by Dr. Vic Reasoner
This article is the notes Vic used to teach a class at Southern Methodist College in Orangeburg, South Carolina September 17, 2007. I present it just as Vic sent it to me. If you find a few typos it is because I put it up just as it is: notes to use in teaching a class. It is a much longer article than I have been posting but I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use it and share it with you. I suggest printing it and keeping it for further reference. That is what I am doing. jbc.
September 17, 2007
Today has been designated as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day. We recognize and participate in this special event, first because Scripture requires us to be good citizens (Rom 13:7) and second because educational institutions that receive Federal funds are required to do so. Since preaching must be based on Scripture, I apologize that I am not preaching. However, what we are doing today is biblical.
1. The Significance of the Constitution
The founding document for the new world was the Mayflower Compact which was a covenant between God and our forefathers. In this document which was signed in 1620, the colonists states that they “mutually in the presence of God and one of another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politic.” They believed the new colony was a city set on a hill. John Winthrop, first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony preached, “Thus stands the cause between God and us: we are entered into covenant with Him for this work.”
The United States Constitution is the oldest and shortest written constitution operating in the world today. The “miracle in Philly” was that in under one hundred days this document was drafted, debated, adopted, and signed on Sept 17.
From 1781-1787 the US operated under the Articles of Confederation. They did not work because there was no separation of powers. So the Constitutional Convention was held, the Constitution was drafted and sent to the states for ratification. Only after the Bill of Rights was added was our present constitution ratified, taking effect in 1789.
But to what extend were the founding documents of our nation based upon rationalism and the secular model of government that France adopted from Enlightenment philosophy? Peter Drucker argued, “The American Revolution was based on principles completely contrary to those of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution” [The Future of Industrial Man, 1942].
Through much of world history, people have believed in the divine right of kings to rule. Monarchs have not hesitated to appeal to God as the basis for their own authority, then proceed to rule as if they themselves were God! By the middle of the seventeenth century, the idea of a social contract began to replace this idea of rule by divine right. Beginning with John Locke (1632-1704), philosophers argued that nature had endowed mankind with freedom and that as individuals we voluntarily enter into a contract in which we consent to be governed in exchange for protection. However, we retained the right to overthrown any government which broke the terms of the contract by acting against the general welfare. However, John Locke did not believe in original sin nor in divine revelation. and held that we come into this world as a clean slate.
Our textbook in History of Civilization does not mention Samuel Rutherford, but he had written in 1644 that the king was not above the law and that the ruler’s authority is granted conditionally. Acts of state which contradict God’s Law are illegitimate and acts of tyranny. We must resist unlawful government. If we do not we are resisting God. Thus the Declaration of Independence was not an act of anarchy, but rather cited 27 biblical violations by King George.
While Enlightment philosophers were read by our founding fathers, they clearly held to the depravity of mankind. Actually the theories of John Locke were only a secularized version of Rutherford’s theology. Francis Schaeffer noted that while the men who laid the foundation of the Constitution were not Christians in the full sense, yet they built upon the basis of the Reformation either directly through Rutherford or indirectly through Locke who drew heavily from the Reformed tradition [How Should We Then Live?] While our Declaration of Independence takes the phrase “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” directly from Locke who asserted these were our “natural rights,” yet our Declaration declares that these are “endowed by our Creator.”
Yet John Locke drafted the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina in 1669 and ¶ 95 declared, “No man shall be permitted to be a freeman of Carolina, or to have any estate or habitation within it, that doth not acknowledge a (God, and that God is publicly and solemnly to be worshipped.” The South Carolina Constitution of 1778 established the Christian Protestant religion as the established religion of the state, declaring Christianity to be the true religion and the holy Scriptures to be divinely inspired and the rule of faith and practice [¶ 38].
While some historians try to tell us that the American experiment is simply an extension of the French Enlightenment or a Freemason conspiracy, John Eidsmore has demonstrated in Christianity and the Constitution (1987) that most of the founding fathers were at least Christian in culture, if not in personal faith.
Though it is often claimed that our founding fathers were deists, who believed in a Creator who wound up this world like a great clock and then stepped back to let it run according to natural law and without direct supernatural intervention, at least none were agnostics or atheists who advocated evolutionary theory. Certainly Thomas Paine advocated deism in The Age of Reason, but that book was published in the 1790s, after the Constitution had been written. He played no direct role in the any American document. While his first book, Common Sense, did argue for independence it did not promote deism.
