While listening to Dr. Larry Arnn the President of Hillsdale College discuss the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution in part I of his series on the Introduction to the Constitution, a light switched on and helped illuminate my long held thoughts on the intrinsically biblical nature of our founding documents and of our Country. His lecture clarified to me my understanding of this nation as a “Christian“ nation even while at the same time understanding that it is not really a “Christian” nation in the strictest definition of the term Christian. I know this is kind of confusing – let me try to explain.

Dr. Arnn made the point that the Declaration of Independence referenced God four separate times and cited four different functions of his role as follows, and in order of their appearance in the Declaration:

a)      Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God – Legislative

b)      Creator with certain unalienable Rights – Creative

c)      Supreme Judge of the world – Judicial

d)      protection of Divine Providence – Executive

Many would not recognize the declaration as a religious or theological document for two reasons. The first reason is because it is part of the founding documents of our country and so it must be a political document, ergo not a theological document. The second reason people would not recognize this as a religious/theological document is because it was not written by theologians or by people that many of us would recognize as passing an orthodoxy test.

Those two arguments do not really stand up to close examination. Our relationship with God should and must inform every area of our lives and so the fact that this document is part of our nations founding does not disqualify it as a religious document. Likewise, the lack of theological credentials or the potential lack of orthodoxy of the writers does not disqualify this as a theological document – at most it makes us examine it more closely to make sure the theological points that they make regarding their understanding of God and His role in the nations as described in the Declaration of Independence are accurate.

Since the potential lack of orthodoxy and the subject matter are not enough to make this a non-theological document, we should be able to study the Declaration of Independence as a theological document or treatise regarding the basis for governance and/or establishing a government.

Regarding the nature of God referenced in the Declaration of Independence, we should be able to easily see that the Declaration of Independence is really not controversial at all as all of the references to God can be corroborated in the Bible. For example:

a)      Lawgiver James 4:12There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?

b)      Creator Colossians 1:16For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through Him and for Him.

c)      JudgePsalm 82:8Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possesses all the nations.

d)      ExecutiveIsaiah 33:22For the LORD is our Judge, The LORD is our Lawgiver, The LORD is our King.

Aside from the role of creation, we also see that the three other roles described by God were mimicked byIsrael, in varying degrees and taking on various forms throughout their history.

We famously know that the executive part of government was exercised most clearly with the advent of the King and the ascension of the Davidic line, but the executive power was seen before that in the role of Moses and Joshua and the Judges.

Jethro also famously counseled Moses to set up judges of the people to judge disputes because this work was too much for Moses to do.

The Levites, among other more important roles, were also responsible for following the laws and administering them. All of these roles of governance were understood to be different roles to be carried out by different positions and when one branch tried to overstep their boundaries, trouble invariable ensued.  

More detailed and in depth analysis of Old Testament government structure can be found at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs web site.

Now this would all just be an academic argument had the founders not based their understanding of the nature of God in relation to how He interacts with nations on the basis that He is the creator and that He created all men/women equal. If we are not created by God and we are not all equals then how we govern ourselves is a matter of might makes right. The strongest and the smartest among us will govern and have their way over the weaker and less intelligent.

The founders knew that as we are created by God and therefore equal in His eyes and given unalienable rights by Him, we must all therefore have a say in how our society is governed. To not be able to have a say relegates the governed to a lower station than those that govern and we would therefore be denying the fundamental truth that God created us with certain rights and that we are all equal before Him.

Our founding theological treatise on the reasons for our being as a nation recognize this very fundamental fact, without which none of the rest of our institutions could be built. In this very foundational way, our country is a Christian nation and it must be a Republic in order to honor the Christian foundation.

Now in the strictest understanding of the term “Christian” (one who repents of his sin/rebellion against God and asks for mercy and the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross to be the propitiation of his sin, and submits his life to the rule of Christ) it is quite impossible for a nation to be Christian since only individuals can be Christian. It is not however an easy out to say the nation is Christian because it is based on Biblical concepts, but we do not necessarily have to be Christian individually to live in such a nation. A nation that is founded on Christian or Biblical concepts, but whose individual citizens routinely reject the teachings of the Bible, will not long survive. A nation whose citizens do not honor God, will soon find them selves living in either anarchy or a policy state.