By Chris Dumford
It is interesting that in the arena of the political and cultural wars taking place in America today, few people actually stop to realize that what is actually occurring is a theological battle. Though some may wish to ignore or deny the fact that America was founded upon a Judeo-Christian ethic, the simple truth is that most of our founding fathers laid claim to being Christians.
Christianity is and was more than just a title. It permeates every aspect of a true Christian’s life including their values, principles and how they define every aspect of morality, society and even principles of Government. They view the Bible as God’s Word and that it is the filter and standard by which all judgments of values, principles and government should be filtered. This means that many ideas are held to be concrete (i.e. black and white) and that society both as individuals and as a whole answer to a higher power. This holds largely true to the ideology of our founding fathers.
As an example of the failure of modern Americans to historically examine the development of theological thought in America and its impact on the development of our nation, some modern liberals have championed Thomas Jefferson as the hero of secularism. They do this by reshaping Jefferson’s Unitarian Theology into a secular philosophy held by many of the Constitutional delegates that framed the Constitution. Though some may argue that Jefferson and others rejected the concepts of Divine miracles and foundational Christian doctrines such as the Trinity, they fail to see two aspects that dismantle their attempt to link Jefferson with some ideology that America is in reality not founded upon Judeo-Christian concepts, but rather secular concepts (i.e. sanitizing America from any public acknowledgement of the existence of God) because some of the chief framers of the Constitution was not all true Christians. The first failure in this stretching of Jefferson’s position is that many liberals who take this view know little or nothing of basic theology or its impact in the public arena in Christian America. This history began in Europe.
The first European settlers in America were the Congregationalists and Separatists who fled England. Congregationalism argued that the church needed to remove liturgy and formalism and to get back to their Calvinistic roots. They believed that the church could be reformed from within and advocated that changes take place from within the Church of England.
Separatists, on the other hand believed that the entire church was corrupt and could not be salvaged. They argued that congregations should be independent of ecclesiastical government and that preachers and pastors could preach without being granted licenses by the government. They believed that any body of believers could congregate, elect their own leaders as they saw fit, and establish any covenants and doctrinal views that they believed were Biblical. This ran counter to the mainline European and especially English view that all authority to determine theological positions and to appoint Pastors and Bishops to the various ecclesiastical positions within the Episcopal body were vested ultimately in the King (a true state church).
Due to the conflict between Congregationalist/Separatist thought and Episcopal thought, the Congregationalists and Separatists fled to America. Both groups ultimately settled in Massachusetts. In 1620, some of these landed in Plymouth and upon arrival, they wrote the first governing document in the New World. This first governing document was called the Mayflower Compact and defined the very reason for the establishing a new life in the Americas. It reads thusly,
“IN THE NAME OF GOD, AMEN. We, whose names are underwritten, the Loyal Subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith, and the Honour of our King and Country, a Voyage to plant the first Colony in the northern Parts of Virginia; Do by these Presents, solemnly and mutually, in the Presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof do enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions, and Officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general Good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due Submission and Obedience. IN WITNESS whereof we have hereunto subscribed our names at Cape-Cod the eleventh of November, in the Reign of our Sovereign Lord King James, of England, France, and Ireland, the eighteenth, and of Scotland the fifty-fourth, Anno Domini; 1620…”
It is clear that the original settlers had the ideology of establishing a new colony for the advancement of the Christian faith. Notice that the original settlers believed that the role of government was not only for the advancement of the Christian faith, but also, was not established for individual liberties, but rather for the good of the colony as a whole. In their theological view, the advancement of the Christian faith did not include an official state church concept since that was the very reason they were fleeing England, but neither did they hold that government should be sanitized from any recognition of God as the Supreme ruler as evidenced by the language contained in this first governing document.
By the late 1600’s, there was a marked turn away from traditional Calvinist views that man was wholly subjected in his actions and future eternal state to the unconditional election of God and His Divine Decrees. This turning away from Calvinist ideology had its roots in such groups as the Anabaptists. This view held that man had a will that could either accept Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, or reject Him. This will was based on the concept that man has the freedom to reason out Biblical truth and was wholly responsible and was held accountable for his decisions by God. Ultimately, this led to the age of enlightenment. In this new theological bent, God could be reasoned out based on scientific or natural observations. This view did not reject the existence of God, or His Sovereignty, but rather redefined Him outside of the views presented in the Bible. This led to the rise of Deism. Jefferson, like other Unitarians of his day, being of a strong scientific mind was naturally drawn to this ideology. Jefferson did not hold to an agnostic or atheistic view at all. He saw himself as a deeply spiritual man, although a mainline Christian would define him as heretical in some of his views.
