Christianity’s Contributions: Justice served (Part 2)

As we continue to examine Christianity’s influence on culture in the specifics of law and justice, let’s focus on our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Examining the wording of the Declaration reveals a clear Christian influence.  The Declaration speaks of the “Law of Nature and Nature’s God.”  This phrase comes from William Blackstone’s legal writings (1723-1780).  It also tells of “inalienable rights,” which comes from Christian medieval ideas of justice for people.  When the Declaration says that we hold these “truths to be self-evident,” this phrase comes from Christian writings in the 8th century.  (The phrase means that we know these things without proofs.)  Finally, the title of God as the “Supreme Judge” is derived from Judges 11:27 and the writings of John Locke.

In a similar fashion, our Constitution has decidedly Christian influences.  Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755) wrote about the three branches of government, judicial, legislative, and executive.  Isaiah 33:22 says, “For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us.” The separation of powers between the three branches is due to the fallen nature of man that both the Bible and James Madison (1751-1836) describe.  Romans 3:10 says, “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one.'”  Because all are sinful, fallen people, government cannot have all the power in one branch.  Madison wrote in The Federalist (No. 51),

“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

It is clear from this quote that Madison understood human nature was sinful.  Government was merely reflecting that.  If men are to govern men, they have to control the people, and government has to control itself.  The ability to reign in a fallen people and government is why John Adams (1735-1826) said we need a government “grounded on reason, morality, and the Christian religion.”

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