The Grand Holiday
Today we as a nation are celebrating our
of holidays—Independence Day. The day in which our founding fathers
met in the Pennsylvania State House on a steamy fourth day in July to
declare their independence from the rule of Great Britain. The
resolution was the culmination of over six months of political
maneuvering by various factions throughout the original colonies.
John Dickinson put up a strong campaign to delay the move. He
believed that the Continental Congress had much more work to do
before they could sever their ties with England.
The legislative bodies of Maryland and New
specifically instructed their delegates to vote against such an
action. Maryland reversed its decision on May 20. However, British
troops moved into New York and the Provincial Congress had to
evacuate before they could reconsider their previous decision. The
New York delegates actually abstained from voting when the motion
came to a vote on July 2.
The task of writing the document was
Committee of Five—John Adams of Massachusetts who would later
become the second President of the United States, the venerable and
esteemed inventor, entrepreneur, and statesman Benjamin Franklin of
Pennsylvania, Thomas Jefferson of Virginia who become our third
President, Robert R. Livingston of New York who would later negotiate
the Louisiana Purchase, and Roger Sherman of Connecticut who would be
the only member of the Continental Congress to sign the four most
important documents in the founding of our country-the Declaration of
Independence, the Articles of Association, the Articles of
Confederation, and the United States Constitution. Jefferson once
described Sherman as a man who never said a foolish thing in his
That was quite an illustrious group of men.
were the intellectually elite of the American colonies. It is a shame
that today the intellectual elite mostly shy away from the political
fray. The document submitted by the Committee of Five to the Congress
gathered in Philadelphia contain two important political concepts.
While not new their thought was still considered “revolutionary.”
The first involved the relationship between
citizen and the monarch. Thomas Jefferson was really the chief
architect of the declaration. In his opening statement he wrote that
the citizen and the monarch share equal rights. If the monarch so
violated the rights of its citizens then the citizens had the option
of dissolving the relationship.
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,
This was not a new idea. The Puritans in
used essentially this same line of reasoning 130 years earlier in
their fight against Charles I that culminated with the beheading of
the King. However, the rights of citizens was a hotly contested issue
throughout Europe. Monarchs drawing on the apostle Paul's writing in
Romans 13, considered their rule an indisputable divine right. The
duty of every citizen was unquestionable loyalty and obedience. The
monarch was entitled to levy taxes, wage war, sign treaties, build
elaborate palaces, wear expensive wardrobes and live an opulent
lifestyle without considering the opinions of its subjects.
Jefferson challenged this thinking. He did
believe that the monarch enjoy a privileged status. Rule of
government for the Virginian statesman was based upon a social
contract between two equal parties, the monarch and its citizens. If
the monarch commits acts of injustice the citizens may exercise their
right to dissolve the contract and form new government.
The second “revolutionary” idea put forth by
the Committee of Five was their most famous.
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.
In one sentence the Declaration of
did more to advance the cause of individual freedom and human rights
than any document in history. The thought and language of this one
sentence has become ingrained into to thinking of every American. We
cannot imagine living in a land in which those Jeffersonian truths
were not guaranteed and protected. However, we should understand that
the rationale for this now famous statement and the previously
considered, introductory clause that describes the existence of a
social contract were not based on divine revelation or Scripture.
The Committee of Five were exemplary of the
that we now call the Age of Enlightenment. During this era the
intellectual community distanced itself from the primitive beliefs in
the supernatural. They did not adhere to the fundamental tenets of
the faith. They did not believe in a transcendent God who made His
will known to humankind through direct or indirect communication. God
had given to every person intellectual gifts to use the advancement
of his or her own self interests.
based his philosophy on “the laws of nature and of
nature's God.” Self-evident truths were the foundational premise
of his unalienable rights. Both are very clear and direct statements
that the philosophical views of Natural Law, not upon theological
arguments, divine revelation or Scripture. If Jefferson would have
sought guidance from Scripture he would have had difficulty forming
our Scripture lesson the apostle Paul is quite clear. The duty of
every believer is unqualified obedience to Jesus Christ. Notice that
Paul did not include an escape clause. He did not list any social or
economic conditions that would grant a believer an exemption. This is
not the only passage that Paul sets forth this admonition.
Remind the people to be subject to rulers
and authorities, to be
for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men:
whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors,
who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those
who do right.
