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Independence from God Means Dependence on the State

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Independence from God is a terrible road to take, but that seems to be the one we’ve taken. Independence from God means dependence on the State. That’s the road we’re on. The book The Case for America’s Christian Heritage shows that there is no honest way to separate religion from America’s political, social, historical, and institutional life. It’s equally true that not all our nation’s founders were Christians. Even so, someone like Thomas Jefferson understood that the fundamental principles of religion were necessary for good government. As much as he denounced certain biblical precepts,[1] it is noteworthy that when it came to outlining a system of ethics, he chose the words of Jesus in the gospels in his The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, commonly referred to as the Jefferson Bible (1820).[2]

Thomas S. Kidd argues in his book Thomas Jefferson: A Biography of Spirit and Flesh “that while Jefferson wasn’t an orthodox Christian, he espoused an idiosyncratic form of spirituality more robust than deism…. Jefferson’s unguarded correspondence with friends shows he believed in God’s providence, and his proof for providence was the triumph of Enlightenment ideals brought about by the American Revolution. Jefferson’s public and private writings were steeped in the language of Scripture…. Jefferson located the truth of Christianity in Jesus’ moral teachings.”[3]

There are some historical anomalies given the fact that Christianity was the prevailing religion of the era. For example, the Constitution does not make a direct reference to God when compared to the colonial charters, state constitutions, and a document like the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms (July 6, 1775) which was prepared by the Second Continental Congress. It stated the following: “With an humble confidence to the mercies of the supreme and impartial Judge and Ruler of the Universe, we most devoutly implore his divine goodness to protect us happily through this great conflict, to dispose our adversaries to reconciliation on reasonable terms, and thereby to relieve the empire from the calamities of civil war.” Similar wording is found in the Declaration of Independence (1776) where the “Creator” from whom our rights are derived as an endowment is described as “the Supreme Judge of the World.”

We find the following from church and state scholar Anson Phelps Stokes (1874-1958):

The nation’s foundational documents are replete with reference to the Deity, “Christian” ideals, “the year of our Lord,” the promotion of “religion” and of “religious freedom,” “civic and religious liberty,” the “worship of God,” the provision for public prayer and thanksgiving to Almighty God, for chaplains, and so on.[4]

The Constitution’s silence on specific references to God “was noted by a few members of the Constitutional Convention and was identified by critics in state ratifying conventions and among the general public as a defect in the proposed document.”[5] Criticism extended into the 19th century to such a degree that there were “national campaigns to amend the Constitution to recognize Almighty God and reflect the Republic’s Christian character and heritage”[6] so much so that Christians were encouraged not to vote because of the Constitution’s secular character.

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We need to remember that state governments were free to establish their own religious tests when it came to holding political office. The Tennessee Constitution of 1796 also had a religious test ban like what we find in the religious test ban in Article VI of the Federal Constitution but nevertheless stated that “no person who denies the being of God, or a future state of rewards and punishments, shall hold any office in the civil department of this State.”

The Federal Constitution was the creation of the states. Representatives from the states believed the national government should not have jurisdictional authority over religion, including administering religious tests. We know this is the case because at the insistence of the states the First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the Free Exercise thereof….” In constitutional terms, Congress is the only national law-making legislative body.

Constitutional scholar Daniel Dreisbach offers a helpful summary of the issue:

Many in [the] founding generation supported a federal test ban because they valued religious tests required under state laws, and they feared that a federal test might displace existing state test oaths and religious establishments. In other words, support for the Article VI ban**[7]** was driven in part by a desire to preserve and defend the instruments of “religious establishment” (specifically, religious test oaths) that remained in the states.[8]

We can’t read the minds of the constitutional framers. Did they fear a national imposition of a religious test and thus left such an important decision to the wisdom of 13 state governments? That way, citizens could move from one state jurisdiction to another if they found one more secular or religious than another. Some have argued that the framers “never dreamed that they were to be regarded as treating Christianity with contempt, because they did not formally mention it as the law of the land, … much less that it should be excluded from government.”

The absence of a direct reference to God does not erase our nation’s rich Christian heritage, but it is disappointing that our constitutional framers did not have the Preamble read something like, “We the People of the United States, wholly dependent on Almighty God, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” I doubt that few people would have objected.

Another point needs to be discussed. What impact did the Enlightenment have on America’s Christian heritage? As I point out in “Putting It All Together to Answer Historical Revisionism” in The Case for America’s Christian Heritage, the big-name founders get most of the attention who, like Jefferson, did not argue in an ideological vacuum. The Christian roots of America’s founding run deep. For example, James Madison studied under Presbyterian minister John Witherspoon as did many other founders. Madison studied under the tutelage of the Scottish Presbyterian minister Donald Robertson, “whom he later said, ‘all that I have been in life I owe largely to that man.’”[9] Thomas Paine grew up with a Quaker father and an Anglican mother. John Adams was raised as a Calvinist. His son, John Quincy Adams, was a devout Christian. We almost never hear of John Dickinson “one of a host of other Patriots—Samuel Adams, Elias Boudinot, Elbridge Gerry, John Hancock, John Jay, Richard Henry Lee, George Mason, Gouverneur Morris, Charles Pickney, Edmund Randolph, Benjamin Rush, John Rutledge, Roger Sherman, James Wilson, … just to name a few—who made salient, if now forgotten, contributions to the new nation.”[10]

Under Witherspoon, who was President of the College of New Jersey, signed the Declaration of Independence and Articles of Confederation and supported ratification of the Constitution of the United States, produced, “five delegates to the Constitutional Convention; one U.S. President (Madison); a vice president (the notorious Aaron Burr); forty-nine U.S. Representatives; twenty-eight U.S. Senators; three Supreme Court Justices; eight U.S. district judges; one secretary of state; three attorneys general; and two foreign ministers.”[11]

The studied background of these men demonstrates that Enlightenment influences were tempered by an understanding that the world was created, as Benjamin Franklin believed,[12] the ability to reason was inherent in being created in the image of God, and ethics reflect God’s moral attributes such as love, goodness, and kindness. Without God, none of these attributes are rationally possible. We need to remember that evolutionary materialism was nearly a century away with the publican of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man (1871). The enlightenment in the Age of Enlightenment was operating on borrowed rational and moral capital. Since the Bible was “the most important source of meaning for eighteenth-century Americans,” there was no way anyone could escape its influence.

Benjamin Rush (1746-1813), who signed the Declaration of Independence, wrote, “there is no other book of its size in the whole world, that contains half so much useful knowledge for the government of states, or the direction of the affairs of individuals as the bible.”[13] Rush was not alone in his assessment of the Bible. Similar testimonies can be found in the writings of John Jay, Roger Sherman, Robert Treat Paine, and Elias Boudinot. John Adams, who would not be considered an orthodox Christian, stated when compared to all other religions he studied “that the Bible is the best book in the world. It contains more of my little [Philosophy] than all the libraries in the world.”[14]

Ethan Allen renounced Christianity and “embraced a religion of reason.” Given a reason-only approach, one finds it impossible to account for reason in a matter-only world. Reason, logic, and morality are not material “things.” they can’t be found in a dissection of the physical body even at the DNA level. People like Allen were drawing from the bright and extensive Christian heritage of America’s past. In time, that past would become almost a faded memory as the operating assumptions of the Darwinian worldview have become an unchallenged scientific certainty that refuses to have its operating presuppositions scrutinized and put to the test.

On November 22, 1800, John Adams delivered the following that was part of his presidential State of the Union address in the unfinished building that would serve as the home of the United States Congress:

It would be unbecoming the representatives of this nation to assemble for the first time in this solemn temple without looking up to the Supreme Ruler of the universe and imploring His blessing. May this territory be the residence of virtue and happiness! In this city may that piety and virtue, that wisdom and magnanimity, that constancy and self-government, which adorned the great character whose name it bears be forever held in veneration! Here and throughout our country may simple manners, pure morals, and true religion flourish forever!

Adams could not shake his Christian upbringing even in the so-called light of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment worked because it grew within the soil of a biblical worldview.

Critics of America’s Christian heritage are often dishonest. They argue with a stacked deck, only presenting historical facts that support their claims. They also go after soft targets where school budgets are tight. They know that school districts cannot afford a long and expensive legal fight, so they capitulate without offering a legal and historical defense.

For example, the Madison, Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) and the Washington, D.C.-based American Humanist Association (AHA) demanded that a Georgia school remove two Scripture verses from a sculpture that sits outside of the field house at Madison County High School in Danielsville, Georgia.

“In addition to the school logo and the slogan ‘Home of the Red Raiders,’ the sculpture at issue contains two Bible verses: ‘If God be for us, who can be against us?’ from Romans 8:31 and ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ from Philippians 4:13. The monument was paid for by private funds, but the identity of the sponsor has not been revealed.”