Some of his theology is evident in his drafting of the Declaration of Independence. In the first paragraph, Jefferson writes that all men are endowed by their Creator with life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Notice two things about this sentence. The first is that Jefferson recognized that God was Sovereign. God not only was the grantor of life, but also of liberty. Both of which placed God as the ultimate Sovereign over man (and by reason of the Declaration of Independence, the King of England).
Second, notice the terminology. Both life and liberty held vast theological aspects in relation to the Creator. In the realm of life, it was believed by most people in that day that life emanated from God. All accepted that life began at conception based on the theological view that man was a living soul. Though there was a debate amongst theologians regarding the merits of Traducianism, Creationism and Pre-existence when it came to the origin of the soul, what all agreed upon, was that life began at conception. This is concluded because the soul was either traduced at conception, created at conception or was pre-existent and was infused at conception.
The concept of liberty as it related to a Divine Creator was founded upon the principles espoused in the book of Galatians in that liberty was that spiritual aspect that liberated man from the constrictions of theological law and placed him within the realm of grace. Man was now wholly responsible in his actions relating to God and to society as a whole. God had extended grace, but man could choose to accept it or reject it. If he accepted the proffering of grace, then he was liberated from the condemnation and eternal penalty of sin. He then served God by means of the regeneration and leading of the indwelling Holy Spirit, or in the Deistic theological sense, through the conscience and reason. In essence, in either case, with freedom comes responsibility. This responsibility was deemed to be answerable to a higher Sovereign and to the moral conscience of society.
Though Jefferson himself was a Deist, many of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were self professed Congregationalists who would not have accepted any governing document that rejected the existence of God. These included,
Samuel Huntington - Connecticut Roger Sherman - Connecticut
William Williams - Connecticut Oliver Wolcott - Connecticut
Lyman Hall - Georgia Samuel Adams - Massachusetts
John Hancock - Massachusetts Josiah Bartlett - New Hampshire
Robert Treat Paine - Massachusetts William Ellery - Rhode Island
William Whipple - New Hampshire
By the time of the writing of the Constitution, both Federalists and Anti-Federalists argued from theological perspectives. The arguments of the Anti-Federalists (Patrick Henry and James Madison being chief among them) indicated that there was a strong bent toward recognizing, even in the Age of Enlightenment of 1787, that America was indebted to God for its existence. Some modern liberal writers have extrapolated these arguments to prove that the triumph of the Federalists indicates their direct intention of producing and espousing a secular government. Some of these writers include Cornell University professors Isaac Kramnick and R. Laurence Moore who take this view. Daniel L. Dreisbach, Doctor of Philosophy of Oxford University wrote a rebuttal to Kramnick and Moore in which he dismantles their arguments (http://www.leaderu.com/common/godlessconstitution.html) and shows that the framers did not intend to produce a secular culture or government, but rather left the issue up to the states.
“The U. S. Constitution's lack of a Christian designation had little to do with a radical secular agenda. Indeed, it had little to do with religion at all. The Constitution was silent on the subject of God and religion because there was a consensus that, despite the framer's personal beliefs, religion was a matter best left to the individual citizens and their respective state governments (and most states in the founding era retained some form of religious establishment). The Constitution, in short, can be fairly characterized as "godless" or secular only insofar as it deferred to the states on all matters regarding religion and devotion to God…”
It is interesting to note the number of practicing Congregationalists who signed the Constitution of the United Sates,
Roger Sherman - Connecticut Abraham Baldwin - Georgia
Nathaniel Gorham - Massachusetts John Langdon - New Hampshire
Nicholas Gilman - New Hampshire
Modern Liberalism has unshackled itself from the ideology that society as a whole is responsible to God as held by virtually all of the founding fathers in one form or another and as openly espoused by the above named signers. Liberals have replaced this with a new religion that indeed violates their very premise that separation of church and state (not stated in the Constitution) means separation of the state from God. This religion first must redefine the constitution as a living document and it has become their Bible (albeit an ever changing one). That is, that there is no historical precedent by which the Constitution and its aims should be defined, but rather that it is to be stretched, molded or redefined at the whims of each succeeding generation. Thus, each generation, instead of being constrained by a document that covertly has its roots in Christianity with an historical precedent for interpretation, now places the document within their own constraints. The Constitution thus becomes subservient to them, instead of them being subservient to the Constitution.
How does this come about. First, there must be an argument for humanism. The Government must be separated from any form of authority that is higher than it. This places man as the supreme authority. God must be erased from all public expression and man now becomes a god.
