Proverbs 31:10-31

I worked for a couple months at the beginning of this year to translate Proverbs 31:10-31, because I wasn’t entirely satisfied with any of the existing English translations. The following is the result.


Who can find a valorous wife?

  Her worth is far beyond jewels.

Her husband trusts her unreservedly,

  and lacks no good thing.

She brings him profit, not loss,

  all the days of her life.

She seeks out wool and flax,

  and delights in the work of her hands.

Like a merchant’s ship,

  she brings food from afar.

Rising while yet dark,

  she prepares food for her household,

  and portions for her maids.

She considers a field and buys it;

  from the fruit of her labors she plants a garden.

She wraps her waist with a will,

  and flexes her shoulders to the task.

She perceives that her business thrives;

  her lamp never flags at night.

She sets her hand to the loom,

  and her fingers ply the spindle.

She’s open-handed with the poor,

  and extends her arms to the needy.

She has no fear of snow for her household,

  for all her charges are doubly cloaked.

She fashions her coverings,

  her garments of linen and purple.

Her husband is known in the city gates,

  where he dwells among the elders of the land.

She makes clothing and sells it,

  and offers aprons to the merchant.

She is clothed with strength and dignity;

  she can laugh at the days to come.

She opens her mouth with wisdom,

  and the law of steadfast love is on her tongue.

She watches the ways of her household,

  and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Her children respect and bless her;

  her husband also, and he praises her:

“Many women have done well,

  but you shine amongst them!

Charm is misleading and beauty soon fades,

  but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised.

Acclaim the fruit of her hands!

  May her works praise her in the gates!

On the Fatal Flaw of Christian Arguments for Non-violence

In his blog post on non-violence Preston Sprinkle ends with the following great statement. A statement which, while excellent, also reveals the fatal flaw of his argument for non-violence.

Faithfulness, folks. Jesus calls us to faithfulness, not perceived effectiveness. When I face my Savior, I want him to know that I tried my hardest to live a faithful life which sought to replicate his own life on earth.

I read that paragraph and wanted to cheer, because it confronts the pagan philosophy of pragmatism with a biblical call to the pursuit of principled action.

“A person who is a Christian is called of God to live by biblical principles.” – R.C. Sproul

The problem with Sprinkle’s quote is in the last phrase, “…which sought to replicate his own life on earth” (emphasis mine). You see, we need to imitate Christ, indeed we are commanded to do so in Ephesians 5:1, but we are not to imitate just his life on earth, which was an example of applying the character of God in a specific time, place and culture, but to imitate His character as understood by the demonstration of that character across the pages of Scripture: from Genesis to Revelation.

All Christian arguments for non-violence that I am familiar with rest upon seeing a dichotomy between the actions of God in the Old Testament and the words and actions of Jesus in the New Testament. The problem is that Jesus was God-incarnate, and there will be no disparity between His character as displayed in the Old Testament and His character as displayed in the New Testament. Any attempt to interpret Scripture in a manner that does not maintain the general continuity of the Old and New Testaments is fatally flawed because the character of God is immutable (as the entire Church throughout all of history has everywhere and always maintained).

This is another post, but I believe in the necessity of a general continuity with a specific discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments, or between Judaism and Christianity. In other words, while proper interpretation requires a general continuity, there is a specific discontinuity which sent the 12 Apostles across the world and to their deaths in the grip of this newly revealed and life-altering truth of the Mystery of the Gospel and the Name of Messiah.

Religion or Relationship?

Many today attack religion thinking Christianity is a relationship, and it certainly is! But this is like saying government is bad because our government is bad, but government is a gift of God. The same is true of religion. To say, “Jesus trumps religion,” uses the word “religion” differently than does the New Testament. All other religions disappoint because they are idolatrous and twist the worshipper into the shape of the created rather than the Creator.

James 1:26-27 mentions both vain and true religion. We ought to oppose vain religion, and embrace true religion. Only the life-encompassing pattern of worship prescribed by God will fulfill.

