As we draw closer to the 4th of July—a day that celebrates America's independence—we can take a look back at the founding principles our nation was built upon and seek to apply those values once again.
Though there is some controversy around America's Founding Fathers, supporters and critics alike agree on the basic facts.
First, the majority of the Founding Fathers were Christian.
Second, they embraced the Bible as truth and used it as a guideline for success and cohesiveness among the nation’s people.
In order to celebrate the roots of America’s independence, we must answer two questions:
- What were the core values embodied in the political institutions of the United States?
- Has our country drifted from those core values, and how can we realign with the vision that our forefathers had?
You may have heard about the founding principles—sometimes called the first principles—but what are these core values that formed the basis of the American experience?
- For starters, our forefathers believed that rights came from God, not government. This founding principle is actually embedded in our 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.”
- The founders advocated government as a social contract. The term consent of the governed encapsulates this concept, which means the people, not a king, should govern. The power of the people is declared in the first three words of the Constitution, “We the people …”
This part of the founding principles is also the underlying basis for our Declaration of Independence: “Governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to 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.”
If government is a social contract, and it has only limited power that is formally delegated by the people, then the contract—or constitution—must be in writing.
- The Founding Fathers believed in limited government in the form of a representative republic. They distrusted a direct democracy because they equated it to mob rule. James Madison constantly preached against any system that allowed special interests (factions) to gain control of the government. He showed that, throughout history, majority factions tyrannized minorities, whether the minorities be based on race, wealth, religion, or even geography.
- The founders believed that to protect against government oppression, they must disperse power and give each branch of government formidable checks on the authority of every other branch.
- The Founding Fathers were firm believers in private property rights. Our national heritage is a written constitution that sets the rules for governance between the people and their elected representatives. The founders’ intent was that this contract would be changed only through the amendment process.
To become an American citizen has never been a matter of bloodlines or genealogy, but rather a matter of endorsing and embracing the values established at the founding. These values were founded on a set of beliefs and convictions that were proclaimed in 1776 and then embedded into the Bill of Rights.
Our National Heritage: Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence contains at least four references to God. They reference God in the beginning—“endowed by their Creator”—and again when there is mention of “Nature’s God,” but perhaps the most telling mention is when they refer to God in the final paragraph of the document.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” (emphasis added)
Why Did the Founding Fathers Put So Much Weight on God in This Document?
- The founders were deeply influenced by a biblical view of man and government. With a clear understanding of the fallen nature of man, they devised a system of limited authority and checks and balances.
- The founders understood that fear of God, moral leadership, and the righteous character of citizens were all necessary for their great experiment to succeed.
Could It Be Viewed as an Attempt to Force the Country into Christianity?
- No! It was simply an effort of structuring a political climate that was welcoming to Christianity and accommodating to all religion, rather than hostile to it.
- This is emphatically supported by the fact that they specifically prohibited the establishment of Christianity—or any other faith—as the religion of our nation.
Ultimately the debate over the religious heritage of this country is not about who is or isn’t going to heaven, but rather about the dominant convictions that directed the structure of this nation. The nation was built upon biblical truths and biblical founding principles because those do not change.
If they did, then truth would no longer be truth—it would be theory.
Why America Should Stand with Israel
Israel is a democracy that stands up for American values of liberty, while recognizing the truth about the created world and the fallen nature of humanity.
The Declaration of Independence refers to God as the Creator of man and nature, as well as Judge and Protector—just as the prophet Isaiah refers to Him.
“For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver, the Lord is our King; He will save us.”—Isaiah 33:22
Our Founding Fathers clearly understood the significance of God’s unyielding character and His plan to honor the land covenant that He made with Israel in the Old Testament.
The verse that precedes the aforementioned one in Isaiah prophesizes to Israel and its restoration.
“Look upon Zion, the city of our appointed feasts; your eyes will see Jerusalem, a quiet home, a tabernacle that will not be taken down; not one of its stakes will ever be removed, nor will any of its cords be broken. But there the majestic Lord will be for us, a place of broad rivers and streams, in which no galley with oars will sail, nor majestic ships pass by.”—Isaiah 33:20-21
If our Founding Fathers surrendered to God’s ultimate authority, and we want to honor them on the Fourth of July for their dedication to our freedom, wouldn’t it make sense that we also surrender to God’s will?
After all, success for Christians doesn’t start with political muscle, but in faithfulness. Our power is measured by what we can sow into God’s chosen land to restore it to its full glory, and the blessings we can reap by obeying His calling.
The truth is, there is an anointing on all Christians to be the salt and light of the earth; they have no special privileges simply because Christianity was America's first faith. On the contrary, if America is ever to become a Christian nation, it will be credited to adopting the founding principles that our forefathers built this nation on.
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relationship that has been established between the United States and