And this claim that the founding fathers were deists is open to investigation. The first session of the Constitutional Convention was opened with prayer. If any of those delegates were open to the charge of deism, one would have been Benjamin Franklin. Yet on June 28, 1787 Franklin advised the Constitutional Convention to humbly apply to the Father of Lights to illuminate their understanding. He reminded them they had prayed daily in that room from divine protection in the contest with Great Britain and that God had graciously answered their prayers. Franklin went on to say that the longer he lived the more convincing proofs he saw of this truth, that God governs the affairs of men. “And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable an empire can rise without His aid?” And so Franklin concluded by reminding the delegates of the teaching of Scripture that expect the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.
The question is not whether every framer of the Constitution was himself a born again evangelical Christian. God is not specifically mentioned because the framers did not think this was an area of jurisdiction for the federal government. The Constitution avoided the area of religion because every one of the thirteen colonies had already established Christianity as their religion and nine of the thirteen had one or more established churches [Rushdoony, The United States: A Christian Republic]. We have already noted the example of our own state.
But while the Constitution does not deal with salvation, it does deal with ethics and they did work from a biblical world view. A Supreme Court decision in 1892 affirmed that we are a Christian nation. This decision was reviewed and affirmed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1931.
I am aware of the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli in which a radical U. S. consul asserted that the United States “is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.” But when that treaty was signed in 1805 the Jefferson administration had struck out that clause. This is all the more significant because Jefferson himself was one of the few liberals who would have been a deist.
In 1911 Woodrow Wilson told an audience that “America was born a Christian nation. America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scriptures.”
Chief Justice Earl Warren said in 1954, “I believe the entire Bill of Rights came into being because the knowledge our forefathers had of the Bible and their belief in it.”
That is why the ten commandments hang over the head of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, why in the House and Senate chambers these words appear, “In God we Trust.” That is why in the Rotunda there is a figure of the crucified Christ and on the walls of the Capital dome are these words, “The New Testament according to the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” On the walls of the national library are engraved the words of Micah 6:8. In the lawmaker’s library is engrave Psalm 19:1. Engraved on a metal cap on top of the Washington Monument are the words Laus Deo, “Praise be to God” and lining the stairwell are numerous Bible verses.
The point is that the Constitution reflects a biblical worldview. In fact the cover story for Newsweek, December 27, 1982 declared that the Bible, perhaps even more than the Constitution, is our founding document. And the Bible is cited in our Constitution more than any other source.
Out of fifteen thousand samples of the writings of our founding father collected by the University
of Houston professors, they found 3154 of those had a significant impact on our constitution. Of
those writings, they found that the bible was quoted sixteen times more than any other source.
94% of the quotes were based on the bible, 34% came directly out of the bible, and 60% used the
bible to arrive at their conclusion. (See Benjamin F. Morris, The Christian Life and Character of
the Civil Institutions of the United States, published in 1864, 1060 pages, now back in print).
And our appellate court system can be traced back to the system Moses instituted through the
advice of Jethro.
Our belief in limited government is based on the sovereignty of God. We believe in small government because we believe in a big God. According to Scripture, government has seven basic functions:
• to promote justice
• to punish criminals
• to ensure honest weights and measures
• to defend against international aggression
• to protect private property
• to quarantine general health risks
• to protect religious freedom
There was a time when God appointed kings, but on the occasion of Christ’s resurrection he was appointed the ruler of the world (Psalm 2:7; Acts 13:32; Psalm 110:1). And so we recognize no king, but king Jesus. This was preached from the pulpits of early American churches. Because we believe in human depravity, our government is organized with checks and balances. This system of checks and balances is based on the presumption of man’s sinful nature. Therefore, we hold every government official accountable. They have entered into a covenant agreement with us to uphold the Constitution of the United States. Beginning with our first president, the oath of office is customarily sworn on a Bible and customarily “So help me God” is added to the end of all oaths of office.
The genius of the Constitution is the separation of powers. James Madison wrote in five of his Federalist Papers that each branch was wholly independent of the other, yet bound together through a system of checks and balances.
Our Constitution provides for three branches of government: legislative, judicial, and executive. No branch of government can usurp the authority of another branch. This safeguard was created because we believe that power corrupts and that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
While reading Isaiah 33:22, ““For the LORD is our judge; the LORD is our lawgiver; the LORD is our king; he will save us,” it came to James Madison that this is how the government of the United States should be structured. While all three functions are united in the person of Christ, we acknowledge him to be our supreme ruler and thus we limited human government since we have no king but king Jesus.
