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A KAIROSFOCUS/LET’S TALK BRIEFING NOTE

http://www.angelfire.com/pro/kairosfocus/resources/Government_under_God.htm

MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN:

REFLECTIONS ON DANIEL CHAPTERS 1 – 6, REGARDING GOD-FEARING, JUST GOVERNMENT
VS. THE IDOLATRY OF POLITICAL POWER

GEM 04:08:15, this rev. 06:09:30, last adj.  07:10:10 & 28 then 09:01:23

[Jesus the Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. [Col 1:15 – 20.]


SYNOPSIS: Daniel 4:17 and 37b inform us: "the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men. . . . everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble." This insight is crucial to the proper reformation of the Caribbean's governance culture, for it allows us to balance authority, submission, respect and appropriate obedience so that a just social order may more and more emerge across time through God's blessing. Consequently Daniel chs 1 – 6, which the key facts show dates to C6 BC rather than the C2 BC often argued by those who a priori assume that prophecy (as a miracle) is impossible, becomes a key historical case study that shows how God and godly men in an oppressive situation appropriately and effectively responded to the challenges posed by the rulers of the Neo-Babylonian and Medo-Persian empires of that era. In particular, as the name Daniel means, God acts as Judge on the behalf of his people in the face of arrogant oppressors, and has decreed that man’s four world-dominating kingdoms will rise and fall in succession, but in these days of the fourth empire (i.e. the world-dominant but ever divided and partly strong/ partly weak Roman/Western powers), the Most High is even now erecting an eternal Kingdom that shall stand forever. In that light, our history of slavery, emancipation and colonial oppression leading to independence over the past generation, as well as recent trends of de-Christianisation across the North and their influence in the Caribbean, and the threats of jihadism-inspired Islamist conquest take on a very different colour than our news headlines (or even our history books) suggest, and principles for sound and sustainable reformation and development under God may be inferred and applied to our region. This also opens the way for re-visioning and re-energising the enduring mission of the church in, and from, the Caribbean.



CONTENTS:

INTRODUCTION:

A] PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS

--> Prophetic Alert levels

B] A BRIEF SURVEY OF THE THEMES IN CH’s 1 – 6

C] THE KEY ISSUE: GOVERNMENT UNDER GOD

D] LESSONS & CONCERNS: RECENT HISTORY AND TRENDS

E] THE ROOTS OF MODERN LIBERTY & DEMOCRACY

E.1] Reformation roots, and revolutionary implications

E.2] Biblical bases, uneasy compromises and reformation -- the slavery case

E.3] Documenting the Christian contribution to the rise of modern liberty and democracy

--> Locke and Hooker's Ecclesiastical Polity on the Law of Nature and the Golden Rule

--> Locke, on "the Candle that is set up in us . . ."

--> Rom 2, on heart-written, God-given knowledge of core morality in all normal men.

E.4] Markers of this chain of influence in the US founding documents

E.5] The material (but often unacknowledged) Christian contribution to the rise of modern liberty

--> UK EA Faith and Nation Study on the rise of liberty and linked issues

--> B. F. Morris' 1864 study on the  Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Developed in the Official and Historical Annals of the Republic (Philadelphia, PA: George W. Childs, 1864).

F] THE REFORMATION OF CARIBBEAN (& WORLD) GOVERNANCE & CULTURE

--> Government and Governance

--> The rights and wrongs of RIGHTS

--> Balancing authority, respect and appropriate obedience

CONCLUDING CALL TO ACTION

APPENDIX A: A note on the United Kingdom Evangelical Alliance study on Faith and Nation

APPENDIX B: Right makes . . . Right -- Acts 27 and democratic decision-making in a community of agenda-driven, fallible, fallen people

NOTICES


INTRODUCTION: In our time, we have often seen the rapid relegation of God and his word to the closet, whilst every species of rebellion against the Almighty, libertinism, licence and amorality [this last, often announced as "tolerance" and "diversity"] has now been crowned with the patently absurd claim that it is a "right." Moreover, this shaking of the fist in the face of our Creator is not just a trend we see in the ever more blatantly apostate, post-modern, God-rejecting North, where assorted secularists, apostates and neo-pagans now arrogantly and openly strive to de-Christianise Western Culture.

For, recent news headlines show us that many among our own elites in the Caribbean are thinking and working down the same foolish, ultimately self-destructive, lines.

Further to this, given our sad history of slavery and colonial oppression, many people in the Caribbean struggle with the issues of authority, submission, respect for office and person, and appropriate obedience; especially as they relate to liberation from such oppression.

Unfortunately, this rage has too often let raw rebellion and anarchy loose, with every-man thinking he is a law unto himself and cynically assuming that political leaders and other authorities and power brokers are nothing but self-seeking, corrupt oppressors and deceivers. So, we need to see how we may find a way to break out of the cycle of usurpation or abusive misuse of authority, subservience vs. rebellion in response, and the all too predictable destructive chaos that results -- as the ongoing cases of Jamaica and Haiti all too aptly illustrate.

Perhaps the best way to do this is to study the career of Daniel in Babylon, as a man seized as a war prize and taken to be indoctrinated and transformed into a willing servant of the oppressor of his people: Nebuchadnezzar. (Indeed, it is significant that in the wider context, the Scriptures view Nebuchadnezzar as God's instrument of judgement against the rebellious and disobedient nation of Israel, so that he hands them over to conquest as a judgement against their persistent idolatry and injustice, as so many of the OT Prophets proclaimed. And, later God raises up Cyrus as a liberator, who allows the exiles to return and supports them in rebuilding their devastated nation.) Therefore, it is time that we the people of the Caribbean again consult the Prophet Daniel on Government under God.

 

A] PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS

There are two typical reactions to the book of Daniel that must first be addressed: (1) the specious but influential modernist claim that it is a fraud written circa 165 BC, and (2) the eschatological escapist tendency to so bind the application of the book to apocalyptic speculation that we fail to see how it strongly and relevantly argues that the Most High God rules over the affairs of men even now, so that we must consult and heed his counsel today, or else fall under his just judgement.

The first reaction is fairly easy to rebut, once we have in hand a few basic facts; as the NIV Study Bible’s notes tellingly summarise:

The widely held view that the book of Daniel is largely fictional rests mainly on the modern philosophical assumption that long-range predictive prophecy is impossible . . . But objective evidence excludes this hypothesis on several counts:

1. To avoid fulfillment of long-range predictive prophecy in the book, the adherents of the late-date view usually maintain that the four empires of chs. 2 and 7 are Babylon, Media, Persia and Greece. But in the mind of the author, "the Medes and Persians" (5:28) together constituted the second in the series of four kingdoms (2:36-43). Thus it becomes clear that the four empires are the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman . . . .

2. . . . Linguistic evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls (which furnish authentic samples of Hebrew and Aramaic writing from the second century B.C. . . . ) demonstrates that the Hebrew and Aramaic chapters of Daniel must have been composed centuries earlier. Furthermore, as recently demonstrated, the Persian and Greek words in Daniel do not require a late date [e.g., the prior Assyrian Empire was familiar with Greek musicians and their instruments]. Some of the technical terms appearing in ch. 3 were already so obsolete by the second century B.C. that translators of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT) translated them incorrectly.

3. Several of the fulfillments of prophecies in Daniel could not have taken place by the second century anyway, so the prophetic element cannot be dismissed. The symbolism connected with the fourth kingdom makes it unmistakably predictive of the Roman empire (see 2:33; 7:7, 19), which did not take control of Syro-Palestine until 63 B.C. Also, the prophecy concerning the coming of "the Anointed One, the ruler," 483 years after "the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem" (9:25), works out to the time of Jesus' ministry.

Objective evidence, therefore, appears to exclude the late-date hypothesis and indicates that there is insufficient reason to deny Daniel's authorship.

Enormous consequences follow from these apparently simple, but often overlooked (or even suppressed), facts. For, these facts so strongly testify to the authenticity of the prophetic element of the Bible that they mean that there is every reason to believe that God speaks through prophets to rulers and people, showing that He rules in the affairs of men – holding rulers and people alike to account before him.

Further, the message of Daniel means that, even centuries ahead of time, God knows and indeed controls the future. Yet further, as he rules over the affairs of men and nations, he holds us to account for righteousness, justice and moral purity: we ignore or reject his counsel at our peril, and to our ruin. In short, those who, over the past several generations, have led many people, governments and nations to forget and even to defy God have misled Western Civilisation down a road to ruin.

Specifically, we may think in terms of three levels of God's judgement of the nations, which -- as Psalm 24:1 -2 and the Parable of the Vineyard and Tenants in Lk 20:9 - 19 remind us -- are his tenants; and since this is being written in volcano-stricken Montserrat, let's highlight the levels with appropriate warning level "colour codes":

  • YELLOW: We are fallen creatures in a morally ordered world, where sin leads to death: we are subject to the judgement of consequences. [Jas. 1:12 - 18, Rom. 6:23, Prov. 14:12 .]

  • ORANGE: God, in loving mercy, sends his prophets and especially his Son to warn, redeem, correct and call us to repentance and reformation: corrective judgements and chastisements. [Amos 3:7 - 8, John 3:16 - 17, Heb. 1:1 - 14, Matt. 28:18 - 20.]

  • RED: If we insist on disobeying God -- that is, on "sin/business as usual" -- we will surely be destroyed by our sin: destructive judgement. [Deut. 8:17 - 20, John 3:18 - 21, Rom 1:16 - 32.]

So, it is high time for us in the Caribbean to wake up to our peril, and turn back to God; in the hope and prayer that he will graciously forgive and rescue us from our folly.

But, also, speculative eschatological escapism is of great concern to those who are inclined to take the Bible seriously, for such an attitude distracts us from the direct relevance of Daniel to the business of government in the community in our time, and in our place: the C21 Caribbean. However, while indeed Daniel contains many prophecies of the End of Days -- some of which are "closed up and sealed until the time of the end" [12:9] -- there is much in that Book that speaks to us as we set about just government under God. To these aspects, let us now turn.

 

B] A BRIEF SURVEY OF THE THEMES IN CH’s 1 - 6

First, in Ch1, Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, are seized [in ~605 BC] as war booty by the new Babylonian King, Nebuchadnezzar, and are taken to Babylon to study for three years at what was in effect the King’s College. There, the intent was to give these "freshmen" new pagan identities and to indoctrinate them in the thought, techniques and ways of the Babylonians, then to recruit them into the Civil Service of the oppressor of their native country.

But instead, Daniel and his friends purposed in their hearts not to ceremonially defile themselves with the King’s food; a first point of resistance that showed their intent to remain faithful to the God of Israel. So at first he tactfully approached Ashpenaz, who was in charge of the Court Officials, but was refused: "the king would . . . have my head because of you." [v.10.] So, instead Daniel went to the guard assigned to the four young men, and asked for a ten days’ test. After that period, it was clear by the grace of God that they looked "healthier and better nourished" than those who "were eating the royal food," so they were permitted to continue with a vegetarian diet (which was ceremonially "safe").

God then gave to these four "knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning," and Daniel in addition "could understand visions and dreams of all kinds." [v.17.] So, after three years’ study, the King saw that "[i]n every matter of wisdom . . . he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom." [v. 20.]

But, even before the period of study was over, we see a crisis in Ch 2. For, the King has a troubling dream, and demands of his fortune-tellers that they first tell him what the dream is, then its meaning – so that he can be confident that the interpretation is correct. But of course they cannot, and he then sets out to execute ALL the magi as frauds, including Daniel and his three friends. Daniel asks leave to consult God, and is shown the dream and its meaning. He then tells the King that God has given him a vision of the path of future history, as four kingdoms in succession will dominate the world, his being the first, the head of gold. Each succeeding kingdom will be of a baser but more strong and durable metal, until the last and strongest – evidently the Roman Empire (and arguably its historical extension as Western Culture; hereinafter, the Roman/Western culture) -- will at first be two legs of iron then feet partly iron and partly baked clay. Then, a rock not cut out by human hands would strike the image on its feet and shatter it. Finally, the rock would become a mountain filling the whole earth. For "in the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever." [v. 44.]

In response to this miracle of revelation, Daniel was promoted in charge of all the magi, and his three friends were made administrators over the province of Babylon, Daniel himself staying at the royal court.

Thus is set up the confrontation in Ch. 3. For, the King decided to set up a golden image in the plain of Dura, and summoned all his officials to pay it homage. However, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah refused to bow in worship before this idol, and were soon brought before an angry King. They expressed confidence in God as able to deliver them even out of a fiery furnace, but even if he did not they would not disobey God by worshipping idols. The now utterly enraged King had the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and had the three young men trussed up and cast in. To his amazement, they were soon seen walking in the flames, unbound, and with a fourth man, one who "look[ed] like a son of the gods." They were asked to come out, and were seen to be untouched, not even smelling of smoke. Nebuchadnezzar then acknowledged the superior power of the God of Israel, and promoted the three men.

In Ch. 4, Nebuchadnezzar testifies to his own confrontation with the God of Heaven, who tells him in a dream about a great tree that "the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes, and sets over them the lowliest of men." For, since his magi again fail to give the meaning, he again has to call on Daniel to interpret a dream. On hearing the dream, Daniel is perplexed and alarmed in thought. The King observes this: "do not let the dream or its interpretation alarm you." So, on the strength of this, Daniel tells the King the judgement against him for arrogance, that for seven years he would lose his sanity and become like a wild animal, ‘until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes." He then pleads: "Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue." [v. 27.] However, a year later, the King looks out over his capital city and boasts of his accomplishments. Even while the words were on his lips, a voice from heaven pronounced judgement and Nebuchadnezzar at once lost his sanity. But at the end of the period, he recovered his mind and praised the Most High, acknowledging that "everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble." [v. 37.]