The religion vs. relationship choice, just as the love vs. law choice, is false because all relationships require structure. True religion is the prescribed form of a relationship with God, and an essential part of His plan for the transformation of sin-sickened souls. True religion is not self-defined, but follows a pattern outlined by Scripture.

Imagine, for example, attempting to sustain your marriage without submitting to its form(s). “Honey, it’s okay that I’m going out to dinner with this other lady, because I don’t actually have a relationship with her; it’s you I love.” Well, you won’t have a relationship for long! It’s the same way with God. “God, I’m going to approach you with yoga and marijuana; I’m sure you’ll be okay with it, because it’s still you I’m pursuing.” Sorry, that’s the ways and means of idolatrous worship.

The habits of a religion reveal and affirm what we believe and whom we serve. It is “the binding tendency in every man to dedicate himself with his whole heart to the true God or an idol” (F. Nigel Lee). Religion inaugurates, declares, represents, and rehearses covenantal bonds. We submit to or cooperate with the terms of a religion in our way of life—consciously or unconsciously—because we cannot escape having been made in the image of God: created to worship and serve. We will therefore, either worship God according to the pattern of His character, or worship any number of alternatives (including ourselves) according to the pattern of their emphases.

The word “religion” comes from the Latin word religare which means “to bind” or “to tie.” The root of the word is lig-, from which we get our words “ligament” and “ligature.” Though light and easy there is a yoke for Christ followers: a binding tie which serves to guide us. There is a reason we are servants; we are not free but a doulos (bondservant). We are not our own; we were bought with a price.

The relationship we have with Christ is founded upon a covenantal/judicial word-act (not incidentally compared to marriage in Eph 5:31-32), and as a covenant it comes with terms. Terms we cannot satisfy on our own, therefore they were satisfied for us, in order that “the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

Assuredly, Christianity is a relationship with Christ. But there is no relationship with Christ outside of his covenant promises and action. A covenant is, by definition, a relationship established upon certain bonds, and each covenantal relationship has behaviors that are required for participants. Our covenant with God depends upon His faithfulness alone, but our covenantal obligations are in no way thus diminished. We now pursue them with freedom rather than condemnation, but our release from condemnation does not remove the goodness of the way prescribed by our Suzerain (see http://www.fivesolas.com/suzerain.htm).

“I am the way, the truth, and the life” indicates that in the worship of Jesus one gets true religion: a container for your worship, attitudes, thoughts, and practices that will produce blessing if it is followed and cursing if it is thwarted. Even though it is good for image-bearers to follow this religion, they cannot thus earn their salvation. However, on the other side of having been justified, the religion of the Jesus Way (described from Genesis to Revelation) is a good and perfect gift that we embrace to our benefit, and as a necessary part of the abundant life God has designed and described. Grace is opposed to earning but not to effort and the variety of efforts God prescribes to us as containing life is true religion: the only one that will satisfy.

There are only two religions: Christianity or Paganism. Paganism comes in many forms, but they all boil down to a rejection of the Sovereign Authority of God and a rejection of His religion: a covenantal tie to Him that acknowledges His all-encompassing Rule, and enjoins upon us a way of relating to and serving Him. To reject religion as bad is to deny one of God’s gifts, and to inescapably embrace a syncretistic blend of His way and our preferences: a new gnosticism which inevitably devolves into idolatry.

Singing within Worship

In a recent conversation about Colossians 2:16-17 I used an illustration of how to properly understand the passage that brought to mind another topic: worship and singing within it.

I cannot over emphasize the effectiveness and importance of spreading the singing portion of corporate worship across the worship service, rather than 4 – 6 songs blocked together. This is not to say that a large block of songs is never appropriate; there are times when it is very much so—celebrations come to mind. Spread throughout the worship gathering, however, songs take on a context and significance that is immediate and evident, while it is almost impossible for them to carry a similar import when used together in a single set.

