by Keith Sherlin

– 1. The Christian based colony of Jamestown Virginia in 1606-1607 functioned underneath  Christian Based Charter

One of the earliest efforts to colonize and begin the development of the New World, which would later become the United States of America, began in Jamestown Virginia. Financed by the London Company, the first permanent English colony in Jamestown defined its purpose through the governing charter. This charter unequivocally established a Christian basis and purpose for the colony. The charter stated their task as governed by the “providence of Almighty God, . . . to the glory of His Divine Majesty, in propagating of the Christian religion to such people, as yet live in darkness and miserable ignorance of the true knowledge and worship of God.” These early colonists suffered severe hardship in the rough and rugged land. A little more than half died in the early days, and only by the providential hand of God’s grace did the colony survive through supernatural preservation. Scholar B.F. Morris noted that”The Christian religion was the underlying basis and the pervading element of all the social and civil institutions of the Virginia Colony.”

2. The Pilgrims on the Mayflower Constructed a Christian Legal Document in 1620

The Pilgrims set sail to the soils of America to escape the religious persecution in Europe. England had grown intolerant of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Ministers were being imprisoned and exiled for their faith. These separatists opted to leave Europe and come to the New World. In 1620 the Pilgrims sailed across the ocean on the Mayflower Ship. Due to the stormy weather the ship missed its desired destination of Virginia. Therefore, the original charter the Pilgrims functioned underneath could not serve them. The Pilgrims realized they needed some type of governing document. Consequently Pilgrims drafted the “Mayflower Compact.” This historical document”emphasizes religious themes and political loyalties that are reflected in later charters and state constitutions.” This governing document specifically stated that they came to the New World in the “name of God . . . . for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith.” This Christian based document has been heralded as one of the most essential documents to the development of America. Frank R. Donovan states that this document became the “foundation stone of American liberty.” The document became the governing document of the Pilgrims when they finally did arrive in Plymouth on December 22nd 1620. As Gary Demar mentioned”Plymouth was first a religious society, second, an economic enterprise, and last, a political commonwealth governed by biblical standards.”

3. A Christian Based Community in Connecticut New Haven with a Christian Constitution in 1639

Reverend John Davenport and Governor Theophilus Eaton founded New Haven Connecticut. John Davenport became the community’s pastor. John Eaton became the Governor and was elected to this office annually for twenty years until his death. The Bible stood as the supreme law book for the community. In January of 1639 the “Fundamental Orders of Connecticut” were produced. Some have noted that this governing document became the world’s first written constitution. In one place this document stated this: “Forasmuch as it has pleased Almighty God by the wise disposition of His Divine Providence so to order and dispose of things that we the inhabitants and residents . . .; and well knowing where a people are gathered together the Word of God requires thast to maintain the peace and union of such a people there should be an orderly and decent government established according to God, to order and dispose of the affairs of all the people at all seasons as occasions shall require.”

4. Christianity Expressed in the New England Confederation of 1643

Early in American history the people recognized the governing leaders as ministers of God. These officials were to lead with wisdom and according to the laws and principles of Scripture. When this confederation organized it stood for Christian principles. The ruling authorities functioned with a divine goal to “advance the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and to enjoy the liberties of the Gospel in purity with peace.” Furthermore, we see that these early colonial Americans viewed the civil leaders as ministers whom serve the people for the common good under Christian principles. The governing leaders were said to be expected to excercise their power “to declare, publish, and establish, for the Plantations within their jurisdiction, the laws He [God] hath made; and to make and repeal orders for smaller matters, not particularly determined in Scriptures, according to the more general rules of righteousness, and while they stand in force, to require the execution of them.”

