By Jeff Ziegler
Published January 1, 2000
Christian Masterpiece or Humanist Tripe?
The “Spirit of 76” has been the central rallying point for American patriotism since her violent inception over 200 years ago. This, of course, is in reference to the Declaration of Independence. From the time of our embryonic national birth pains, Christians have pondered just what the “Spirit of 76” means. Are the dominant themes depicted in this historic document born from Christian orthodoxy, or is the anthem of Enlightenment rationalism the clarion cry?
Certainly, if one is searching for an explicit creedal confession of the lordship of Jesus Christ, the Declaration is woefully lacking. Too, the effects of the Enlightenment and of deistic notions give the accent of the day in the wording of our founding charter. However, the acknowledgment of the transcendent Creator-God granting certain unalienable rights and the reliance upon Divine Providence are themes which cannot be ignored. So too, the definition of these rights, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” are concepts older than the Enlightenment and owe their genesis to Christian Orthodoxy as defined by the first four Ecumenical Creeds of the church. Also, the sway of Protestantism regarding the doctrine of the lesser civil magistrate and interposition is a clearly evidenced apologetic throughout the document.
Examining the Nicene Creed, we find strains that surface themselves in the Declaration.
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made; Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary and was made man; and as crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right of the Father; and he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets. And I believe in one holy Christian and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, and I look for the resurrection of the dead; and the life of the world to come. Amen.
As depicted in the First Article, God’s transcendent nature is conclusively rendered. Meaning that God is the sovereign Creator who established all things visible and invisible, and who is distinct and apart from His creation (Gen. 1:1, Col. 1:16,17). Hence, the God who created you is the Lord and giver of life. It is He who sustains your body, your soul, your senses, and your reasoning faculties. It is God who provides your sustenance, your house and home, your family and property. It is God who nurtures you and protects you from all evil. He does all of these things expressly for His divine pleasure and purpose.
The concepts of liberty and freedom derived from the first article or the notion of the transcendent Creator- God are as follows:
#The right to life is a liberty granted by God. It is God alone who gives life. Any unlawful taking of life is murder. Therefore, if state sanctioned, state-sponsored murder in the form of abortion is codified, you have a denial of God’s transcendence and tyranny to the unborn. Yet, this abomination is done under the aegis of a kind of “liberty” whose rhetoric is “pro-choice.” This so-called “liberty” is humanistic and God-denying, and thus ends in the persecution and the death of the unborn. Beyond the immediacy of the horrid deed itself, such tyranny leads to the destruction of whole generations, and thus a culture of death is perpetuated until that nation or culture is annihilated. Therefore, unless liberty under God is recognized, tyranny and death are the results not only for the unborn, but, eventually, for the elderly, the sick, the infirmed, and finally society as a whole.
#Another principle of liberty derived from the first article is that provision, and thus personal property comes from God and God alone. The same God that created the earth gave man dominion over it. Genesis 1:26-28 depicts man possessing, ruling, and reordering the earth. Also, throughout God’s law, the possession of land is a mark of God’s blessing and provision. Therefore, your family, your home, your property, is a freedom and blessing that comes from God and not from the state!
It is plain that the truths articulated in the First Article of the Nicene Creed are reflected in the Declaration of Independence. While this does not make it a Christian confession, it does illustrate that Christianity, in its most crystalline sense, was a powerful influence on the document. This is not confined to mere rhetorical pleasantries which acknowledge the existence of God, but form the backbone and the crux of the revolutionary argument—“Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
The National Reform Association holds that an explicit confession of the lordship of Jesus Christ is necessary for all of our founding national documents. While such a confession is conspicuously absent from both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the Declaration nonetheless exhibits Christian influences which have a profound effect on the pursuit of liberty.
Your comments are welcome!
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In 1776, a short time after the Declaration of Independence was adopted, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin were assigned to design an official seal for the United States of America. Their proposed motto was Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God. America owes its existence to centuries of Christian political philosophy. Our nation provided a model for liberty copied by nations the world over.
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