Academic News

Waxahachie, Texas — December 9, 2013 — Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) students competed recently in the first annual Christian Citizen Essay Contest. Held in conjunction with National Constitution Week (Sept. 17-23), the contest was created to encourage a deeper interest in the connection between God, government, and Christian standards and to provide positive recognition for outstanding student essayists across the university.

David Hoffman received first-place honors, with Adrianne Lovato in second place and Joshua Harris in third place, winning $500, $300, and $200, respectively. Hoffman’s winning essay will be published in SAGU’s literary magazine "The Image."

Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) is a private, Christian university located 30 minutes south of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex in Waxahachie, Texas. The university was established in 1927, and now offers more than 70 associate, bachelor’s or master’s degrees on campus or online. More information is available at www.sagu.edu or by calling 1-888-YES-SAGU.

 

"Faith, Freedom, and Morality"

 by David Hoffman

“Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” This quote from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America is a profound truth that was foundational in the formation of the United States of America and is vital to the preservation of it as a nation of liberty. There are two types of liberty: internal liberty and external liberty. The Founding Fathers of the nation understood that the only way to attain internal liberty was through faith in God and His Word. Their writings clearly reflect that they believed this. In order for there to be external liberty (i.e., a free society), the people of a society must first have internal liberty. When they have faith in God and His Word, it gives them the foundation for morality which in turn is the foundation for external liberty.

The Founders understood the importance of faith. They had very distinct views about the role of religion in America.  In 1787, the same Congress which wrote the Constitution also passed the Northwest Ordinance.  Article Three of the Ordinance clearly reveals the Founders’ view on religion.  It says, “Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”[i] Notice that the first object mentioned is “religion.”  They believed that in order for the republic they had created to succeed instruction in religion and morality had to be taught.[ii]  In his farewell address, President George Washington said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports… And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion… It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.”[iii] The Founders felt so strongly about the need for religion in society that they stated in the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...”

Without an absolute foundation, morality is only relative. The shift away from an absolute view of morality leaves no solid foundation for government, or its laws, to be founded upon.[iv] As a result there can be no provision for any true and lasting liberty. That is why it is essential for morality to be established upon biblical faith and the worldview that there is a God that absolutely determines and judges what is right and wrong. This view necessarily emphasizes that man’s responsibility is to be obedient to God and to respect the God-given rights of others. John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States said it best when he stated:

 

There are three points of doctrine the belief of which forms the foundation of all morality. The first is the existence of God; the second is the immortality of the human soul; and the third is a future state of rewards and punishments.[v]

 

In one of his letters, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, makes it clear that the Christian religion is “the best security for the duration of free governments.”[vi] Benjamin Rush, another signer of the Declaration, said, “The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.”[vii] Romans 7:14, makes it clear that even if outwardly one appears free, every person is in bondage to sin: “For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin.” Proverbs 5.22 states, “The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast.” Only when one puts their faith in Jesus Christ can they be freed from sin and become internally free so that God can develop a moral character within them. This is true liberty. Paul says to Christians in Galatians 5.1, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” And again, in Galatians 5:13, he says “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty...”

It is clear, that the Founding Fathers adhered to the biblical view that faith in God produces freedom from our sinful and corrupt nature, thus freeing us to become matured by God into moral creatures in conformity with His perfect standard of morality. This transformation allows us to experience the liberty He created us to experience and live in. But then the question arises as to how this “liberty” plays out in human society and community. A people are not free externally and do not have liberty outwardly if either their government is tyrannical or if there is unchecked wickedness in society. Government is formed in order to protect good and punish evil. When people collectively agree to give an institution more power than each person could have on their own so that this institution can safeguard their rights, government is formed.  “Given humanity’s fallen nature, civil government is necessary for the ‘peace and safety of mankind.’”[viii]  “Thus, Government is a necessity borne of the Fall, but it is also a blessing that allows men to collectively pursue the public good and to repress the wicked and destructive tendencies of fellow citizens.”[ix] When a government protects freedom and maintains an environment where morality can flourish throughout society, that government fulfills its God-given purpose, as stated in Romans 13:1-5, to uphold what is good and punish what is wrong. According to these verses, people are to submit to the instituted authority not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. If a nation’s people are moral and have a moral conscience, they submit to righteous government so that they can have not only internal liberty but external liberty in society as a whole. Also, if they are moral inwardly, they hold the government accountable to fulfill its biblically created role and do not allow it to become tyrannical and to rob liberty.

In the United States, the government is not run by a monarch, oligarchy, or aristocratic council. Instead, it is supposed to be “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The founders of this country according to the concept of “People’s Law,” invested the power in the people and not the government. “‘People’s Law,’ [is] where the government is kept under the control of the people and political power is maintained at the balanced center with enough government to maintain security, justice, and good order, but not enough government to abuse the people.”[x] Because of this, the condition of the people’s morality will determine whether the government will be corrupt and tyrannical or responsible and the protector of liberty. So, if the people are a “people of faith,” they will live in obedience to God and His commandments. As a result, God will give them wisdom, instruct them, and form within them a character of righteousness and morality. This in turn will enable them to “stand in the liberty wherewith, [God] Christ has set them free.” Such a people, who have been set free internally and morally formed by God, will have the wisdom and good conscience to establish a government and institutions that will reflect that morality and protect their liberty. Simply stated, “Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”



--------------------------------

[i] Skousen, 76.

[ii] Dennis W. Johnson, The Laws That Shaped America: Fifteen Acts of Congress and Their Lasing Impact, (New

  York, NY: Routledge) 10.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Hadley Arkes, Natural Rights & the Right to Choose (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 2004), 9

[v] John Quincy Adams, Letters of John Quincy Adams to His Son on the Bible and Its Teachings (Auburn: James M.

   Alden, 1850), 22-23. Wallbuilders,com, http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=63 (date 

   accessed October 7, 2013).

[vi] Bernard C. Steiner, The Life and Correspondence of James McHenry (Cleveland: The Burrows Brothers, 1907),

   475. Wallbuilders,com, http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=63 (date accessed October 7, 2013).

[vii] Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical, (Philadelphia: Thomas and William Bradford, 1806), 8. Wallbuilders,com, http://www.wallbuilders.com/libissuesarticles.asp?id=63 (date accessed October 7, 

   2013).

[viii] Darren Guerra, “Is There a Christian Right to Rebel? Samuel West on Political  

  Obligations to Obey Government,” Christians in Political Science Seventh National Conference June 

  3-5. Memphis: TN.

[ix] Ibid., 6-7.

[x] Cleon W. Skousen, The 5000 Year Leap: The 28 Great Ideas that Changed the World, (Washington, D.C.: NCCS, 2009) 10.

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