Chapter 2 Christian Beginnings in America
“The study of Christian influence on American society and government generally suffers from two extremes.” • It is overlooked. • It is overdone.
Why is overemphasizing the Christian influence dangerous? • People may confuse Christian symbols and slogans with national salvation. • Example: “In God We Trust”
Agree or disagree? “The United States is not now, nor has it ever been, a Christian nation.” page 16
How has Christianity shaped our social, political, and judicial systems?
Some of the earliest English settlers were Protestants who came to America to establish a place where they could worship God and live as they believed the Bible taught.
Pilgrims & Puritans • Puritans – Separatists who opposed the worldliness and weakness in the state church of England. • Freedom to worship and serve God was a driving force in settling this continent. • Additionally they established an important governmental principle in their Mayflower Compact.
Mayflower Compact • Before they left the boat, 41 men signed on to this agreement for self-government. • The agreement was based on the idea of covenant, that God has a covenant with His people and they had a covenant with one another to pursue common goals. • We call this kind of agreement a social contract.
Mayflower Compact • It established the principle of “government by the consent of the governed.”
Why is this principle important? • The colonists believed that rulers must fulfill certain responsibilities in order to remain rulers. If the authorities did not fulfill their obligations, the colonists deemed them to be an ILLEGITIMATE authority. • It was a counter-argument to the “Divine Right of Kings.”
What is a congregationalist form of government? • One in which the members elect their leadership. That’s what the Puritans did in their churches.
What was the first written constitution in the New World? • Fundamental Orders of Connecticut
Purpose for Civil Government as stated in the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut: “to mayntayn and presearve the liberty and purity of the gospell of our Lord Jesus which we now professe, as also the disciplyne of the Churches, which according to the truth of the said gospell is practised amongst us.”
Christian Influence on Education • What was the original purpose of education in America? • 1. so that students might read and understand the principles of religion and the capital laws of the country.” • 2. Good citizenship was secondary.
Christian Influence on Education • What was the first college in America? • What was its purpose? • “Every one shall consider the main end of his life and studies to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life.”
Recap • What was the impact of Christians on government in colonial America? • Self-government • Authorities do not have to be obeyed if they don’t fulfill their obligations. • Education to educate future leaders in Biblical principles
Quiz 2.1 • 1. Why did the Pilgrims come to America? • 2. What is the term for the principle of government “formed by the consent of the governed?” • 3. What kind of church government allows church members to elect their leaders? • 4. What is the name of the theory that says that kings receive their authority directly from God and cannot be removed or challenged?
Answers • 1. Why did the Pilgrims come to America? To escape persecution and to live where they could worship and serve God freely. • 2. What is the term for the principle of government “formed by the consent of the governed?” social contract • 3. What kind of church government allows church members to elect their leaders? congregationalist • 4. What is the name of the theory that says that kings receive their authority directly from God and cannot be removed or challenged? Divine Right of Kings
How did the Bible pervade the society of the years leading up to the American Revolution? • Through the preaching and teaching of the Word of God.
Late 17th century, colonists saw spiritual decline. • Materialism • Rationalism
Great Awakening • A great revival that rekindled the spiritual life of the colonies. • 1734 Jonathan Edwards in Massachusetts • Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God • Revival spread throughout Massachusetts and Connecticut • George Whitefield, British evangelist • Whitefield preached throughout the colonies. • Affected church growth, mission to Indians, education
Great Awakening • Effect on education • Began training ministers in colleges • Christian education • Renewed vision for America
John Adams: • “What do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations.”
The Great Awakening shaped the generation whose ideas and arms gave birth to the republic.
Church Leadership during the War for Independence • Americans sought to preserve the freedom of self-government that they had enjoyed for over a century. • Church leaders believed that a loss of political liberty would result in a loss of religious liberty.
Examples of losses of political liberty: Stamp Act Intolerable Acts: • quartering of troops • nullifying Massachusetts charter • fear of Catholicism (Quebec Act).
Division in the Church • Some Christians supported the king. • Some pursued independence. • Ministers served as chaplains, soldiers, representatives at the Continental Congress, and in the U.S. Congress.
Influence of Education • Students who had attended the Christian colleges that had been established after the revival educated and influenced future leaders. • Example: Princeton produced James Madison • Although Madison and other founders were not believers, “their intellects were developed within a Christian context, and this biblical worldview dictated their understanding of man and government.”
“The Protestant Reformation fathered much of the political and social thinking behind American independence.”
Three Contributions of Christianity to American Governance • 1. Protestant Reformation offered the concept of personal liberty, including liberty of conscience. Political rights and religious liberty are connected. • 2. Tradition of Dissent – specifically moral dissent in the form of protest against concentrated power in both church & state (against abuse of authority) • 3. Pervasive biblical influence upon society through education, courts, local government, transformed hearts & lives.
Although some or even many of the leaders during the War for Independence and the formation of the U.S. Constitution were not Christian, many were. All of them were shaped by a society greatly influenced by the Scriptures and Christian thinking.