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Affluent Christian Investor | September 18, 2019

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The Theological Foundations Of The Principles Of 1776

Declaration of Independence (painted by John Trumbull) (1819)

In his study of the theologians of the University of Salamanca, Alejandro Chafuen illuminates the Salamanca position that “God gave man his nature of social dependency and his limited ability and capacity so that man would feel the need for commerce.”  Chafuen continues explaining how man “prefers to live in society and to enjoy the benefits of social cooperation (i.e., the division of labor).”[1]

The Salamanca researcher is referencing Spanish theologian, Juan de Mariana, who in the late (circa) 16th century, in Del Rey y de la Institucion Real, noted that “For God, the Parent and Creator of the human race, saw nothing would be more valuable to man than mutual charity and friendship…[when man]…gathered into a body in one place and subject to the same law…He created men to desire this and move toward it with true necessity, lacking many things and subject to many dangers and evils.”[2]

Martin Luther alluded to this very covenant in his eloquent 1520 treatise On Christian Liberty when he argued that “as regards kingship, every Christian is by faith so exalted above all things that, in spiritual power, he is completely lord of all things, so that nothing whatever can do him any hurt; yes, all things are subject to him, and are compelled to be subservient to his salvation.”[3]   Luther articulates multiple aspects of what would arise to be the American Experiment in this brief comment.  He refers to God as King and the divine sovereignty His Children are bestowed by Him within His creation which manifests into the Fundamental Rights of property rights and the first covenant God made with His children mentioned here.  The title of his treatise, On Christian Liberty, ties the divine and scriptural term, liberty, to foundational objective of the American Experiment – establishing the liberty God intends for His Children in His creation, which is the central point of America as a confederacy and compactual republic. The United States is the most incredible attempt to create this for mankind in our fallen world.  Luther’s comment, “so that nothing can do him any harm,” is exactly John Locke’s enunciation that man has a divine right to his property and that the only objective of civil government is to protect a man’s right to this and prevent others, either individuals, groups, or especially governments, from violating one’s persons or property.  Keep each citizen from harm.

From the Creation story in the book of Genesis we learn about how God is, not only a creator, but a productive creator.  He creates and declares it good.  But even though what He creates is good, He, each succeeding day makes improvements upon His creation and declares it good as well.  God is Productivity.  And it is “good!”  On the seventh day God rests, not because He is tired and needs rest, but because He creates man in His image to be Productive.  God gifts man His creation upon which man takes domain and, in the image of God, becomes productive, like his heavenly Father.[4]

The second covenant God makes with His children, Genesis 1:28 and Genesis 2:24, also directly involves productivity.  It is the productivity of creating more of His children, which is another manifestation of us being created in God’s image.  Our term for His second covenant is marriage.   God being an active God and productive God, in turn, desiring His children to also be active and productive declared this second covenant.  Marriage, even though existing at a higher level than God’s Law, because it is inherent in His creation has been considered within the context of Natural Law.   In fact, the Catholic Church references “natural law” directly in its Catechism covering marriage.[5]

The second generation of Americans, represented by John Quincy Adams, directly acknowledged this standard that the people were the sovereigns and ultimate source of legitimate power within creation and that the States were subordinate to their sovereignty.  Adams states that the Revolutionary generation “declared the People, and not the States, to be the only legitimate source of power; and that to the People alone belonged the right to institute, to alter, to abolish, and to re-institute government.”  He also acknowledged the States as independent and free nation-states; announcing that “by the paper [Declaration of Independence] the United Colonies were declared free and independent States, therefore each of the States, separately, was free, independent and sovereign.”  Adams also invokes the enumeration of the Constitution by citing the specific acts enabled to the federal congress on behalf of the Union.[6]  Adams states that each State, as a sovereign, originally had:

…power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and do all other acts and things, which independent States may of right so.  But all this was affirmed and declared not of the separate, but of the United States…This distinction was indeed indispensable to the necessities of their condition.[7]

This acknowledgement by Adams is very revealing, as he strongly favored a more powerful federal government.  One to the level which would make the United States a singular nation instead of a federation of separate and sovereign nation-States.  Adams laments the Articles of Conversation stating, “The institution of the Union was now postponed to follow and not to precede the reservations; and cooled into a mere league of friendship and of mutual defense between the States.”  He also believed that the federal government should be given more sovereignty, or power, over the individual States.  But concedes that “The reservation of the rights of the separate States was made to precede the institution of the Union itself…The ratification of the articles was completed on the first of March, 1781, and the experiment of merely confederatedUnion of the thirteen States commenced.”[8]  While Adams supported a dominate national government over the States, he did ultimately support the Constitutional change of the federal government as a result of the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

From 1787 to 1798, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, upon scribing and advocating the Resolutions of 1798, gave citizens of the United States a much needed reminder and shield.   “The Principles of 1798,” pronounces William Watkins, Jr., “must serve as our guideposts if [and when] we try to return the constitutional compact to its original purity.”[9]  As sovereign Children of God we have absolute Fundamental Rights which our Heavenly Father bestowed upon us.  Any government’s role and obligation is to uphold that – nothing else.  When such government does not, and, in essence, is in rebellion against our Creator, We the People, by His Blessing, can and must retake what is divinely ours.  Thus is the fundamental principle behind the Principles of 1798.

[1] Alejandro A. Chafuen, 2003, Faith and Liberty:  The Economic Thought of the Late Scholastics, (Lanham, MD: Lexington Book), p. 74.

[2] Alejandro A. Chafuen, 2003, Faith and Liberty:  The Economic Thought of the Late Scholastics, (Lanham, MD: Lexington Book), p. 76, Footnote 8.”

[3] Martin Luther, 1520, “On Christian Liberty,” in The Ninety-Five Theses, On Christian Liberty, and Address to the Christian Nobility, Translated by R.S. Grignon and C.A. Buchheim, 2009, (Overland Park, KS: Digireads.com Publishing), p. 26.

[4] These ideas were taken and developed from Jerry Bowyer, October 1, 2015, “Biblical Economic Principles Lecture,” (Indiana Wesleyan University, Marion, IN), and our conversation after his presentation.

[5] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Part 3, Section 2, Chapter 2, Article 6, No. 2357 and No. 2384, [http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a6.htm].

[6] John Quincy Adams, July 4, 1837, “An Oration Delivered before the Inhabitants of the Town of Newburyport, at their Request, on the Sixty-First Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence,” (Newburyport Herald Office: Printed by Morss and Brewster), p. 14.

[7] John Quincy Adams, July 4, 1837, “An Oration Delivered before the Inhabitants of the Town of Newburyport, at their Request, on the Sixty-First Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence,” (Newburyport Herald Office: Printed by Morss and Brewster), p. 16.

[8] John Quincy Adams, July 4, 1837, “An Oration Delivered before the Inhabitants of the Town of Newburyport, at their Request, on the Sixty-First Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence,” (Newburyport Herald Office: Printed by Morss and Brewster), p. 42.

[9] William J. Watkins, Jr., 2008 (originally published in 2004), Reclaiming the American Revolution:  The Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions and their Legacy, (The Independent Institute, Palgrave Macmillan:  Oakland, CA, New York, NY), p. 154.

 

 

Originally published on Townhall Finance.

 

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