Ch. 5 discusses the fall of the Babylonian Empire in 539 BC under Belshazzar, son and regent of Nabonidus. For, even with Medo-Persian armies at the gates, he hosts a feast for his princes and calls for the treasures of the Jerusalem Temple to be brought out. He and his guests then proceeded to blaspheme God by drinking wine from the vessels while praising idols. Suddenly, a hand appeared, and began to write on the wall: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN. Again, the magi were unable to interpret, and so again Daniel was called for – probably out of retirement. Daniel proceeded to give God’s sentence, first recounting the fate of Nebuchadnezzar. "But you his son [i.e. descendant/successor] . . . have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven." And so, the message of the writing on the wall was this: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought them to an end, for you have been weighed in the scales and found wanting, so your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians. That very night, the city was taken, and Belshazzar was slain.

In Ch. 6, Daniel with two other Presidents, is set up over the 120 satraps of the Medo-Persian Empire. Daniel’s performance was so exceptional that the King then purposed to appoint him head over the whole kingdom – setting in motion a jealous plot based on the observation that only if Daniel’s religion could be made an offense could he be overthrown. So, soon the King was tricked into approving a proposal that, for a month, prayers were to only be directed to himself. Daniel continued his practice of open prayer to God three times a day, and was soon thrown into the lions’ den, for the distraught King could find no way to save him; because, unwisely and unjustly, there was no provision for amendment or repeal of the laws, nor room for discretion or mercy. God saved Daniel from the lions, and the treacherous officials met the fate they had intended for him. The grateful and awed King issued the decree: "in every province of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel. For he is the living God . . ."

 

C] THE KEY ISSUE: GOVERNMENT UNDER GOD

The underlying thesis of Daniel chapters 1 - 6 is plain: the Most High God is a just God, and is sovereign over the Kingdoms of men, giving them to whom he will and holding people, officials and rulers alike accountable for justice, thus for protecting and balancing our basic rights under God. Further, God so controls the flow of history, that he will intervene in the interests of those who seek to serve him in purity, even in the teeth of arrogant and unjust rulers. Indeed, the very name Daniel prefigures this: it means, "God is my Judge."

This theme also runs through the Bible as a whole, from Moses’ "Let my people go!" of the Exodus, to the concern of the Hebrew Prophets over Justice, to John the Baptist’s call for repentance in the face of the Kingdom of God that was now at hand, to Jesus’ proclamation of that Kingdom, to the concluding visions of Apocalyptic Judgement and the New Jerusalem in the Revelations. So, the question of just government under God is one that we cannot properly duck, nor can we plead that God has not spoken with sufficient detail.

Indeed, perhaps the best single text for us to now highlight is Rom 13:1 – 10:

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience.

This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God's servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Here, we may note several key observations, which also highlight implications of Daniel 1 - 6:

      • As Daniel did, we are to submit to Government (even when it is less than perfect – as is always the case), as an institution established by God to do us good, and armed with the sword to defend the community from evil-doers. But also, the power of the sword is a great temptation to abuse power over those under one’s administration or in the wider community, or even to indulge in aggression against other countries. So, for instance, Nebuchadnezzar often seemed to fly into a rage with those who displeased him, demanding that they be put to death. (It is interesting to contrast the attitude of Daniel in Ch 4, even after the King had twice unjustly threatened his life and/or that of this friends: he was concerned for the King, and gently pleaded with him to turn from his arrogance and wickedness, so that perhaps God would relent in judgement. Sadly, neither the King nor his grandson Belshazzar heeded the wise prophetic counsel. Further to this, it is a common rhetorical resort to try to caricature and dismiss the biblical principle of respect for authority, through inferring that Rom 13 calls for an unlimited obedience. Sadly, some Christians make this argument too, misunderstanding the text in its own terms and the wider biblical context. But in fact, a quick glance at the examples in Daniel show that while human authority is to be respected, if a ruler cuts across the known will of God, we have no duty to follow his or her lead into sin and rebellion against God -- if necessary, we should surrender our lives rather than rebel against God [Cf Dan Chs 3, 6]. A closer look at Rom 13 will also show that from v. 1 EVERY soul is to be subject to "higher powers" [KJV] -- the highest of these being of course God [cf. Col 1:15 - 20], and so in v. 4 we see the limits set on human authority: to do the community good and to defend justice -- thus both our rights and the right -- from evildoers. Plainly, we have no duty to follow an authority into destroying the community and imposing injustice in defiance of the will and word of God, starting with the core moral principle that neighbour-love does no harm. But also, this opens the door for lower magistrates to act with the people to interpose themselves to stop injustice and reform abuses, or if necessary -- due to oppressive use of force to sustain wrongdoing -- to replace tyrannical government. [Thank God, we now have freedom of the press and the ballot box for this.])

      • For, we must bear in mind always, that each -- and every -- civil authority is God’s servant; thus, s/he is directly accountable to him for the promotion of good and the defense of justice in the community, in light of the keystone principle of neighbour-love: "Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." For, as Col 1:15 - 20 [cited at the head of this page] highlights, authorities were created by and for Christ, implying that when he said that we are to "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's," Caesar and those who report to him alike, hold their position as God's servants appointed to do us good, and to uphold and defend justice. [Mt 22:21, cf. Rom 13:4.] Thus, for instance when Ashpenaz feared to lose his head, Daniel felt it proper to approach his guard instead, and request a ten-day test-period that would demonstrate that -- by God’s blessing -- Ashpenaz was in no danger of losing his head at the hands of an angry King. (So, there now appears in elementary form, the concept of the interposition by lower magistrates, to intervene in the interests of doing goodness and justice, when higher ones are materially failing in their duty under God, for whatever reason. This concept is in fact the key to understanding the biblically based theology of the right of reformation -- and, if necessary, revolution -- as an integral aspect of nationhood and government under God. We also mark a distinction between own-way driven rebellion against legitimate authority, which is plainly wrong, and the orderly removal of and/or resistance to tyrants by such interpostion. Of this last, there are many OT and some NT instances [Ac 4:19, 5:29], starting with the very Moses whom Paul cites in Rom 13:8 - 10.)

      • Further to this, like Daniel and his friends, we can therefore rely on God as our Supreme Judge: he holds both rulers and ruled to account for justice and good order in the community under the principle of neighbour-love. So, where a government official – who is God’s servant to do us good -- steps out of line under God and demands that we disobey God, we should respect the authority but continue to obey God [as in Acts 4:19, 5:29], trusting that God will vindicate his name. And, where God has called forth a liberator such as Moses, or Jephthah, or David, these too should act in a restrained, lawful manner as emerging civil authorities under God; even when force has to be used to resist tyranny or invasion. (Note also, that I here distinguish FORCE -- moral, financial, verbal, even physical -- from violence, understood as the unjust, morally indefensible use of force.)

      • Elaborating, law and justice in the community are properly built, not on the self-centred agendas, whims and interests of the individual, the faction or the class, but on the principle that we are all to love our neighbours as we love ourselves, and so we should not harm them or block their fulfilling of their legitimate needs and interests. So, as the Ten Commandments highlight, our neighbours’ families, lives, and property should be as precious to us as our own – and, wise rulers will also acknowledge and respect the Most High God who rules in the affairs of men and promotes (and -- in his own good time -- demotes or even sweeps away) rulers and kingdoms, based on justice and the coming Eternal Kingdom of God.

      • In support of such wise and good government in light of neighbour-love, authorities are granted the just power to exact reasonable – as opposed to confiscatory ["thou shalt not steal"] – taxes. Here, too, Paul’s remark in Rom 13:8: "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another," is highly relevant. For, through his apostle, God here forbids not only personal financial irresponsibility, but also fiscal and monetary policies that (often in the name of "compassion") pile up public deficits and resulting national debts year after year, until they reach such unsustainable levels that they force Governments to run the money printing presses to support the resulting runaway inflation. Indeed, had this been heeded in Germany in the 1920’s, the 1923 hyperinflation and its consequence: angry impoverished middle classes that then supported the rise of Hitler to power, could have been averted. Similar events have also repeatedly played out in Latin America and the wider world.

      • Finally, in modern democratic communities -- by God's gracious blessing -- we are not subject to the whims of arrogant absolute rulers such as Nebuchadnezzar or Belshazzar, but rather our rulers are accountable before laws enacted through our representatives who act as legislators under God; based on the frameworks laid out in our written Constitutions. Also, unlike the foolish "unchangeable" laws of the Medes and Persians, we have established mechanisms for review, appeal, repeal and reformation of unjust or damaging laws. For, God has granted us the privilege of constitutional government, including the power to regularly choose or change our representatives and chief civil authorities through the ballot box.

Therefore, as we vote and participate in the political life of the community, we have a duty under God to insist that those we vote for or support not only talk about but walk by the principles of just government under God, especially the principle of neighbour-love. (So also, where governments become tyrannical and destructive to the community and individuals in it, we have a right of reformation, and if necessary revolution. Indeed, the General Election is an institutionalised, regularly scheduled potential – but thankfully, peaceful -- revolution that holds rulers accountable before the people without a need to resort to bloodshed!)

 

D] LESSONS & CONCERNS: RECENT HISTORY AND TRENDS

Now, it is common to encounter those who -- very understandably -- rise up in indignation over the oppressions and injustices of Christendom [too often, though, they do so whilst refusing to acknowledge positive contributions, breakthroughs and reformations from universal horrors made by Christianity-influenced cultures, movements and eras; cf. below on the roots of modern liberty, and this article's remarks [p.35 ff] on the rise of modern science].

But plainly, had the above biblical principles been respected over the past century, the world would have been spared not only the internal mass-slaughters initiated by aggressive Monarchies, and by largely secular post-Christian political messianistic movements such as Nazism, Fascism and Marxism-Leninism [a.k.a. "Communism"], but also the associated horrors of World Wars I and II, and also the appalling waste of effort, lives and treasure caused by the forty-year long Cold War. Cumulative death toll: well in excess of 100 million;[cf. Rummel's basis here -- the American abortion holocaust, well in excess of 40 millions at the rate of more than a 9/11 a day, is NOT part of this total]. We would also have been spared the current rise of the global conflict over Islamist ideology-motivated terrorism in pursuit of global dominance by dar ul Islam. [Cf. also an introduction to Islam for Caribbean Christians here, a declaration on recognition, concerns and calls to action here, key references here, here, & here, and more details on Jihad and its implications here. Nor should we forget the consistent result of Jihad: imposition on Jews, Christians and others under sharia of apartheid-like discrimination, through dhimmitude. (Cf. here too.) Nor, should we simply ignore the involvement of muslims in that longstanding and as yet unfinished horror, slavery. (For the history-challenged: many of "those pirates" who "robbed I" and "sold I" to the european and american "merchant ships" were muslim Arabs, Berbers and islamised african tribes who were carrying out a trans-Sahara and trans-Indian Ocean slave trade of comparable size and longer duration than the trans-Atlantic one. It is noteworthy, too, that the first highly successful antislavery effort was initiated and sustained by Evangelical Christians in C18 Britain who had been touched by the awakenings of that time.)]

But of course, despite the fact that the above has been public knowledge for centuries, the principles and examples in fact were ignored or neglected – at repeatedly and predictably horrific cost; so we should now first consider: why?

Paul again provides the answer: "the time will come when men will not put up with sound [instruction]. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." [2 Ti 4:3 – 4] That is, there is always a temptation to reject the truth and instead listen to sweet-talk or slanders that substitute deceptive myths and false accusations for the truth. Thus, we immediately see the importance of understanding and being open to the dynamics of reformation: repentance, renewal of minds and lives through truths learned and lived, revival as people are empowered by God to carry forward good works, and as a critical mass is achieved, community transformation and blessing. But instead, in too many democratic communities across the Caribbean and beyond, many politicians, power brokers, intellectuals, artists, journalists and other opinion leaders have become resistant to the truth and the right, whilst becoming masters of deceitful rhetoric, to the point where we now often expect or even assume that our politicians and other opinion leaders and decision makers are liars. Worse, many of us think that issues of character and integrity are irrelevant to qualifications for being elected or appointed to positions of civil authority.

In particular, over the past two centuries, Western Culture has increasingly turned away from the Most High God, His Son and his Word, and indeed many now defiantly -- and foolishly -- insist that the God of the Bible is nothing more than an outdated myth used by cynical, hypocritical religious leaders to block the progress and liberation of the community. For instance the Ten Commandments and reminders that they are a major part of the historical foundation of Western Law and liberties are so offensive to some that they argue that they should – literally in the case of Judge Roy Moore of Alabama -- be put in the closet! Meanwhile, every species of licence and libertinist sinful suicidal folly, deception and perversion walks in broad daylight, and blasphemously and brazenly demands to be recognised before the law as a "right."

Indeed, in some countries hitherto noted for freedom of conscience and expression, people have been jailed or penalised by courts for daring to object, including at least one Pastor who has been sentenced to prison in Sweden for expounding Romans 1 from his pulpit, which highlights the biblical principle that widespread sexual immorality and homosexual perversion are strong marks of a nation’s rebellion against God and his judgement: God gives such people over to the control of depraved minds and perverted passions. (For, having the freedom to go your own way in defiance of self-evident truth about our status as responsible creatures under God, and linked morality, has the implication that such rebellion is its own judgement. Plainly, God’s destructive judgement against a stubbornly rebellious Roman/Western Civilisation – as prophesied 2,600 years ago by the Prophet Daniel – is now very close at hand indeed. Maranatha! And so, let us plead earnestly with and pray for those who are so bold as to defy the Most High God of Heaven that they might repent now, or else to their eternal loss they shall be Anathema Maranatha!)

Here in the Caribbean, these trends are not so obvious or dominant as yet, but they are unmistakable, as many of our elites are apostate, secularistic or even neo-pagan just like their peers in the North. But, they are for the moment somewhat restrained by the lingering (but now waning) influence of the Scriptures and the fear of God in the population at large.

So, if we are to avoid being caught up in the tidal wave of moral disintegration from the North that is now already mounting up and lapping at our shores, we have to act vigorously now, for tomorrow will plainly be too late.

Also, we must reckon with the fast-approaching islamist tidal wave from the East, as the ideology of jihad is now being ever more wedded to our resentment over our history of slavery and colonialism, in the writings of certain revisionist historians (such as Dr Sultana Afroz of the UWI History Department), to energise Islamist revolution. For, we must not ever forget how, in 1990, we saw in Trinidad just how suddenly and bloodily such an outcome can be precipitated by a jihadism-maddened radical such as Abu Bakr and a tiny circle of heavily indoctrinated, armed -- even if poorly so -- followers.