Second, all historical precedents must be ignored. Since extreme liberalism tends to be supported by largely atheistic groups, they must redefine the history of our culture, our nation and the beliefs of our founding fathers in order to highjack society through the redefining of our governing documents and the tenets of previous society.
Third, in order to claim the high ground, there must be a series of moral tenets established. These are established in order to foist them on society and in order to encourage the acceptance of these tenets, they must appear to be good and morally just. These tenets redefine Biblical immorality as alternate lifestyles, murder of the unborn as the right to choose, free speech as hate speech, traditional marriage as commitment between any two people regardless of gender etc. All of these are purely based on humanist preferences that do not come from above man, but emanate from man. With enough marketing and public exposure, society will inevitably come to accept these tenets as truth.
Once that the Government is removed from answering to God, and once all evidence that it ever did is removed from public display, and once man is now his own deity, he can then reshape his government as he sees fit to embrace his new religion.
The end result is that life and liberty have been redefined. Life can now be defined not as the view held by the founding fathers, which is that life begins at conception, but rather at birth. We can now kill the unborn under some unwritten ethereal, morally just concept of the right to choose under an implied right to privacy embedded in the Constitution (somewhere?).
Liberty is no longer based on responsibility to God and to society as a whole but rather it is based on individual preferences and rights. Instead of being held to a choice of accepting or rejecting the grace of God and being answerable to Him, we now can choose what we like best as our own sovereign and answer only to ourselves as individuals.
In their zeal to redefine the concepts of liberty, liberals are now replacing the long held practices and laws of a former largely Christian society with individual rights. Where once, the Constitution was believed to be a document defining the power of Federal Government and limiting it to those articles contained therein, and devolving all other power to the states, the Constitution is now held as the new Bible of the individual. It no longer defines the power of the Federal Government, but rather defines the religious (i.e. moral and social rights) tenets of the individual.
Where once, certain practices held as immoral behavior based on a Biblical principles, were largely outlawed by almost every state in the Union (in keeping with the premise espoused by Dreisbach that the states had the right to impose law based on any religious views held by the constituency), now these state laws regarding so called alternative lifestyles, free choice etc. are being overturned by some unprecedented court ruling and now the rights of the individual supersede those of society as a whole. Liberty therefore is not defined within the constraints of being answerable to a higher Sovereign and the moral fabric of society, but rather it now means liberty from these constraints. All protected by the Constitution! Thus, morality and rights are transported from that which is good for society as a whole, to that of individual liberty.
In order to accomplish this, liberals have established their own ecclesiastical presbytery known as the courts. If popular opinion and state law refuses to acknowledge their new religion, then they will have it forced upon the populace through the courts who have unknowingly (or even more frightful, knowingly) have grasped the theology that the Constitution is subservient to us, instead us being subservient to it.
An example of this shift in the courts can be seen in two landmark events in our history. When the issue of slavery was finally settled in 1865, the courts did not rule that the Constitution covered the right for blacks to vote nor to be free, but rather recognized that as originally intended by the forefathers, blacks were excluded from voting and slavery was legal. Neither sociological practice either were stated or implied in the Constitution and as a result, the rights of blacks were left up to the states. As a result, some circuit court did not decide to put forth some ruling allowing blacks freedom and the right to vote, thereby infringing upon the rights of the states. Rather, the Constitution was amended to include the right for blacks to vote and making slavery illegal thereby superseding the rights of the states as the founding fathers intended through the amendment process.
The same can be said regarding women’s suffrage. As late as the 1920’s the ideology that the Constitution was not a so-called living document was still understood. It took a Constitutional amendment to grant women the right to vote.
What is taking place now, is that district courts are ruling that the Ten Commandments, Intelligent Design, prayer in school, public displays of religious symbols and public motto’s such as that of our own state of Ohio (With God All Things are Possible), are now un-Constitutional in opposition to their long held existence in society. To get there, they must follow the three-step plan to the new religion of liberalism.
In the end, what has transpired is a new religion based on a written ever-changing and expanding standard (a living, breathing Constitution) that has replaced the Bible. This new religion contains a new definition of morality that covers any new concept that becomes popular in society and upholds personal liberty and replaces the traditional Judeo-Christian moral law. It is defended by a new ecclesiastical body (the courts) that are set up as the ruling body (much like the Sanhedrin or the Areopogites) to determine the validity of their new definition of morality and theological tenets. Finally, it has as its sovereign a new god, that being themselves.
It is interesting that many liberals accuse the religious right of attempting to establish a theocracy, yet truly, if anyone is violating the concept of the separation of church and state, it is the liberals with their new theocracy.