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Monday, January 21, 2013

The Faith of Our Fathers, the Sins of Our Fathers

First of all; let me make this disclaimer, I am not an authority on this, or many other subjects, this is simply how I see it. All I ask is that you read what I write, as always, with an open mind and heart, being a good Berean, and form your own conclusions on the matter, and then act on what you know to be true!

There is no doubt in my mind, from what little study I have done of the faith of our founding fathers, that, whether or not we believe that they held the 'correct' doctrine, whether or not they always did what we perceive to be the right things; theirs was an active faith, a faith that, as a good friend of mine recently put it, 'works its way out through your fingertips'. Looking back on their varied and colorful histories, we can find much that we like about them, that we agree with, and with the recent 'ascendancy' of Ron Paul, and the impact that 'his' ideas have had on this sickened and ever-weakening nation, even see the effects that these same ideas have had on our country, in regard to the freedoms that we have enjoyed, but are quickly slipping from our grasp!

In the same vein, but on the other hand, we can look back at those same histories and criticize many of their actions for the reasons outlined above, because they took a slightly different theological stance than we do, or because 'I just wouldn't have done things that way!'

In many ways; and again, I have done no rigorous research on this particular topic, it is easy for the average American to look back at those days of political and often ( more often, I believe, than not ) physical turmoil, and forgetting the times and circumstances in which they lived, the trials and tribulations they faithfully and stubbornly endured, criticize their revolutionary actions. Those critics, I believe, have failed in several areas, one of which is to study their history, and to note the context in which these brave and hardy men lived, fought and died. Another area in which the critics of these men have failed is their understanding of Scripture and of the nature of the Kingdom. The founding fathers of this country, though they may have held certain points of doctrine incorrectly, they did have one thing right, at least as their actions showed; the Kingdom of God, while spiritual in nature, also has a physical aspect, whereby if we grasp the spiritual nature of the Kingdom, that will cause us to live our lives in such a way as to answer the prayer that 'Thy Kingdom come..........on earth as it is in heaven'! I believe that, to whatever extent, they understood this phrase better than most Americans today.

As in theology; context is very important when judging such matters! For instance, and this is an almost random example; when reading the first part of the Gospel according to Luke, from our ignorant American context, it might seem that Luke was claiming that Caesar Augustus was the ruler of the entire world, or globe. We know, however, from reading his statement in its historical, grammatical, and geographical context, that he was simply saying that Caesar decided to make a census ( levy a tax on ) of  his kingdom, or empire. This is only one example among many that could be given from Scripture, but I will give one more and move on. Romans 13:1-7 is a passage that most American Christians seem to believe gives the government almost unlimited power and authority over the citizens, but, though it is clear that our founding fathers did not understand it this way, the main reason for this errant and irresponsibly insensible belief is a misunderstanding, if any understanding at all, of the context, as named earlier, in which the apostle wrote these words.

While our founding fathers may not have had everything right, ( and they didn't; no argument there ), they got at least this one thing right! They understood the rights of kings, and that these rights did not include that of enslaving his subjects. They understood too, though maybe to a lesser extent, that we are all kings and representatives of our Lord Jesus who is the Christ. As representatives of this King, they understood that we are to use our power to advance His Kingdom on earth, not to advance our own!

The Constitution that these men derived from the principles of biblical freedom, as they understood them, was an excellent document, and as long as those enforcing the statutes held therein remained true to that purpose, it served well. It was not, however, without fault! Men better studied and wiser than I could no doubt point out some of the errors in this wonderful document, especially as it now stands, with its many amendations. Although it is well and good, necessary even, that certain of these amendments be made for the good of the people, and the further clarification of the powers given to its government, some of these amendments opened the gates to allow further government control, and a weakening of the will of the people! Our founding fathers, therefore, no doubt had good intentions in writing up our constitution in such a way as to allow for amendment, but one thing that they could not ensure was that these amendments would always be proper, good and even necessary! Human nature, which I'm sure they took into account, has never been totally conformable, naturally or otherwise, to Law! This is what John Adams noted in his famously and oft-quoted ( in ever-widening circles ), 'Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.' Speaking of context though; prior to this famous quote, he stated that 'We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net.' This founding father, along with all the others, I'm sure, understood the fragility and volatility of human nature, probably better than most!

The founding fathers of this country, like all human being on record that have ever lived, were not without fault. They did the best they could with what they had been given, as most of us strive, or should strive to do, but they were not perfect. As I said earlier, I'm sure that there are many points in which one might say that he could have or would have done things differently, but that's about as useless ( and untrue ) as saying that if he had been in Adam's 'shoes', he never would have partaken of the fruit! In fact, if one was to try to write a new and updated constitution for this booming nation today, he ( or she ) would be hard-pressed to write a better! I'm not saying it could not be done, but considering ( especially ) the whole quote above, from John Adams; we can see from the Scriptural example that Law will not keep human beings moral and religious! Another way to say this is; 'you can't legislate ( true ) morality'. One would likely 'catch some flack' if he ( or she ) was to go around quoting this to certain Christians, but really, even though by Law, you may force one to act morally, is it true morality if he does it under duress ( Law ), out of fear of punishment?

From what little I have read of the Constitution ( no; I have never read, much less memorized the whole thing ), even I could probably find areas in which the founding fathers could have provided more for a truer freedom ( biblical ) and ensured a more peaceable address of grievance, but is a stricter adherence to some man-made document enough, even to Scripture itself? Although the Gospel message is present in most any version, and Scripture is not to be of any private interpretation, there are many out there ( versions as well ) that seem to think they may interpret the Scriptures privately, and that one certain version holds preference over another ( ? ), if they even look to Scripture as the revelation of the Word of God. Some don't even acknowledge our Creator at all!

Until all men ( and women ) acknowledge their Creator, and form a right relationship with Him, no constitution is going to hold them. Sure; right, just and good laws may hold their rebellious tendencies in check for a time, like the constitution of these united states did, and still does, to an ever-lessening extent, our government, but, as the progress of history has shown, even those who claim to be followers of Jesus have not always acted as followers of Jesus, much less, loved their neighbor!

There is much talk these days, all around the country, of restoring the Constitution; 'Education is key', you may have heard. Education is very important, and yes, that is what we are ( to be ) about but education alone will not do it; their must be a full-scale turning back to our God and Father, a turning which can only be accomplished through the work of the Holy Spirit through us, His people, His Body!

Charles Haddon Shank

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