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July 05, 2013

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Actually, I would take issue with this post on a couple fronts:

First, the use of the Declaration of Independence to support a kind of "Christian" ideal for governing a nation...when you examine the evidence, it turns out the Declaration of Independence is full of unbiblical claims written by a Deist. The Bible has no such claim that all men have a right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." In fact, the Bible says the opposite: the only right that mankind has is a right to be eternally punished in hell.

Second, there's no "moral capitol [sic]" that mankind has somehow accumulated: by nature and by choice we are totally and utterly depraved, only capable of existing in a sinful state unless God's grace prevail upon our eternal souls.

It's only by God's gracious gift of faith in the saving work of Jesus Christ upon the cross that anyone can experience the abundant, eternal life of heaven by knowing God the Father and the one He sent, Jesus Christ. The Declaration of Independence is just another argument for how to have your best life now, when the Bible makes it clear that our best life now is "wood, hay, and stubble."

In reply to b

First, virtually all the signatories of the Declaration were Christian. Are you suggesting that they were each and everyone woefully ignorant of the Declaration's theological claims, which, by the way, are quite minimal.

Jefferson, to be sure, wasn't a Christian. But so what? Unless you believe that God is in favor of the genetic fallacy, what's so odd about a non-Christian getting some things right? If it can't happen, then when your non-Christian neighbor points out your sins, those sins are no longer sins.

Second, you are surely wrong about moral capital. Unless you believe that all the works of mercy throughout American history engineered by Christians--hospitals, universities, civic groups, charitable organizations, etc.--have not made one whit of difference in the trajectory of American culture, then your comments have no merit. In case you missed it, when Jesus speaks of the life of holiness, it is always connected to our relationships with others, whether its loving our neighbor as ourselves, visiting people in prison, helping the poor, etc. The idea that the Christian life is some kind of one-way-ticket-to-heaven-and-ignore-the-world borders on the gnostic heresy.

Third, to suggest, as you do, that this life is only instrumentally valuable insofar as it is a stepping stone to heaven, is not Christian theology. We are embodied, social, time-bound, beings. Unless you want to believe that these are somehow defects and not real aspects our "true" nature--which again, would make you a gnostic--you are simply mistaken about the Christian's place in this mortal realm.

Hi "b", besides what Francis has said, do you not think that "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" can be grounded in Christian thought--derived directly or by necessary inference from the scriptures? Common grace allows for much of what you seem bothered by, also, pursuit of happiness is a loaded term that I dont think many today understand, I suspect you dont either. You might spend a little time researching the phrase "pursuit of property" and all that it entails to see where Jefferson got the idea from.

First, virtually all the signatories of the Declaration were Christian. Are you suggesting that they were each and everyone woefully ignorant of the Declaration's theological claims, which, by the way, are quite minimal.

I think you realize I didn't claim anything of the sort. I would ask in return, are you suggesting that the founding of America was somehow a conclave of Christians that got together and said, "Hey, we have a great idea. Let's try to create this Christian nation, and by the way, we have this great handbook called the Bible that tells exactly how to do that" ? I wouldn't buy that.

What I would buy is a group of smart folks, some (okay, probably a lot, but less than I think we've convinced ourselves of, thanks David Barton) of whom happened to be Christians, who were well-versed in nation-building and the general science and philosophy of historical civilization and politics, a lot of which undoubtedly came from Biblical understanding (not all of it, though), and mostly who were tired of what they perceived to be an unfair and oppressive British tyranny (although, Britain didn't do too badly following, did they?), got together and said, "you know, I think we can do better. We think government should be run this way", and then fought to make that happen.

I think history shows the founding fathers were less concerned with building the United Church of Christian America and more concerned with building a free and democratic society, and by the way, I think they realized that in such an environment that meant they had to trust God to order the outcome of however that society turned out according to His sovereign purpose.

So it's only by virtue of God's sovreignty in blessing our nation for His purposes over the course of our nation's history despite our natural depravity as members of Adams' race that we have been allowed to develop in the way that we have, and not because God looks at our moral balance sheet and says, "Yeah, they have enough morality in the bank, so they can cash in some blessing."

