March 4, 2024

Jefferson’s Creator

One of the arguments that Christians like to try to use is that the acknowledgement of the Creator is in the Constitution.  It isn’t.  It is in the Declaration of Independence– and regardless of its location it has a lot to tell us about what the founders of this country believed and the framework from which they conceived this great country.

The arguments that people are trying to use today is that the Declaration of Independence can mean any Creator God.  The problem is, Jefferson knew exactly who his audience was.  To quote Benjamin Hart,

There were no Moslems, Buddhists, Confucianists, or Hindus present at either the signing of the Declaration of Independence, or eleven years hence at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia.  Jefferson was addressing Christians.  His entire argument about people having “unalienable rights” is contingent on the existence of God, and One who cares deeply about each and every individual.

Jefferson is the origin of the logic that I’ve used many times here– if God is not the originator of liberty (if they are not gifts of his) then the state is the highest moral authority and has the rights to determine what is right or wrong based on the whim of those in power.

You see why what Jefferson was saying in the Declaration was so radical and yet contingent on the presence of a Creator God– specifically the Christian Creator God?

The reason that our land is a Christian land lies in the fact that it is based on this Christian ideal– that man is eternal, and government temporal.  It’s a philosophical question that has its roots in what is truly eternal.  If government is or the world is, then it must be the moral authority.  If a Creator God is eternal, and civilizations are but a blink of the eye, then government’s purpose is to protect the rights of the individual.

To cement this reasoning, I close with this from Faith and Freedom: The Christian Roots of American Liberty:

“I do not know whether all Americans have a sincere faith in their religion– for who can know the human heart?– but I am certain that they hold it to be indispensable for the maintenance of republican institutions.  This opinion is not peculiar to a class of citizens or to a party, but it belongs to the whole rank of society.”  America, Tocqueville added, is “the place where the Christian religion has kept the greatest power over men’s souls; and nothing better demonstrates how useful and natural it is to man, since the country where it now has the widest sway is both the most enlightened and the freest.”  John Quincy Adams, America’s sixth President, acknowledged that from the beginning Americas “connected in one indissoluble band the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.”

Do you see how the founders viewed the government and Christianity?  Not at odds, but banded together.  Not a high wall, but as one necessarily flowing from the other.

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5 thoughts on “Jefferson’s Creator

  1. Great post, Min. It is really helping me to solidify in my mind what I’d always believed about our founding fathers and The Constitution and The Declaration of Independence. They are wonderful documents of our nations history and outline for our lives here in the United States. They have taken such a beating lately…and unfortunately it will probably become worse as times goes on. We are in need of much prayer in this area!!

  2. You quote De Tocqueville, who wrote in the 1835: “…and nothing better demonstrates how useful and natural it is to man, since the country where it now has the widest sway is both the most enlightened and the freest”

    There may well be some truth to that, but we need to understand his words within the context they were given. De Tocqueville observed a difference in the fundamental nature of American society as compared to Europe. In Europe, aristocracy – whilst on the wane – was the foundation of political elites. He was writing from France after the restoration, during the “July monarchy”. Despite the French revolution, and the overthrow of the old order, French aristocracy was still in a state of transition. His observation was that aristocracies despised the capitalist ethic of generation of wealth, and the common man had no realistic hope of achieving great wealth (even though there was a new social mobility in Britain’s industrial revolution – but the social mobility did not make it an egalitarian state).

    But de Tocqueville believed that power lay with those where the property was amassed. In the US, the property was not as greatly concentrated as in Europe, and he actually saw it as a problem in the US that the wide spread of property meant that power was widely spread and thus led to mediocrity! Nevertheless, when de Tocqueville speaks of freedom, he speaks of it amongst the European settlers. Despite some unenlightened attitudes about the races, he writes:

    ” I am pained and astonished by the fact that the freest people in the world is, at the present time, almost the only one among civilized and Christian nations which yet maintains personal servitude; and this while serfdom itself is about disappearing, where it has not already disappeared, from the most degraded nations of Europe.”


    To the point: Yes, the founders only had Christianity in mind when they spoke of God. Furthermore, the disestablishment of church and state was a deliberate policy to prevent the religion of one head of state leading to rebellion or civil war when the head of state changed (as it would much more frequently than in Europe). This disestablishment was not about driving God out of politics. It was about driving the needs of oaths of allegiance to catholicism or protestantism out of politics – and about allowing dissenters and such like to play an active part in the state.

    All that was good, but the foundations introduced the slippery slope we see now. The philosophy of the state lay in the work of Locke et al., and it was observed that Locke’s empiricisim, taken to its natural conclusion, led to atheism. Also the assumptions about property and generation of wealth were not Christian values. There were some peculiar blind spots in the 18th and 19th century over what constituted Christian values.

  3. So glad you started this series, MIn. I like that you used your illustrations in this one of the two founders that seem to get picked on the most…for their supposedly unchristian personal issues.

    Stephen, you gave us a lot to chew on in your comment! I’ve always wondered why it took America so many more years to abolish slavery than it did England. Still wanting to see the Amazing Grace movie…haven’t been able to work it in yet.

  4. I haven’t seen it either yet… although I have read some biographies on Newton and Wilberforce.

    The film stars Ioan Gruffudd as Wilberforce – a good Welsh speaking Welsh actor. 🙂

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