These sobering concerns therefore bring us to consider:

 

E] THE ROOTS OF MODERN LIBERTY & DEMOCRACY

Today, as just observed above, many think that biblically based Christian Faith is an enemy of liberty; indeed, we often see that "fundamentalist" Christians are spoken of in the same contempt-filled breath as radical islamist terrorists, as if the essential point is that religion and terrorism or tyranny go hand in hand. For example, Rev'd Dr. Roderick Hewitt in Jamaica wrote -- only a few weeks after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US -- that:

The human tragedy in USA has also served to bring into sharp focus the use of terror by religious fanatics/fundamentalists. Fundamentalism or fundamentalists are terms that are applicable to every extreme conservative in every religious system . . . . During the twentieth century in particular we have seen the rise of militant expression of these faiths by extreme conservatives who have sought to respond to what they identify as 'liberal' revisions that have weakened the fundamentals of their faith . . . They opt for a belligerent, militant and separatist posture in their public discourse that can easily employ violence to achieve their goals. [Gleaner, Sept. 26, 2001, emphases added. Cf. response to the secularist-/ rationalist-/ modernist- influenced theology and philosophy underlying this article, here. Cf also wider currents here and here.]

In fact, this is grossly (even inexcusably) unjust, for the difference between Bible-believing Evangelical Christians (the sort of people who are often tagged as "fundies" in a Christian context) and Al Qaeda's plane-hijacking suicide bombers is obvious and vast. But the underlying misperceptions and hostility in the above typically reflect what we have not learned about the roots of modern democratic self government and the idea-sources and motivations of the liberation struggles that we benefit from today. (NB: I find it particularly reprehensible to come across insistently repeated litanies of the sins of Christendom, whilst the same person utterly refuses to acknowledge that in fact there is a highly important, historically well-supported, Bible-rooted Christian contribution to the rise of modern liberty [cf following] -- which means immediately that Christianity is not to be brushed aside as an inevitable, potentially violent enemy of liberty or liberation. Further to this, it is important to not confuse morally-based, principled and civil objection to licence, libertinism and amorality with enmity to liberty. Similarly, we should recognise that a NT that consistently teaches us that "love does no harm" cannot properly be blamed for wrongful behaviour rooted in ignorance, disobedience or even defiance of it -- and, sadly, that marks out major movements and whole eras; especially, the notoriosly "dark" ages of the medieval period. Also, we must not forget that the struggle to overcome seriously wrongful behaviour and confusion over where duty lies in moral issues that cut across one's interests and pleasures are universal human challenges, and not just a matter for Christianity-influenced cultures. [Cf. Matt 7:1 - 5 (excellent practical advice for would-be reformers!), Ac 27:7 - 22, Rom 2:6 - 11, 14 - 15 and 1 Jn 1:5 - 10.] So, that sort of one-sided "shut up rhetoric" on this subject should be seen for what it is, then laid aside first; so that we can make a fair and balanced assessment in light of the following.)

E.1] Reformation roots, and revolutionary implications

To help us correct such potentially dangerous misunderstandings, we need to first go back to the reformation era and trace the pattern of liberation struggles that flowed out of putting the Bible in the hands of the ordinary man, at the cost of martyrs' blood -- e.g. Tyndale was burned at the stake for translating the Bible into English, as late as 1536. So, let us now turn to the first major Reformation work on liberation struggles, the 1579 anonymous book, Vindiciae Contra Tyrannos, by Junius Brutus [i.e. Phillipe Duplessis-Mornay, a Huguenot French soldier and Diplomat, et al], the subsequent and derivative 1581 Dutch Declaration of Independence, and the stream of further thought and state documents that flowed from that well-spring, including most notably Samuel Rutherford's Lex Rex, John Locke's 2nd Treatise of Civil Government, and the US founding documents, especially the 1776 American Declaration of Independence, which reads, in its first and justly famous second paragraphs, and in its closing:

When . . . it becomes necessary for one people . . . to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, [cf Rom 1:18 - 21, 2:14 - 15], that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security . . . .

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions [Cf. Judges 11:27 and discussion in Locke], do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

At first glance, this should be enough to settle the matter in light of Rom 13:1 - 10 and the train of reformation-era analyses of this and other related scriptures such as Acts 5:29 and Matt 22:17 - 22, etc. For, the principles:

[i] liberty is rooted in God's Creation [which makes us equal, cf. Ac 17:24 - 27, Gal 3:28 etc.] and his endowments of basic rights [which imply and are based on duties under justice: e.g. my right to life means you have a duty to respect my life -- rights-talk and duty-to-justice talk are two sides of the same coin];

[ii] Government is the guardian of justice, thus of liberty as expressed in these rights;

[iii] when Governments fail badly enough, we the people [acting though our representatives] have the collective right of reformation and -- if all else fails --revolution [thank God the ballot box gives us a right of peaceful revolution today!],

. . . can plainly be derived from Biblical precedents, and were expressed here in a foundational document for the American republic; which was at the time plainly a part of what was for good reason called "Christendom." For, the people and leaders of that republic at its birth, drew their religious roots largely from those areas of Northern Europe which had through the impacts of the reformation had already pioneered in the sort of liberation struggle that we see further advanced in the American Revolution. Then, from America [for all its faults and sins; as in fairness marks also the history of the church across 20 centuries, and that of all Christianity-influenced cultures -- or, for that matter, any movement of finite, fallen, fallible men, cf here 1 Jn 1:5 - 10], ideas and examples for democratic self-government spread to the wider world, once that Republic plainly succeeded.

Indeed, such an interpretation makes a lot of sense, once we consider, say, the proclamations for days of fasting, prayer and thanksgiving issued by the Continental Congress in 1776 and 1777:

May 1776 [over the name of John Hancock, first signer of the US Declaration of Indpependence] : In times of impending calamity and distress; when the liberties of America are imminently endangered by the secret machinations and open assaults of an insidious and vindictive administration, it becomes the indispensable duty of these hitherto free and happy colonies, with true penitence of heart, and the most reverent devotion, publickly to acknowledge the over ruling providence of God; to confess and deplore our offences against him; and to supplicate his interposition for averting the threatened danger, and prospering our strenuous efforts in the cause of freedom, virtue, and posterity.. . . Desirous, at the same time, to have people of all ranks and degrees duly impressed with a solemn sense of God's superintending providence, and of their duty, devoutly to rely, in all their lawful enterprizes, on his aid and direction, Do earnestly recommend, that Friday, the Seventeenth day of May next, be observed by the said colonies as a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that we may, with united hearts, confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and, by a sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease his righteous displeasure, and, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness; humbly imploring his assistance to frustrate the cruel purposes of our unnatural enemies; . . . that it may please the Lord of Hosts, the God of Armies, to animate our officers and soldiers with invincible fortitude, to guard and protect them in the day of battle, and to crown the continental arms, by sea and land, with victory and success: Earnestly beseeching him to bless our civil rulers, and the representatives of the people, in their several assemblies and conventions; to preserve and strengthen their union, to inspire them with an ardent, disinterested love of their country; to give wisdom and stability to their counsels; and direct them to the most efficacious measures for establishing the rights of America on the most honourable and permanent basis—That he would be graciously pleased to bless all his people in these colonies with health and plenty, and grant that a spirit of incorruptible patriotism, and of pure undefiled religion, may universally prevail; and this continent be speedily restored to the blessings of peace and liberty, and enabled to transmit them inviolate to the latest posterity. And it is recommended to Christians of all denominations, to assemble for public worship, and abstain from servile labour on the said day.

December 1777: FORASMUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of; And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence, but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defence and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased in so great a Measure to prosper the Means used for the Support of our Troops and to crown our Arms with most signal success: It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive powers of these United States, to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for Solemn Thanksgiving and Praise; That with one Heart and one Voice the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favour, and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD, through the Merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole; to inspire our Commanders both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty GOD, to secure for these United States the greatest of all human blessings, INDEPENDENCE and PEACE; That it may please him to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People and the Labour of the Husbandman, that our Land may yet yield its Increase; To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing Hand, and to prosper the Means of Religion for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom which consisteth “in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost.”[i.e. Cites Rom 14:9] [Source: Journals of the American Congress From 1774 to 1788 (Washington: Way and Gideon, 1823), Vol. I, pp. 286-287 & II, pp. 309 - 310.]

These two cites are by no means isolated, as can be immediately seen from the trove cited here by Dr George Grant; of which, the 1779 declaration -- over John Jay's signature [i.e. the future first Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court] -- is noted aptly by the Library of Congress, in its recent display on the religious roots of the US founding, to be the most eloquent. Indeed, this pattern of proclamations from 1776 to 83, gives pointed force to remarks ascribed to Historian Perry Miller, that . . .

Actually, European deism was an exotic plant in America, which never struck roots in the soil. 'Rationalism' was never so widespread as liberal historians, or those fascinated by Jefferson, have imagined. The basic fact is that the Revolution had been preached to the masses as a religious revival, and had the astounding fortune to succeed." [Nature’s Nation, p. 110 (1967). Cited, Rushdoony, "The Myth of an American Enlightenment," The Journal of Christian Reconstruction, vol. III, Summer, 1976, no. 1, p. 97, as linked here. In citing these sources I am of course, not thereby endorsing their general or specific theonomic and/or reconstructionist claims! Cf. also, the Google PDF facsimilie of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner's copy of Benjamin Franklin Morris' classic Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Developed in the Official and Historical Annals of the Republic (Philadelphia, PA: George W. Childs, 1864), as was placed in the Harvard University Library, April 28, 1874. [HINT: follow the PDF link on the just linkled page, to the 35.9 MB file, and save the file to your PC, then open it from your desktop in Acrobat Reader.] NB: This book has been recently reprinted by American Vision. The Author's Preface, the immediately following list of Principal Authorities Consulted, and Rev Dr Sunderland's Introduction are well worth the read, before delving into the substance of this work. The discussion from p. 525 on specifically addresses the days of Penitence and Thanksgiving proclaimed by the US Congress in the period of the Revolution, underscoring the point made by Miller as just cited.]

No wonder, then also, that the recent US Library of Congress display and web site on the US Founding notes:

The Continental-Confederation Congress, a legislative body that governed the United States from 1774 to 1789, contained an extraordinary number of deeply religious men . . . both the legislators and the public considered it appropriate for the national government to promote a nondenominational, nonpolemical Christianity . . . . Congress was guided by "covenant theology," a Reformation doctrine especially dear to New England Puritans, which held that God bound himself in an agreement with a nation and its people . . . The first national government of the United States, was convinced that the "public prosperity" of a society depended on the vitality of its religion. Nothing less than a "spirit of universal reformation among all ranks and degrees of our citizens," Congress declared to the American people, would "make us a holy, that so we may be a happy people."

But, victory always has many claimed fathers; and so there is a fairly common argument (often in ignorance of data such as the above) that the underlying concepts were actually "Deist" or otherwise rationalist/enlightenment, not those of Judaeo-Christian/ biblically anchored Theism -- especially since the principal author of the US DOI, Thomas Jefferson, is commonly viewed as a "Deist."

[Let us, of course, note that what some have called the American "Deists" were far more hebraic/ biblical in their thought than the European "breed standard." For instance, Ben Franklin, the other major, generally acknowledged "Deist" in the founding circle, proposed Moses crossing the Red Sea as the State Seal for the new republic, and called the 1787 Constitutional Convention to prayer; hardly the act of a man who believes in a God who having Created, sits back and watches from a distance. Likewise, of the 55 framers of the US Constitution, all but a few were traceably Christian theists in their worldviews and social engagements [cf. also breakdown here] -- not necessarily the same as being born again, committed Christians -- of one stripe or another. Even Jefferson wrote as an attorney for a client, the Congress and People of the nascent USA, who were overwhelmingly Christian in their worldviews -- as even a cynical "rhetorical"/ "propaganda" view of the above proclamations at once implies. The responses of the Founding circle, including Franklin, to Thomas Paine's line of advocacy in his Age of Reason, are instructive on how even the "Deists" in that circle valued and respected the Christian Faith as the teacher of morals and a pillar of liberty. The sentiments and actions of a later generation in response to Masonry as exposed here, are also not without relevance. (In the light of these and similar factors, the often-cited clause in the first English Language form of the Treaty of Tripoli, for good reasons as summed up here, is tellingly irrelevant -- e.g., it was evidently not present in the Arabic version, and was not in the second version of the treaty [once the balance of power had shifted after American naval and military campaigns], nor are similar clauses to be found in treaties with other of the Barbary Coast states. But, more directly on point, it is best understood in its context as affirming that the US is not a Nation with a state-church, parallel to the more traditional European nations or the islamic ones. By sharpest contrast, it is not at all irrelevant to note that a century later, the US Supreme Court, in its 1892 Trinity decision, in making a supportive historical and legal point on the nature of American civilisation, prior to ruling on the matter of striking down the application of an anti-cheap labour law to forbid a church in NY from hiring an overseas minister, commented that based on historic legal documents -- from Columbus to the Colonial Charters to the US Founding era to the state constitutions and legal rulings -- and the free and abundant popular expressions of the American people: "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.")]

