God, the Declaration of Independence,
and the U.S. Constitution
John Adams, who served as our nation’s first vice president under George Washington and then as the second president of the United States, so believed in the relevancy of the Bible that he wrote the following in his diary on February 22, 1756: “Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book, and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited! Every member would be obliged in conscience to temperance, frugality, and industry; to justice, kindness, and charity towards his fellow man; and to piety, love, and reverence toward Almighty God. . . . What a Utopia, what a Paradise would this region become?” He also noted, “We have no government capable of dealing with an irreligious people.” In other words, those who disregard religion are disregarding what makes America the nation that it is.
George Washington wrote, “We ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained.”
Similarly, in his inaugural address on March 4, 1809, President James Madison declared, “We have all been encouraged to feel in the guardianship and guidance of that Almighty Being, whose power regulates the destiny of nations.”
The Founders believed that Christianity’s influence on this world would produce at least five tangible benefits:
1. A civilized society
2. Self-governing individuals
3. Good citizens
4. Elevated academic achievements
5. A stable society with a common values base. (Footnote #12)
While extreme liberals denounce America’s Christian heritage and history, many Christians have succumbed to revisionist history. Some who are conservative in their worldview and sound in their theology actually question whether or not America was founded with the approval of God and His providential assistance.
If our founders were so intent on founding America as a secular nation as liberals claim, why did they reference God and the Bible throughout our nation’s founding documents?
In the Declaration of Independence, God is mentioned four times:
1. “The Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” The “laws of nature” refer to the natural laws God instilled in man and creation. The laws of nature’s God is a reference to God’s laws as found in the Bible.
2. “All men are created equal, they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” The word Creator is a reference to the Creator God.
3. “Appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions.” The Supreme Judge of the World is a reference to God.
4. “With a firm Reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence. . . .” This is a reference to God’s power, wisdom, and sovereignty.
Many liberals point out that neither God nor the Bible is mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. Because the Declaration of Independence was already established, however, the foundational role of God and the Bible had been laid. What liberals don’t want you to understand is that the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution are equally important—the Declaration lays the foundation for the Constitution.
As Constitutional historian and legal expert John Eidsmoe points out:
The Declaration has been repeatedly cited by the U.S. Supreme Court as part of the fundamental law of the United States of America. The United States Code Annotated includes the Declaration of Independence under the heading “The Organic Laws of the United States of America” along with the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution, and the Northwest Ordinance. Enabling Acts frequently require states to adhere to the principles of the Declaration; in the Enabling Act of June 16, 1906, Congress authorized Oklahoma Territory to take steps to become a state. Section 3 provides that the Oklahoma Constitution “shall not be repugnant to the Constitution of the United States and the principles of the Declaration of Independence.” (Footnote #13)
John Eidsmoe goes on to describe the relationship between the Declaration and the Constitution: “The Declaration is a statement of the basic American values or principles: equality, God-given rights. The Constitution is the means by which these rights are to be secured: a federal republic consisting of a federal government and state governments, with certain powers delegated to the federal government and others reserved for the states, with those powers separated into legislative, executive, and judicial branches. The Declaration is the foundation; the Constitution is the structure built on that foundation.”14 The Constitution is built on the Declaration of Independence, and the Declaration finds practical expression in the Constitution. Neither can be fully understood without the other.15
12 “The Practical Benefits of Christianity,” Speech
13 John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution—The Faith of Our Founding Fathers (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987), 360–61.