Furthermore, human nature is far more capable of lending kavannah (the intentional directing of one’s heart) to a single song, and then to something different, back to a song, etc. then to a large mass of songs. When used as a long set, the singing almost irresistibly becomes the pursuit of an emotion rather than an aid to uniting one’s mind/body/spirit on a truth. Similarly, in a culture of constant concerts it is difficult to resist becoming a consumer rather than an offerer when music is used as a single, lengthy set in an environment so reminiscent of a concert rather than of the Temple.

Music by its nature connects the mind with the emotions, and especially in our culture where music is so ubiquitous and over-utilized, it is enormously healthy to add the context of place, purpose and content to the musical offerings within the arc of a worship service.

P.S.

Here is the illustration I used regarding understanding Colossians 2:16-17.

… imagine if I wrote a letter to churches today saying, “let no one judge you in regard to worship.” It would be obvious from our context (and from biblical instruction) that I was referring to worship styles, and was not saying, “don’t let anyone judge you if you decide not to practice worship.” The idea is preposterous, and the misreading of Col 2:16-17 should be equally preposterous to us if we simply read it in the context of history and Scripture.

Considering Tassels

Abstract: Wearing culturally-developed tzitzit on one’s belt loops is a valid manner of honoring the command of Num. 15:38 and Deut. 22:12, but is not a literal fulfillment of the commandment. All things considered, for Gentile believers it is likely not the most well-advised manner of honoring this instruction. Additional reflection may yield a more advantageous and multiple-commandment-balancing approach.
 

Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner.” Numbers 15:38

You shall make yourself tassels on the four corners of the garment with which you cover yourself” Deuteronomy 22:12

The command regarding tassels ought to instruct all who believe, whether Jew or Gentile. The question of how it ought to instruct may depend upon on one’s ethnicity, time or place.

I would assert, for example, that a Jewish man (or woman, potentially) wearing a tallit kitan or using a tallit gadol with tzitzit attached is a valid keeping of this command, and that a Gentile doing so may be a valid keeping of this command.

I would also posit that a Gentile wearing culturally-developed tzitzit on one’s belt loops is a valid manner of honoring the command, but not a literal fulfillment (or keeping). All things considered, I would also suggest it is likely not the most well-advised manner of honoring this instruction due to reasons of potential misunderstanding, misapplication, and offense.

Nevertheless, we see from the text that God considered it important for His people and we might observe that the principle behind this case law related to: remembrance, identity, and witness. Furthermore, that the keeping of the command assisted the Israelites in the practice of walking in godliness, and promoted a sense of belonging and community. Could anyone argue that today’s Gentile believers don’t also need this?! Additional reflection may yield a more advantageous and multiple-commandment-balancing approach to honoring this instruction.

I am, therefore, seeking an application of the command regarding tassels that is: 1) consistent with God’s original intent, 2) consistent with the significance of the command in the milieu of the original implementation, 3) inoffensive to as many parties as possible, 4) consistent with a professional image (be in the world but not of the world), and 5) feasible for wide-scale adoption across the people of God in the United States (our milieu).

Historically speaking, it is of great interest to note that at the time when God gave this commandment, everyone in the ANE (Ancient Near East) wore tassels on their garments—Israelite and non-Israelite. The fringe functioned as one’s signature (pressing the fringe into clay in the same manner as signet rings came to be used), as a sign of your prestige, and were a method of identification or sign of belonging (to a class, family, or tribe). The Israelites’ fringes were to be a distinctive application of a normative cultural expectation.

If one were to argue that wearing tassels on one’s belt loops is a direct fulfillment of the command and that this is necessary, I would ask, “Where is the parapet around your roof?” (Deuteronomy 22:8)
 
Similarly, wrapping teffilin is a valid method of honoring, or helpful symbolic application in the interest of keeping the commands of Deut. 6:8; 11:18, but it does not—in and of itself—fulfill the commandment. How can we prove this? Because we are also told in the same language that the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the redemption of the first born “shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes” (Ex 13:9, 16).
 
