Conversation with an Atheist - Founded on Faith, Part 2

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Thursday, September 29, 2016 0 comments

by Steve Risner

Last week we touched on a few things the Founders had to say about Christianity in the new republic (yes, we live in a republic which is not the same as a democracy). This was in response to some things an atheist friend of mine had to say about this nation's heritage and how Christianity fits (or doesn't fit) into it. Last week was a sort of warm up to this week's blog post which should make the obviousness of the truth extremely clear. The question I hope to answer today: did the Founders create for us a Christian nation or was it entirely to be a secular state?

At first, it seems easy to answer this, right? Of course the Founders meant for the nation to have nothing to do with religion. That's why we have the Bill of Rights, which says we can all practice our religion as we see fit. I agree we do have the rights outlined in the Constitution that tell us we can express ourselves in terms of our faith as we like. According to some, this is precisely because the Founders were Christians (most of them). 29 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence held seminary or Bible degrees. In fact, of the 250 or so commonly referred to as “Founders” of our great nation, not a single one could be labeled a secularist. They all believed in God to one degree or another. Some were very strong in their faith, while others were more skeptical or had differing views on some of the tenets of Christianity. But all, without exception, were religious men. Many were devout Christians who held their faith as the most important and most defining characteristic of who they were. Does it make sense that these men, who held their Savior so close to their hearts, would intend to make a nation that was free FROM religion? Of course not. This is precisely why we have freedom OF religion. This means the government cannot force a religious belief on you or make you adhere to the “state religion.” It's because of the faith of our Founders that they saw fit to write into our Constitution this God-given freedom.

My contention is that the Founders knew the importance in Christianity in governing and in maintaining a moral society. There is no doubt of this when you read their words. This nation was founded on Christian principles by predominantly Christian men to govern a Christian people. John Adams said, “The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity… I will avow that I believed and now believe that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.” Concerning the need for Christianity in maintaining society, George Washington said, “Let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” He believed that without Christianity (the religious principles he referenced), morality would decay. We see this today in our society as we become more secularized.

The first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Jay, would probably be an authority on the nature of our nation's founding. He said, “Providence has been given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty, as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.” As I discussed last week, this doesn't mean the system of government we have prefers Christians to non-Christians. It does mean that Americans can choose whom they desire to be in office. That's a completely different idea than suggesting the government favors Christians.

Another Founder, Daniel Webster, remarked, “The Christian religion – its general principles – must ever be regarded among us as the foundation of civil society.” Does this sound like, perhaps, we are a Christian nation founded by Christian men on Christian principles to govern a Christian people? It does to me, but you decide. Noah Webster (no relation to Daniel) confirms this by saying, “No truth is more evident than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.” And, “I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable in which the principles of Christianity have not a controlling influence.” These men seem to think that Christianity was the backbone of our system of government and that any government not based on the principles of Christianity could never ensure the freedom of its people.

Last week I mentioned Justice David Brewer as he explained the nature of what is meant by our nation being a Christian nation. He wrote the opinion during the famous Church of the Holy Trinity vs US case where the Supreme Court of the United States said, “These, and many other matters which might be noticed, add a volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances that this is a Christian nation.” Here we have the highest court in the land making a very clear statement about our nation's connection to Christianity. What about Congress? In 1854 Congress declared, “In this age, there can be no substitute for Christianity... That was the religion of the founders of the republic and they expected it to remain the religion of their descendants.” They further said, “The great, vital, and conservative element in our system is the belief of our people in the pure doctrines and the divine truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” They seemed to believe in the great importance of Christianity to our Founders, to our founding, and to the continued existence of the nation. So I've quoted all branches of the US system of government—various presidents and secretaries, Congress, and the Supreme Court as well as Justices of that Court—all declaring clearly that this nation is, indeed, a Christian nation. Who would know better than those who founded it, or were very close in time to those that founded it? People sometimes contest that these sayings really mean what they, to me, seem to obviously say. To those people I like to bring up a few interesting actions (since actions speak louder than words, you know) that our Founders and our government participated in.

Last week I mentioned that George Washington told the Delaware Indians that they would greatly benefit from adopting our Christian faith. He also said, “What students would learn in American schools above all is the religion of Jesus Christ.” Our Founders held education as a very important aspect of our society. Education went hand in hand with Christianity. In fact, the government sponsored a couple different things that are related to Christianity and education. Numerous laws were passed during the Jefferson administration which had as their goal the Christianization of the Indians. Rather than cite the numerous examples, it should suffice to say that several instances of government money going to build churches, pay clergy, print Bibles, and instruct the Native Americans in the ways of Christianity can easily be found simply by doing research if one desires the details. The government sent missionaries to the Native Americans. Congress also stated, “The Congress desire to have a Bible printed under their care and by their encouragement.” They needed Bibles printed because there was a shortage of them due to the War and the inability for outside sources to ship them to us. It was recommended that the United States print their own Bible, to which Congress agreed. It's contested whether or not the Bibles were actually printed but it makes no difference. They intended to print them or buy them for the army, which General Washington welcomed, and for the Indians for their education in Christianity. Because of this, historian W. P. Strickland exclaimed in 1849, “Who will charge the government with indifference to religion when the first Congress of the states assumed all the rights and performed all the duties of a Bible Society long before such an institution had an existence in the world!”

The Capitol building is also a place of interest here. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate approved the Capital building to be used as a church. Thomas Jefferson was the president of the Senate at the time and gave his approval (he was the vice president of the U.S., if you're unclear as to who the president of the Senate is). He gave permission for this while vice president, but he had actually already won election to the presidency and was awaiting his inauguration. Many, if not most, of the government officials who were in town on any given Sunday were expected to be in attendance.

How could a government that today is seen as almost antagonistic or in opposition to religion be so firmly and blatantly for Christianity, its service, its meetings, and its education? It seems so obvious, in my opinion, that the Founders never intended to remove Christ from this land or from the government. In fact, many of them insist that Jesus Christ was the basis by which we gained our freedom and formed our own nation. The Declaration of Independence confirms this, as does Thomas Jefferson when he said, “And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God?” You can easily see as our nation has less faith in Christ it slips further and further into chaos, lawlessness, and depravity. Just look around! We forget where our rights come from, so we allow the government to strip them from us one at a time. For me, when I hear things similar to what this atheist told me, it makes me sad to think we've come so far from our roots and we've been victims of revisionism so much so that we have no idea any longer who we are, where we've come from, or what really matters. God have mercy on us.

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