THE BIBLE AND THE DAWN OF THE AMERICAN DREAM

by: John W. Whitehead

When the reformation swept over Europe, it put
the Bible in the hands of the people, revolutionized
concepts of government and set the stage for the
American Republic. With the influence of Samuel
Witherspoon and John Locke, the Bible became
the basis of United States government and law.

The reformation in Europe revolutionized concepts of government. It provided the framework for political freedom unknown up to that time. The standard of reference, the Bible, was placed in the hands of the people .Freedom could exist now without license and without chaos. The event led to a culture that brought about the civil freedoms and benefits Western Europe and the United States have enjoyed for centuries.

Christian theism teaches that man is held accountable to his Creator. Absolute standards exist by which all moral judgements of life are to be measured. With the Bible, there is a standard of right and wrong.

Rutherford: Government based on God.

These fundamental principles made up the Reformation world view. They were passed on in substance and without significant alteration to the American colonies through the influence of a book written by a Presbyterian minister, Samuel Rutherford, Lex, Rex or, The Law and the Prince (1644.) Lex Rex challenged the fundamental principle of seventeenth-century political government in Europe: the divine right of kings. Rutherford dared to assert that the basic premise of government and, therefore, of law must be the Bible, the Word of God rather than the word of any man. All men, even the king, Rutherford argued , were under the law and not above it.

Locke, Witherspoon: The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Though Rutherford died before his concepts were implemented, his ideas lived on, as so often good ones do, to influence later generations. His basic presupposition of government based upon the absolutes of the Bible was finally realized in colonial America through the influence of John Witherspoon and John Locke. Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister who had been educated at Edinburgh University brought the principles of Lex,Rex into the writing of the Constitution. (He was the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence.)

Dr. Francis Schaeffer has noted that many “of the men who laid the foundation of the United States Constitution were not Christians in the full sense, and yet they built upon the basis of the Reformation either directly through the Lex,Rex tradition or indirectly through Locke. Our political institutions have their basis in their Reformation thinking.

Blackstone: The Divine Origin of Rights and Laws.

The renowned, eighteenth-century English jurist, William Blackstone also played a leading role in forming a Christian presuppositional base to early American law. Blackstone’s ideas on law were readily accepted in the colonies. A lecturer at law at Oxford, he embodied the tenets of Judeo-Christian theism in his Commentaries. In the first century of American independence, the Commentaries were not merely an approach to the study of the law; for most lawyers they constituted all there was of the law.

Blackstone, a Christian, believed that the fear of the Lord was the beginning of wisdom. Thus he opened his Commentaries with a very careful analysis of the law of God as revealed in the Bible. Blackstone took it as self-evident that God is the source of all laws, whether they were found in the Holy Scriptures or were observable in nature. His pre-suppositions were thoroughly Christian, founded upon the belief that there existed a personal, omnipotent God who worked in and governed the affairs of men. In consequence, man was bound by those laws, which were in turn a system of absolutes.

In Blackstone’s view, and in the eyes of those who founded the United States, every right or light comes from God, and the very words rights, laws, freedoms, and so on are meaningless without their divine origins.

Blackstone’s influence is clearly expressed in the Declaration of Independence. The colonists argued that it is “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” that entitled them to independence and to an equal station among nations. In echoing Lex, Rex the colonists proclaimed that “all men are created equal.”

The Judeo-Christian Basis of American Law.

In seeking independence from Great Britain the colonists declared to the world their belief in a personal, infinite God----“their Creator”------who endowed them with “certain inalienable” or absolute rights. To the men of that time, it was self-evident that if there were no God there could be no absolute rights. Unlike the French revolutionaries a few years later, the American colonists knew very well that if the inalienable rights they were urging were not seen in the context of Judeo-Christian theism, they were without content.

The Declaration of Independence, therefore, is structured upon a Judeo-Christian base in two fundamental ways. First, it professes faith in a “Creator” who works in and governs the affairs of men in establishing absolute standards to which men are held accountable.

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