In my personal edition of the Morning Prayers I attempted to capture the heart of these commands in the following manner: “Today, Father, may your words be always in front of my eyes; may my hands be engaged in the practice of your commands.” There is a wide variety of ways in which to keep this injunction; observing Unleavened Bread is among them, and the phrasing of the commandment to let this observance be a sign on your hand and memorial between your eyes speaks more to observing the festival with intention than with a physical practice of writing the date of Unleavened Bread on our hand or something similar.
 
So long as one recognizes that wrapping tefillin is not the actual keeping of the commandment, it remains a helpful spiritual discipline, but once one begins to think that in the practice of wrapping tefillin you have satisfied the intent of the commandment, problems develop.
 
Given that 1) specifically knotted tzitzit have become an ethnic identity marker for the Jewish people, 2) that unless I wear a cornered garment I cannot literally fulfill this commandment anyway, and 3) that the commandment was given in the context of a distinctive application of a cultural norm, I think it is beyond well-advised to practice the command in a manner that does not potentially lay a stumbling block in the path of my brother the Jew (saved or unsaved: one thinks of the reaction of UMJC types to Gentiles wearing tzitzit in general and specifically to wearing them on the belt loops) or the misinformed Gentile Christian, who perceives it as coming back under the law.
 
For the last couple of years I have worn a blue and white bracelet as my manner of honoring the tzitzit (and tefillin) command. I am not entirely satisfied (theologically nor practically) with a tzitzit bracelet, but it was a healthy step in the right direction (in response to having become a stumbling block to my Synagogue President neighbor, even though wearing tzitzit “properly” on a tallit kitan).
 
I am entertaining ideas like embroidering 3 white and one blue line on the sleeves of my shirts, or attaching a fringe that is clearly different from the traditional Jewish tying of the tzitzit to the corners created by the vents of a camp-style shirt. I don’t always wear un-tucked, vented shirts, however, so I lean toward the embroidery idea, as this is non-offensive and within the bounds of normative cultural expectation (one thinks of logos on shirt sleeves) that is nevertheless distinctive.
 
Imagine if every man in our congregations wore shirts with the “tzitzit logo” on the edges/wings (canaphim, c.f. Malachi 4:2 & Numbers 15:38) of their sleeves! Think of the identity-lending power, and the community-belonging power of this! Invest that practice with the significance of fulfilling Deut. 6:8 and one is keeping the commandment in a way that is faithful to God’s intent while also conscious of the commands, “You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the LORD” (Lev 19:14), and “Build up, build up, prepare the way, Remove every obstacle out of the way of My people” (Is 57:14).
 
The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that this sleeve logo idea is probably the application most consistent with the spirit of the command regarding tzitzit. Think about it: our culture is familiar with all football jerseys being the same and yet having distinct identification markings, both in color and logo. Logos have become ubiquitous on a variety of culturally normative clothing styles. To put a distinct arrangement of white and blue threads on the sleeves of a shirt (sleeves being the closest thing to “wings/corners” we have on contemporary clothing) references a familiarity with the most recently common observance of the command (rabbinically defined tzitzit), honors the commandment, offends no one, and yet retains the reminding, identifying, community-building power of the original command in its Bronze Age context.
 
How shall today’s believing Laplander apply this command? I don’t know, but they ought to be asking that question. And the eventual result will be a culturally diverse, yet commandment-honoring keeping of God’s law that testifies both to the “house of prayer for all nations” reality of God’s people, but also to the coalescing power and identity-giving nature of being “imitators of God therefore like dearly beloved children.”
 
P.S. It occurs to me that I have elsewhere expressed some of what undergirds the above in a very succinct manner:

If love emphasizes people and law emphasizes principle, without the dynamic interplay of both aspects of God’s character, we get an unhealthy (i.e., sinful) imbalance. Therefore, if it is lawful, “so far as it depends on you,” to “live peaceably with all,” then it seems it would be loving to use language [or halacha] that puts, “no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry.”

