By LOU TISCIONE
We’ve just celebrated our Independence Day. We have been blessed by our sovereign God to live in a country established upon the rule of law. The second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence begins with a sentence that should be remembered as we continue to live blessed lives. “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.”
We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be distracted by whether or not our country was founded as a Christian nation. Even a cursory reading of our founding documents reveals that they were not developed in a moral or religious vacuum. Surely, many of our Founding Fathers were deists, seeing God as the cosmic watchmaker, far removed and uninvolved with His Creation. The God revealed in the Bible is both transcendent and imminent.
However, our founding documents, especially the Declaration of Independence, relied upon Biblical principles. We were founded as a Judeo-Christian country. The basis of our law was grounded in God’s Law. Our stated view of mankind was drawn from the Bible.
Returning to the sentence quoted from the Declaration of Independence, the first observation is that our founders understood absolute truth. They referred to self-evident truths. That is, they assumed that all men clearly understood that there are absolutes and those absolutes should be evident to all men.
What were these “self-evident” truths? First, they declared that all men were created. They affirmed that there is a God. The self-evident truth is that He is the Creator. The Bible teaches that men and women are made in God’s image. Further, the act of God in creating man is documented to be with one man and one woman. Adam was a historic being. Adam was endowed with an immortal soul, unlike all other creatures. Our founders like all of their contemporaries understood that mankind was not the product of millions of years of chance.
The founders also affirmed the equality of men. They wrote that all men are created equal. Notice that the source of man’s equality was not, nor is it, government. The source of man’s equality is God, the Creator, not the government!
God likewise was seen as the source of certain unalienable rights. The founders understood that all men naturally possessed three fundamental rights. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are among the basic human rights given by God. These rights do not come from government. Yet, God has ordained governments to guard these rights. (Romans 13)
The first unalienable right is life which is given by God. Government oversteps its bounds when it seeks to grant or take away life. God has given the right to life. Human life is sacred and the harshest penalty is rightly levied upon one who murders another.
The late Francis Schaeffer said that the future of our western culture would be determined by our view of human life. How are we doing? You decide.
Liberty is defined as the right to act, believe, or express oneself in a manner of one’s own choosing. God gave Adam the freedom to choose. Adam chose poorly and disobeyed God. The result of his disobedience was the Fall. As a result all men inherit the consequence of Adam’s sin. Every inclination of man’s heart is only evil continually (Genesis 6:5). Nevertheless, we are free to choose what we want. We also bear the consequences of our choices.
Liberty is a treasured possession. Like the right to life, liberty was designed by our founders to be guarded by government. Like life, government is not the source of liberty. Liberty is guarded by the rule of law such that one man’s exercise of freedom does not take away another’s liberty.
Finally, the Declaration of Independence states that all men have an unalienable right to pursue happiness. God has given mankind the right to pursue his or her dreams. We are blessed to live in a country in which we are able to live freely and pursue those things or occupations that satisfy us under the rule of law.
Thank God for His providence in the establishment of this great nation where life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were recognized as His gifts.
Lou Tiscione is pastor of Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA).