Standing for Truth and Defending Your Freedom
Standing for Truth and Defending Your Freedom

The Bible and the Constitution

by Dr. D. James Kennedy

Number six said it best. John Quincy Adams, America’s sixth president and the son of number two, John Adams, posed this question in an 1837 Fourth of July oration. Why is it, he asked, “that, next to the birthday of the Savior of the World, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day?”

Adams’ answer? “Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? . . . Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? That it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity?”

Try saying that today in polite company and you will quickly discover just how far our nation has strayed from its foundation.

Adams is not alone, however, in linking Christianity and political liberty. John Winthrop, the great Puritan leader, founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, and its first governor, spoke in 1645 of “the other kind of liberty I call civil or federal.” That liberty, he said, “is of the same kind of liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.”

Winthrop, and many others who, like him, drew their political philosophy from Scripture, contributed to a moral tradition, a common understanding of liberty and law that came to fruition on July 4, 1776. On that day, 56 brave men put their lives at risk by agreeing to a document severing all ties with Britain and declaring “that these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States.”

The Declaration of Independence is America’s founding document and is the statement par excellence of the principles on which our nation was founded. The Declaration explicitly acknowledges God four times. The Declaration states that all men are “endowed by their Creator” with the unalienable right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It cites the “laws of nature and of nature’s God” and appeals to Him as the “Supreme Judge of the world.” Finally, the founders express their “firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.”

These first principles articulated in the Declaration were not withdrawn 11 years later when the U.S. Constitution was approved by Congress. The framers did not need to restate what they had already established in the Declaration. Even so, the Constitution does explicitly recognize the Christian Sabbath in Article I, Section 7 and it indicates it was unanimously approved on September 17, “in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and eighty-seven.”

Liberty is what America is about. The Declaration of Independence declared our liberty; the Constitution guaranteed it—securing “the blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

The unmistakable source, as John Quincy Adams so rightly said, is Christ, our Redeemer, who announced nearly 2,000 years ago His mission “to proclaim liberty to the captives … to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”