5. Christianity and Christian Principles Were in Every Colonial Constitution

One of the most unique features of American government is the art of governing by established written law. These written laws are expressed through Constitutions. Furthermore, the Constitutions of each state did not grant or give too much power to the federal government. The national government could only exercise the powers given to that level by the state constitutions. Any power not delgated to the national level by the local state levels remained with the states. One such power that remained at the state level has been the issues relating to faith and religion. Remarkably, as any historical study can reveal, every Colonial State referenced God and religious principles. These references aid in proving that Christianity permeated the founding states of the United States of America. A partial study of various themes from the various state constitutions reveal some sacred allegiances to Christian themes.

Excerpts from State Constitutions:

Delaware’s Constitution

  • Deleware required its office holders to embrace or acknolwedge certain Christian beliefs. These included a profession of faith “God the Father, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, and in the Holy Ghost, one God blessed for evermore; and I do acknolwedge the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be given by divine inspiration.”

New Jersey’s Constitution

  • New Jersey provided a freedom for all people of the state to worship God freely. The constitution acknolwedged God and a person’s freedom to worship God without compulsion. It specifically stated: “no person shall ever . . . be deprived of the inestimable privilege of worshipping Almighty God in a manner agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience.”

Georgia’s Constitution

  • Georgia in its original constitution even promoted the protestant religion. Those whom say that it is illegal to promote a faith or religion at the state level might not be aware that this is exactly what some of the founding states did early in America. For example Georgia’s constitution in 1777 stated in one article that “The representatives shall be chosen out of the residents in each county . . . and they shall be of the Protestant religion.” That requirement nullifies the idea that from the very beginning the founding states of the United States were anti-God, or that the government across the board did not emphasize and stress the Christian faith. People who promote such ideas are not very well read. Therefore, such people do not understand the heritage of America.
  • Georgia’s preamble to the 1900’s version of their state constitution also acknowledges the powerful God of the universe. Anyone who says that all references to God ought to be removed from the public sector stand in contradiction to the spirit and heritage of America itself. Look at what the preamble says of God: “To perpetuate the principles of free government, insure justice to all, preserve peace, promote the interest and happiness of the citizen, and transmit to posterity the enjoyment of liberty, we, the people of Georgia, relying upon the protection and guidance of the Almighty God, do ordain and establish this constitution.” Not only does it mention God but also it even gives a description of this God. It describes God as the almighty being that gives protection and guidance.

Maryland’s Constitution

  • Maryland differed in that this state and colony developed from the Catholic persuasion of Christianity. The state constitution, however, set the tone that all people of the Christian religion or faith were to have protection. The constitution precisely said: “All persons, professing the Christian religion, are equally entitled to protection in their religious liberty; wherefore no person ought by any law to be molested in his person or estate on account of his religious persuasion or profession, or for his religious practice; unless under the colour of religion, any man shall disturb the good order, peace and safety of the State.” This aids to prove that Maryland respected religious freedom and acknolwedged the value of religious faith the for the good of the state.

Massachusett’s Constitution

  • Massachusetts articulated what may be called natural theology within its governing documents. This state’s constitution in 1780 recognized a Supreme God that created and preserved the universe. The constitution specifically stated: “It is the right as well as the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons, to worship the SUPREME BEING, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe.”

New Hampshire’s Constitution

  • The Puritan legacy lived on through the constitution of New Hampshire. In 1784 the Constitution preserved the idea of God who every person must be free to worship. The constitution precisely says: “Every individual has a natural and unalienable right to worship GOD according to the dictates of his own conscience, and reason; and no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained in his person, liberty or estate for worshiping GOD, in the manner and season most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience, or for his religious profession, sentiments or persuasion; provided he doth not disturb the public peace, or disturb others, in their religious worship.” New Hampshire retained all of its religious principles even after the ratification of the United States Constitution, even one whereby all State office holders had to be of the protestant religion. This again points to the fact that each state had the power and right to adopt one religious slant above and beyond another. The national government had and has no right to establish or prefer any one denomination of religion. However the states, such as with New Hampshire, had and still ought to have the freedom to prefer one religious viewpoint or another above another without the Federal government’s hand restricting the state from doing so.