Abraham Kuyper, the last of the great calvinist statesmen, adds his own powerful summary here. It reads, in part:

The three great revolutions in the Calvinistic world left untouched the glory of God, nay, they even proceeded from the acknowledgement of His majesty. Every one will admit this of our [Dutch] rebellion against Spain, under William the Silent. Nor has it even been doubted of the “glorious Revolution,” which was crowned by the arrival of William III of Orange and the overthrow of the Stuarts. But it is equally true of your own Revolution. It is expressed in so many words in the Declaration of Independence, by John Hancock, that the Americans asserted themselves by virtue –“of the law of nature and of nature's God”; that they acted –“as endowed by the Creator with certain unalienable rights”; that they appealed to “the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of their intention”;3 and that they sent forth their “declaration of Independence” –“With a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence.”4 in the “Articles of Confederation” it is confessed in the preamble, –“that it hath pleased the great Governor of the world to incline the hearts of the legislators.”5 It is also declared in the preamble of the Constitution of many of the States: –“Grateful to Almighty God for the civil, political and religious liberty, which He has so long permitted us to enjoy and looking unto Him, for a blessing upon our endeavors.”6 God is there honored as “the Sovereign Ruler,”7 and the “Legislator of the Universe”8 and it is there specifically admitted, that from God alone the people received “the right to choose their own form of government.”9 In one of the meetings of the Convention, Franklin proposed, in a moment of supreme anxiety, that they should ask wisdom from God in prayer. And if any one should still doubt whether or not the American revolution was homogeneous with that of Paris, this doubt is fully set at rest by the bitter fight in 1793 between Jefferson and Hamilton. Therefore it remains as the German historian Von Holtz stated it: “Es ware Thorheit zu sagen dass die Rousseauschen Schriften einen Einfluss auf die Entwicklung in America ausgeubt haben.”10 (“Mere madness would it be to say that the American revolution borrowed its impelling energy from Rousseau and his writings.”) Or as Hamilton himself expressed it, that he considered “the French Revolution to be no more akin to the American Revolution than the faithless wife in a French novel is like the Puritan matron in New England.”11

The French Revolution is in principle distinct from all these national revolutions, which were undertaken with praying lips and with trust in the help of God. The French Revolution ignores God. It opposes God. It refuses to recognize a deeper ground of political life than that which is found in nature, that is, in this instance, in man himself. Here the first article of the confession of the most absolute infidelity is “ni Dieu ni maitre.” The sovereign God is dethroned and man with his free will is placed on the vacant seat. It is the will of man which determines all things. All power, all authority proceeds from man. Thus one comes from the individual man to the many men; and in those many men conceived as the people, there is thus hidden the deepest fountain of all sovereignty . . . It is a sovereignty of the people therefore, which is perfectly identical with atheism. And herein lies its self-abasement. In the sphere of Calvinism, as also in your Declaration, the knee is bowed to God, while over against man the head is proudly lifted up. But here, from the standpoint of the sovereignty of the people, the fist is defiantly clenched against God, while man grovels before his fellowmen, tinseling over this self-abasement by the ludicrous fiction that, thousands of years ago, men, of whom no one has any remembrance, concluded a political contract, or, as they called it, “Contrat Social.” Now, do you ask for the result? Then, let History tell you how the rebellion of the Netherlands, the “glorious Revolution” of England and your own rebellion against the British Crown have brought liberty to honor; and answer for yourself the question: Has the French Revolution resulted in anything else but the shackling of liberty in the irons of State-omnipotence? Indeed, no country in our 19th century has had a sadder State history than France.

So, while plainly there are many streams of thought and movements across history that have contributed to the rise of such self-government by free peoples as we enjoy today, we must now trace the stream of key biblically rooted ideas and that of the historic liberation struggles that flowed from those ideas, materially and massively contributing to the US DOI of 1776 and the resulting new framework of government, and thus modern democracy.

But first, let us note a selection of key biblical texts, that give the flavour of the core message of the Christian scriptures on the matter of liberty:

E.2] Biblical bases, uneasy compromises and reformation -- the slavery case

Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you - although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord's freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ's slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. [1 Cor 7:21 - 23.]; . . . .

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery . . . . You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbour as yourself." If you keep biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. [Gal. 5:1, 13 - 15.]

The law is good if one uses it properly . . . [it] is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders [KJV: menstealers] and liars and perjurers - and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God. [1 Tim 1:8 - 11, emphasis added]

If a man is caught kidnapping one of his brother Israelites and treats him as a slave or sells him, the kidnapper must die. You must purge the evil from among you. [Deut. 24:7. Cf. Lev. 24:22: "You are to have the same law for the alien and the native born . . ."]

In short, while the biblical textual emphasis is on spiritual liberation, the implications and direct supportive statements for civil liberty are all too plain.

Nor, is this a hidden matter that lay inexplicably dormant for over 1,000 years, until the C18 - 19 Evangelical Awakenings in the North Atlantic Anglophone world. For, we may read in The Oxford History of the Roman World,  [a work that is in other contexts not particularly sympathetic to the Christian view or claims; even by contrast with, say, sympathy to the rampant homosexuality in the ancient pagan Mediterranean world], under the sub-heading "The Church and the End of the Ancient World," on p. 471, that:

. . . there were questions about [Christian] compromise with the political and social system. Gregory of Nyssa boldly attacked the institution of slavery. Augustine thought the domination of man over his neighbour an inherent wrong, but saw no way of ending it and concluded that, since the ordering of society prevented the misery of anarchic disintegration, slavery was both a consequence of the fall of man and at the same time a wrong that providence prevented from being wholly harmful. Slaves were not a very large proportion of the ancient labour force, since the cost of a slave to his owner exceeded that of employing free wage-labourers. Slaves in a good household with a reasonable master enjoyed a security and standard of living that seldom came the way of free wage labourers. But not all slaves had good masters, and in special cases the bishops used the church chest to pay the cost of emancipation. Refusal on moral grounds to own slaves became a rule for monasteries. [Henry Chadwick, "Envoi: On taking Leave of Antiquity," in The Oxford History of the Roman World, Eds. Boardman, Griffin & Murray, (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press paperback, 1991), p. 471. Links added. NB: In the very next paragraph, the contributor goes on to discuss how the church also deeply disapproved of capital punishment [which in many cases of course would be by the utterly degrading death on the cross, and which would thus sharply contrast with Paul's remarks on the magistrates' power of the sword in Rom 13:1 - 7] and judicial torture. Indeed, he notes that "[a] Roman church-order of about 200 forbids a Christian magistrate to order an execution on pain of excommunicaiton No Christian layman could tolerably bring a charge against anyone if the penalty might be execution or a beating with lead-weighted leather thongs . . . Torture forced so many innocent people to confess to crimes they had not committed that the Christian hatred of it commanded wide assent . . ."  In short, the picture is far more complex than we might have thought.]

Thus, plainly, there is a longstanding serious question about the basic morality of slavery and similar institutions in the Biblical and historical contexts of the church from the C1 on, and the response to the status quo across the ages reflected an uneasy compromise with severe reservations by leading Christian thinkers, including no less a light than Augustine of Hippo. 

Then, in recent centuries, once democratising and reforming forces gained enough momentum to make a difference in the balance of power in relevant societies, a powerful, Christian-based antislavery movement emerged. 

The case of the American Founding is very important, for both negative and positive reasons; as Stephen McDowell (2003) aptly observes here:

America's Founding Fathers are seen by some people today as unjust and hypocrites, for while they talked of liberty and equality, they at the same time were enslaving hundreds of thousands of Africans. Some allege that the Founders bear most of the blame for the evils of slavery. Consequently, many today have little respect for the Founders and turn their ear from listening to anything they may have to say. And, in their view, to speak of America as founded as a Christian nation is unthinkable (for how could a Christian nation tolerate slavery?) . . . . 

America's Founders were predominantly Christians and had a Biblical worldview. If that was so, some say, how could they allow slavery, for isn't slavery sin? As the Bible reveals to man what is sin, we need to examine what it has to say about slavery . . . . 

The Bible teaches that slavery, in one form or another (including spiritual, mental, and physical), is always the fruit of disobedience to God and His law/word. (This is not to say that the enslavement of any one person, or group of people, is due to their sin, for many have been enslaved unjustly, like Joseph and numerous Christians throughout history.) Personal and civil liberty is the result of applying the truth of the Scriptures. As a person or nation more fully applies the principles of Christianity, there will be increasing freedom in every realm of life. Sanctification for a person, or nation, is a gradual process. The fruit of changed thinking and action, which comes from rooting sin out of our lives, may take time to see. This certainly applies historically in removing slavery from the Christian world . . . .

Some people suggest today that all early Americans must have been despicable to allow such an evil as slavery. They say early America should be judged as evil and sinful, and anything they have to say should be discounted. But if we were to judge modern America by this same standard, it would be far more wicked - we are not merely enslaving people, but we are murdering tens of millions of innocent unborn children through abortion. These people claim that they would not have allowed slavery if they were alive then. They would speak out and take any measures necessary. But where is their outcry and action to end slavery in the Sudan today? (And slavery there is much worse than that in early America.)

Some say we should not listen to the Founders of America because they owned slaves, or at least allowed slavery to exist in the society. However, if we were to cut ourselves off from the history of nations that had slavery in the past we would have to have nothing to do with any people because almost every society has had slavery, including African Americans, for many African societies sold slaves to the Europeans; and up to ten percent of blacks in America owned slaves . . . . [Moreover] after independence the American Founders actually took steps to end slavery. Some could have done more, but as a whole they probably did more than any group of national leaders up until that time in history to deal with the evil of slavery. They took steps toward liberty for the enslaved and believed that the gradual march of liberty would continue, ultimately resulting in the complete death of slavery. The ideas they infused in the foundational civil documents upon which America was founded - such as Creator endowed rights and the equality of all men before the law - eventually prevailed and slavery was abolished. But not without great difficulty because the generations that followed failed to carry out the gradual abolition of slavery in America.

[Kindly, read the whole article . . . ]

As can be seen from the relevant history -- including the text of the US Constitution [Art I Sect 9 parag. 1] -- the first effective target of that movement was the Atlantic Slave trade, then (especially in Britain) amelioration of terms and conditions of slavery, then finally when it became clear that the abuses and corruption inherent to the system were incorrigible and utterly at war with the Christian conscience, the struggle moved on to the difficult and perhaps impossible agenda: abolition. (We should not ever make the mistake of looking back and reading from the fact of eventual success, that this was foreseeable as an inevitable and obvious outcome of the mere balance of forces at work at the time! Also, given how deeply blind we can be to moral objections to our interests, we should also remember how hard it is to learn how to see what is now "obvious" to those who are not so blinded.)  

Moreover, we can see that the modern antislavery movement started from the logical first point of attack -- the utterly indefensible practice of kidnapping and transporting human beings into servitude under horrendous conditions.  For, such a target had some prospects of success, even in the teeth of how strongly Naval and commercial power were tied to that horrible trade. The reason was simple: there is simply no biblical or moral defense for "Those pirates, yes, they rob I. Sold I to the merchant ships . . ." and the resulting utterly corrupting and abusive chattel slavery imposed on our ancestors by the Europeans (who had the merchant ships) and the Africans, Berbers and Arabs who carried out so much of the kidnapping and selling in Africa.

These insights in turn easily explain the reluctance of the British West Indian planters to encourage missionary work, literacy and Bible reading among their slaves; and also their hostility and suspicion towards the dissenter missionaries who pursued just these objectives. But, greed for super-profits plainly blinded the traders to the serious moral and biblical issues at stake. So, instead of creating an indentured labour system, which the OT tolerates and regulates (and which was how for instance the Pilgrims settled in Massachusetts), the Europeans resorted to plantation chattel slavery and racism, backed up by unjust laws passed in the interests of the powerful. Then, they suppressed, ignored or twisted the scriptures and persecuted those who protested, to silence their uneasy consciences. 

Though, it should be noted that many who found themselves trapped as owners of slaves, had the integrity to still object to the system; in particular including the hopelessly indebted Jefferson, author of the US DOI of 1776. As McDowell notes, abolitionist and sixth US President John Quincy Adams observed on July 4th 1837:

The inconsistency of the institution of domestic slavery with the principles of the Declaration of Independence was seen and lamented by all the southern patriots of the Revolution; by no one with deeper and more unalterable conviction than by the author of the Declaration himself. No charge of insincerity or hypocrisy can be fairly laid to their charge. Never from their lips was heard one syllable of attempt to justify the institution of slavery. They universally considered it as a reproach fastened upon them by the unnatural step-mother country and they saw that before the principles of the Declaration of Independence, slavery, in common with every other mode of oppression, was destined sooner or later to be banished from the earth. Such was the undoubting conviction of Jefferson to his dying day. In the Memoir of His Life, written at the age of seventy-seven, he gave to his countrymen the solemn and emphatic warning that the day was not distant when they must hear and adopt the general emancipation of their slaves. “Nothing is more certainly written,” said he, “in the book of fate, than that these people are to be free.”

Thank God, many dissenting Christians dared to stand up stoutly for the liberating truths of the gospel in England, in America and -- starting with black American Missionary George Liele, who came to Jamaica in 1783 as a refugee fleeing re-enslavement -- here in the Caribbean. Fifty-one years after that date, "the Monster" was dead. Then through an endowment from the people of God in Britain, a network of free villages was formed, starting the process of economic liberation. And, within five years of "full free" in 1838, a hundred Caribbean Missionaries went to West Africa -- the land of our ancestors -- with the gospel.

With that in mind, let us now now look at several specific sources that show just how important the Christian contribution was to the rise of modern democracy, which over the past two generations has happily found a home here in our region:

E.3] Documenting the Christian contribution to the rise of modern liberty and democracy

1] Vindiciae (1579): While there were many precursors in the literature of the reformation, this work was the first major, widely used -- and widely banned! -- writing on the biblical theology of the covenantal origins of government, the conditionality of governmental legitimacy and the rights of revolution and resistance to tyranny. That is, it deals with the legitimacy of the state and the community's natural right under God to defend itself from tyranny by usurpation or invasion. The core argument for grounding that right is simple: "Now we read [especially in the OT] of two sorts of covenants at the inaugurating of kings, the first between God, the king, and the people, that the people might be the people of God. The second, between the king and the people, that the people shall obey faithfully, and the king command justly." [English Trans., A Defence of Liberty Against Tyrants. Ed. Harold Laski. Gloucester, Mass: Peter Smith, 1963, p. 71; emphases added in this and following cites.] Professor Bamberg goes on to say, [original link, now dead -- both CAPO links are now through the Wayback Machine] in explanation:

[b]y means of the first covenant, the people form a religious covenant community. By means of the second, the political state arises. This political covenant assures that people will obey the ruler's commands as long as they are just. If the ruler does not fulfill his obligation then the people are absolved from their vows of allegiance. The fact that God includes the people in the parties of the compacts demonstrates that 'the people have a right to make, hold and accomplish their promises and contracts.' The people are not slaves without rights but are responsible to fulfill certain obligations as well as enjoy certain privileges . . . .

