September 17th celebrates Constitution Day, marking that key American document’s ratification. Some question why it’s said America was founded as a Christian nation since there’s no mention of God in the Constitution. But leading Christian historian Peter Lillback explains while the Lord’s name may not appear, the Constitution is deeply rooted in God’s teachings, ways and words.
The Founding Fathers who wrote and signed the Constitution saw themselves as men of faith, and used what they learned from a lifetime of reading and studying God’s Word to help form the new nation’s law and government.
‘We Were Shaped by the Bible’
“I like to say that it’s not that we established a Christian country,” Lillback told CBN News. “But without Christian values, we would never have established THIS kind of country. We were shaped by the Bible.”
Outside the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia where the Preamble of the Constitution is displayed in huge letters on the outside of the building, Lillback showed phrase by phrase how the Preamble reflects biblical values the Founders knew well.
The Preamble begins like this:
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity..."
Lillback explained that their intention was clearly for a "more perfect Union", not one that was already perfected. “It begins by saying ‘We the People of the United States' come together to make a 'more perfect union',” this founder of the Providence Forum said. “They want to be one; they know they can’t be perfect. They want to be 'more perfect'. That’s a biblical idea: ‘we’re trying to get better. We can progress.’”
As for that word “union,” Lillback asked, “Remember how the Bible says ‘how blessed it is when brothers dwell together in unity?’ That’s a biblical value.”
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‘Do Justice, Love Mercy’
Then it says “…establish Justice…”
Lillback quotes Micah 6:8: “‘The Lord has shown you what He requires of you, o man: that you would do justice, love mercy.’ Justice is a biblical concern. Some would say the Ten Commandments define justice.”
Next, it says “…insure domestic Tranquility…”
The Providence Forum founder commented, “That’s to make sure that we live together in peace with one another. Paul will say in Romans chapter 12, ‘As much as lies within me, I will live at peace with all men.’ The idea of tranquility is a great biblical concern.”
Defense is a Biblical Concern
Next: “…provide for the common defense…”
“To make sure that the vulnerable are protected. We know that one of the great principles of God’s law is to defend the orphan and the widow, the stranger in the land,” Lillback pointed out “And to make sure that there’s not an unjust assault against the community by a foreign power. These are biblical concerns.”
Next: “…promote the general Welfare…”
“As much as lies within us, we should do good to all men, especially to those in the household of faith,” said Lillback who is also the president of Westminster Theological Seminary. “The idea of providing for the needy, that is a concern that’s reflected in biblical ethics.”
‘Liberty is a Gift of God’
Next: “…and secure the Blessings of Liberty…”
“I always like to say that the word ‘blessing’ is a word you don’t hear atheists using. The very nature of blessing is something that is being given to us from God,” Lillback explained. “And liberty is something that God has blessed us with. In fact, we find it in the jubilee text of Leviticus 25 and verse 10 that’s on the Liberty Bell: ‘proclaim liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitants thereof.' Liberty is a gift of God.”
Finally: “…to ourselves and our posterity.”
“Our Founders remembered God’s covenantal vision that ‘I will be your God and the God of your children to a thousand generations after you.’ When you talk about to our posterity, that’s the ring of covenantal succession. That’s right out of the scriptures,” Lillback said. “It goes back to the Abrahamic covenant.”
God’s a Lawgiver, Judge & Ruler. We have Lawgivers, Judges & a President
Then the Constitution lays out our legislative, judicial, and executive branches of government. And all three reflect different aspects of God Himself, shown in the Bible.
“In Isaiah 33:22 where it talks about how our God is a God who is a LAWGIVER -- who is in fact a JUDGE. He’s also a king or a RULER. Again, derivatives of God’s very Word, God’s very nature.”
And so the Founders who knew their Bible so well created a government that could imitate and reflect these aspects of God.
A Republic: Can We Keep It?
When a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what kind of government the Constitutional Convention has just come up with, he replied, “A republic if you can keep it.”
And how can we keep it?
Historian Lillback recalled, “Washington said ‘It is impossible for us to succeed unless we imitate the divine author of our blessed religion.’ Those are the words that he said to each of the governors as he was stepping down as a successful general. And in his farewell address as president: ‘Religion and morality are indispensable supports for our political prosperity'.”
“Remember the logic: to have a republic, you need to have people who are moral because a republic is written on a piece of paper. Are you going to do what it says? You have to be committed to doing what is right,” Lillback explained. “How do you get a moral people? You need to have a religious people. ‘Religion and morality are indispensable for our political prosperity'.”
No Constitution has Lasted Longer
He summed up for CBN News what the Bible and religious faith did for America through our Founders.
He said, “By learning from His Word, we gain wisdom, and that wisdom creates the longest continuously used Constitution on the face of the earth.”
September 17th, 2020 marks the 233rd birthday of that historic, freedom-guaranteeing document.