North Carolina’s Constitution

  • First explored by the French and Spanish, North Carolina eventaully developed as a colony in 1653 by settlers from Virginia. In 1711 the colony of Carolina divided ito North and South Carolina. In 1729 North Carolina became a royal colony and the 1776 state constitution acknowledged God freely and even more emphatic was the constitutional requirement that no person who denied God or the divine authority of the Old or New Testaments could serve in any office. Sections from that constitution read as follows: “All men have a natural and unalienable right to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences. . . . No person who shall deny the bing of God, or the truth of the Protestant religion, or the divine authority of the Old or New Testaments, or who shall hold religious principles incompatible with the freedom and safety of the State, shall be capable of holding any office or place of trust or profit in the civil department within this State.” One must keep in mind that America is a “REPUBLIC” not a pure “DEMOCRACY.” The republic form of government is one whereby the representative thinks for the people. As the constitutional scholar and professor Dr. John Eidsmoe says: “In a republic the representative is to think for his constituents rather than with them. They elect him because they respect his judgment, not because he will be their rubber stamp.” These requirements reveal that the founders of North Carolina wanted and set in place provisions whereby only people who believed in God and the authority of His Word should be doing the thinking for the people of the state.

South Carolina’s Constitution

  •  The SC constitution was clear in its affirmation of Christianity and the principles of this faith for public life. Article 38 of the 1778 SC constitution said: “All persons and religious societies who acknolwedge that there is one God, and a future state of rewards and punishments, and that God is publicly to be worshipped, shall be freely tolerated.” It also stated: “the Christian Protestant Religion shall be deemed, and is hereby constituted and declared to be, the established religion of this State.” This law was balanced in that even though the Christian faith was the law of the land no person was forced or compelled to support the Christian faith, Christian church, or religion unless he or she voluntarily associated with that faith, church or religion. The constitution said: “No person shall, by law, be obliged to pay towards the maintenance and support of a religious worship that he does not freely join in, or has not voluntarily engaged in support.” Even the current SC constitution today says  “No person who denies the existence of the Supreme Being shall hold any office under this Constitution.” Furthermore, despite criticisms to the contrary, the SC constitution even today still requires that all who hold office taken an oath that swears by the name of God.

 

