Great Nation by Abidan Shah, PhD

GREAT NATION by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: I remember it like it was yesterday, but this was over 30 years ago; my dad and I had come to Bombay for my immigration interview at the US Consulate. We had to wake up at 3 am, leave the place we were staying at 4 am, in order to get in line by 5 am, for my appointment which was about 10 am. When our taxi reached the Consulate, the line was already from here to the street. I remember being so anxious. Keep in mind that I was only 17 years of age, and I had to go in by myself. When I came out, my dad was standing outside the gate. Before I could even get closer, he asked – “You got it?” I nodded, and he shouted, “Praise the Lord!” People who are born and raised in America will more than likely never understand that feeling. This 4th of July weekend, we are stepping aside from our regular series titled “Contend” for a special message titled “GREAT NATION.” Main point: The secret to the greatness of these United States lies in its foundation in the Bible. Our Constitution was birthed out of a political thought that drank deeply at the fountain of the Scriptures, especially the Book of Deuteronomy. In fact, the recent positive decisions are a byproduct of the authority of God’s truth, and they ensure our future as a nation.

Deuteronomy 4        5 “Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess.    6 Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 7 “For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the LORD our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? 8 And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?

Context: For quite some time, there has been a debate in America about the source or foundation of our great nation. There are those who deny any biblical roots for our nation. For example, about 15 years ago, a book titled The Godless Constitution: A Moral Defense of the Secular State said, “the nation’s founders, both in writing the Constitution and in defending it in the ratification debates, sought to separate the operations of government from any claim that human beings can know and follow divine direction in reaching policy decisions.” So where did America get its foundation? According to some people, the founding fathers looked to Enlightenment thinkers (advancement through reason, logic, and criticism) and Whig theorists (constitutional government, freedoms, and science), even Classical philosophers (Cicero and Plato) for wisdom in building our nation than to Christian principles or values from the Bible. In other words, they looked to Montesquieu (French judge and philosopher), William Blackstone (English jurist and professor), John Locke (English philosopher), and David Hume (Scottish philosopher, historian, and skeptic) rather than to Moses, David, Jesus, and Paul. Is that true?

Application: What do you believe? Unfortunately, for some time now, the teaching of history has been biased. More than likely, many of you have been taught a revisionist history, and you have to relearn the truth.

What was the role of the Bible in the founding era (1760s – 1800s), the period when the colonists began to fight for their rights as Englishmen to the time of the Revolutionary War and the establishment of the New Republic. For starters, the Bible was a very important book in the lives of eighteenth-century Americans. According to Daniel L. Dreisbach (author of Reading the Bible with the Founding Fathers), “We know this, for example, by looking at probate records, the records, the catalogs, of what people left behind when they died, and they reveal that if a family owned a single book it was most certainly going to be the Bible” (taken from his talk “The Bible and the American Founders”). This does not mean that every founding father was a born again Christian. This does not even necessarily mean that every founding father believed that the Bible was the Word of God. We are only talking of the influence of the Bible on the lives and thoughts of those early Americans.

Back in the 1980s, there was a study done by a political scientist and professor named Donald S. Lutz. After scouring scores of pages of documents, both private and public, from that period, he came to the following conclusion: When all the citations are compared, the Bible is quoted 34%, Enlightenment writers 22%, Whig writers 18%, English Common Law 11%, Classical writers 9%, and miscellaneous 6%. That is about 1/3 of all the quotations were from the Bible. Something also very interesting was that the peak period for those biblical quotations was in the 1770s. Guess where these quotations were coming from! From the political pamphlets, of which 80% were reprinted sermons. Lutz concluded that “the movement toward independence found the clergy out in front, and they were also most vigorous in maintaining morale during the war” (taken from The Origins of American Constitutionalism)We often hear about the separation of church and state, when in reality the church laid the foundation for the state.

Here’s a question: If the battle for our independence was today, how many churches and pastors would be willing to lead the fight?

Now, it gets even more interesting: According to Lutz, the citations come from all over the Bible. Paul’s writings are the most quoted from the New Testament, especially Romans 13. Next from the New Testament are Peter’s letters and John’s gospel. In the Old Testament, the most quoted book is the one we just read from – Deuteronomy (I’ll come back to that in a second). Next is Isaiah, Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus. However, compared to all the secular works, “Deuteronomy [was] the most cited book” (Lutz, A Preface to American Political Theory). Why was Deuteronomy so important to the early Americans? For starters, it was summary of the previous 4 books of Moses. Furthermore, these books were very important to the Pilgrims and the Puritans who came to America looking for religious freedom. This was the book that was helping them lay the foundation of God’s chosen nation. It was the “the nuts and bolts of how do you make and how do you establish a nation” (Dreisbach, “The Bible and the American Founders”). It was a story of how God’s people found their freedom from the wicked Pharaoh. For the early Americans, they were also fleeing from their Pharaoh, King George III. Just like the Hebrews had to cross the Red Sea, they too had to cross the Atlantic Ocean. Just like they had to encounter enemies in the land of promise, they too had to face many obstacles. Also, all the laws and covenants of God with his people through Moses were a blueprint of the laws and constitutions for the new nation. If you think about it, the ideas of a limited government, separation of powers, a system of checks and balances, rule of law, due process, representative government, civic virtue, and social order are all coming from the Book of Deuteronomy. John Dickinson (founding father from Pennsylvania, member of the first Continental Congress, “Penman of the Revolution”) wrote, “The Bible is the most republican book that ever was written.” For this kind of a republican government, you need morality, and it comes only from the Bible.

Here’s the point: If we lose the foundation of the Bible, we will fall part. We cannot replace it with anything else. We work as Americans because of the Bible. We will work as Americans as long as we have the Bible as our foundation.

John Dickinson, Letters from a farmer in Pennsylvania, 1767 – “[W]hile Divine Providence, that gave me existence in a land of freedom, permits my head to think, my lips to speak, and my hand to move, I shall so highly and gratefully value the blessing received, as to take care, that my silence and inactivity shall not give my implied assent to any act, degrading my brethren and myself from the birthright, wherewith heaven itself “hath made us free.”

Galatians 5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.

Invitation: Are you grateful for our nation? Do you acknowledge our foundation of the Bible? Are you saved?

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