The concepts of compact, tyranny and resistance are popularly attributed solely to the Enlightenment figures of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. To be sure, this was one means through which these ideas were disseminated, yet, they are actually much older. The language and arguments Adams employs [and this of course includes that collaborative work, the US DOI of 1776] bear striking similarities to the Vindiciae contra tyrannos. . . . [which] does not argue for anarchy. It recommends resistance to tyranny based upon the authority of lower officers of the state [i.e. through their interposition as equally God's agents to do good and protect the community and its members from evildoers, including tyrants by usurpation, corruption or invasion]. As such, it should be considered an argument for a conservative revolution. At the same time, it brought the contract theory into play against the claims of divine right absolutism. In this way it contributed to later contract theory . . . . 

Any revolt must proceed along orderly lines through the lower magistrates . . . . In America, the elected representatives of the people, town councils, Continental Congress or the lower houses of the colonial legislatures were responsible to oppose the tyrant king and Parliament as well as the loyalist lower magistrates, i.e. Massachusetts Governor Hutchinson. Adams felt that the American Revolution met these qualifications. On the other hand, he had nothing but animosity for the rabble revolution in France which claimed the American Revolution as its model. Adams, appalled by the mob rule in Paris, denounced the tyranny of the majority in that revolution . . . .

The social contract theory of civil government [in this context] was an amiable theory to men raised on the covenant theology of New England as Adams had been. The influence of Locke seems evident, but he was welcomed by the New Englanders precisely because he had reformulated the familiar ideas of the Calvinists . . . . Adams, like other American Whigs, derived his theory from the English Civil War tradition which was itself informed by Vindiciae.

NB: Making reference to Acts 17:26 - 28, i.e. Paul's Mars Hill address, we can better broaden Duplessis-Mornay's focus than he does in addressing the legitimacy of pagan governments, as the biblical view is that nationhood is a creation of God, i.e. all nations (not just explicitly covenantal ones) are under God:

From one man [God] made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. `For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own [Greek] poets have said, `We are his offspring.'

2] The Dutch Declaration of Independence, 1581: The line of thought in Vindiciae soon had practical fruit, in the Dutch Declaration of Independence from their Spanish overlords. Here, in a Calvinist document and context, we can see several linking ideas that tie the reformation era work Vindiciae to the US Declaration of Independence of 1776, including not only (a) tyranny as forfeiture of the office of government, but also: (b) the concept that liberty comes from God, (c) the use of the allegedly characteristically "deist" term, law of nature -- by Calvinists! -- as a component of the argument [in the century before modern Deism originated!], (d) the concept that Government is based on equity [i.e. justice & fairness], (e) the concept of a right to reform the structures of government to secure liberty for the revolutionary generation and its posterity, and (f) the example and rationale for the Rom 13:4 - based [i.e. lower magistrates, too, hold the sword in defence of justice!] interposition of lower magistrates to protect the community from a ruler turned tyrant, by formally deposing him for cause [enumerated in detail],then (g) leading resistance to him.

(So close are the conceptual and verbal parallels, that the link is not only plain but lends itself to the interesting question as to whether the Dutch DOI is an undocumented source for the US DOI two centuries later. Perhaps, not so undocumented, either, if we consult the comment here, that: "In his Autobiography, Jefferson indicated that the "Dutch Revolution" gave evidence and confidence to the Second Continental Congress that the American Revolution could likewise commence and succeed . . . John Adams said that the Dutch charters had "been particularly studied, admired, and imitated in every State" in America, and he stated that "the analogy between the means by which the two republics [Holland and U.S.A.] arrived at independency... will infallibly draw them together." These are of course two of the three main drafters of the American DOI. But, to explore that is not part of our present task; which is only, to trace the general trend of ideas and agendas. So, let us leave off this train, for the historians to follow up!)

For, we may simply and directly read [nb: emphases added here and below, save as noted], comparing with the American document of nearly 200 years later, for ourselves:

. . . a prince is constituted by God to be ruler of a people, to defend them from oppression and violence as the shepherd his sheep; and whereas God did not create the people slaves to their prince, to obey his commands, whether right or wrong, but rather the prince for the sake of the subjects (without which he could be no prince), to govern them according to equity, to love and support them as a father his children or a shepherd his flock, and even at the hazard of life to defend and preserve them. And when he does not behave thus, but, on the contrary, oppresses them, seeking opportunities to infringe their ancient customs and privileges . . . then he is no longer a prince, but a tyrant, and the subjects are to consider him in no other view . . . This is the only method left for subjects whose humble petitions and remonstrances could never soften their prince or dissuade him from his tyrannical proceedings; and this is what the law of nature dictates for the defense of liberty, which we ought to transmit to posterity, even at the hazard of our lives. . . . . So, having no hope of reconciliation, and finding no other remedy, we have, agreeable to the law of nature in our own defense, and for maintaining the rights, privileges, and liberties of our countrymen, wives, and children, and latest posterity from being enslaved by the Spaniards, been constrained to renounce allegiance to the King of Spain, and pursue such methods as appear to us most likely to secure our ancient liberties and privileges.

3] Lex, Rex (1644): in the anglophone world, the outstanding vehicle for further developing and transmitting these ideas was Samuel Rutherford's at once (and now again) famous work, The Law and the Prince, written to justify resistance to the tyranny of Absolutist Monarchs. As the just linked recent article notes:

When Rutherford's Lex Rex came off the press, it caused a great stir in London and beyond. He wrote it in response to a 1644 work by John Maxwell, formerly Bishop of Ross, entitled, The Sacred and Royal Prerogative of Christian Kings, which defended absolute monarchy. The basic premise of Lex Rex is that the king is not above the law, but subject to it. Rutherford's aim was to demonstrate that "all civil power is immediately from God in its root", and that "power is a birthright of the people borrowed [by a ruler] from them". In cases of gross oppression and unlimited prerogative, said Rutherford, parliament has an authority superior to the king. Therefore, in extreme circumstances, the people may reasonably and constitutionally resume that power which they had reposed in the hands of their sovereign. Altogether, says Loane, "it provides us with a fine statement of the principles and policies of Puritan government. It was well-knit with a convincing argument and great dialectical ability, bound and clamped with the iron bands of proof from Scripture and a mass of syllogisms. . . . The king is the highest servant of the state, but is a servant always; absolute power would be both irrational and unnatural."

. . . . An indication of the sensation caused by Rutherford's book is found in a statement by Bishop Guthrie. Every member of the General Assembly, he said, "had in his hand that book lately published by Mr Samuel Rutherford, which was so idolized, that whereas Buchanan's treatise was looked upon as an oracle, this coming forth, [Buchanan's] was slighted as not anti-monarchical enough, and Rutherford's Lex Rex only thought authentic". "It is reported," says Howie, "that when King Charles the First saw Lex Rex, he said it would scarcely ever get an answer; nor did it ever get any, except what the Parliament gave it in 1661, when they caused it to be burned at the cross in Edinburgh by the hands of the hangman."

Applying the words of Paul, "this was not done in a corner." [Ac 26:26.] Now, therefore, let us observe: at the time of Lex Rex's publication, Locke was about 12 years old, and a son of a puritan parliamentarian. He would go to Westminster -- where Rutherford had been contributing to the classically calvinist Westminster Confession, as a Scottish Commissioner -- in the next two years, to attend school. When he wrote his own two treatises on Government, he would do so to defend the final deposing of the Stuart Absolutist Kings in the 1688 Glorious Revolution which set up a Constitutional Monarchy. So, even though he does not explicilty cite Rutherford as a source, the parallels between the two authors, in the context of the impact and notoriety just summed up make direct or indirect influence the most logical explanation. In short, properly, it is those who reject influence in the teeth of such circumstances, who plainly have a case to prove. [We must note too that the then contemporary standards on the use of sources were looser than today's, as we can see from Walton's Compleat Angler, which does explicitly cite certain sources, but "honest Izaak," running though five editions in his lifetime, did not explicilty cite some of his major sources.]

Since, even so, some are wont to dismiss the influence of this crucial linking document from the Calvinist thinkers to the works of Locke and onward to the American Revolution, it is also worthwhile to pause and cite remarks by Gary Amos in his well-researched Defending the Declaration (Wolgemuth and Hyatt, 1989), pp. 140 ff:

[Lex Rex] was a major force in the development of the [1640's Puritan] revolution [in Britain] . . . Although . . . only one of dozens of such tracts asserting the right of resistance to tyranny, it is important for being exhaustive; it was widely known, and it contained the principles of revolution on which all major Protestant parties in England were agreed . . . . insists that civil government is based on the "law of nature," a divine law binding on the conscience, and on the law of God, or the moral law in Scripture. The laws of nature and of Scripture says Rutherford, declare that all men are equal, that they have rights they do not surrender when they enter into the compact of Government, and that government is formed by their consent, organized to exercise its powers as the people see fit. . . . men institute particular governments, while God ordains The proper scope and authority of civil government . . . . [Lex Rex] builds its argument on the compact theory of Government which prevailed among Calvinists from the time of the Vindiciae . . . the key ideas are compact, condition and material breach . . .There must be a series of tyrannous acts before the people have a right to put the king out of office. Also the people cannot act as a mob, they must act through representatives. The representatives must formally declare the king to be a tyrant, publicly naming the wrongs that the king has committed. Only after such a public declaration as been made can the people take up arms . . . to dethrone him . . . . The declaration did in few words and practice what Lex Rex had explained in great detail as a matter of theory. The only difference is that Rutherford called for a state-established church, and idea which even many Presbyterians had rejected by 1776. Small wonder, then, that a number of British observers termed the American revolution, 'the Presbyterian revolt.'

In correcting Carl Becker, a famous historian of the 1920s - 40s on this issue, Amos also adds:

According to Vindiciae, God alone punishes the king for breaking the first compact [nationhood under God]. The people can punish the king for breaking the second [just government under God] . . . likewise Becker overlooked what Calvinist writers like Rutherford had said about the place of the law of nature in revolutionary theory . . .most of Locke's arguments are found, at least in elementary form, in Lex Rex [he duly notes that in responding to Filmer Locke breaks new grounds as well] . . . . Like Rutherford, Locke insists that a king's incompetence is not a sufficient ground for revolution . . . He must commit repeated acts of tyranny, 'a long train of abuses, prevarications and artifices, all tending the same way . . . [and] make the design visible to the people" . . . When it becomes evident . . . that the king will not turn from his plan, they, through their representatives, may set up a new Government

Turning to Lex Rex, in the inimitable words of its (rather long!) subtitle, we see that it sets out to be:

A dispute for The Just Prerogative of King and People: containing The reasons and causes of the most necessary defensive wars of the Kingdom of Scotland, and of their Expedition for the aid and help of their dear brethren of England; in which their innocency is asserted, and a full answer is given to a seditious pamphlet, entitled, "SACRO-SANCTA REGUM MAJESTAS," or The Sacred and Royal Prerogative of Christian Kings; under the name of J. A., but penned by John Maxwell, the excommunicate Popish Prelate; with a scriptural confutation of the ruinous grounds of W. Barclay, H. Grotius, H. Arnisæus, Ant. de Domi. popish Bishop of Spilato, and of other late anti-magitratical royalists, as the author of Ossorianum, Dr. Ferne, E. Symmons, the Doctors of Aberdeen, etc. In Forty-four Questions. [Caps due to SR]

The summary remarks on Questions VII and IX capture the flavour of the link through Locke into the US DOI and Constitution:

The excellency of kings maketh them not of God's only constitution and designation. — How sovereignty is in the people, how not. — A community doth not surrender their right and liberty to their rulers, so much as their power active to do, and passive to suffer, violence. — God's loosing of the bonds of kings, by the mediation of the people's despising him, proveth against the P. Prelate that the Lord taketh away, and giveth royal majesty mediately, not immediately. — The subordination of people to kings and rulers, both natural and voluntary; the subordination of beasts and creatures to man merely natural. — The place, Gen ix. 5, He that sheddeth man's blood &c. discussed . . . . No tyrannical power is from God. — People cannot alienate the natural power of self-defence. — The power of parliaments. — The Parliament hath more power than the king. — Judges and kings differ. — People may resume their power, not because they are infallible, but because they cannot so readily destroy themselves as one man may do. — That the sanhedrim punished not David, Bathsheba, Joab, is but a fact, not a law. — There is a subordination of creatures natural, government must be natural; and yet this or that form is voluntary.

4] Locke's Second Treatise on Civil Government (1690): This work is widely understood to be a major shaping force in the thinking of the American Founders. In Chapter II, Locke [cf. here for his notes on Miracles, which directly imply that he could not have been, properly, a Deist; though he was evidently not an orthodox Christian either] begins his main case, by addressing the natural state of men, i.e. "a state of perfect freedom to order their actions, and dispose of their possessions and persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of Nature, without asking leave or depending upon the will of any other man." By Section 5, he cites "the judicious [Richard] Hooker" in his Anglican work, Ecclesiastical Polity [1594- ], a major source for Locke's thought in the essay:

. . . if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man's hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire which is undoubtedly in other men . . . my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be, imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to themward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant.

In short, the key law of nature in view is that once we recognise the fundamental equality of others, we have a mutual duty of respect and fairness, i.e. loving one's neighbour as one loves oneself [the Golden Rule]. In this general context, then -- that is an argument in the explicitly Christian and Biblically based framework of creation and mutual obligation -- Locke infers that:

The state of Nature has a law of Nature to govern it, which obliges every one, and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions . . . . so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he as much as he can to preserve the rest of mankind, and not unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another . . . . In transgressing the law of Nature, the offender declares himself to live by another rule than that of reason and common equity, which is that measure God has set to the actions of men for their mutual security [i.e. we see here the right to self-defense for the community, and also the individual, as is discussed at length in the work], and so he becomes dangerous to mankind . . . . [Ch III, S 17] he who attempts to get another man into his absolute power [i.e. to tyrannise upon another, by force, fraud, usurpation or invasion] does thereby put himself into a state of war with him; it being to be understood as a declaration of a design upon his life. For I have reason to conclude that he who would get me into his power without my consent would use me as he pleased when he had got me there, and destroy me too when he had a fancy to it.