________________________________________________________________
Background on fringes as normative ANE dress:
  • “… The tassels, according to ancient Near East parallels, were threads of the embroidery and could be decorated with a flower head or bell. The more ornate the hem, the greater the social status and wealth of a person (Milgrom 1983: 61–65).” from Douglas R. Edwards, “Dress and Ornamentation,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 233.
  • “fringes (tassels, borders, hems), a common decoration on Near Eastern garments.” from Paul J. Achtemeier, Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature, Harper’s Bible Dictionary (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985), 323.
  • “Fringes,” in J. Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1902), 68-70.
  • Stephen Bertman, “Tassled Garments in the Ancient East Mediterranean”, The Biblical Archaeologist, Vol 24, No. 4 (Dec., 1961), pp. 119-128.
  • http://rzim.org/a-slice-of-infinity/from-the-fringes
  • J. Milgrom, “Of hems and tassels: Rank, authority and holiness were expressed in antiquity by fringes on garments,” Biblical Archaeology Review, v. IX, # 3, May/June 1983, pp. 61-65.
  • J. Milgrom, The JPS Torah Commentary, Volume 4 – NUMBERS, Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society, 1989 – 1996, p. 410-412
  • W. Gunther Plaut, et al. The Torah: A Modern Commentary. N.Y., Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1981, p. 1123

A Christian Nation?

In a recent discussion on facebook a friend posted a meme which purported to evidence that America’s founding fathers explicitly rejected the idea that America was a Christian nation. The meme was so wildly inaccurate and yet so seemingly conclusive that I was inspired to write a significant exposé and rebuttal.

First, let’s analyze the meme (seen below). Oh, how pesky a thing is context! The first quote by Jefferson is lifted from a letter he wrote to Thomas Cooper (in 1814), enclosing his notes from law school (in 1763 or 64). The sentence quoted is part of a discussion of Anglo-Saxon common law previous to 686 A.D! Nice try by the meme author suggesting that this was Jefferson’s opinion about United States law (c.f., Jefferson’s letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, from Monticello, February 10, 1814).

FounderMeme

Similarly, the “in every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty” quote comes from a letter by Jefferson to Horatio G. Spafford where they are discussing English law books, and the influence of England on the new generation of Americans. Jefferson prefaces his comment with this sentence, “I join in your reprobation of our merchants, priests and lawyers for their adherence to England & monarchy in preference to their own country and it’s constitution.” When Jefferson discusses priests he has in mind Roman Catholic priests (he adamantly opposed state churches like the Vatican, or like in England), and declares that they “perverted the purest religion ever preached to man…” He is by no means criticizing Christianity, but rather the corruption of Christianity.

What’s wrong with the John Adams quote? Well, for starters he never said it. I could go on, but perhaps that’s enough.

Thomas Paine, was so beloved by our nation’s founders that 6 people attended his funeral. Yes, he was an atheist and ridiculer of Christianity… his views post the pamphlet “Common Sense” were overwhelmingly rejected by Americans.

How about the James Madison quote? Well, at least it is accurately attributed! But it does not mean what it is purported to represent. Again, the quote comes from a personal letter written by Madison to Edward Livingstone in 1822, and Madison closes his letter in this manner:

“We are teaching the world the great truth that Govts. do better without Kings & Nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson that Religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of Govt.”

In other words, was Madison opposing religion? Not by any means (the many quotes from him supporting religion make the use of a quote from him in an attempt to deny the Christian character of America laughable), he was arguing that it is improper for civil government to sponsor religion, but he recognized like the rest of our founders that the form, nature, structure and success of our nation depended upon the presumptions of Christian belief for its defence, and in the belief and practice of its people.

Was our nation founded as Christian? You tell me…

In July 1775 the Continental Congress called for a day of prayer and fasting. At the bottom of the original Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress ordered copies of the Declaration first be sent not to town clerks or newspapers but to parish ministers, who were “required to read the same to their respective congregations, as soon as divine service is ended, in the afternoon, on the first Lord’s day after they have received it.”

After Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, George Washington issued the following missive:

“The General congratulates the army upon the glorious event of yesterday.… Divine service is to be performed tomorrow in the several brigades and divisions. The commander in chief recommends that the troops not on duty should universally attend with that seriousness of deportment and gratitude of heart which the recognition of such reiterated and astonishing interpositions of Providence demand of us.”

During the colonial period the average citizen listened to some 7,000 sermons in their lifetime. There was no TV, no Internet, often no newspaper; the colonial sermon was the dominant societal influence. Historians gauge that its influence on culture was so great that even contemporary television and internet are less influential than was the sermon on colonial America.18th century America was a deeply religious culture that self-consciously lived “under the cope of heaven.” Contemporary events were seen not so much from the human vantage point as from God’s. The overwhelming majority of colonists were Calvinists who saw all events as part of God’s providential design. The Christian ministers’ influence was so powerful that the British called them “the black-robed regiment.”

The American Revolution was an indisputably religious occurrence. On January 30, 1749–the 100th anniversary of the execution of Charles I–Jonathan Mayhew preached a sermon titled “A Discourse Concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-resistance to the Higher Powers,” which was typical of most sermons preached throughout the colonies. In it Mayhew comes to the conclusion that rulers have “no authority from God to do mischief,” and that “It is blasphemy to call tyrants and oppressors God’s ministers.”

Referring to Romans 13:1-7 as his text Mayhew writes:

“Let us now trace the apostle’s reasoning in favor of submission to the higher powers, a little more particularly and exactly. For by this it will appear, on one hand, how good and conclusive it is, for submission to those rulers who exercise their power in a proper manner: And, on the other, how weak and trifling and unconnected it is, if it be supposed to be meant by the apostle to show the obligation and duty of obedience to tyrannical, oppressive rulers, in common with others of a different character.”

During his retirement John Adams reflected on the origins of the American Revolution and credited Mayhew’s sermon as a primary source of shaping public opinion.

Why is this significant? Because even Thomas Paine and his wild best-seller Common Sense, argued in sermonic prose for a biblically-based revolt. He concludes:

“These portions of Scripture are direct and positive. They admit of no equivocal construction. That the Almighty hath here entered his protest against monarchical government is true, or the Scripture is false.”

Paine was later revealed to be a radical deist and eventually an atheist, but in the pre-Revolutionary period whether his personal views changed or he simply hid his opinions, Paine knew his audience well, and recognized that only biblical motivation would bring them to arms.

We might speak of Peter Muhlenberg, a Lutheran-trained Anglican minister who was present at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia when Patrick Henry gave his immortal cry, “Give me liberty or give me death!” Muhlenberg was so moved, he enlisted under Washington before returning to his own congregation to give his final sermon. After reading from Ecclesiastes 3:1, Muhlenberg said, “There is a time to preach and a time to pray, but there is also a time to fight, and that time has now come.” He then threw off his clerical robe to reveal the uniform of a militia colonel, and began recruiting the men of his congregation, who became known as the “German Regiment.” Peter eventually rose to the rank of major general, and returned to Philadelphia after the war as a hero to spend the rest of his life in local and national politics.

Perhaps we should speak of Rev. John Witherspoon, the only clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence. He moved to America in order to become president of the College of New Jersey (later Princeton University). Witherspoon wrote, “There is not a single instance in history in which civil liberty was lost and religious liberty preserved.” While Witherspoon was not present during the writing of the U.S. Constitution in 1787, his presence was felt heavily through James Madison, who had been his student at Princeton. Witherspoon retired from Congress in 1782.

Consider this letter from John Adams to his wife, Abigail, describing the powerful religious sentiments that undergirded the first Continental Congress.

When the Congress met, Mr. Cushing made a motion that it should be opened with prayer. It was opposed by Mr. Jay of New York and Mr. Rutledge of South Carolina because we were so divided in religious sentiments—some Episcopalians, some Quakers, some Anabaptists, some Presbyterians, and some Congregationalists—that we could not join in the same act of worship.

