The Christian Origins of the American Constitution

D.A. Bass

In the past, we have examined the three spheres of government: self-government, family government, and church government. We noted the fundamental definition of government to be: “Control, direction, restraint, regulation, exercise of authority.” Government is thus not exclusive to civil governments, although these very same institutions would like to make us think so! Increasingly, it is the federal government that seeks to maintain control, direction, and exercise of authority in every sphere of life. Increasingly, they seek to dictate in your self-government (i.e., your taxes, retirement, including your social security, socialized medicine, and euthanasia), and your family government (i.e., public school education, corporal punishment, parental consent rules, children’s rights), and church government (i.e., the wall of separation between church and state). Each of these spheres – self, family, and church – always have had their legitimate government; known, respected, and inculcated by previous generations, but abandoned in our own. Part of your task, O Christian, is to take back these spheres of government before it is too late! Most Americans have accepted the new role of federal involvement in their lives like sheep being led to the slaughter by the Judas Goat, who led the sheep up the ramp to the butcher block! Be not like them! Take back, O Christian, your church, your family, our self!

That being said, we must examine the origins and, eventually, the proper role of civil government. There is a legitimate role for government; like all other institutions in human society of any endurance and consequence, civil government was instituted by God himself for man’s benefit – when properly exercised, that is! How has civil government come about, and what has caused it to be such a pernicious and evil force in human affairs and, in brief periods in the long march of time, a positive good in the life of man? I would like to assert several points in establishing the origins of civil government:

1. Civil government was at first intended to be a means of mediating the covenant rule of God amongst mankind. In previous lessons, we have observed that all government is founded in ordination and rule, whether pertaining to self, family, church, or civil government. It is also covenantal in its structure and economy. Thus, it is no surprise that we find that when we move to the larger sphere of civil government from that of self, family, and church, that it, too, is covenantal in structure and economy. That is, God deals with man in a kind of spiritual economy in which he dispenses grace and justice, mercy and wrath, salvation and damnation, even as an economy dispenses goods and services to producers and consumers. This spiritual economy is a covenant economy. Contrary to popular belief, God does not dispense his spiritual rule directly to his creature, man, but does it through mediators; that is, through representatives, federal heads, through whom he dispensed his sovereign rule.

2. Civil Government since the fall is – by its very nature – in a state of rebellion against God. Does this surprise you? Isn’t government supposed to be “neutral” about God, no matter how one feels about it? We like to flatter ourselves that we can be as neutral and objective about things, especially when it comes to religion. However, we know that since the Fall, human kind has reached a point where “every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” Gen. 6:5 This goes for not only the isolated individual we read about in the newspaper from time to time, but for all of mankind – even as he organizes himself into governments. This is exemplified very early in the history of our race in the Tower of Babel. To what did our early ancestors aspire? Union with God? No! Reconciliation with Him for Adam’s transgressions? No! Our early fathers desired exactly what Adam and Eve wanted, and what we see present day humans desiring: the desire to be gods and overthrow God himself from his throne: “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens and make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:4

O Christian, is it any wonder that human governments have been little else than a catalogue of enslavement and misery for most of the human race throughout our brief history upon earth? Is it any wonder that, whenever possible, the few have subjected the many in an effort to climb the ladder/tower/stairway to heaven itself and become gods? Is it any wonder that the Pharaohs enslaved entire races and built pyramids upon their lives and bones and declared themselves gods; is it any wonder that the kings of Babylon fashioned Baals with outstretched arms and hands and had ceremonies in which they shook hands with these gods as equals; is it any wonder that Roman emperors subjugated her peoples, taxing them and enslaving them and brutally ruling over them that they might not only build marble monuments to themselves but also declare themselves gods, demanding that every subject offer a pinch of incense on an emperor’s alter at least once a year, documented by a government priest! Is it any wonder that the long histories of kings and kingdoms – whether in China or India or Africa or France or England – is filled with the all-too-common theme of petty tyrants with grandiose titles and boasts and threats and aspirations to heaven itself, petty tyrants who claim to be gods and aspire to the very throne of the Almighty!