I'm trying to articulate something here and I don't think I'm saying it right, and it's frustrating. I guess one way to say it is this, if you'll excuse my inner monologue for a moment:

My pet peeve is when folks start talking about how we're a great Christian nation founded on Christian principles, and what they really mean (you can see it in their eyes; they might as well have a running ticker of their thoughts across their foreheads) is that they've been fed a certain version of American history, they know a little about the Bible, and they remember the Old Testament stories about the Mosaic covenant with the nation of Israel, where God said things like, "if you do this, then I will bless you", etc., and they automatically view America as the modern day version of the Old Testament nation of Israel, which really makes me steamed because it's so short-sighted and totally skews the Bible into something it doesn't mean or say.

I'm not saying everyone thinks like this, but if they don't then perhaps they should rethink how they say some of the things they're saying because it sure comes across like that, and I would suspect that there's a lot of folks who do think this.

Anyway, I realize that some of this is probably a knee-jerk reaction to what I just wrote, and the real answer is somewhere in between, but I don't think I'm crazy or making this up, I think it is a real issue...

I do need to speak to this quote because this is flat out just plain wrong:

when Jesus speaks of the life of holiness, it is always connected to our relationships with others, whether its loving our neighbor as ourselves, visiting people in prison, helping the poor, etc. The idea that the Christian life is some kind of one-way-ticket-to-heaven-and-ignore-the-world borders on the gnostic heresy.

First, this is intellectual dishonesty and I take great offense to having these put in my mouth (the second time of three times you did this in your response, by the way. Something I recommend you cease doing as it doesn't reflect well).

Second, you are grossly in error in your assessment of the Bible's teaching on the life of holiness, and you are the one that turns it into a gross heresy in the form of a works-based religion, and really what is the predominate false gospel in America today, the "social gospel". Here is some of what Jesus taught on the subject of living a life of holiness:

Jn 17:17 - "Sanctify them by your truth; thy word is truth."

We are made holy only by virtue of God's grace through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, by which we begin to undergo the process of sanctification. And that process occurs primarily through growing in God's word, the Bible. The outgrowth of that life of holiness is what Paul identifies as "the fruits of the spirit" in Galatians 5, where he indicates by contrast that the life of holiness isn't this "social gospel" that you're pedalling, but instead is marked by the ceasing to live in the way of the flesh and the beginning to live in the way of the spirit. Our holiness is marked by the continual dwindling of sin in our lives, not by how much good we do for our fellow man (actually it's more complicated than this I think, but not to go off on a tangent...) If it were solely as you suggest, then every Buddhist I know of is far more holy than most Christians. And it's not something we accomplish in ourselves under our own power by the way.

So, no I didn't miss that part because I'm depending on God every second of every day to make this true in my life, and I fail miserably sometimes, but I ask forgiveness, trust that God's grace is sufficient for my own shortcomings, and ask that He make me more like Christ.

Anyway, had to respond like this because I can only take so much of having errant words I didn't say shoved in my throat.

Even if you don't believe in predestination (according to which millions of people are by definition created unequal in the maximal possible sense of the phrase), you'll have a real hard time arguing that American-style democracy is at all Biblical.

The fact that it apparently took Christendom some 1,700+ years to figure out "oh, this is what the Bible was teaching all along!" should be a pretty big clue.

The Bible repeatedly and unambiguously affirms the doctrine of racial guilt and inheritable sin, making a mockery of the notion that all men are created equal (yes, "men"; anyone who thinks women's suffrage can be extracted from the book simply hasn't read it). And who can miss the central narrative of the OT, which is just another blood-and-soil Chosen Race story, not noticeably different from the mores of the surrounding peoples of that place and time?

I think the key phrase in the declaration quote is "endowed by their Creator". That is the everlasting ground in which we root our worldview. This is the only way our "capital" won't run out, as Dr. George worries. As for the comments about Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, I have no theological problem with the first two. We are indeed granted the right, by God, of life. No one but God has should have the "right" to determine the length of my time here on earth. I believe this is Biblically sound (see Gen, Job, and Luke). I believe God grants us free will (liberty). Though this is bound by our created nature. However, I do have a problem with happiness as a biblical right or endowment. We're encouraged to be always more joyful, but not necessarily happy.

I think the comments have gone way off the tracks. Let's keep Dr. George's primary thesis in mind, rather than bickering over the minutiae.

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