It is also worth excerpting Locke's opening salvo in his main argument in Section 5 of the Introduction to his Essay on Human Understanding, for these words reveal the subtle, underlying biblical influences in his thought. That is, Locke is far from outright rejecting or dismissing the force of the Bible from the world of credible, reasonable thought:

Men have reason to be well satisfied with what God hath thought fit for them, since he hath given them (as St. Peter says [NB: i.e. 2 Pet 1:2 - 4]) pana pros zoen kaieusebeian, whatsoever is necessary for the conveniences of life and information of virtue; and has put within the reach of their discovery, the comfortable provision for this life, and the way that leads to a better. How short soever their knowledge may come of an universal or perfect comprehension of whatsoever is, it yet secures their great concernments [Prov 1: 1 - 7], that they have light enough to lead them to the knowledge of their Maker, and the sight of their own duties [cf Rom 1 - 2, Ac 17, etc, etc]. Men may find matter sufficient to busy their heads, and employ their hands with variety, delight, and satisfaction, if they will not boldly quarrel with their own constitution, and throw away the blessings their hands are filled with, because they are not big enough to grasp everything . . . It will be no excuse to an idle and untoward servant [Matt 24:42 - 51], who would not attend his business by candle light, to plead that he had not broad sunshine. The Candle that is set up in us [Prov 20:27] shines bright enough for all our purposes . . . If we will disbelieve everything, because we cannot certainly know all things, we shall do muchwhat as wisely as he who would not use his legs, but sit still and perish, because he had no wings to fly.

The force of these points is best appreciated in light of Paul's remarks on the gospel and on morality [including citizenship and Government under God] in Romans. Observe, too, the explicit teaching that all normal men have a God-given, heart-written intuitive knowledge of core morality, i.e mutual respect and fairness as summed up in the Golden Rule --which comes out in how we instinctively quarrel by appealing to precisely this binding law of fairness (as C S Lewis so often pointed out):

RO 1:1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God-- 2 the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures 3 regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, 4 and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord . . . . RO 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes . . . 17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."

RO 1:18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. RO 1:21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened . . . . RO 1:28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity , , , ,

RO 2: 6 God "will give to each person according to what he has done." 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil . . . 10 but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good . . . 11 For God does not show favoritism . . . . 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) . . . .

RO 13:1 Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God . . . 4 For [the civil ruler] is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer [NB: cf. discussion in this note, here] . . . . 7 Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. RO 13:8 Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal," "Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." 10 Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Since in our day, it is common to think in terms of an ugly, impassable gulf between faith and reason, it is also worth noting that a quick glance at the worldview roots of our rationality and its inescapable ties to our faith-commitments quickly reveals that in fact this idea is simply wrong-headed:

. . . start with an abstract example, say, claim A. Why should we accept it? Generally, because of B. But, why should we accept B? Thence, C, D, . . . etc. Thus, we face either an infinite regress of challenges, or else we stop at some point, say F -- our Faith-Point.

At F, we may face the challenge of circularity vs proper basicality: are we simply begging the question, thus inevitably irrational in the end? In fact, no:

1] Reason embeds faith: We have seen above, that reason and belief -- indeed, faith -- are inextricably intertwined in our thought lives. In G K Chesterton's words, "It is idle to talk always of the alternatives reason and faith. Reason is itself a matter of faith." [cited, K J Clarke, Return to Reason, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990), p. 123.] For, if we must inevitably take some things on trust, we cannot escape exerting faith; i.e. the question is not whether we have faith, but: in what or in whom should we repose our trust?

2] Some beliefs are properly basic: Though of course, our trust in certain things is provisional, we plainly have a perfect right to believe a great many things non-inferentially. (Indeed, this is the largest single bloc of our beliefs -- consider for a moment how many sense impressions you had today, and how many of them you for very good reason took as accurate without even an instant's hesitation.) And, as William James pointed out in his "The Will to Believe," in contexts where alternatives are forced, momentous and living, we not only have a further right to make a passional decision as to which alternative to accept, but we cannot avoid choosing some option or other.

3] We may compare alternative Worldviews: Worldviews are clusters of core beliefs about important things concerning ourselves, the world and ultimate reality. Notoriously, they bristle with difficulties and unresolved challenges. But, if we compare faith-points F1, F2, F3 . . . Fn, relative to (1) factual adequacy, (2) coherence and (3) simplicty/ad hocness, we can make a rational choice of our faith-points. Thus, we are not reduced to vicious circularity.

4] We may recognise appropriate degrees of warrant: When we assess arguments, we can recognise that there is a gradation in degree of warrant that is possible for given classes of cases, as Simon Greenleaf has pointed out -- as have many others all the way back to Aristotle. So, where logical or mathematical demonstration is possible, we can insist on that. Where only moral evidence is possible, i.e. on matters of fact, we can respect that. When we come to basic beliefs, we can evaluate whether or not the belief is properly basic -- at least on a case by case basis -- by comparing the new belief with others that are already credibly deemed so. [For instance, Plantinga has argued that believing in God requires a similar process to that which leads us to believe in other minds.]

This approach can be properly termed, reasonable faith.

5] American Colonial Era Sermons: In the colonial era in what would become the United States, sermons were a major focus for public education and guidance to the community, not just by being preached, but by being published and disseminated in print form. In reflecting on the roots of the US DOI, it is therefore worth observing two outstanding case in point, first Jonathan Mayhew's sermon of 1750, on the anniversary of the execution of Charles I by the radical Parliamentarians:

. . . . If it be our duty, for example, to obey our king, merely for this reason, that he rules for the public welfare, (which is the only argument the apostle makes use of) it follows, by a parity of reason, that when he turns tyrant, and makes his subjects his prey to devour and to destroy, instead of his charge to defend and cherish, we are bound to throw off our allegiance to him, and to resist; and that according to the tenor of the apostle's argument in this passage . . . .

As to the passage under consideration [Rom 13:1 - 7], the apostle here speaks of civil rulers in general; of all persons in common, vested with authority for the good of society, without any particular reference to one form of government, more than to another; or to the supreme power in any particular state, more than to subordinate powers . . . . For what reason, then, was the resistance to king Charles, made? The general answer to this inquiry is, that it was on account of the tyranny and oppression of his reign . . . .

He not only by a long series of actions [Cf Para 2, US DOI!], but also in plain terms, asserted an absolute uncontrollable power . . . . by whom was this resistance made? Not by a private junta;--not by a small seditious party;--not by a few desperadoes, who, to mend their fortunes, would embroil the state;--but by the LORDS and COMMONS of England . . . . Resistance was absolutely necessary in order to preserve the nation from slavery, misery and ruin. And who so proper to make this resistance as the lords and commons;--the whole representative body of the people:--guardians of the public welfare . . . .

[A]s soon as the prince sets himself up above law, he loses the king in the tyrant: he does to all intents and purposes, unking himself, by acting out of, and beyond, that sphere which the constitution allows him to move in. And in such cases, he has no more right to be obeyed, than any inferior officer who acts beyond his commission. The subjects' obligation to allegiance then ceases of course: and to resist him is no more rebellion, than to resist any foreign invader.

This sermon -- which plainly reflects the above outlined pattern of thought from Duplessis-Mornay onwards [i.e., Mayhew's relatively unpopular/ controversial unitarianism is strictly irrelvant to the material point; as, the sermon's basis and appeal would not have been so much due to its author's theological distinctives, but instead it aptly captured the long-standing trends of covenant theology] -- has been justly described as one of the most influential in American history. As the highlighted portions bring to the fore, it also raises another feature of the covenantal theology of government: the point that ALL civil authorities are servants of God responsible for justice. So if any one including the Chief Executive turns tyrant, others are responsible to interpose themselves between him or her and those over whom the ruler gone bad would tyrannise. Thus, resistance to tyranny, from the days of Duplessis Mornay on, was viewed as an orderly process of restoring proper government through resisting rulers who have gone bad.

Samuel West's May 29, 1776 sermon to the Council House of Representatives in Boston -- the powder keg city that set off the American Revolution is also well worth a look. For it aptly illustrates just how widespread the ideas in the US DOI were, in a specifically Christian (though of course not necessarily chapter- and- verse- quoting biblical) context. This sermon strongly but implicitly reflects Locke's concept [cf. his Essay for details] that government should be based on separation of powers, i.e. legislative, judicial and executive; with the legislature being the leading element, itself in turn being a representative body of the people:

The only difficulty remaining is to determine when a people may claim a right of forming themselves into a body politick, and may assume the powers of legislation. In order to determine this point, we are to remember, that all men being by nature equal, all members of a community have a natural right to assemble themselves together, and to act and vote for such regulations, as they judge are necessary for the good of the whole. But when a community is become very numerous, it is very difficult, and in many cases impossible for all to meet together . . . Hence comes the necessity of appointing delegates to represent the people in a general assembly. And this ought to be look'd upon as a sacred and unalienable right, of which a people cannot justly divest themselves, and which no human authority can in equity ever take from them . . . .

If representation and legislation are inseparably connected, it follows, that when great numbers have emigrated into a foreign land, and are so far removed from the parent state, that they neither are nor can be properly represented by the government from which they have emigrated, that then nature itself points out the necessity of their assuming to themselves the powers of legislation, and they have a right to consider themselves a separate state from the other . . . . When a people find themselves cruelly oppressed by the parent state, they have an undoubted right to throw off the yoke, and to assert their liberty, if they find good reason to judge that they have sufficient power and strength [NB: This reflects one of Augustine's criteria for a Just War] to maintain their ground in defending their just rights against their oppressors: For in this case by the law of self preservation, which is the first law of nature, they have not only an undoubted right, but it is their indispensable duty, if they cannot be redressed any other way, to renounce all submission to the government that has oppressed them, and set up an independent state . . . [Cited, Whitehead, John W, An American Dream, (Crossway, 1987), p. 97 - 98.]

6] Blackstone (1765): In his Commentaries on the Laws of England, which rapidly spread to the American Colonies after its publication in 1765 [Amos comments that as at the time of the DOI, as many copies had been sold in the American Colonies as in Britain], and for over 100 years served as a basic guide to American jurisprudential thought, we read further on the laws of nature appealed to in the opening paragraph of the US DOI:

Man, considered as a creature, must necessarily be subject to the laws of his creator, for he is entirely a dependent being . . . consequently, as man depends absolutely upon his maker for every thing, it is necessary that he should in all points conform to his maker's will. This will of his maker is called the law of nature. For as God, when he created matter, and endued it with a principle of mobility, established certain rules for the perpetual direction of that motion; so, when he created man, and endued him with freewill to conduct himself in all parts of life, he laid down certain immutable laws of human nature, whereby that freewill is in some degree regulated and restrained, and gave him also the faculty of reason to discover the purport of those laws . . . These are the eternal, immutable laws of good and evil, to which the creator himself in all his dispensations conforms; and which he has enabled human reason to discover, so far as they are necessary for the conduct of human actions. Such among others are these principles: that we should live honestly [NB: cf. Exod. 20:15 - 16], should hurt nobody [NB: cf. Rom 13:8 - 10], and should render to every one his due [NB: cf. Rom 13:6 - 7 & Exod. 20:15]; to which three general precepts Justinian[1: a Juris praecepta sunt hace, honeste vivere. alterum non laedere, suum cuique tribuere. Inst, 1. 1. 3] has reduced the whole doctrine of law [and, Corpus Juris, Justinian's Christianised precis and pruning of perhaps 1,000 years of Roman jurisprudence, in turn is the foundation of law for much of Europe]. [Parenthetical remarks and emphases added.]

E.4] Markers of this chain of influence in the US founding documents

From the above, plainly, the US DOI exists in a framework tied to and deeply influenced by the Judaeo-Christian tradition,with natural law thought also being connected to that tradition. The effect of this is that when the founders of the US went on to pen the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union [1778], they explicitly acknowledged God's guidance and sovereignty:

And Whereas it hath pleased the Great Governor of the World to incline the hearts of the legislatures we respectively represent in Congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union. Know Ye that we the undersigned delegates, by virtue of the power and authority to us given for that purpose, do by these presents, in the name and in behalf of our respective constituents, fully and entirely ratify and confirm each and every of the said Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union . . . . In Witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands in Congress. Done at Philadelphia in the State of Pennsylvania the ninth day of July in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-Eight, and in the Third Year of the independence of America.

Similarly, as we examine the main structure of the US Constitution [1787], we see:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America . . . . [Main Body, Arts I - VII] . . . . Done in Convention by the Unanimous Consent of the States present the Seventeenth Day of September in the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven and of the Independence of the United States of America the Twelfth. In Witness whereof We have hereunto subscribed our Names. . . . . [AMENDMENTS].

"Blessings" of course -- as Madison, principal author (who studied theology at New Jersey College [now Princeton] under Witherspoon; the only clergyman to sign the DOI) surely knew -- is in the main a covenantal, theological term, not generally a legal one. It is noteworthy that in the May 1776 fast proclamation, a specific petition was that God would be pleased to restore the American Continent to the blessings of peace and liberty. Similar language repeatedly appears in the other Congressional proclamations from 1776 - 1783, in a consistent, explicilty Christian context. In short, the US Constitution is best understood in that materially Christian context as an instrument for the restoration and preservation to posterity of the God-given blessings of liberty through the institution of new Government under God.