But what is Christian about a Constitution which never mentions Christianity? The concept of limited government reflects the Christian doctrine of the sovereignty of God, the laws reflect Christian moral law, the separation of powers reflect the Christian doctrine of man’s depravity and the offices of Christ [Rushdoony, The United States: A Christian Republic (2000)].
2. The Limitation of the Constitution
William Gladstone, British prime minister in the 19th century, declared that “The American Constitution is, so far as I can see, the most wonderful work ever struck off at a given time by the brain and purpose of man.”
Yet James Madison, the Father of the Constitution wrote, “We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government; upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”
Allow me to read from the History of Connecticut from 1741:
There was in the minds of people, a general fear of sin, and of the wrath of God denounced against it. There seemed to be a general conviction that all the ways of man were before the eyes of the Lord. It was the opinion of men of discernment and sound judgment, who had the best opportunities of knowing the feelings and general state of the people at that period, that bags of gold and silver, and other precious things, might, with safety, have been laid in the streets, and that no man would have converted them to his own use. Theft, wantonness, intemperance, profaneness, sabbath-breaking, and other gross sins, appeared to be put away.
Those who fear God and keep his commandments do not need a police state, but where all restraint is cast off the people destroy themselves (Prov 28:19) and the state assumes a larger role. A bureaucracy develops and freedom is lost. In other words our constitution presumes a Judeo-Christian ethic and it will not work in a pluralistic, multicultural society in which everything is tolerated and protected. Eisenhower once said, “A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”
John Adams wrote, “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Seven deadly social sins which can destroy a nation:
politics without principle
wealth without work
commerce without morality
pleasure without conscience
education without character
science without humanity
worship without sacrifice - Mohandas Gandhi
Here is the pattern of great civilizations:
from bondage to spiritual faith
faith to great courage
courage to liberty
liberty to abundance
abundance to selfishness
selfishness to complacency
complacency to apathy
apathy to dependency
dependency back into bondage
God gives people the type of government they deserve. The greatest freedom is consistent with a people who have the character for self-government. Where a society loses self restraint, such restraint must be imposed by the loss of freedom. Moral character provides controls from within. If they are abandoned, God provides external controls. Thus Donald Howard wrote, “A character decline within any people, at any time in history, is paralleled by a growth in government.”
Ironically, the word decalogue means ten words. It took God ten words to tell us how to live, while a Federal directive regulating the price of cabbage is 26,911 words. Chesterton said, “If men will not be governed by ten commandments they shall be governed by ten thousand.” Thus the rise of bureaucracy. In 1800 the federal government was moved from Philadelphia to Washington, DC and all the records and paperwork were packed into 12 boxes and transported the 150 miles in a horse and buggy. Today 10% of the American population works for the Federal government.
3. The Threats to the Constitution
3A. Judicial Activism
Jefferson warned that if the judicial branch was given the authority to overrule the legislative and executive branches, the judiciary would become a “despotic branch.” Later in 1861 Lincoln warned that if the policy of the Government upon vital questions affecting the whole people is to be irrevocably fixed by decision of the Supreme Court, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having to that extent practically resigned their Government into the hands of that eminent tribunal.” In the first hundred years of their existence the Supreme Court struck down a total of two laws. Today 60% of all our laws are formulated by judicial process.
If the genius of our Constitution is its separation of powers, how did it happen that the courts started legislating? Lincoln said, “The philosophy of the class room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.”
By about 1900 all lawyers studied Blackstone’s Commentaries on English Common Law. Blackstone taught that no law enacted by man is legitimate unless it reflects the moral law of God revealed in Scripture. But by 1900 law schools such as Harvard began to abandon Blackstone’s legal teaching.
Herb Titus explained that lawyers took Darwinian theory more seriously than the scientists did. Thus the Constitution was said to be a living document and if it was living, it was evolving. Beginning with Oliver Wendell Holmes the absolutes of the Constitution were undermined and the door was opened for an evolutionary theory of law. Therefore, in 1907 Chief Justice Charles Evan Hughes said “the Constitution is what the judges say it is.”
The Warren Court of the 1960s admitted they were breaking new ground and that there was no legal precedent for their decisions. Thus, judges use their power to engage in social engineering.