1 Peter 2:13–15
I urge, then,
of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made
for everyone— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may
live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
1 Timothy 2:1–2
From a Biblical perspective, the Continental
Congress that met in the City of Brotherly Love simply could not
defend their actions. King George never once asked them to worship a
pagan idol. He never expected them to denounce their faith. He did
not prevent them from worshiping in churches of their own choice for
the most part. The Declaration of Independence does not contain an
accusations of religious abuse in its litany of monarchical
transgressions. When compared to the sufferings of believers in
Paul's lifetime, King George's abuses were barely more severe than
parental time outs.
Those who would argue that our nation was
upon Christian principles simple distort the history. That is not to
say that God was not instrumental in the foundation of our country.
Remember what the apostle told the church in Rome
authority except that which God has established. The authorities that
exist have been established by God.
What this means is that the United States
with Communist China, Great Britain, North Korea, France, Nazi
Germany, Canada, the United Socialist Soviet Republic, Mexico,
Venezuela, and a whole host of other countries have also been
established by God. Each and every country has a purpose and role in
God's plan of salvation. Only one country can claim to play a special
role in God's redemptive history—the nation of Israel. God made
this promise to the founder of Judaism. After Abraham and Sarah left
their homeland God spoke to Abraham and said:
“I will make you into a
will bless you;
make your name great,
you will be a blessing.
bless those who bless you,
whoever curses you I will curse;
peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.
The prophet Isaiah reframed this promise in
offering hope to the nation of Israel during a time of national
for your light has come,
the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
covers the earth
thick darkness is over the peoples,
LORD rises upon you
his glory appears over you.
come to your light,and kings to the brightness
This does not mean that we should not have
in our own country.
People rightly love their
ethnic roots, foods, history, language, culture, and music.
Homesickness is a compliment to the sights, sounds and smells which
we love and miss when we are separated from them.
What it does mean is that we should not
the attitude that our country is superior to other countries.
Statistically, we do not rank very high in the areas of health, well
being and education. The US ranks a lowly 33th in infant
mortality rates among countries of the Western world. A baby has a
better chance of surviving child birth if they being carried by a
mother in Singapore, France, Italy and Greece. According to the Human
Development Index which is composed of data on Life
and per-capita GDP we
Having pride and love for our country is
from believing that are nation is superior to every other nation. The
former is patriotism, the latter is nationalism.
once encountered a
pastor who espoused such noxious nationalism, and asked him, "doesn't
every nation think of itself as the best?" The clergyman
responded in all seriousness, "Yes, but in England it is true."
Lewis concludes, "To be sure, this conviction had not made my
friend (God rest his soul) a villain; only an extremely lovable old
We are called to proclaim that God lavishly
the whole world and every person, and every place. America does enjoy
unrivaled dominance in certain economic, political, military,
scientific and cultural fields. We may rightly take pride in these
exceptional areas. However, we have only to consider the struggles of
the American auto industry to realize that our exceptionalism is
guaranteed. God has used our nation to defend the rights of millions
of people when threatened by racial and ethical hatred, military
conquest and starvation. America has played a dominate roll in the
advancement of the gospel through the army of missionaries that have
traveled to distant lands. However this does not guarantee that
America will continue to enjoy the outpouring of God's blessings.
Israel thought that God would never allow
nation to conqueror them but the Assyrians and Babylonians destroyed
the city of Jerusalem and the first Temple. Later the armies of
Alexander the Great trampled through the Promised Land and finally
the might of Caesar reduced the city of Jerusalem to rubble and
dispersed the chosen people of God among the many countries of its
empire. The same could happen to the United States.
We may love our country and even take
pride in our national heritage, but our ultimate allegiance is not to
a flag, a song, a queen, or a president. While we inhabit this frail
earthy body we may express our loyalty toward this country but our
ultimate citizenship is spiritual not earthly. This place is not our
In the second century, one of the church
was explaining the relationship between our political identity and
our Christian confession. He wrote
distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor
the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of
their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life
which is marked out by any singularity. ... But, inhabiting Greek as
well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has
determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to
clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display
to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They
dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners [or resident
aliens]. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet
endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them
as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of
The founding of our country may have been
established by God but we should remember that it was through the
frailty of men. God has used our nation in wonderful ways to advance
freedom and to improve the welfare of millions of people. We rightly
celebrate all these things on this our national holiday. However, the
challenge before us is holding unto a patriotic view without allowing
it to distort our thinking about our country and/or demanding an
allegiance that we can only give to our God.