In the context just outlined, that leads us to the proper conclusion -- but one of course now hotly disputed by secularists and their ilk [sadly, on the evidence, based on negligence (or worse . . .) relative to the material facts] -- that the US Constitution sought, in an explicitly Christian context to secure the rights of liberty endowed by the Creator, through instituting a new order of Government, which eventually became what we think of today as representative democratic self-government by free peoples. [In passing, notice the way the dates acknowledge Jesus as Lord, cf. Rom 1:1 - 5; contrasting the French Revolution's new secularised calendar of only a few years later.] In doing so, the Constitution set out to fulfill the promise in the Declaration of Independence, and was thus the second of the two covenenats envisioned in the reformation era Biblically derived theory of legitimate government first developed in detail in Vindiciae, so it was deeply informed by the reformation stream of thought that viewed revolution through interposition of lower civil authorities as justified to depose tyrants and set up a better form of Government under God to protect justice, thus rights. In that regard, it has been a great success for some 220 years now, and blazed a path down which more and more of the world has trod.

Finally, since the First Amendment's establishment clause -- which simply does NOT mention "separation of church and state" [a phrase from a letter by Jefferson (who, being in France at the time, is not one of the authors of the US Constitution)] -- is also often the subject of a related confusion, let us pause to address this too:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It is helpful to see this in light of the American Founders' tendency to look for and adapt or adopt successful precedents as far as possible for their own experiment in liberty -- and not just parochially in the history of the American colonies or the British motherland, either. For, as the Federalist papers reveal, they had a wide sweep of historical understanding (gaps in it notwithstanding).

That brings to focus, the events in the aftermath of the reformation and the resulting sad and horrendous wars over religion, which were finally settled through the religious principles of the 1555 Peace of Augsburg and the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, especially the point therein, that (as a part of the broader principle of non-interference in local affairs) the religion of the local state would be that of the local prince (cuius regio, eius religio). As even so humble a source as Wikipedia notes of this and associated treaties: "[t]he peace as a whole is often used by historians to mark the beginning of the modern era . . . . The Treaty established a framework of international law [resting on: [1] the sovereignty of nation-states and the fundamental right of political self determination; [2] (legal) equality between nation-states; [3] internationally binding treaties between states; [4] non-intervention of one state in the internal affairs of another state] . . . intended to establish a durable peace between the parties involved. This was revolutionary at the time, because it relied on international agreements between sovereign states rather than military strength."

In effect, the Framers adapted the cuius regio, eius religio concept to federal-republican circumstances, by stipulating: [1] there would be no federal church of the USA (contrast, say, the Anglican Church in Britain, and Lutheran, Calvinist/Reformed and Catholic churches in Europe) -- in fact [2] Congress and associated federal bodies have no proper jurisdiction on establishment, so can make no law on that subject; [3] Congress may not prohibit the free exercise of religion and commonly associated behaviours: speech, publication, assembly, petition for redress. (It is helpful -- this side of the Civil War -- to recognise that there is a reason why the founders sometimes spoke of "these united States.") Thus, in a republican context, the right of the local state to establish its own state church was protected [nine of thirteen states has just such state churches at the time], and the rights of dissenters were protected. Backing this up, the 10th Amendment reserves rights not explicitly delegated to the Federal Government to the states and their people. The intended effect -- sadly, long since materially subverted through activist courts imposing and in effect establishing decidedly minority secularist opinions on matters where the courts often have no proper jurisdiction [and thus are building up exactly that tidal wave of hostility that the Framers sought to avert!] -- would be that in the local community, the majority sentiment would shape its general religious tone, but the minority down to the individual would be heard and protected. Liberty, in short.

E.5] The material (but often unacknowledged) Christian contribution to the rise of liberty

Be that as it may, we have summarised, excerpted and linked enough to see very plainly that: it is well warranted to conclude that biblically based, Creation-anchored Christian thinkers and statesmen have plainly played a crucial -- though often now unacknowledged or even censored out -- role in the liberation of peoples all across the world. Consequently, it is improper (and sometimes, frankly, bigoted) to assume, imply or assert that Bible-believing Christians [however labelled] are -- generally speaking -- potentially violent and/or oppressive enemies of liberty. Nor, should we confuse principled, reform-minded civil opposition to abuses, licence, libertinism and amorality this last, often announced as "tolerance" and "diversity"] with enmity to liberty.

(NOTE: The UK Evangelical Alliance has recently issued a Faith and Nation Study, which will well repay the reading. Remarks on it are in Appendix A below. Similarly, cf. the Google PDF facsimilie of Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner's copy of Benjamin Franklin Morris' classic Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Developed in the Official and Historical Annals of the Republic (Philadelphia, PA: George W. Childs, 1864), as was placed in the Harvard University Library, April 28, 1874. [HINT: follow the PDF link on the just linkled page, to the 35.9 MB file, and save the file to your PC, then open it from your desktop in Acrobat Reader.] NB: This book has been recently reprinted by American Vision. The Author's Preface, the immediately following list of Principal Authorities Consulted, and Rev Dr Sunderland's Introduction are well worth the read, before delving into the substance of this work.)

 

F] THE REFORMATION OF CARIBBEAN (& WORLD) GOVERNANCE & CULTURE

The first point to observe, is that we are now speaking more broadly than the institutional state within the wider community: governance, not just government. For, God is sovereign over all the affairs of men, and has instituted patterns of rulership and orderly functioning in all spheres of life: the individual, the family (where submission to parents and to husbands/fathers is balanced by duties to nurture rather than exasperate and to love as Christ loved and gave himself for the church, cf. Eph 5:21 ff.), the church, the school, the business, the community, institutions, nations and the international arena: regional and global institutions and relationships.

Consequently, the principles and proposals to now be discussed speak to all spheres of life, from the individual to the global; and so we ignore the following key principles, aims, God-given mandates and strategies at our peril:

      1. The Priority of the Fear of God: Solomon starts the proverbs with the observation: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline." [Prov. 1:7.] Therefore, respect for God, leading to renewal of life and service through discipleship under the gospel, is the first step to a truly wise life and the sound, sustainable reformation of our region.

      2. Repentance, Discipleship and Reformation: In Acts 17: 30 – 31, we may read the message of the Apostle to the nations, as he speaks to the Athenian leadership, who were then the proud guardians of the Western intellectual, artistic and democratic traditions: "now [God] commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead." Let us heed this counsel in our time, and on that basis set about discipleship under Christ and reformation so that our region and world may set about truly sustainable development, i.e. under God and with his blessing. For, "except the LORD builds the house, the workmen labour but in vain." [Ps. 127:1a.]

      3. Wholesome Family life, Sexuality and Community: From this, we may set about rebuilding our selves, our families and communities through the fullness of Christ spoken of in Eph 4:9 – 24. The remarks in vv. 17 - 24 are especially appropriate: ". . . I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."

      4. Rights, Liberty and Responsible, Productive Citizenship: Our rights are not mere entitlements or privileges that Governments and International Bodies may grant or withhold depending on shifts in the balances of deceptive political rhetoric, opinion and power; rather, rights are binding moral claims we have on each other as God’s creation: so, your right to life/ liberty/ property etc. implies my duty to respect your life/ liberty/ property etc. as you set out to fulfill your full potential by pursuing the call God has placed on your life. In short, rights and moral duties cannot properly be isolated from God’s creation order and his word to us as his stewards on the Earth. That is, rights cannot justly be separated from duties, nor can duties be separated from God’s sound moral creation order for the cosmos and his moral order for our lives, whatever those who wish to claim that perversion [e.g. sodomy (cf. Rom 1:16 - 32, 1 Cor 6:9 - 11)], or the mass slaughter of the unborn in the name of "choice" and/or oppression [e.g. slavery or unjust wages and working conditions in the name of "property"], or sexual immorality are "rights" may say on the matter. [Cf. Rom 1:17 – 32, James 5:1 - 6.] For, as Arthur Holmes aptly observes: "If we admit that we all equally have the right to be treated as persons, then it follows that we have the duty to respect one another accordingly. Rights bring correlative duties: my rights . . . imply that you ought to respect these rights." [Ethics, (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1984), p. 81.] Classically, these and other closely linked thoughts were aptly -- and biblically [cf. Gary T Amos' well researched Defending the Declaration (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1990)] -- summed up by Jefferson in the 2nd paragraph of the American Declaration of Independence, of 1776: We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

      5. Rulership that is Just, Economical and God-Fearing: As we saw from Rom 13 and Dan 1 – 6, sound rulership in the state, church, business, institution, home is just and rules in the fear of God, as David noted in 2 Sam 23:3 - 4: "The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings the grass from the earth."

      6. Prudence, Simplicity, Generosity and Economy in Lifestyles: Flowing from this, a virtuous lifestyle for individuals, families and communities would be prudent, simple [rather than ostentatious and wasteful], economical, productive and generous to those who need. As Paul counsels, "He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need." [Eph 4:28.] Such a focus should also lead to a Godly, sustainable approach to decisions, strategies and policy generally.

      7. Balancing Authority with Submission, Respect and Appropriate Obedience: as Rom 13:4 identifies, the civil authority is God's Servant, appointed to do us good. S/he thus bears the sword to protect our rights, and has a just power to exact reasonable taxes to support the work of governance. However, sometimes an authority goes out of line and demands of us that we do what is plainly wrong or against the commands of God; e.g. the early Apostles were commanded by the Sanhedrin to cease from preaching in Jesus' name, or at a more simple level, a civil servant may face pressure to abuse office in support of corruption by higher officials or powerful business people. At this stage, the proper response is plain, as was stated by the Apostles in Ac 5:29: "We must obey God rather than man." That is, while we must respect the office and the person of an official [cf. 1 Pet. 2:13 - 17], we have no duty to follow them in wrongdoing and/or disobedience to God. So, while submission requires respect to the office and the person who holds it, as Daniel and the Apostles show, we in the end owe obedience to God -- who is always right -- rather than man. This also extends to other spheres of life, e.g. we must honour our parents, but we obey our parents in the Lord. (NB: This is a hard word for Caribbean people, given our history of slavery and colonial oppression, but it should be plain that since God rules in the affairs of men and sets up (and if necessary removes) civil authorities, we can trust him to see us through as Daniel and his friends did under even more perilous and oppressive circumstances than we are likely to face -- it seems King Nebuchadnezzar was a slave of his rages, so his immediate response to anyone who displeased him was to want to put him/her to death. And, unless there is appropriate respect for authority in families, schools, workplaces, the community and the state, society will disintegrate into anarchy with the powerful and the rebellious acting as laws unto themselves, leading to worse oppression than would otherwise obtain.)

      8. Sustainable Renewal of the Business and Consumer Cultures: This would flow from the first seven principles, in accordance with sound approaches to sustainable development.

      9. Reformation of Governance & Government under God: This would also flow from these principles, as is discussed in the online book/course, Why Not Now. In particular, we should heed Col 1:15 – 20: [Jesus the Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross."

      10. Addressing the two Global Tidal Waves: We must therefore reckon with and soundly respond to the secularist-apostate-neopagan agenda from the North and the Islamist agenda from the East.

      11. Full Participation in the Local and Global Mission of the Church: This implies that we refocus our mandate, and participate first in the enduring mission of the church in our own communities and region: souls are to be saved, lives are to be transformed, and communities are to be reformed. Second, we are to play an important role in the fulfillment of the global mandate of the church to bear witness to Jesus in all nations and help nurture disciples across the whole world.

 

CONCLUDING CALL TO ACTION

Post-modern, Globalised, de-Christianised, Apostate Roman/Western Civilisation now faces a fast-approaching eternally fatal collision with "the rock cut out without human hands," i.e. the spiritual [nb Mt 26:51 - 56 (vs. 1 Maccabees 2:14 - 28 ff.) & Jn 18:36 - 37, for God's Kingdom is not established by our military uprisings or conquest!] Kingdom of God in the Person of our Risen Lord and Saviour, Jesus of Nazareth, the Blessed Christ of God.

Here in the Caribbean, our choice is whether we will be a part of that eternally fatal and futile rebellion against the God who loves us and gave himself for us, or whether we will be part of the faithful band of remnants who will stand up, even in the face of threats, loss, persecution and even death, as faithful witnesses to Jesus. And, will we dare to reform and rebuild our communities and nations on the Rock that shall become a mountain that will fill all the earth? Will we dare to be part of the global witness to that Christ of God, even in the teeth of those who would behead us for that witness?

The choices, and the consequences, are ours to make. So, let us be faithful even unto death: "today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts."

AMEN


APPENDIX A

Excerpts and notes on the United Kingdom Evangelical Alliance Study on Faith and Nation

The United Kingdom Evangelical Alliance has just released a major study on Faith and Nation, which will well bear study. 

Now of course, this appendix cannot reproduce a 170 p. document and its nuances in a brief discussion, but we can highlight several key points relevant to the above concerns and discussion. In that context, we can note how the Foreword puts the main issue well: 

This report is an attempt to recover and restate this perennial intimacy as it seeks to bring a Christian understanding and an evangelical commitment to tackling some of the social, cultural and political challenges of contemporary society. It also provides an opportunity and some tools (what follows is by no means exhaustive) to reengage the Church and Christian leaders in the big conversation about active citizenship and social responsibility as central to the mandate to be “salt and light” and stewards of God’s creation.

In the Executive Summary, it puts the challenge posed by modernity well:

Various worldviews have shaped the challenging situation in which British Christians now find themselves. Pluralism both defines and prescribes diversification as the social norm, celebrating difference in ways which can be positive for religious tolerance and democracy, but which typically deny Christian claims to objective, universal truth. Relativism likewise assumes that truth is contingent rather than ultimate, and so struggles with revealed, monotheistic religion. Secularism is ideologically committed to interpreting the public world without reference to God, whereas secularization describes the de facto marginalisation of religion from civic institutions, and its consequent ‘privatisation’. Clearly, both have been evident in the decline of churchgoing and the gradual weakening of public Christianity in Britain. Also detrimental to the Church’s witness has been individualism, which owes much to the Enlightenment’s emphasis on the thinking subject as the locus of truth, and so tends to dethrone God in favour of human reason or will.

