp is that the Founding Fathers lived in an era profoundly shaped by the Bible. As inheritors of the Reformation, they lived in a time when it was simply taken for granted that society was to be structured around the teaching of the Bible.

Additional thoughts and phrases in the Declaration of Independence are clearly Biblical. For example, there is a clear definition of the role of government contained in the Declaration. . . . “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men. . . .” Did you know that this is precisely what the Bible teaches as the role of government? Psalm 82 is written to an assembly of governmental leaders (these are the “gods” referred to in the psalm). Romans 13 similarly sees that the government’s use of force is based upon a commitment to protect the innocent. The Founding Fathers justified their rebellion against the British crown because it was a government that no longer upheld the rights of the citizens. Their logic was that the British were in rebellion against God by this failure, and thus were no longer a legitimate authority. Four times the Declaration of Independence directly refers to God. Each of these references is
completely consistent with what the Bible teaches to be true about God and is, in fact, the same language the Bible used to describe God. The first reference is to “Nature’s God.” The concept therein is that the idea of justice and law can clearly be deduced from the natural order created by God. This is precisely what the Bible teaches in Romans 1. The second reference is to God as “Creator.” The Bible teaches this in Genesis 1. (I realize it may seem obvious to us that God is Creator, but if you study world religions and philosophies you’ll learn that this is a distinctly Biblical thought. For example, Eastern religions and even Greek thought viewed the universe as eternally pre-existent—at least in the form of matter if not structure. The idea of a “Creator” is not so universally held as we might surmise.)

The last two references to God are found towards the end of the Declaration of Independence. He is referred to as “the Supreme Judge of the World.” Yes, again and again the Bible teaches us that God is our Judge (“There is One who seeks and judges,” John 8:50). The final reference to God is an appeal to “the protection of Divine Providence.” Here is a profoundly Biblical concept—the idea that God is active in the affairs of men, that God rules in those affairs, that God orders those affairs so as to ultimately protect His interests, and that in so doing He protects those who ally themselves with His causes. (“The name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run unto it and are glad,” Proverbs 18:10, and Romans 8:28, “For we know that in all things God works for the good of those that love Him and are called according to His purposes.”)

Now let’s return to my earlier premise that the Declaration of Independence is first of all a religious document and only secondarily a political document. Do you now see why I hold this position? My point is that we must look deeper than the course of action our Founding Fathers took. We must examine the reasons for that course of action, and those reasons were clearly religious. Their appeal was simply to God as their moral authority and their protection. Their actions were political, but their motivations were religious.

In other words, before America was conceived in liberty, America was conceived in God. Now isn’t it true that a law of nature is this: “He who conceives is the father”? You might call the Declaration of Independence our national birth certificate. Every year we remind ourselves that this is the day our nation was born. And—if we have a shred of common sense—we honor our founding fathers. But according to this—our Birth Certificate—we were conceived in God and His Truths.

In other words, the real Founding Father is the Lord of Hosts. And so on the 4th of July, our national birthday, we should honor our ultimate Founding Father … our Father in heaven.

(Read part 1)

Reverend Nate Atwood has been in the ministry for sixteen years as an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church. He has been Senior Pastor at Kempsville Presbyterian Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia, since Palm Sunday, 1999.

Thanksgiving : Past, Present, and Future

By Daniel Downs

America was founded upon the thanksgiving of our British ancestors, the Pilgrims. As part of a joint-stock adventure and a gospel mission, they set out to establish the first colony in Virginia. Although they missed their original destination by a few miles, they were thankful for surviving the perils they had endured during the journey across the Atlantic Ocean. They landed on the eastern seacoast just in time for winter. As they explored the coastal desert for a suitable place for shelter, they looked heavenward with thankful hearts for food. About a dozen of the Pilgrims followed a small group of evasive Indians to a deserted camp where they found corn and fish stored underground. This food held them over for the winter. When spring arrived, almost half of the original 100 had died of disease that had spread throughout the region decimating many Indian villages too. That meant that 50 survived both the ravaging disease as well as the harsh cold winter storms. They were thankful for this too. As the sun was warming up the spring air, their hope was thawing too because several friendly Indians arrived willing to help. Yes, they were thankful for those special brave men who were to teach them how to thrive in what seemed a barren dessert land in peace with the native tribes.

The following is a relative brief account penned by William Bradford, who was to become the governor of growing Plymouth Plantation state.

