The Constitutional Principle: Separation of Church and State
Welcome Contents What's New Search this site
Visitors since 7/15/1998
Links Guest Book Contact Us
This site is eye friendly: Use your browser's view options to increase or decrease font size

The Christian Bible and the Foundations of the U.S.

Sometimes we hear that the United States is "founded on biblical principles", as a slightly softened version of the "Christian nation" idea. People making that claim don't give specifics on which foundations of the U.S. and which parts of the Bible they mean.

Of the many foundations of our country, I was able to find two which are supported in the Bible, and several which run contrary to the Bible.

Used with permission of the author, Edgar Pearlstein retired Professor of Physics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.

Although the Declaration isn't really a legal document of the U.S.(since there wasn't any US until 1787), it is important historically and philosophically. It is a document intended to justify revolution against an established royal government. The Bible, however, says "the powers that be are ordained of God" (Romans 13:1-7), and "For kings, and for all that are in authority" (I Timothy 2:2), thus giving rise to the idea of divine right of kings. I find no mention of "consent of the governed" in the Bible, as the Declaration demands. While the Declaration deplores taxation without representation, Jesus says, regarding taxation, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's" (Matthew 22:21)>

FREEDOM OF SPEECH.

I don't find in the Bible any defense of freedom of speech. On the contrary: "he that doubteth is damned" (Romans 14:23); "there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers...whose mouths must be stopped.." (Titus, 1:10-11); and "These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: ......and he that soweth discord among brethren." (Proverbs 6:16-19). The last passage could be construed as being against democracy, since anyone who runs for office against an existing administration is sowing discord.

RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE.

This is embraced in both the original Constitution (Article VI, paragraph 3) and in the First Amendment. Yet in the Bible we have: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3); "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live" (Exodus 22:18); "He that sacrifice unto any god save the Lord only, he shall be utterly destroyed" (Exodus 22:20); "He who is not with me is against me" (Matthew 12:30, Luke 11:23); "he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him" (Leviticus 24:16). [Such stoning was actually carried out, in 1 Kings 21:13] Anyone proselytizing for another religion is to be put to death, and if that person is a member of your family, you are to strike the first blow to kill him or her (Deuteronomy 13:5-10). "But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me." (Luke 19:27). The practice of"shunning" someone who disagrees with you on religious matters is advisedin 2 Thessalonians 3:14.

A REPUBLICAN FORM OF GOVERNMENT.

Our Constitution demands this (Article IV, Section 4). But I find nothing in the Bible to support it. On the contrary, Romans 13:1-7 tells people to obey authority because it is instituted by God. Also, 1 Peter 2:13 can be interpreted inthe same way.

"CORRUPTION OF THE BLOOD"

is forbidden by the Constitution (Article III, Section 3, paragraph 2). In the Bible, though: "Prepare slaughter for his children for the iniquity of their fathers (Isaiah 14:21). [However, the Bible does contradict itself on this: "... neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers" (Deut 24:16)]. Also: "visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation" (Exodus 20:5, 34:7, Numbers 14:18, Deut. 5:9); "His blood be on us, and on our children" (Matthew 27:25). Bastards may not enter the temple, nor their descendants (Deut. 23:2). God even killed a baby because of a sin by its father (2 Samuel 12:14). Ahab escaped punishment for murder by making an elaborate apology, and his descendants were punished instead (I Kings 21:29). The doctrine of original sin is also against this part of the Constitution.

SLAVERY.

This was an important social and economic foundation of our country both before and after independence. It was an institution condoned by the founders and recognized and defended by the original Constitution (Article I, Section 2, paragraph 3; Article I, Section 9; Article IV, Section 2, paragraph 3). Slavery is also condoned in both the Old and New Testaments, but it is never condemned. On the contrary, it is codified, and made an inherited condition:

Exodus 21:4ff gives rules for keeping slaves. Leviticus 25:44-46 says that heathen may be purchased as slaves, that their children become slaves, and that they are inherited as property by the owner's children forever. Other places that indicate that slavery is a hereditary condition are: Genesis 9:25, Exodus 21:4, Corinthians 7:20. Deuteronomy 20:10-14 says that when you conquer a city, if it surrenders then all people inside it become your slaves; but if it doesn't surrender, then all males are to be killed and all women and children "take unto thyself". Luke 12:47-8 shows that Jesus approves of slavery, for he describes the conditions under which one should give a severe beating to a slave. 1 Timothy 6:1-2 tells slaves to honor their masters.

In the book of Philemon, Paul sends a runaway slave, Onesimus, back to his former master. But this conflicts with the admonition in Deuteronomy 23:15 "Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which has escaped..." So the Bible is on both sides of the 1857 Dred Scott case!

TREATMENT OF THE INDIAN PEOPLE.

Here is another place where one of the foundations of our country is justified by the Bible. "Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy....And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein.." (Numbers 33:52-53). This biblical injunction was obeyed many times by Americans.