The Declaration of Independence – The Spirit Behind The Call

By Jeff Ziegler, President SGI

The “Spirit of 76″ has been the central rallying point for American patriotism since our violent national inception over 200 years ago. This of course is in reference to the Declaration of Independence. From the time of our embryonic national birth pains, men have pondered as to just what the “Spirit of ‘76″ means. Are the dominant themes depicted in this historic document born from Christian orthodoxy, or is the anthem of Enlightenment rationalism the clarion cry?

Certainly if one is searching for an explicit creedal confession of the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Declaration falls short. Yet it is not a theological rendering but instead forms a rationale for nationhood. Still, the acknowledgment of the transcendent Creator-God granting certain unalienable rights and the reliance upon Divine Providence are themes which cannot be ignored. So too, the definition of these rights, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” are concepts older than the Enlightenment and owe their genesis to Christian Orthodoxy as defined by the first four Ecumenical Creeds of the Church. Also, the sway of Scottish Presbyterianism regarding the doctrine of the lesser civil magistrate interposing against tyrannical forms is a clearly evidenced apologetic throughout the document. So major theological sway hold true over our Declaration.

As an example; while examining the ecumenical creeds of the Christian Church (Apostles, Nicene, Athanasian, and Chalcedon) we find strains that surface themselves in the Declaration.

All four of the creeds held together (orthodoxy) declare God’s transcendent nature. Meaning that God is the sovereign creator who established all things visible and invisible and who is distinct and apart from his creation. Genesis 1:1, Colossians 1:16, 17. Ergo, the God who created you is the Lord and giver of life. It is He who sustains your body, your soul, your senses, your reasoning faculties. It is God who provides your sustenance, your house and home, your family and property. It is God who nurtures you and protects you from all evil. He does all of these things expressly for His divine pleasure and purpose.

The concepts of liberty and freedom derived from basic orthodox creedal thinking or the notion of the transcendent- creator God is as follows:

1) The right to life is a liberty granted by God. It is the transcendent-creator God who alone gives life. Any unlawful taking of life is murder. Therefore, unless liberty under God is recognized, tyranny and death are the results not only for the unborn through state sponsored abortion, but eventually, for the elderly, the sick, the infirmed and finally society as a whole. This notion of “Life” as a “Right” is codified in the Declaration as coming from God and not the state. Hence if the state transgresses in this arena, it fundamentally breeches the Declaration and becomes a demagogic and tyrannical entity.

2) Another principle of liberty derived from Creedal thinking is that provision, and thus personal property comes from God and God alone. The same God that created the earth gave man dominion over the it. Genesis 1:26-28 depicts man possessing ruling, and reordering the earth. Also, throughout God’s Law, the possession of land is a mark of God’s blessing and provision. Therefore, your family, your home, your property, is a freedom and blessing that comes from God and not the state! It is plain the truths articulated by confessional Christian orthodoxy are reflected in the Declaration of Independence. While this does not make it an exclusively “Christian confession”, it does illustrate that Christianity in its most crystalline sense was a powerful influence on the document. This is not confined to mere rhetorical pleasantries which acknowledge the existence of God, but form the backbone and the crux of the revolutionary argument . . . “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

The late President John F. Kennedy declared that “the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.” While his acknowledgement is deemed “recent history” it seems to be an ancient missive in comparison to the speech and actions of modern politicos. The great hindrance in this hour is not a deficiency in the Declaration of Independence, but a deficiency in the Church and in the Civil realm to both acknowledge and enforce the expectations of our founding documents. Whether this be caused by a willful ignorance or an outright cogent rebellion, the results are the same. Meaning the state as “god” determines the scope and confines of “Rights” and “Liberty.” That is a nation most dangerous to young and old alike. May you dear reader be reignited with the flames of revolutionary freedom! For the sake of future generations behold afresh our national genesis!

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and 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, 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.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

  • He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
  • He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
  • He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
  • He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
  • He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people. He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
  • He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
  • He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
  • He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
  • He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
  • He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
  • He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
  • He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
  • For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
  • For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
  • For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
  • For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
  • For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
  • For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
  • For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighboring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
  • For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
  • For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
  • He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
  • He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
  • He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
  • He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
  • He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends. 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, do, in the Name, and by 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.

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