This week as the Texas State Board of Education is adopting new history books, liberal academics and activists are claiming that portions of the textbooks overemphasize the biblical religious heritage of our country. These critics are wrong. America was founded on the biblical principles:
- Truth exists,
- God exists,
- Man is created in the image of God, and
- Man is fallen.
This is an incredibly important discussion to have. For example, read this excerpt from the essay that follows. Here we learn that our government is not broken, as so many today claim, but that it is working exactly as it was designed! And, we learn that the underlying principle that makes it work is the biblical conviction that man is fallen–that man is a sinner.
“Our founding fathers had a clear biblical understanding of the nature of man. They not only understood that man was great—having been created in the image of God, they also knew that man was bad—having a fallen nature. Having this in mind, they designed our Constitution accordingly. Clearly understanding the reality of sin, our founders made it difficult to govern—that is, they made it difficult for tyranny to succeed; they adopted the separation of powers doctrine with its numerous checks and balances. It is not surprising, therefore, that when modern men who do not understand the thinking behind our Constitution gets thwarted in their dreams, they will wrongly conclude our government is dysfunctional. But, for example, when Congress over-reached and passed an unpopular healthcare bill, the control over the House of Representatives switched parties less than one year later. Our Constitution worked flawlessly!”
Not only are these thoughts timely for the Texas textbook adoption, they are incredibly important nationally as our president is about to take on an unprecedented step of defying our separation of powers doctrine with an executive order on granting amnesty to millions.
Please read the following analysis and see if you do not agree. Thank you.
America is a Biblical Nation: Let Us Renew America by Reviving her Religious Convictions
America is a Biblical Nation
America was founded on her biblical religious convictions; the result has been American Exceptionalism; even as early as 1862 President Lincoln recognized that we were “the last best hope of earth.” It can be easily demonstrated that religious convictions are the lifeblood of our republic, that they gave it its birth and maintain its health. When you stand in the center of the Jefferson Memorial facing the White House and look up to your right, you will read these words of President Jefferson, “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberty of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?”
Our liberty, according to Jefferson, is not the result of our good nature, our intellect or our good intentions; it is the result of a religious conviction that it is a gift from God. Jefferson’s view was the consensus position of our founding fathers. Religiously speaking, they were ethical monotheists; they believed in an omnipotent God who cared about right and wrong. Interestingly, if alive today, they would probably be labeled “religious conservatives.”
Like Jefferson, President Calvin Coolidge understood the power of religious convictions. In 1926, on the 150th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, he reflected:
“A spring will cease to flow if its source be dried up; a tree will wither if its roots be destroyed. In its main features, the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration, not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man, these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We cannot continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause.”
A key question is: Will a future president make a similar declaration in 2026 on our country’s 250th anniversary? Already, many secularists insist that the United States is not a Christian nation; they even claim that our nation was not even founded on biblical principles but on secular principles. Frankly, the best way to settle this dispute is to go to the very beginning, to July 4, 1776, to the founding document of our country—the Declaration of Independence. Consider: “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.” Secularism says there is no truth, there is no God and that we just evolved. The Declaration clearly states that truth exists, there is a Creator and that we are created. So, are we a Christian nation? When you define a Christian nation simply as being founded on biblical principles then the answer is an unequivocal “Yes.”
Biblical Convictions Produce Freedom
So why then is there such widespread disagreement about Christianity and freedom today? The fact is too many Americans have been taught a myth that the mixing of religion and politics is a threat to freedom. M. Stanton Evans, in his book The Theme is Freedom: Religion, Politics and the American Tradition (1994), calls this myth the “Liberal History Lesson.” Evans explains that from their earliest education, the lessons our children are being taught are based on the idea that “Our religion and our liberty…have always been in conflict. Freedom, democracy and intellectual inquiry allegedly flourished in the pagan era, only to be crushed to earth in the Christian Middle Ages.” And, “that freedom reappeared when ‘humanist’ scholars of the Renaissance and Enlightenment threw off the shackles of religion of the ancients…” The only problem with these statements is that they are wrong.
It is a historic fact that biblical convictions have produced freedom. Evans proves this point by connecting two obvious facts:
“That biblical teaching was the formative influence in the creation of Europe, and that Europe was the nursery of freedom as we know it, are both established facts of record. Taken separately, these are prosaic statements of common knowledge, hardly worth the trouble of assertion. Put them together, however, and the result is intensely controversial. This is not the linkage, after all, suggested by the usual story; the notion that Christianity equals Europe equals freedom is, indeed, reverse of what should be expected. If Christian doctrine is opposed to freedom, then liberty ought to flourish where Christianity has had the smallest degree of influence, and languish where that influence is the greatest.”
Now consider two more facts. When Nazi Germany rejected Christianity, they became pagan; when Communist Russia rejected Christianity they became atheist. And, both became totalitarian.
I will now take a brief look at three key biblical convictions and the role they have played in shaping history. They are actually simple and obvious truths. When clearly presented, they are acceptable to almost everyone. These convictions are not obtuse theological points but are easily grasped—even by my fourth grade Sunday school students. They are immensely practical and, as we will see, even secular critics unknowingly reason on the foundation which they provide. What we must do is simply teach them to our children—no one else will.
The Religious Conviction That God Is the Creator
God or “Nothing “
Our foundational conviction is in a transcendent God who God created the heavens and the earth—the God who is actually there. This seems pretty obvious. Jonathan Edwards observed “It would seem self-evident that if God has no competitor but “Nothing”, he has nothing for a competitor.” Edwards also defines Nothing as “what a sleeping rock dreams of.”
I can think of no more powerful and practical concept to teach our children than this in today’s anti-supernatural climate. Amazingly, in today’s intellectual and scientific circles, the universe is considered to come into existence from “Nothing!”
Science arose in Christendom
The conviction that God has created the heavens and the earth has many important implications and consequences, but here we will just consider one; it is this conviction that has given us modern science. James Hannam, in his award-winning book The Genesis of Science: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundation for Modern Science (2009), states:
“Most significantly, the Middle Ages laid the foundation for the greatest achievement of Western civilization, modern science. It is simply untrue to say that there was no science before the ‘Renaissance’. Once medieval scholars got their hands on the work of the classical Greeks, they develop systems of thought that allowed science to travel far further than it had in the ancient world. Universities, where academic freedom was guarded from royal interference, were first founded in the 12th century. These institutions have always provided scientific research with a safe home. Even Christian theology turned out to be uniquely suited to encouraging study of the natural world, because this was believed to be God’s creation.”
Hannam clearly documents the consensus view of historians of science that it was the religious conviction that God created nature that led to the development of the natural philosophy of the Middle Ages which then led to the achievement of modern science. He also describes how the Christian theologians of the Middle Ages, whom he refers to as “God’s philosophers,” made the crucial distinctions about how God uses secondary causes or natural laws to affect his will which encouraged the study of nature. Without such distinctions theology becomes fatalistic and no science ensues.
Rodney Stark of Baylor, in his book For the Glory of God: How Monotheism led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery (2003) concurs. He concludes with two points, “First, science arose only once in history—in medieval Europe. Second, science could only arise in a culture dominated by belief in a conscious, rational, all-powerful Creator.”
The result of losing this conviction—scientific dogmatism
And, it is with the loss of this conviction that modern science gets in trouble and lets dogmatism—the assertion of opinion as a fact—creep in. Ironically, it is the secular-minded that become dogmatic because they are trapped by their beliefs. Consider evolution—the idea that all life is descended from a common ancestor as a result of unguided natural processes. The atheist must accept evolution—not a very good position to put in scientifically. For them, evolution has become more than just science; it has become the foundation for their beliefs.
But, a theist is free to accept or reject evolution. For example, many Christians believe God created the heavens and the earth and after looking at the evidence do not believe he used evolution to do it. Other Christians, such as Francisco J. Ayala, former President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, believe he did use evolution.
Next, we will look at one of the amazing qualities of the West—how we treat other people. Can anyone dispute the fact that untold millions who could, would cherish the opportunity to move here; while those who live here and have the freedom to leave, stay? We in the West may not all share the conviction that God created the heavens and the earth, but we do share a common heritage of carrying and compassion for others. Let us now identify the source of our Western moral ideals.
The Religious Conviction That Man Is Created in the Image of God
Why people are important
Where did we get this ideal of caring? More to the point, why are people important to a secular-minded atheist if they are only the product of blind purposeless processes? There is a simple answer; he has inherited it, without even realizing it, from our next religious conviction that all men are special having been created in the image of God.
David Brog in his book In Defense of Faith: The Judeo-Christian Idea and the Struggle for Humanity (2010) convincingly describes how the secularists’ attempts to purge religion from our society would purge the moral high ground from where they preach. In analyzing the secular-minded, he states that “morally they were born on third base and think that they have hit a moral triple;” “they begin life on a high moral summit and believe they have scaled a high mountain.”
Brog’s book makes clear that the force for moral progress in the West is the religious conviction that man has been created in the image of God. He shows that those who stood up against genocide, against slavery and racism were predominantly the strongly religious—for example: Antonio de Montesinos, Bartolome de Las Casas, William Wilberforce, William Lloyd Garrison, and Martin Luther King. Do our children know these names?