The long history of civil government since the fall gives ample testimony to the fact that civil government is – by its very nature – in a state of rebellion against God! This is true of all governments except that of the good ‘ole USA, right? Americans are exempt from these corrupt and fallen impulses, right? We earnestly desire to make God a central part of American life, right? None of our politicians aspire to be treated as near divinities, right? Perhaps you sense my sarcasm! Although our Founding Fathers recognized these trends in human nature and attempted to account for them with measures like the separation of powers and checks and balances, most of those who occupy government nowadays are attempting to shed all vestiges of restraint and memory of the God of the Bible as fast as they possibly can!

Despite all of the storm and turmoil of this issue, despite all of the protests and vigils and speeches in favor of Judge Moore, for instance, and despite the furor for a constitutional amendment to keep our national motto or the pledge of allegiance, these are largely symbolic gestures, and I am concerned that we look beyond them to the substance of our national character. Do not mistake me on this, however: all of them are important symbols and must be supported and kept! I am concerned that, in some quarters in our “50/50” nation, the substance has been drained from our institutions. Do not be distracted from the real issues. For example, our courts have been stocked with godless, pagan men and women (with notable exceptions like Judge Moore or Justice Scalia) who are utterly hostile to Christianity and its influence in government. It has been so for decades now and, if left unchecked, will only grow increasingly hostile and violent towards us. Make no mistake about this: the judicial branch of the United States government has an intrinsic, vituperative, malevolent hatred of Christianity and any whiff of biblical values. Increasingly, the mask is slipping off from the face of tyranny and rebellion against our Constitution and its biblical roots. Do you see it, O Christian? Do you see the visage of rebellion and godlessness, the spirit of the Tower of Babel in our own towers of justice and government? I submit to you, the recent history of civil government in the United States gives ample testimony to the fact that civil government is – by its very nature – in a state of rebellion against God! This is why our Founding Fathers constantly exhorted us to vigilance, vigilance, vigilance! Democracy is a fragile flower, and is easily wilted. Our form of government and its institutions is a rare and noble experiment in the long history of tyranny and oppression. So many among us take it for granted, so many among us have drifted into the norm of the centuries, where tyranny and brutal oppression are the expected by-products of government, rather than the exception of gracious, biblical government, where every individual is “endowed by his Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” No free man can afford to be complacent; if he knows the history of sinful, fallen man, he knows the fragility of the freedom he now enjoys, and its susceptibility to subtle corruption by tyrants. It requires constant, meticulous maintenance by a Christian, moral people, or it will descend very quickly into the mundane sameness of the ugly, tyrannical regimes we see all around us.

If, then, the human tendency through the centuries has been toward tyranny and oppression as an expression of the fall, whence do we derive our model for government? Is it impossible to find the ideal any longer? Fortunately, we do have a divine source for this model:

3. Our model for civil government and her institutions, values, and principles must be derived from the Bible – here we find our source for government in a fallen, brutal world. This was unashamedly the philosophy and worldview of our Founding Fathers and those who preceded them in the establishment of the colonies. “The frame of civil government which Penn completed in 1682 for the government of Pennsylvania was derived from the Bible. He deduced from various passages ‘the origination and descent of all human power from God, the divine right of government for two ends: 1. to terrify evildoers 2. to cherish those who do well; so that government seems itself to be a part of religion, a thing sacred in its institutions and ends.’” From B.F. Morris, The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States (1873).

The religion which has introduced civil liberty is the religion of Christ and his apostles. The moral principles and precepts contained in the Bible ought to form the basis of all of our civil constitutions and laws. In fact, to this we owe our free Constitutions of Government.” Daniel Webster

Our public schools, news media, entertainment media, and socialist politicians are frantically trying to impose a historical amnesia upon yet another generation of Americans when it comes to the role that Christianity played in suffusing the structure and principles of our Constitution. The antipathy and hatred for Christ and the Christian religion is so visceral in most segments of American popular culture today that even the collective memory of it must be eradicated, even if the power of Christ and the Christian religion is losing its hold upon the life and conscience of the average American, this is not enough for most modernists. Lest the spectre of conservative Christian influence again be reborn, even the memory of it must be banished from history books, monuments, and works of art.

Why do you think Mel Gibson’s movie “The Passion of the Christ” was met with such weeping and gnashing of teeth? Is it because the Bible portrays Jews as Christ killers? No! Men are foundationally opposed to the passion of Christ because if it is true, then all they believe about themselves is wrong; they, indeed, are sinners and stand in need of a Redeemer, and would do just as the Jews (as the religious leaders of the people) and Gentiles (as the representatives of the rest of humanity) did: crucify the Lord of Glory.