Today the greatest legal battle is between a philosophy called “original intent” or framer’s intent and the evolutionary philosophy of judicial activism. Liberal judges have perverted our Constitution, making it mean whatever they want it to say. In 1962-3 The Supreme Court forbid school prayer and Bible reading. In 1973 abortion was legalized. In 1996 they ruled that cable companies can transmit porno channels on community access channels even if the community does not want them. They have stripped pro-life counselors of their first amendment rights outside abortion clinics, they have outlawed student-led prayer at high school football games, and required college students to fund groups they morally oppose.
In a three period the voters in 31 states banned partial-birth abortion. Yet these laws were struck down in 20 states by a federal judge. Two years ago the Supreme Court forbid framed copies on the walls of two rural Kentucky courthouses while approving a 6-foot-tall granite monument on the grounds of the Texas Capitol in Austin.
This is judicial tyranny and it is destroying the social contract on which our nation was built. Renegade judges who ignore the Constitution and break their oath to uphold it in order to impose their own political ideology must be removed from the bench.
I am concerned about appeals to the United Nations and international courts of law. Our social contract is based upon our Constitution, not the law in other lands. If they have a different God, they will have a different law. For example, in the 2003 case, Lawrence v. Texas the Supreme Court struck down a Texas law criminalizing sodomy based on a 1981 case heard by the European Court of Human Rights.
Six of the nine Supreme Court justices have cited foreign sources for their views One Supreme Court justice said that our U.S. Constitution should "fit into the governing documents of other nations" One Supreme Court justice said we should consider court decisions in Zimbabwe One Supreme Court justice cited European courts and briefs to change U.S. laws about sex crimes One Supreme Court justice spoke disparagingly about references to Western Civilization and Judeo-Christian moral and ethical standards A United Nations treaty was used by the Supreme Court to justify a decision approving racial preferences in university admissions One Supreme Court justice spoke disdainfully about the "Lone Ranger" mentality, a metaphor with a hidden meaning One Supreme Court justice predicted that the Court will "rely increasingly" on international and foreign courts in interpreting U.S. law The courts of a foreign country influenced the Massachusetts same-sex marriage decision. These statistics are from 2004.
“USA Today,” July 26, 2007 reported,
Some public schools and universities are granting Muslim requests for prayer times, prayer rooms and ritual foot baths, prompting a debate on whether Islam is being given preferential treatment over other religions. The University of Michigan at Dearborn is planning to build foot baths for Muslim students who wash their feet before prayer. An elementary school in San Diego created an extra recess period for Muslim pupils to pray. At George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., Muslim students using a "meditation space" laid out Muslim prayer rugs and separated men and women in accordance with their Islamic beliefs.
At the forefront of the movement is the Muslim Students' Association, which has formed
a Muslim Accommodations Task Force to push for foot baths and prayer rooms. At least 17
universities have foot baths built or under construction, including Boston University, George
Washington University and Temple University, and at least nine universities have prayer rooms
for "Muslim students only," including Stanford, Emory and the University of Virginia, according
to the MSA's website. The association did not return calls seeking comment.
At George Mason University, non-Muslim students were asked to observe Muslim rules in the prayer area, such as keeping men on one side and women on the other and removing their shoes, according to Broadside, the school newspaper. Alissa Karton, assistant to the vice president for student life, said the article prompted the school to order students to roll up prayer rugs when not in use and move the dividers.
The University of Michigan agreed to install foot baths after talks with the MSA, said Terry Gallagher, director of public relations at the campus. Some Muslims ritually wash their feet before praying five times a day.
In the San Diego case, a substitute teacher at Carver Elementary School alleged that
teachers were indoctrinating students into Islam. The San Diego Unified School District
determined that a teacher's aide was wrong to lead Muslim students in prayer. Carver still has a
special recess to allow 100 Muslim students to pray.
Daniel Pipes, founder of the Middle East Forum, a conservative think tank, sees the requests as part of a movement to force the public to acquiesce to Islamic law. "The goal of Islamists is the application of Islamic law," Pipes says.
Currently Muslim students are being given religious benefits that they do not give any other religion right now. It will be interesting to see if this is perceived as a violation of church and state, since these projects are funded by our tax dollars.
At this point in our history the Constitution has been hurt more by those who have
betrayed it from within than those who have attacked it from without.
My grandfather’s prayer request for his Uncle. He had been a good man for most of his life, but in his later years he had quit going to church, reading the Bible and praying. He had backslid and was living in open sin. My grandfather expressed great concern for his Uncle Sam.
Let us close by praying. I will use George Washington’s prayer for America,
“Almighty God; We make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection; that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government; and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellowship citizens of the United States at large. And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”