About the 16th of March (1620) “a certain Indian came boldly amongst them, and spoke to them in broken English, which could well under- stand, but marveled at it. He became profitable to them in acquainting them many things concerning the state of the country….” He knew about the English other parts of the country as well as about many of the Indian tribes. His name was Samaset; he told them also of another Indian whose name was Squanto, a native of this place, who had been in England & could speak better English than himself.” After a period of entertaining and exchanging gifts with the Indians, Squanto and the local Indian chief Massasoyt came and made a peace treaty between his tribal people and the Pilgrims, which last 24 years.

Squanto continued with them, and was their interpreter, and was a special instrument sent of God for their good beyond their expectations. He directed them how to [plant] their corn, where to take fish, and to procure other commodities, and was also their pilot to bring them to unknown places for their profit, and never left them until he died.”

During that spring, they began to plant their corn, in which service Squanto greatly helped them, showing them both how to plant it and how to preserve and prepare it. Also he told them that except they got fish and placed it underground, it would come to nothing. He showed many other things that helped them to thrive in the new land.

Yes, the Pilgrims were thankful for the continued providence and blessing of God who “was with them in all their ways,” and who blessed “their outgoings and incomings, for which let his holy name have the praise for ever, to all posteritie.”

Who is their posterity? All Americans should regard themselves as posterity of the Pilgrims for several reasons:

(1) The Pilgrims’ Mayflower Compact is the first of many similar civil compacts that culminated in our very similar national compact called the Declaration of Independence and the ensuing laws defined as Constitutions. If you read both the Mayflower Compact and the Declaration simultaneously, you will see the apparent pattern of similarities. (To see the full text of the Mayflower Compact, click here.)

(2) Because our national heritage goes back to the founding of Plymouth and Jamestown, we can count ourselves the spiritual, political, and legal posterity of the Plymouth Pilgrims. This heritage resembles the formation of the ancient nation of Israel. Exodus was more than liberation from slavery; it was the beginning of democracy. Israel became a nation through a political covenant by the unanimous consent of the people. As all legitimate covenants, the consensual agreement was between the people and God. So it was with the Pilgrims and the Mayflower Compact, which was the same type of two-part compact that was later to establish and define American as nation. Both the Mayflower Compact and Declaration incorporated a covenant with God and a social contract between themselves. This is what the Second Continental Congress created in 1776.

The representative federalism of our republican Constitution makes the original goals and rights reality. Our national compact of Declaration and Constitution is an inheritance of all American citizens that requires faithful adherence to this rule of law. Consequently, the same type of covenant and social contract that began with the Pilgrims was incorporated in our national compact that benefits and obligated all past, present, and future citizens.

The progressive socialists/secularists may hate this fact, but it is the legal basis of our national independence and constitution law.

Today, we Americans have much to be thankful for. If we have a place to live with heat in the winter and cooling in the summer, we have more than our Pilgrim ancestors as well as many peoples around the world. If we have sanitized water and good food, we have more than our Pilgrim ancestors and millions of people in many countries. If we have seasonal clothing, we have more than both our Pilgrim ancestors and a great many people across the globe. If we have access to good education and adequate health care, we have much more than both our Pilgrim ancestors and thousands of people both in America and in many other nations. Many of America’s poor enjoy many luxuries and technological innovations that few people in the world enjoy. If we actually enjoy those God-given rights enumerated in the both Declaration and secured through Constitutional law, we Americans still enjoy what multiple millions still do not enjoy.

Yet, these God-given blessings and benefits of prosperity are now in jeopardy of being lost. What we Americans take for granted are threatened by the misguided efforts to prop up unsustainable economic growth based on ever-increasing debt. If trends analysts are correct, the future of those blessings may come to a terrible end. More importantly, the covenantal foundation of our freedom and prosperity has been cast aside for an anti-religious and amoral agenda of those who care more about their global profits and power than the common good of all their people.

In a nation that seems to worship many gods including self, profit, hedonistic pleasures, entertainment, and their own accomplishments, the Pilgrims and members of the Second Continental Congress I think would appreciate Psalms 138, which states:

I will give you [God] thanks with all of my heart; I will sing praises to you before the gods.
I will bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your lovingkindness and your truth; for you have magnified your word according to your name.
On the day I called, you answered me; you made me bold with strength in my soul.
All the kings of the earth will give thanks to you, O Lord, when they have heard the words of your mouth.
And they will sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord. (vv. 1-5)

I see that Psalm as a prophetic song that speaks of America’s future as well as of the entire world. Let’s hope we may sing it too without any perils predicted by both trends analysts and our nation’s founders. Now is the time to thank God as did the Pilgrims, the Puritans, and most members of the Second Continental Congress for all of our material, political, and spiritual blessings while hope and thanksgiving buys America more time.