But, if any man will forget his heritage and Christian roots, it will have to be a willful, intentional forgetting, because our records are weighted with the evidence of Christianity in our Constitution:

Biblical teachings inspired concepts of civil government that are contained in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States.” Resolution declaring 1983 as “The Year of the Bible.” Congress, signed by Ronald Reagan

Of course, in our secular institutions of learning, we are inculcated with an evolutionary scheme of the origins of government, where man over millions of years of development gradually progresses to the modern nation-state that we are familiar with today. It is, according to the Darwinian philosophers of political science and anthropology, a purely natural and random process, designed to further facilitate the preservation of the species. Instead of the covenant model of governance, modeled after God’s own economy with man, we see among those who would eliminate the biblical history of government from our memory, a purely pagan model. It is, in reality, an old model seen in the Tower of Babel, but given new labels. The collective, one language State typified in the Genesis account of our ancestor’s aspirations to godhood, is really only what we today call a godless humanism (humanism – a worldview in which man is the sumum bonum, end all be all of the evolutionary process).

With Hegel and Darwin, the architecture of humanism took on a firmer dimension. It now had an ostensible foundation in science, in evolution. This meant a new doctrine of man, society, and the state, a conversion downward of every aspect of life.” RJ Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, p. 442

A “conversion downward,” indeed! O Christian, you will continue to see this conversion in your children as they imbibe the evolutionary model of the origins of government in our public schools and modern anthropology. It affects every aspect of learning and life, including our view of our own Constitution. One Princeton scholar, Henry Jones Ford, has drawn out some of the logical corollaries of the premise that “Man is the product of social evolution…” in his The Natural History of the State.

In his work, he brings out the following points:

Man did not make the state, but rather, the state has made man.

The State is absolute and unconditional in its relation to its unit (vs. the biblical model where only God is absolute and unconditional).

Rights are not innate, but derivative. They exist in the State but not apart from the State (vs. the biblical model where we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights).

The object of the State is the perfecting of man (vs. the biblical model where God is in the process of perfecting man through Jesus Christ).

The very science being taught in our schools by definition undercuts our Constitution, where our schools used to bolster and reinforce our Constitution and its principles, these same schools and “sciences” now actively seek to undermine and undercut them, all in the name of freedom and Constitution! They used the very language, labels, and freedom granted by the Constitution to now destroy it and replace it with the next stage in the progress of evolution of government, a world government. Am I being unnecessarily paranoid and alarmist in asserting this? Our Supreme Court is already consulting international law in its decisions which should be based upon our Constitution exclusively; the constant clamor to defer to the United Nations in all things – including the International Tribunal in the Hague – is only a step of conditioning for our submission to a world government; the insistence that any troops we may contribute to an international United Nations force must be under the command of a foreign leadership; all of these and more demonstrate that many in our own government sense that our Constitution is passé and in need of replacement by this next stage in our evolutionary development as a species.

Is there a solution to our dilemma, or are we to sink in despair and paganism? Let me suggest some tentative steps:

1. Know the biblical model and origins of government – God’s economy is a covenant economy, and anyone who would learn how human government is to be modeled must learn of how God himself has chosen to dispense justice and mercy, grace and wrath, salvation and damnation. This covenant model of governance is also that by which we were intended to govern in a lost and fallen world.

2. Know your Constitution and its origins – our Constitution is a covenant. Do not let the ACLU or the People for the American Way or our liberal academia deceive you; our Constitution has biblical and Christian roots!

It is time, O Christian, to re-assert our Christian, biblical principles in the public square. If, indeed, we are the “last, best hope” for a dying world, then we must return to the rich taproot of our Constitution. While we must retain the symbols of our Christian, constitutional heritage – the 10 Commandments in our courtrooms, prayer in our schools, and God in our pledge and motto – but it is of far greater importance to rediscover the substance of our Christian, constitutional heritage! That is, we must return to the God of that book from which we derive our Constitutional principles! Do not be shy about this. Ours is not a day for wilting lilies and delicate Dans. Let the voices of our forefathers ring again in the ears of American moderns.

We must consider that we shall be as a City upon a Hill, the eyes of all people are upon us; so that if we deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world…we are commanded to keep…the Articles of our Covenant with him that we may live and be multiplied and that the Lord our God may bless us in the land whether we go to possess it.” A Model of Christian Charity, John Winthrop.

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