Faith and The Framers
Monday, August 1, 2022
These certainly are challenging times. We’re told the trendy worldview is that life is a choice, there are dozens of genders, we cannot define what a woman is, teachers can discuss inappropriate topics without the knowledge of the child’s parents, etc. If you question any of this, you’re a bigot, homophobe, conspiracy theorist or even a domestic terrorist. We are at this point in time because too much of society has rejected absolute truth in favor of their personal view of what is true. This results in terrible public policy, poor decisions and chaos.
A civil society cannot exist when each member of it follows their own concept of right and wrong. Doctrine never fails but people do. In times of struggle, it’s wise to fall back on our principles, values and the foundations of our faith. It’s in these areas where we are most likely to find a calm within the storm - a place where we can quiet our mind to process the information we’re inundated with and attempt to divine some clarity.
Our Constitution was intended to provide clarity and direction in challenging times. We tend to take it for granted when life is cruising along and only pay attention to its principles when it’s a “Break glass in case of Emergency” situation. We do this at our own peril. One constant of life is if we aren’t in a crisis now, we soon will be. We cannot take our eyes off the ball. Embracing the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence and codified in the Constitution should be a daily ritual because it prepares us for the unforeseen circumstances that are sure to come.
Modern society has taught us that The Framers were not religious for the most part. Yes, some were Protestants, Catholics, Quakers, etc. Others were deists or even agnostics. So, let’s take a look at what The Framers themselves actually said and what they wrote, and see if this theory really holds water.
“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by The Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these Rights, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the Consent of the Governed.”
You know this is part of the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence. This statement provides the framework for every subsequent governing document. If these principles do not hold, the rest of our governing philosophy falls apart. Let's take these one at a time.
First, The Framers stated there are Absolute Truths. These truths apply, no matter what the circumstance or situation. They are immutable. For a society to endure, it must have principles that apply in good times and bad. It’s human nature to become lazy in times of prosperity and to search for the most painless way to deal with adversity. Doing so makes problems worse and invites additional trouble in the future. The Framers said these Absolute Truths are based in Nature and Nature’s God. Their source is The Creator.
Next, we come to the source of our freedoms. The Framers said these Rights also come from God. This wasn’t a unique perspective, as many countries agreed that Rights were conferred by a Supreme Being. It’s whom they were conferred upon that was key. At the time, every other country had said that Rights are given by God to a Monarch or other government entity. That magistrate then determined which citizens had which rights. The Framers disagreed. Instead, they said The Creator gave Rights directly to the people. This was a revolutionary idea and another critical principle of our founding.
Third, The Framers articulated the free enterprise system was a prerequisite of liberty. They learned from the failures in Williams Bradford’s Plymouth Colony. Bradford had said that all land was public land. The Colonists would farm the land to produce food - food that would be shared by the entire community. Each would take whatever they needed. Pretty cool idea, wouldn’t you say? Except, it failed spectacularly. Some wondered why they should work when others could provide for them and they could take whatever food they needed. The colonists working the land asked why they should work so hard if their fellow colonists refused to. The result was near starvation of the Plymouth Colony. Bradford, therefore, instituted private property rights. Colonists could farm their own land, choose to eat what they produced, sell it, whatever. And in a couple years, the Plymouth Colony had all the food they needed and were net agricultural exporters.
Finally, The Framers said the proper role of government is to secure these Rights that came from The Creator, and that the only just powers the government possesses is what We The People give them. Remember, God gave Rights directly to the people. We then delegate a portion of the Rights to the government to act on our behalf.
The progression here is important to recognize:
- First, here must be an absolute standard of right and wrong.
- Then, the source of our freedoms is acknowledged.
- These freedoms are bestowed on us, and that results in our individual sovereignty and personal property rights.
- Only then, can we have a government that’s worthy of us delegating a portion of our Rights to justly govern our society.
Liberty cannot exist without morality. Morality cannot exist without religion.
There are innumerable examples of how faith directed The Framers actions throughout the Revolutionary Period and the 1787 Convention. John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government significantly influenced the writing of the Constitution. In its 400 pages, there are more than 1,500 references to Biblical scripture. The sermons of John Wise from the 1680s were reprinted by John Adams and the Sons of Liberty in 1772. They were distributed throughout the states to provide the proper mindset for The Framers’ task. It is from these sermons where we have trial by jury, taxation without representation is tyranny, consent of the governed and several other concepts that permeate the Declaration and Constitution. You can read Ben Franklin’s Appeal to Heaven where he said the delegates were unable to solve the issues they were discussing. Franklin said they should open each day with prayer begging The Creator for guidance. To say that faith in God was rejected by The Framers is simply incorrect.
I’ll leave you with this quote from the President of the 1787 Convention, George Washington.
“Of all the habits and dispositions which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars.”
The principles found in the Declaration of Independence and codified in the Constitution are the anchors of our republic. These principles are rooted in faith and biblical teaching. It is up to each of us to defend these principles. Our republic and liberty itself depend on it.
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