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By Andrew Stebbins
It might be fair to say that most Americans tend to take our freedom for granted. We forget that our freedom was hard-won and is not guaranteed. In fact, the liberties we cherish are privileges not many societies enjoy. Tyranny, in its many guises, is the historical norm. In truth, we do have an extraordinary amount of freedom in the United States, and there are profound reasons for that stemming directly from our Christian heritage.
As the founding fathers set up a new government, they started from what scholars consider a Reformed Christian worldview. Of the 54 signers of the Declaration, 29 were ordained ministers, and most of the others were deeply religious men. The idea that the majority of the founders were deist is an exaggeration passed on over time, as only a handful might be claimed as such, and even this is difficult to verify by our understanding of the term.
The founding fathers’ Christian worldview was “the single greatest influence on the content and interpretation of America’s foremost founding documents: The Declaration of Independence (1776), the Constitution (1787), and the Bill of Rights (1789).”1
The biblical worldview can be summed up in three words: creation, fall, redemption. These three words birthed the equality of all humanity before God (creation), human nature as evil (fall), and the inherent value of the individual (redemption). These ideas lay at the root of the formation of modern democracy everywhere, most especially in America.
1. Equality of All Humanity before God
The Christian notion of equality says that people are equal because (1) God made humanity in His image; and (2) He loved us enough to have sacrificed His Son for each of us. Rather than being based on abilities, appearance (race, ethnicity, sex), achievements, or social position, a person’s worth is inherent. We are equal simply because God values us equally. Human worth is God dependent and God ordained; human assessment is irrelevant. The founding fathers recognized this view of humanity in the Declaration of Independence’s famous opening statements:
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.
The Christian view of equality runs counter to common human impulses and is unique to the Christian West. In most of the world’s cultures, social hierarchy is more or less rigidly prescribed and the rules of social engagement are correspondingly tight…
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