These two bullying organizations claimed that the use of the Scripture passages violates the First Amendment to the Constitution. The First Amendment was added to the Constitution to protect the states from the Federal government interfering with religion, speech, press, and assembly. That’s why it begins with “Congress shall make no law….” The national government does not have jurisdiction over the states regarding religion or education. You will not find the word “education” anywhere in the Constitution.

These anti-Christian organizations have turned the First Amendment on its head claiming it requires the opposite of what it was originally designed to do at the insistence of the states.

Not only can’t the national government establish a national religion, but it can’t prohibit the free exercise of religion. These two atheist organizations want the courts to step in and rule contrary to the Constitution, the history of the United States, and numerous Christian elements found throughout our nation’s government structures.

Here’s the claim:

“The district violates the Constitution when it allows its schools to display religious symbols messages. Schools may not advance, prefer or promote religion,” the letter from FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel asserted.[15]

There is nothing in the Constitution that says this. For further information, see the book The Case for America’s Christian Heritage and Benjamin F. Morris’ The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States.

Christian Heritage Bundle

Buy Christian Life and Character and The Case for America’s Christian Heritage and get a free download of Christianity and the American Commonwealth (normally $10). Christianity and the American Commonwealth is one of the best summaries of the impact of Christianity on America. Charles Galloway leaves no stone un-turned in his historical and logical arguments to demonstrate that without the gospel and the application of all of God’s Word to all of life, civilizations turn despotic and crumble.

Buy Now


[1] For example, the following is from a letter written by Jefferson to John Adams on April 11, 1823: “The day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus by the Supreme Being in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. … But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding….”

[2] The full title of Jefferson’s 1804 version was The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth, being Extracted from the Account of His Life and Doctrines Given by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; Being an Abridgement of the New Testament for the Use of the Indians, Unembarrased [uncomplicated] with Matters of Fact or Faith beyond the Level of their Comprehensions.

[3] Collin Garbarino, “The Most Inconsistent Founder,” World (June 25, 2022), 66-67.

[4] Church and State in the United States, 3 vols. (New York: Harper and Bros, 1950), 3:561

[5] Daniel L. Dreisbach, “God and the Constitution: Reflections on selected Nineteenth-Century Commentaries on References to the Deity and the Christian Religion in the United States Constitution” (1993), 3.

[6] Dreisbach, “God and the Constitution,” 7-8.

[7] Article VI specifies that “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.”

[8] Daniel Dreisbach, “A Godless Constitution?: A Response to Kramnick and Moore,” (1997): http://leaderu.com/common/godlessconstitution.html

[9] Quoted in “Vindiciae, Contra Tyrannos: The Influence of the Reformed Tradition in the Founding,” 35. Daniel L. Dreisbach and Mark David Hall, “Introduction,” Faith and the Founders of the American Republic, eds. Dreisbach and Hall (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), 35.

[10] Dreisbach and Hall, “Introduction,” Faith and the Founders of the American Republic, 5.

[11] Hall, “Vindiciae, Contra Tyrannos, 35.

[12] “Here is my Creed. I believe in one God, the Creator of the Universe. That He governs it by His Providence. That He ought to be worshipped.”

[13] Benjamin Rush, The Plan for the Establishment of Public Schools and the Diffusion of Knowledge in Pennsylvania; to Which are Added, the Thoughts upon the Mode of Education, Proper in a Republic (Philadelphia, 1786).Quoted in Dreisbach, “The Bible and the Political Culture if the American Founding,” Faith and the Founders of the American Republic, 149.

[14] John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, December 25, 1813, in Charles Francis Adams, ed. The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, 10 vols. (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1850–1856), 10:85. Quoted in Dreisbach, “The Bible and the Political Culture if the American Founding,” Faith and the Founders of the American Republic, 150.

[15] Heather Clark, “Atheists, Humanists Demand Georgia School District to Remove Scripture from Sculpture,” Christian News (September 29, 2014): https://bit.ly/39HAI7I

American Vision’s mission is to Restore America to its Biblical Foundation—from Genesis to Revelation. American Vision (AV) has been at the heart of worldview study since 1978, providing resources to exhort Christian families and individuals to live by a Biblically based worldview. Visit www.AmericanVision.org for more information, content and resources


Source: https://americanvision.org/posts/independence-from-god-means-dependence-on-the-state/


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