The American Vision: A Biblical Worldview Ministry

Our Rights Secured by the Consent of the Governed?

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Recently I have received a number of emails from atheists. This isn’t unusual since American Vision publishes a number of books refuting common atheist arguments, and I’ve written a few articles on the subject as well. American Vision will be publishing two new books refuting atheist arguments in the next few months. One will be an answer to Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion and the other to Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great. My book Why It Might be OK to Eat Your Neighbor will be out late this summer.

Many of the emails I get questioning the existence of God are rather shallow. I’ve received a series of emails from John who seems trapped in a college philosophy class and material he’s read but not thought very deeply about. The latest email I received is from a man who used to believe in God until he started reading material that he says forced him to reconsider his beliefs. What I find most distressing in dealing with arguments against the existence of God is they are so poorly constructed. When someone appeals to The God Delusion as if it’s the definitive atheist handbook, I have to laugh. Because Dawkins is a scientist, readers of his books assume that his arguments are scientific. They aren’t.

Because I get so many emails asking questions that have been answered countless times over the years, I have to know whether the questioner is serious. The following is my first response to a skeptic. Depending on how he responds to what I have written here, I will decide if I will continue answering his questions. I don’t have time to debate the wind.

I’m not sure what you wanted me to see in the Robert Ingersoll article. There were a few things that caught my eye, and since you want answers regarding the existence of God, I concentrated on these. Ingersoll states, “In 1776 our fathers endeavored to retire the gods from politics.” Really? Then why does the Declaration on Independence, drafted in 1776, state the following:

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. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Ingersoll quotes the second phrase but leaves out the all-important first phrase. Without God there are no fixed rights. What earthly governments protect is first derived from God. If rights are determined solely by the “consent of the governed,” then rights can continually change because governments change. What’s a right today can be a non-right tomorrow. If there is something else in Ingersoll’s article you wanted me to see, you’ll have to point it out to me. Keep in mind that even the Bible recognizes the reality of the “consent of the governed” under God (Ex. 18).

The Declaration also includes the basis on which those who signed the document pledged their lives:
And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

You may want to take note of the fact that Constitution includes the phrase, “Done in the Year of our Lord,” a reference to Jesus Christ. All 50 state constitutions make some reference to God or providence in their preambles. Then are the official documents that called for national days of prayer. On March 16, 1776, “by order of Congress” a “day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer” where people of the nation were called on to “acknowledge the over ruling providence of God” and bewail their “manifold sins and transgressions, and, by a sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease his righteous displeasure, and, through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness.”[1]

Congress set aside December 18, 1777 as a day of thanksgiving so the American people “may express the grateful feelings of their hearts and consecrate themselves to the service of their divine benefactor”[2] and on which they might “join the penitent confession of their manifold sins . . . that it may please God, through the merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of remembrance.” Congress also recommended that Americans petition God “to prosper the means of religion for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consists in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost.[3] Here’s one from 1799 during the administration of John Adams:

[That April 15, 1799] be observed throughout the United States of America as a day of solemn humiliation, fasting, and prayer; that the citizens on that day abstain, as far as may be, from their secular occupation, and devote the time to the sacred duties of religion, in public and in private; that they call to mind our numerous offenses against the most high God, confess them before Him with the sincerest penitence, implore his pardoning mercy, through the Great Mediator and Redeemer, for our past transgressions, and that through the grace of His Holy Spirit, we may be disposed and enabled to yield a more suitable obedience to his righteous requisitions in time to come; that He would interpose to arrest the progress of that impiety and licentiousness in principle and practice so offensive to Himself and so ruinous to mankind; that He would make us deeply sensible that “righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people [Proverbs 14:34].”[4]

Only a fool would claim the people are independent sovereigns, and Ingersoll was a fool. 

Footnotes:
[1]Original document can be viewed here.
[2]
In another context, “divine benefactor” would be viewed as a deist ascription to an unnamed deity. It’s obvious that in this context the Christian God is in view.
[3]
A copy of the original document can be viewed here. The proclamation can also be seen in Gary DeMar, America’s Christian History (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2005), 252.
[4]
John Adams, “National Fast Day,” A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1:284–286.

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