Summary: Colonial America Developed Upon Christian Principles
We must keep in mind that Christianity made a drastic advancement in the 1500’s. The Protestant Reformation that God birth through the men of Martin Luther, John Calvin, and others spread through the Puritans and Pilgrims who fled England to settle in the soils of the New World, America. This Christian growth and advancement established the base, the foundation, and the nucleus for the future growth of America. All of the colonies that developed in the new world had Christian foundations. As Gary Demar said: “all the colonies were founded on the religious precepts of Christianity, with the Bible as their statute book” (America’s Christian Heritage, 21).
This does not undermine the pluralistic nature of our democratic-republic. To the contrary, a Judeo-Christian worldview believes in personal liberty so long as that liberty is not used to damage another’s person’s property or personhood. Even God himself gave liberty to his creation. They are free to live and choose according to their nature.
A Free World Based Upon Judeo-Christian Worldview
Some people believe that recognizing our Judeo-Christian heritage is a bad idea. Some try and re-write history to avoid this perception. Others, however, want to use this heritage to force others to be Christianized by the power of the government, which will never work as only God can change the heart and mind of a person as he alone has rights over mankind as the Creator.
The idea of the 1st Amendment, freedom of religion, press, the right of the people to assemble together peaceably, and to petition their government is a democratic-republic principle that comes forth from a Judeo-Christian worldview. Thus, it is because of this heritage that we have freedom in this country, not in spite of our heritage. The philosophical principles that form the pluralistic society stem from a Judeo-Christian worldview.
For example, even God himself allows for differences to exist in his kingdom. He governs over all but he even has those who oppose him in his own kingdom. Satan, demons, evil spirits, etc., all have a degree of freedom in God’s kingdom. If you are not sure about that read the story of Job. Also, in the Garden of Eden God allowed the serpent to co-exist along with Adam and Eve. God also gave freedom to Adam and Eve to obey him or not to obey him.
In other words, we need to honor the religious heritage of our country and at the same time realize that the worldview that this country was founded upon allowed for freedom and liberty of the people. Our relationship to God is governed by God himself. Civil government are established to regulate and enforce man to man relationships in two key areas: civil law and criminal law. So long as people keep their promises or contracts to one another, and so long as people do not deprive one another of property or hurt one another physically then there is no threat and people should be free to exercise their liberty just as God gives liberty to his people in his kingdom.
The key to what constitutes a threat is when the idea of free-choice or voluntary association is removed. In a civil world people must be free to choose according to their nature and to act upon that freely so long as they understand the natural consequences of their actions (either good or bad) and this freedom must never be removed unless the exercise of that freedom has damaged someone physically or will likely damage that person physically or that person’s property. This is the basis for all civil and criminal law in this nation. Civil law in its most basic form says, “do all that you promised to do and fulfill your obligations.” Crminal law in its most basic form says, “do not damage a person or property of a person.”
Our country was a new experiment. It has proven to be one of the greatest countries in the world. We tolerate people with differences, we allow for various religions to prosper and grow here, we allow people to relate to their God as their conscience dictates while we also allow for individual liberty so long as that liberty does not violate the property or life of another. This freedom and lifestyle has emerged because of our heritage. We we birth as a nation that understood the ideology and philosophical principles of a Judeo-Christian worldview. That is not to suggest all of our founding fathers were Christians. SOme were not. But they had brilliant intellects that understood natural law, which coincides with God’s law. Thus when they began to form governments in various regions, which eventually developed into one Country, they put together a form of government that encouraged individual liberty balanced with community responsibility. In other words, the people should be free to live as they please before God so long as their freedoms did not hurt the liberty and rights of another in their life and property.
Some today argue about our heritage. I would rather celebrate it while we grant as much freedom and liberty as possible to all as that is the essence of our Judeo-Christian heritage. Our heritage says that God is big enough to change the hearts and minds of people as he pleases, when he pleases, how he pleases. We do not need the sword to force, restrict, or govern people’s hearts and minds before God. Yet at the same time, we do need to use the sword when anyone begins to deny another of his or her property and individual liberty. We rightly protect people’s liberty with the use of the sword. As Jesus Christ said so well: “those who live by the sword shall die by the sword.” The sword is the government’s right to use power to force. Our heritage developed from men and women who had been forced to woprship in a certain way. Our forefathers, understanding God’s view of human liberty, therefore came to America’s soil to develop a new country, a new land, a free land where a free people could co-exist together with the freedom to worship God or oppose God so long as those in that process did not damage each other’s property or physical well being in that process.
Our government reflects the Triune nature of God, with three branches of government in power. When all three work in harmony it shows unity and a co-hesive organism. Yet since we all understand humans err, our forefathers did not set up a kingship. These three arms of government serve to be a check and balance with one another. This too reflects a Judeo-Christian worldview that our forefathers had in government development. it is a protective covering for the good of the people under its jurisdiction.
Our country, rooted in this Judeo-Christian worldview, exists to promote liberty and freedom for all. This idea of liberty is protected by the philosophical principles that come from a Judeo-Christian worldview. If rightly understood this ideology will be used to promote freedom and liberty among the people in a responsible manner, not to force or make people believe and worship God as they see fit through the use of the power of the government. That was what our forefathers left in England to come here to escape from as they built a new land with new ideas. Therefore, if we honor our religious heritage we ought to honor people of all faiths or even those with no faith. We should be thankful and grateful for our heritage. It truly was a Judeo-Christian heritage and the philosophical principles of that worldview still exist today in the very systems we live and use today. We should trust our God enough to handle his part, the right to change people’s minds and hearts, while we use the power of the sword only to maintain peace and liberty among the people as they co-exist together.