by Bill Nugent
Have you ever wondered why the great leaps of political freedom, human rights and equality occurred in Europe and America in the centuries just after the Protestant Reformation? Church reform led to political reform. For the first time in all of world history the Bible was freely available to people across the entire continents of Europe and North America. The Bible was available in the languages of the people and was no longer chained to pulpits or restricted to Latin Vulgate language. Biblical concepts of human dignity, equality and freedom became known to all classes of people.
Every human government down through ancient and medieval history, be it the Pharaohs of Egypt, the Greek city states, the Roman empire, the eastern despotisms of ancient and medieval China, the Celtic clans in the forests of northern Europe or the tribal chieftains of subsaharan Africa; they were all tyrannical. They concentrated power in one man or small group of men and trampled on any concept of human rights and dignity. That all changed in 1787 when a group of Christian men assembled in Philadelphia in the newly formed United States of America to limit their own power and divide power among three branches of government. It was the US constitutional convention.
One of the most influential of these men was James Madison, (1751-1836), often called the father of the constitution. In his federalist paper number 51 Madison wrote “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” What Madison was referring to was the concept of original sin. Men are not angels. Original sin is the biblical teaching that all people are born sinners. No person can be trusted with too much governmental power. Today’s secular view is that all people are born “basically good.” If the 1787 gathering was a constitutional convention run by secularists they never would have divided power between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government. Nor would secularists have produced the Bill of Rights, which are the first ten amendments to the constitution, which were ratified in 1791.
Madison and the other founding fathers were heavily influenced by the writings of the French Christian philosopher Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brede et de Montesquieu (1689-1755). He’s usually referred to as “Montesquieu.” The US founders quoted Montesquieu more than any other source except the Bible. Montesquieu’s master work “The Spirit of the Laws” is overtly Christian and it strongly influenced political discourse in Europe and early America.
For centuries prior to Montesquieu, Calvinists, even John Calvin himself, criticized the monarchial form of government as having too much power entrusted to the king. The reformers were persecuted by European royalty for holding this view.
The Bible in Genesis 9:6 teaches that humans are created in the image of God and human life is therefore sacred. This is the concept of the right to life and the dignity of Man. I could quote many passages in the Old Testament that command justice for the poor and oppressed. The New Testament in Galatians 5:1 and Romans 14:1-5 gives the concept of personal liberty in decision making and that each person should “be fully convinced in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5 NAS). The fact that all men are created equal is given by divine revelation in the Bible in Acts 10:34-35 and Galatians 3:26-28.
The Bible in Second Peter 2:9 calls Christians a “Royal Priesthood.” The priesthood of the believer was championed by the reformers of the 1500s. Each Christian is a priest of God who has a one on one relationship with God and offers sacrifices of praise and intercession to God. A century later in the 1600s, Americans, including Thomas Hooker (1586-1647), founder of Hartford Connecticut, taught extensively on the royalty of the believer. Every Christian is a king or queen with political rights and privileges. The royal Christians form a society composed entirely of royalty and therefore, to form a government they must hold elections to give temporary power to several of their people to write laws, execute laws and judge in accordance with law. Hence, democracy flowed out of the concept of the royalty of the believer.
The miracle of 1787 was the constitutional convention that had its roots in centuries of biblical teaching about the nature of man and the need for limitations on power. The US constitution refers to Jesus in article seven which contains the following: “the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven.” The founding fathers, in giving the date of the signing of the constitution wrote that it was in the year of “our Lord” and thus affirmed their devotion to Jesus Christ. Since there is a direct reference to Jesus in the US constitution no one should be offended by a public display of the Ten Commandments or by the motto “In God We Trust.”
During a recent political discussion someone accused me of “being to the right of Attila the Hun.” At first this seemed to be a cutting insult but afterwards, as I thought about it, I would say that in one sense, there’s some truth in the accusation. Attila the Hun (406-453 AD) plundered eastern Europe and the Roman Empire as far west as France. He was called “Flagellum Dei” meaning “scourge of God.”
Attila was, in modern terms, a political leftist in several respects. First of all, he was a mass murderer and hence rejected the conservative principle of the biblical concept of the sacredness of human life. (Leftists today advocate mass murder of the unborn through abortion.) Secondly, he was authoritarian in the way he governed and thus rejected the conservative Christian concept of limited government and personal freedom. Hence, Attila was a leftist and I am to his right.
The leftists of our own postmodern times not only support mass murder of the unborn through abortion but also support giving great power, totalitarian power, to the government. Big government is supposed to use that great power to redistribute wealth, provide universal healthcare and other virtuous gifts. In real world operation however, big government abuses the people, squanders money and smothers freedom.
The word “liberal” means “generous” or “permissive.” In the classic political sense, the term “liberal,” meant being generous in giving power to the people by permitting the people to write their own laws. Early America was the liberal society because in the US, people have the power to write their own laws through the representatives they elect and send to congress. It is ironic, therefore that people who call themselves liberal or leftist applaud the unelected judges who usurp the power of the legislature and write laws from the bench. The word “liberal” as a political term has changed meaning over the years and has been co-opted by leftists who advocate socialist policies.
Another triumph of modern liberalism is the progressive income tax. The trouble is that to enforce collection of the income tax, the government has to be granted broad surveillance powers and essentially trample the US constitution’s fourth amendment. The IRS can search without a warrant (tax audits) and compels us to report our personal, private business dealings via 1099 forms. The granting to government of such broad invasive power is not liberalism at all but should properly be called “chauvinism.” Chauvinism is the old political term for those who wanted to preserve concentration of power in the monarchy. We don’t have a monarchy but the liberals of our day sure seem comfortable with the federal government of the US having great centralized power and being involved in every aspect of commerce and personal life.
The Bible gives us the basis for the best political philosophy because the Bible gives us the true doctrine of man (biblical anthropology) and shows that people are mired in sin from birth. The Bible also gives us the true soteriology (doctrine of salvation from sin). Jesus Christ came in fulfillment of over 300 prophecies that were written in the Old Testament hundreds of years before His birth. Jesus is the promised Messiah of Israel. The prophecies foretold that He would suffer and die, taking upon Himself the penalty we deserved because of our sins. The prophecies also foretold that He would rise from the dead. Jesus offers forgiveness of sins to all who turn to Him in repentance. Call upon the name of Jesus Christ today to receive forgiveness of sins!