The Declaration of Independence as a Theological Argument (Repost 2013)

Benedict de Spinoza: moral problems and our em...
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July 4th, the day in which American’s celebrate something. Independence was approved on the 2nd, but the text was not approved until the 4th, although the last signatures came months later, and actual freedom still years later. It is a beautiful document, produced by the intellectual giants of the time, and one which promoted the ideals of the time, and with a few modifications, the ideals of today. Yet, it is a deeply theological argument. It is the product of the Enlightenment, moving from Jefferson backwards to Locke, to Hobbes, but first to Spinoza, ironically renamed Benedict.

Al Mohler wrote in 2006,

As Roy A. Harrisville and Walter Sundberg note, “Spinoza’s intent is clear, if indirect: false Christianity is dogmatic Christianity of an stripe. It is a child of unreason. For the sake of reason, dogmatic Christianity must be overcome.” Harrisville and Sundberg then explain why biblical criticism came to serve as Spinoza’s major proposal for removing the threat of dogmatic Christianity. “What is needed is something to direct the passion of the multitude from false religion to true religion . . . . Since the Christian Bible is the authoritative source for the Christian religion, its understanding must be reshaped by rational criticism. Spinoza’s political program of reform, then, is established in the exercise of biblical criticism.” Most modern persons would doubtless be surprised to know that the main ambition behind the emergence of biblical criticism was political—to transform the society by removing the obstacle of orthodox Christianity.

With Spinoza attacking the authority of the Scriptures, he started a trend which removed the sacred role of the King in the life of the State (which, since Judges, was the only form of Government actually found in the Text). Until then, the King derived his rights from God through the Scriptures, but with the advent of Enlightened thinking, the rulers of the day were suddenly deriving their right to govern from the consent of the governed without reliance upon the Scriptures. I thank God for the way history has acted to bring about a country such as this, not perfect, but it is founded upon a theological argument, one in which the first point is that the Scriptures aren’t central to governing a State. The right to govern never comes from the consent of the Governed, but from God. The public trust is not existent in the bible (as is private property, actually, as we do not even own ourselves). Once the Scriptures were removed as sacrosanct to our State, Kings were then able to be removed. As a side note, Jefferson and other founders downplayed the role of Government in protecting private property and would say that ‘happiness‘ was actually about uplifting our fellow human creature.

At least for one day, we are all having a theological discussion.

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12 Replies to “The Declaration of Independence as a Theological Argument (Repost 2013)”

  1. This is a veru good article. I was going to write aq blog series on America’s Christian Heritage, then realized it’s a huge undertaking. I may write a book instead 🙂 But I will say one thing. When Benjamin Rush, one of the framers of both the Declaration and the Constitution, was asked if the Constitution was inspired by God, he said he would never make that claim but it was the closest thing to it. The writers prayed and fasted as they were writing the declaration asking for God’s control in writing of it. The Bill of Rights is a first in the history of the world (actually, it was taken from the OT, so technically not a first) Out of the 500 or so founding fathers, 450 were devout Christians with over 300 as pastors! We WEREa Christian country. If you look up the history of the French Revolution, the founding fathers wanted NOTHING like French Socialism..yet that’s where we are…our health system is controlled by the gov’t as well as the Car industry…the revolutionary war heroes died for nothing it seems

      1. Which parts? I said a couple of things. Did you disagree with the statement by Benjamn Rush? Or the fact that we’re socialist, or the fact that we no longer are a Christian country?

          1. How so? I think it was George Wqashington who said by allowng other religions free access, they will see our laws and our Christian witness…I think he was a little to optimistic there…why do you disagree though?

  2. Jefferson himself said that any law that went against the word of God, was a bad law. He also said that a central bank would be the start of our demise. They KNEW the British system,that had a central bank, and they tried very hard to prevent us from having one. We can thank Woodrow Wilson in 1913 for giving us the British system..The Federal Reserve. I’m rambling, so I’ll stop now 😉

  3. Joel, you are such a Monarchist.

    You and Al Mohler have issues with the book of Judges, which is anti-monarchal, and pro-YHWH as king–I argue.

    You can keep your throne and crown.

    1. Um, Deuteronomy is hardly legalism. Deuteronomy is a humanist book in the wisdom tradition of the sages. A Deuteronomist is of the school which didnt care for the kings but rationalized them through royal ideology. I prefer the government before the Fall

  4. Joel, good article. I have found that the myth of America’s origins as a christian nation is hard to refute. Not because there is not evidence, but because of the potential impact on people’s belief and practice. I usually point to the Tripoli accord that occurred under Jefferson’s tenure, which ended the Barbary wars. The Treaty says very plainly in Article 11 that the US is NOT a christian nation. But yet it persists.
    The comment that says the founding fathers wanted nothing of French socialism is perplexing, both historically as well as in content. First, the French revolution occurred AFTER the writing of the declaration of Independence and the Constitution. France was still a monarchy at the time. Interesting.
    And that it was socialism, well, monarchies are not socialist in nature, at least I find no examples of it in history. And I would hardly say that the French Revolution was socialist in nature. So basically, Mr. Erhardt, your arguments are not very valid. Sorry.

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