Christian principles favor human flourishing. For example, the free enterprise system is built upon the principles of limited government and personal responsibility—both of which are the result of a belief in man as created in the image of God. The free enterprise system makes better people. The free enterprise system rewards hard work, diligence and competence; it punishes laziness, cheating and freeloading.
The source for the moral power on which the foundation of our country is based is the Judeo-Christian idea that all men are created in the image of God. Our whole idea of liberty, of the Declaration’s “all men are created equal”, and of the importance of the individual is grounded in this great truth.
We take for granted that our society is the normal state of affairs, but ours is uncharacteristic of what is found in human societies around the world. That all men are “created equal” and have “inalienable rights” is self-evident to us, but to the people of the ancient world, before the advent of biblical revelation such ideas were not self-evident at all.
Next, we will see how a third foundational religious conviction is absolutely crucial to a well-functioning political system.
The Religious Conviction That Man Is Fallen
Why people cannot be completely trusted
Like the other convictions, the fact that man is a sinner is perfectly obvious. But amazingly, the secular-minded deny it. G. K. Chesterton in Orthodoxy (1908) observed “Whether a no man could be washed in miraculous waters, there was no doubt at any rate that he wanted washing. But now certain religious leaders… have begun…not to deny the highly disputable water, but to deny the indisputable dirt.”
Our founding fathers had a clear biblical understanding of the nature of man. They not only understood that man was great—having been created in the image of God, they also knew that man was bad—having a fallen nature. Having this in mind, they designed our Constitution accordingly. Clearly understanding the reality of sin, our founders made it difficult to govern—that is, they made it difficult for tyranny to succeed; they adopted the separation of powers doctrine with its numerous checks and balances. It is not surprising, therefore, that when modern men who do not understand the thinking behind our Constitution gets thwarted in their dreams, they will wrongly conclude our government is dysfunctional. But, for example, when Congress over-reached and passed an unpopular healthcare bill, the control over the House of Representatives switched parties less than one year later. Our Constitution worked flawlessly!
Thus, if we lose the religious conviction that man is fallen, we run the risk of a totalitarian state. For a free society, history is everything. Since the founding era represents the one of the most shining examples of biblical principles in action, we should utilize these illustrations as often as we can. This is especially true with the fallen nature of man.
The Importance of Religious Convictions
Eradicating the Four Underlying Evils
Since one of our society’s greatest needs is a defense and reviving of our importance of religious convictions, I believe one of the greatest threats is their mocking and ridicule. Most who disagree with us are not mean-spirited. Dennis Prager, in his book Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph (2012), points out they believe that their rejection of religion is most reasonable. They think their way is the only way to think and that what I am describing is anti-intellectual, anti-science and anti-reason.
However, esteemed British historian Paul Johnson in his classic history Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties (1991), laments the over 120 million citizens murdered by their own nations in search of human progress. Johnson concludes his book with the following paragraph.
“Certainly, by the last decade of the century, some lessons had plainly been learned. But it was not yet clear whether the underlying evils which had made possible its catastrophic failures and tragedies—the rise of moral relativism, the decline of personal responsibility, the repudiation of Judeo-Christian values, not least the arrogant belief that men and women could solve all the mysteries of the universe by their own unaided intellects—were in the process of being eradicated. On that would depend the chances of the twenty-first century becoming, by contrast, an age of hope for mankind.”
Note, all four of the “evils” Johnson identifies are secular values. This is why we need to make the connection between biblical principles and what has actually happened in history known to our children. When they know the fruit of what Christianity has brought into this world they should be better prepared to hold on to these important truths. As Johnson points out, lives are at stake.
If we fail to make this connection, here a quick summary of some of what they lose:
- They won’t understand their own country.
- They will lose modern science.
- They will lose the moral high ground for our compassionate and caring society, and
- They will not understand how our Constitution prevents tyranny.
Cultivate Reverence for the Things that are Holy
Back in 1926 President Coolidge concluded his speech on the 150th anniversary of the Declaration with these words:
“We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them. The things of the spirit come first. Unless we cling to that, all our material prosperity, overwhelming though it may appear, will turn to a barren scepter in our grasp. If we are to maintain the great heritage which has been bequeathed to us, we must be like-minded as the fathers who created it. We must not sink into a pagan materialism. We must cultivate the reverence which they had for the things that are holy. We must follow the spiritual and moral leadership which they showed….”
Coolidge said, we must “cling” “to the things of the spirit;” We must not mock these ideas. We need to teach our children to easily recognize some obvious and simple truths about God and the nature of man that have major far-reaching consequences. This is very similar to something Moses once said.
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deuteronomy 6: 4-8)