Of course, this has implications for how Evangelical Christian Faith is perceived by many in modern society, and the report therefore notes in its Recommendations how: 

. . . the term evangelical is much misunderstood and often vilified in public discourse,
but . . . attempts to abandon it are unwarranted . . . a constructive presentation of evangelical faith and practice must be a priority in the area of public policy . . . . while politics involves compromise and negotiation on some fronts, authentic evangelical engagement with government and political institutions must resist any temptation to dilute the gospel in pursuit of public favour, to suspend essential evangelical convictions, distinctives and practices so as to comply with the demands of state or party, or to withdraw from the public sphere altogether . . . . [Christians should] [r]ecognise the right of different faith groups to constitute themselves according to their own beliefs and ethos, emphasising that government commitment to political equality should not be used as a pretext for interfering with the organisation or activities of such groups. [Parenthetical comments and emphases added, as are the links below.]

That is indeed a challenge,  especially since, as is noted  from p. 121 on, in discussing civil disobedience and resistance, we see:

Religious liberty issues are now very much to the forefront. In the wake of high profile terrorist incidents the rise of militant fundamentalist Islam has been the catalyst for not only unprecedented security concerns especially in the West, but also calls for restrictions on what have been regarded as basic human freedoms . . . . 

the government has attempted to outlaw any forms of proselytism in voluntary Christian projects that involve public financial support – ‘proselytism’ being defined very restrictively even in terms of saying grace before meals. In Europe, in what Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, has described as the ‘pushing God to the margins’ by ‘secular forces’ seeking to privatise religious faith, Rocco Buttiglione was forcibly barred from taking the post of European Justice Commissioner for his traditional Catholic views on homosexuality and gender. Ratzinger suggested that this implies that anyone who defends Christian orthodoxy is now effectively excluded from public life as a result of an aggressive ideological form of secular intolerance . . . .

[M]any Christians in all parts of the world experience officially sanctioned marginalisation, prejudice, insult, offence, prohibitive legal sanctions, intolerance, discrimination, and even arrest, trial, imprisonment or persecution. This reminds us of New Testament warnings that all true Christians can expect persecution. Part of our response has to be simply to endure this. But a crucial question once more becomes topical and relevant. Can it ever be possible for Christians to join in civil disobedience or even violent [NB: better, forceful] revolution?

Of course, this is not a new question. The early church encountered the challenge in Jerusalem where Peter and John declared that obedience to God took precedence over unjust directives from the authorities (Acts 4.19). Many Christians were killed in the first three centuries for refusing to worship the Roman emperor – many more died in the 20th century under tyrannical regimes. Therefore, given scriptural and historical precedent, to what extent may Christians resist the state? Or is resistance always wrong? . . . .

The weight of history confirms that Christians have generally been supporters of the status quo. However, if, as most Christians accept, they should be politically involved in democratic processes, many believe this may, where necessary, take the form of active resistance to the state. This can take different forms and may encompass disobedience to law, civil disobedience, involving selective, non-violent resistance or protest, or ultimately violent revolution. By way of historical Christian precedents, figures such as Tyndale, Knox, Milton, Cromwell, Bunyan are often cited, and more recently Barth, Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King and Desmond Tutu. These were devout Christians, some of whom were willing, though not lightly, to justify force or even armed rebellion in certain circumstances and non-violent resistance in others. They wrestled with the same theological questions we face today. Christians hold differing views relating to the various degrees of opposition to the state which for the sake of simplicity we have classified as ‘civil disobedience’. Fundamental theological questions relating to the validity for Christians of breaking the law, violence and war inevitably come into what is a complex and highly controversial debate. Christians simply disagree on these matters . . . .

before the question of civil resistance is determined, various other options need to be considered, and in today’s democratic society winning the persuasion battle in the media is inevitably a crucial prelude to and basis for any form of demonstrative action. Certainly, in a modern democratic state it is much more a question of various graduated responses, which may begin with a simple and entirely lawful withdrawal of co-operation with state authorities before progressing through various forms of resistance focussed on a particular area, to ultimately deliberate defiance and even perhaps revolution. It is, however, ridiculous to contemplate revolution without having wrestled with other alternatives which may be less drastic in terms of their potential for confrontation but may bear much clearer witness to Christian values than revolution ever would. For a start, it is important to recognise that state regimes that promote injustice in some areas may well still be fulfilling their God-given mandate in others. Many states that fail to act in line with God’s word may nevertheless exercise valuable functions in protecting society from the effects of human fallenness, an argument frequently made by those who support just war theory. However, those who engage in action, the purpose of which is to undermine or remove a regime, must think carefully about the moral consequences of what they are doing. A country where the state has simply lost its effectiveness and where anarchy threatens is invariably worse off than one where an organised government exists. The biblical portrayal of anarchy at the end of the book of Judges makes very sombre reading. . . . .

A guiding principle should be that we resist very clearly and firmly policies that are manifestly unbiblical and that Christians in general cannot with good conscience comply with, while doing our utmost not to undermine the rightful authority of the state . . . .


It then addresses key biblical texts, throwing an interesting side-light on the above considerations in the main body of this note:

From a biblical perspective, the passages most often cited tend to be Mark 12.17, and Romans 13.1-7, where obedience to the authorities is enjoined. However, many Christians have believed throughout history that these injunctions are applicable to lawful and just power only. Though undoubtedly controversial, the weight of theological opinion is probably against the idea of eternal biblical truth validating passive submission. Of course, there is minimal direct parallel of the biblical material with the opportunities provided by modern democracies. Though the concept of ‘government’ is present, there is no real equivalent to the idea of the state in the New Testament. And an injunction such as that of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5.39) would not generally be regarded as a categorical imperative, i.e., in the sense of an absolute law of conduct, but rather as taking the form of a contextual ethical aphorism. If this were not so, all resistance is absolutely condemned – violent or non-violent. In fact, it would appear that resistance of some sort is permitted, as in the biblical examples provided by Daniel, the apostles in Acts 4, and the martyrs in Revelation 13. Such examples could not necessarily be pressed to justify the overthrowing of governments or armed rebellion, though certainly resistance to the authorities and acceptance of the consequences in the form of martyrdom appears to be enjoined. Questions therefore remain regarding the extent to which such contextual examples may be regarded as divine precedents for other times and places. Throughout history many prominent theologians have argued that they are. Calvin affirmed that it was acceptable for properly constituted officials or magistrates to rebel against tyranny. Knox and Rutherford insisted that it was everyone’s duty to resist evil. They believed that an unjust state forfeits any claim to authority and therefore obedience. Whilst the general thrust of the New Testament is that Christians are meant to obey the state, a comparison of the key texts – notably Matthew 22.21, Romans 13.1-4, 1 Peter 2.13-17, Acts 4.18-20 – suggests that civil government – as with the whole of life – stands under the greater law of God. In our fallen world God has permitted certain offices to protect society from the consequences of its fallenness. But no office can enjoin or prohibit action or belief contrary to the Word of God (though of course, as church history abundantly testifies, what this means is open to a great variety of interpretations). A state that does this abrogates its authority and forfeits the obligation of obedience . . . .

God has ordained and instituted the state as a delegated authority, an agent of justice, a restrainer of evil, a punisher of wrongdoers and a protector of the common good. If it actually does the reverse it becomes lawless and tyrannical and consequently need not be obeyed. The refusal of the early Christians to worship the emperor was considered a political offence. Accordingly, at a certain point it would appear that there is not only a right but a moral duty to disobey the state where it has departed from the principles of God’s law, where disobedience takes on the nature of resistance to tyranny – tyranny effectively being defined as satanic rule without the sanction of God. Such civil disobedience, however, would nevertheless represent a complete antithesis to anarchy. Could such resistance ever take the form of physical force or even armed revolution? In the context of Presbyterian 17th century Scotland and the Westminster Assembly, Samuel Rutherford argued that for the private individual there remained three effective defences against tyrannical government – protest, flight, or force. Force was to be seen very much as a last resort. Where a corporate body, such as a church, was involved, protest or force in self-defence were available, if possible by recourse to law, though if necessary by armed intervention – a course argued for and actually undertaken during the English civil war. Rutherford distinguished between lawful resistance and lawless uprising. His views were supported by John Locke. More recently in Nazi Germany Karl Barth encouraged Christians to condemn and resist National Socialism as a totalitarian unjust rule which was responsible for destroying all order, justice, freedom and authority. Dietrich Bonhoeffer became involved in a conspiracy against Hitler . . . .

if the state becomes totalitarian and all avenues of protest and flight are closed, then the use of defensive force may become a necessary and legitimate remedy for Christians. However, many Christians would prefer to adopt an response modelled on the peaceful or non-violent use of force, such as that espoused by Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi who famously declared that ‘non-violence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.’ Of course, not everyone considers that Gandhi was right and some Christian groups today continue to justify the use of violent [NB: I think that it is  proper to distinguish physical or other forms of force from violence, this last being understood as morally illegitimate use of force] resistance as a last resort.


So then, this has in it much excellent food for thought, and a useful source for further reflection. The below adds further food for thought.



APPENDIX B


Acts 27 and democratic decision-making in a community of fallible, fallen people


In May 2005, on the Let's Talk Radio talkshow, in Montserrat, I had occasion to present the following commentary based on Acts 27, as that island faced approaching elections and issues tied to trying to rebuild a viable community in the face of the lingering challenges posed by a long-term volcanic eruption. The below therefore highlights, based on Paul's ecperience at Fair Havens, Crete, some of the challenges we often face when communities need to make wise decisions in the face of uncertainties and risks that may prove costly.

LT # 33: a Kairos Focus Commentary:

Right makes . . . Right
GEM 05:05:25a



It has often been said that “the voice of the people is the voice of God.” However, this is just as misleading as the equally common idea that might – or, for that matter; power, or wealth – makes right.  In fact, it is right that makes right.  So, as we consider our rebuilding/ re-development challenges and an upcoming election cycle (thus the need for us to collectively make a wise decision on our national leadership over the next several years), let us reflect on a key incident in the career of the Apostle Paul, while he was on his way to Rome as an Appeals prisoner:

[Our ship] made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow us to hold our course, we sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. We moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea.  Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast. So Paul warned them,  "Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also."  But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship.  Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. . . . .   When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the "northeaster," swept down from the island.  The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along . . . When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.   After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: "Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. [Ac 27:7 – 22, as excerpted.]


The incident exposes the down side to collective decision-making:

  • The uncontrollable but partly predictable environment [BTW, a key challenge with many renewable energy technologies] precipitated a crisis: buffetted by heavy head-winds, the ship was delayed until it was necessary to winter in a safe harbour, but the first harbour, Fair Havens, was not fully suitable. So, the majority wanted to move on to a hopefully better prospect, Phoenix.

  • Paul warned of the risk involved, but the owner and the kubernete [more or less, pilot] spoke with the voice of wealth and technical know-how respectively: they were more than willing to go along with the crowd, and advised the Centurion in charge to run a dangerous risk in the hope of a quick and desirable advantage.

  • As a result, the lone voice of safety and caution was easily overwhelmed by the majority, backed up by wealth and technical expertise; so the decision was to go ahead if opportunity should present itself.

  • Soon, a gentle south wind seemed to offer every advantage, and it was eagerly seized.  But, before long, sudden disaster struck in the form of an early winter storm, and at once the ship was reduced to sinking condition, forcing the sailors to try to see if they could keep off the sandbars off the Libyan coast, and so they were only able to drift across the stormy seas while hope of a safe landfall faded.

  • Then, at the end, it was the very same Paul whose advice and leadership had been dismissed when things were looking good, who had to stand up and give hope and counsel.  Then, he had to intervene a third time, to save lives by exposing the sailors’ plot to abandon the passengers as the ship ran aground on the north coast of Malta.  So, through his second intervention, the company were all saved, even though the ship and its cargo were lost.

Plainly, this incident exposes the downside of democracy, of technical advice, and of looking to the wealthy and powerful for wise counsel: for, in a world of self-interested sinners the majority, the wealthy, the technically expert and the powerful are often tempted to act in their own perceived interests, rather than on what is wise and right. Sometimes, they get away with it, but that simply makes them less willing to listen to sensible advice the next time around. Sooner or later, such self-interested, reckless action leads to disaster.  For, it is what is right that is right, regardless of who proposes or supports or opposes it. As David counselled: “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it . . .” Ps 127:1a.

So, now, let’s reflect on our own circumstances as we work to rebuild Montserrat; then let’s talk, let’s pray and let’s act.



NOTICES: This briefing note was originally created by Gordon Mullings, in August 2004, for use in briefing Christian leaders, leaders-in-training, and others interested in the ongoing discussions on nationhood and government under God, and/or related concerns. It has been subsequently revised and developed, to date; so far, to clean up the clarity and flow of the argument, and to add to its force through further citations, as it goes counter to very entrenched common peceptions which IMHCO are based on an inadequate grasp of the scope of the material facts. At points, the argument is admittedly a difficult one to follow, but I consider that a careful re-reading and following up on links will be rewarding and enlightening . Thanks are due to the ad hoc group of regular commenters at The Evangeical Outpost Blog over the period since April 2005, for many useful comments -- many of these in sharp disagreement (which has helped me sharpen my own presentation by addressing specific concerns in more detail -- the interaction also served to underscore my confidence in the main conclusions I have long since made). Onlookers are invited to reflect also on these remarks on selective hyperskepticism , before drawing their own final conclusions.(DISCLAIMER: While reasonable attempts have been made to provide accurate, fair and informative materials for use in training, no claim is made for absolute truth, and corrections based on material factual errors and/or gaps and/or inconsistencies in reasoning are welcome.) FAIR USE: The contents of this note are intended for use as a support for learning about responding to the typical intellectual challenges to the Christian Faith and gospel that are commonly encountered in the Caribbean, especially in tertiary education, or on the Internet, or in commentary in the regional and international media. Permission is therefore granted to link to this page for fair use under intellectual property law, and for reasonable citation of the linked content on this site for church- or parachurch- group related training and/or for personal or academic use; this specifically excludes reproduction, linking or citation for commercial, controversial or media purposes without the Author's written permission -- especialy where matters relating to the validity and value of Faith/Religious/Atheological Commitments and Truth-Claims are being debated or disputed. COPYRIGHT:GEM 2004 - 6. All rights are reserved.