Defending America’s Christian Foundation

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Tuesday, January 2, 2018 0 comments

by Bill Fortenberry

One of the most important books on the American form of government is a book by John Adams that is very seldom read in our day. While Adams was serving our nation as a diplomat in London, he noticed that the political elites in Europe frequently scoffed at the form of government which had been implemented in the United States. Adams chose to meet these scoffers head on by publishing a massive, three volume Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America.

In this Defence, Adams presented one of the most essential studies of the history of the philosophy of government ever written. He pointed out the pros and cons of dozens of different forms of government that had been proposed by the leading political philosophers throughout history. He included lengthy quotations and analyses of these philosophers, and he contrasted their systems with the governments established by the various states in America. In doing this, he came to the conclusion that the American form of government was successful because it was “grounded on reason, morality, and the Christian religion.”

One of the most significant aspects of American government that Adams presented in his Defence is the principle of the separation of powers. Adams pointed out that the absence of this principle in ancient republics often led to their downfall. He wrote of them that:

“A single assembly thus constituted, without any counterpoise, balance, or equilibrium, is to have all authority, legislative, executive, and judicial, concentered in it. It is to make a constitution and laws by its own will, execute those laws at its pleasure, and adjudge all controversies, that arise concerning the meaning and application of them, at discretion. What is there to restrain them from making tyrannical laws, in order to execute them in a tyrannical manner?”

Adams pointed out that the underlying reason for corruption within republican governments was readily explained in the Bible. He wrote that:

“To expect self-denial from men, when they have a majority in their favour, and consequently power to gratify themselves, is to disbelieve all history and universal experience; it is to disbelieve Revelation and the Word of God, which informs us, the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.”

In giving the solution to this corruption, Adams explained in one place that the ancient republics of Greece and Rome were attempts to implement the same principles of government which were “first discovered to mankind by God himself in the fabric of the commonwealth of Israel.” And in another place Adams proposed that the specific solution to this tendency of republics to dissolve into tyranny was to be found in the Biblical principle of the separation of powers. Adams noted “that the government of the Hebrews instituted by God, had a judge, the great Sanhedrim, and general assemblies of the people.”

Another foundational principle of American government that Adams explained in his Defence was the principle of private property. Europe, at this time, was still struggling under the remnants of feudalism. Most of the land was owned by the ruling nobility with the members of the working classes having little to no property of their own. Adams recognized the dangers of this system and endorsed the private property system proposed by James Harrington in the 17th century. Adams agreed with Harrington’s claim that the greater balance of property should be owned by the working classes, with the government only retaining ownership of a small portion of land. And Adams noted with Harrington that this concept “was first introduced by God himself, who divided the land of Canaan to his people by lot.”

On the question of personal liberty, Adams argued in his Defence that all forms of slavery should be abolished. Adams praised the actions of the ancient republic of Bologna in freeing all of their slaves, and he specifically quoted their decree against slavery as claiming:

“God, however, beholding that the whole world had perished, had compassion on the human race, and sent his only begotten son, born of the virgin Mary, who, co-operating with the grace of the Holy Ghost, to the glory of his own dignity, breaking the bonds with which we were held captive, restored us to our primitive liberty: and therefore it is very justly questioned, whether men, whom nature from the beginning produced and created free, and the law of nations only subjected to the yoke servitude, ought not to be restored to the blessing of manumission.”

After quoting the reason for the abolition of slavery in Bologna, Adams wrote that he wished to see this same principle to be applied “in each of the United States of America.”

Toward the end of his life, Adams wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson in which he claimed “that the Bible is the best book in the World.” He praised the Word of God as the source of his own “little Phylosophy,” and we can see from his Defence of the Constitutions of the United States of America, that Adams derived the principles of American government directly from the pages of Holy Scripture. Adams recognized that the Christian religion was the foundation of America’s greatness, and it is imperative that our nation return to that foundation if we are ever to see that greatness restored.

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