Jefferson Drew from Christian Sources

PHOTO OF Bill Federer, quoted in here, talking on the radio with Jerry Newcombe, co-author of “Doubting Thomas.”

Jefferson drew from sources deeply rooted in centuries of political writings from mostly Christian sources. Even if many of these sources are sometimes are categorized as “Englightenment thinkers,” the fact of the matter is that there was a Christian strand of the Enlightenment that held a high view of the Bible. There was also an unbelieving strand, as typified by David Hume or Voltaire. The founders, including Jefferson, were far more influenced by the Christian thinkers, like Locke and Blackstone. For example, John Locke, the seventeenth century political writer from England, wrote the heavily influential Two Treatise on Civil Government, which author William J. Federer notes contain “80 references to the Bible in the first treatise and 22 references to the Bible in the second.

Who ordained government? John Locke, the Christian political scientist who used the phrase “life, liberty, property,” said it was God. Locke said: “God hath certainly appointed govern­ment to restrain the partiality and violence of men.” The essence of this concept is the essence of the American experiment as articulated in the Declaration of Independence: Our rights come from God, and not man.

Some people claim that John Locke was a Deist. Law professor Gary Amos responds: “John Locke was not a deist—not in his views of God, nor in his views of law and politics. When he used the phrase ‘law of nature’ to describe the natural part of God’s revealed law and how it relates to the Bible, he was squarely within the mainstream Christian tradition.”

Amos points out a biblical, but politically incorrect truth to which the political philosopher held: “Locke believed that men could be saved only by believing in Jesus Christ.” Amos cites this statement by Locke:

Not that any to whom the gospel hath been preached shall be saved, without believing Jesus to be the Messiah; for all being sinners, and transgressors of the law, and so unjust, are all liable to condemnation, unless they believe, and so through grace are justified by God for this faith, which shall be accounted to them for righteousness.

Furthermore, not only was Locke not a Deist, but he wrote a book of Christian apologetics—that is, a defense of the faith. The book is called The Reasonalbleness of Christianity. I know a man who earned his Ph.D. at Yale University, Dr. Greg Forster, who told me that he had become a Christian by reading that book and Locke in his own words. He did not expect what he found when he read Locke for himself. He also cautioned that theologically Locke was a bit sloppy on the Trinity and that if you took Locke’s views to the next degree, you could easily end up disbelieving in the Trinity as presented in the Bible. Some of our intellectual forebears seemed to get their political science right, while skirting on the edges of theological heterodoxy.

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