Genesis and the Declaration of Independence

Excerpted from the introduction to First the Gospel, Then Politics… by John C. Rankin
Copyright 1999 by John C. Rankin. All rights reserved.

The linkage between the God > life > choice > sex paradigm and the American polis is remarkable. And it has never, to my knowledge, been identified either theologically or politically in history. That is to say, nowhere in church history are these four subjects of Genesis 1-2 defined as such and laid out explicitly. Yet they are everywhere implicitly assumed or recognized.

And this is the case with Thomas Jefferson, who formally composed, along with others, the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was not a deist – someone who believes God created the world and then stepped back, refusing involvement in the world. Rather, Jefferson was a rationalist, and believed God will judge us all in the end – and he viewed God and Scripture from that perspective. With regard to the Wesleyan quadrilateral, he put "reason" ahead of all else, and he never explicitly defined such a knowledge of these four subjects in Genesis 1-2. But since Jefferson was a biblically literate man, and surrounded by biblically literate and orthodox Protestant Christians, he instinctively reflected these four subjects in the Declaration itself. The order of creation is so powerful in terms of comporting with reality that Jefferson the rationalist reflected this order exactly.

The biblical paradigm of God > life > choice > sex proves to be the only foundation for civil rights in a free society, apart from which the only alternative known in human history is a slide toward some form of tyranny. It reflects God’s sovereignty toward our fledgling nation that on the one hand strove for freedom and justice, but on the other hand had its full measure of sin. As Jefferson sought some higher authority than King George III to appeal to for unalienable rights – the only such authority ever set forth in human history was the Creator, the God of the Bible. Unalienable rights are those rights which are above any human authority to define, restrict, remove or otherwise separate from the individual and family unit. The Bill of Rights (the first ten Amendments to the U.S. Constitution), and especially the First Amendment, are rooted here (as we shall later examine). Only found in the God of Only Genesis.

The Declaration of Independence gives definition to the concept of civil rights and a limited government with these words:

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.

In the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, these rights are legally defined as protecting citizens from the deprivation of "life, liberty or property" without due process of law. The word "men" as used in the Declaration can be understood in its best literary sense as inclusive of all humankind – men, women and children. This commitment to unalienable rights as endowed by God has enabled the United States to overcome inherited evils – to thus remove religious tests as barriers to citizenship and public office, and later to legally emancipate blacks, women and native Americans to receive such rights (at least in principle).

The alignment between biblical ethics and the Declaration of Independence is both explicit and implicit, reflecting a solid grasp on reality and human nature. The specific language choice of "Creator," and the Declaration’s preceding language of "the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God" are rooted in Genesis 1-2, in the order of creation. Here, God set forth the natural order, or Nature, as it was intended to be. In the Constitution’s insistence on checks and balances of power, it realizes that human sin is a destructive reality that accomplished a reversal of the natural order. And the goals of a limited federal government are to serve the religious freedom and social order necessary for all people to seek a reversal of the reversal insofar as possible in human affairs. In other words, the reality of creation, sin and redemption.

This also equals God > life > choice > sex:

God = "Creator;"
life = "Life;"
choice = "Liberty;" and
sex = "the pursuit of happiness."

The Declaration begins with God as our Creator who endows us with unalienable rights. The first right is that of life, followed by liberty, which equals the language of choice or freedom. Then the language of the pursuit of happiness, along with that of "property" as set forth in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, equals the domain of sex.

Human sexuality in the order of creation is based on the joining of man and woman in marriage, whereupon they establish a new household. The Greek word for "household" is oikonomos, our root for the English word "economics" (same concept as the Hebrew word bayith). The household is the basis for property rights and economic productivity, which in total yields society’s power for the pursuit of happiness. We will note this in detail in different contexts.

First the Gospel, then politics... shows us how unalienable rights for all Americans are rooted in only Genesis. Therefore it is incumbent for we who are Christian to embrace our biblical, our Hebrew roots, and to be radical in the promotion of civil liberties for all Americans equally since we celebrate the very power upon which civil rights are founded. This is consistent with 1 Timothy 2:1-3:

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

We face a divisive political climate where the role of religion is increasingly at the center of the hostilities. Will we who are biblical Christians be seen as making cultural war, or as genuine peacemakers? If we grasp the power of the God > life > choice > sex paradigm of Only Genesis, and how the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution can be rooted nowhere else, and if we know how to interpret such a foundation of biblical civil rights into political strategies, we will see extraordinary success in persuasion. The result will be that a majority of Americans will be grateful for our contributions. Our major contribution will be to define, celebrate and honor the unalienable rights of all people equally in the name of Jesus the Messiah, who is the incarnate Creator.

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