Mr. Samuel Adams arose and said that he was no bigot and could hear a prayer from any gentleman of piety and virtue who was at the same time a friend to his country. He was a stranger in Philadelphia but had heard that Dr. Duche deserved that character, and therefore he moved that Mr. Duche, an Episcopal clergyman, might be desired to read prayers to Congress tomorrow morning. The motion was seconded and passed in the affirmative.…

Accordingly next morning he appeared with his clerk and his pontificals [vestments], and read the Psalter for the seventh day of September, which was the 85th Psalm. You must remember this was the next morning after we had heard the rumor of the horrible cannonade of Boston. I never saw a greater effect produced upon an audience. It seemed as if Heaven had ordained that Psalm to be read on that morning. After this, Mr. Duche, unexpectedly to everybody, struck out into extemporary prayer, which filled the bosom of every man present:

“Be Thou present, O God of Wisdom, and direct the counsel of this honorable assembly. Enable them to settle all things on the best and surest foundations, that the scene of blood may be speedily closed, that order, harmony, and peace may be effectually restored, and truth and justice, religion and piety, prevail and flourish among the people. Preserve the health of their bodies and the vigor of them in this world, and crown them with everlasting glory in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, thy Son and our Savior, Amen.”

Washington was kneeling there, and Henry, Randolph, Rutledge, Lee, and Jay, and by their side there stood, bowed in reverence, the Puritan patriots of New England, who at that moment had reason to believe that an armed soldiery was wasting their humble households.… They prayed fervently for America, for Congress, for the Province of Massachusetts Bay, and especially for the town of Boston [whose port had been closed and in which British troops were being quartered].

And who can realize the emotions with which they turned imploringly to Heaven for divine interposition. It was enough to melt a heart of stone. I saw the tears gush into the eyes of the old, grave, pacifist Quakers of Philadelphia.

Or the congressional designation of the first day of thanksgiving:

IN CONGRESSNovember 1, 1777

FORASMUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of; And it having pleased him in his abundant Mercy not only to continue to us the innumerable Bounties of his common Providence, but also to smile upon us in the Prosecution of a just and necessary War, for the Defence and Establishment of our unalienable Rights and Liberties; particularly in that he hath been pleased in so great a Measure to prosper the Means used for the Support of our Troops and to crown our Arms with most signal success:

It is therefore recommended to the legislative or executive powers of these United States, to set apart THURSDAY, the eighteenth Day of December next, for Solemn Thanksgiving and Praise; That with one Heart and one Voice the good People may express the grateful Feelings of their Hearts, and consecrate themselves to the Service of their Divine Benefactor; and that together with their sincere Acknowledgments and Offerings, they may join the penitent Confession of their manifold Sins, whereby they had forfeited every Favour, and their humble and earnest Supplication that it may please GOD, through the Merits of Jesus Christ, mercifully to forgive and blot them out of Remembrance; That it may please him graciously to afford his Blessing on the Governments of these States respectively, and prosper the public Council of the whole; to inspire our Commanders both by Land and Sea, and all under them, with that Wisdom and Fortitude which may render them fit Instruments, under the Providence of Almighty GOD, to secure for these United States the greatest of all human blessings, INDEPENDENCE and PEACE; That it may please him to prosper the Trade and Manufactures of the People and the Labour of the Husbandman, that our Land may yet yield its Increase; To take Schools and Seminaries of Education, so necessary for cultivating the Principles of true Liberty, Virtue and Piety, under his nurturing Hand, and to prosper the Means of Religion for the promotion and enlargement of that Kingdom which consisteth “in Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Ghost.”

And it is further recommended, that servile Labour, and such Recreation as, though at other Times innocent, may be unbecoming the Purpose of this Appointment, be omitted on so solemn an Occasion.

Extract from the Minutes,Charles Thomson, Secr.

Journals of the American Congress From 1774 to 1788 (Washington: Way and Gideon, 1823), Vol. II, pp. 309-310.

We would be remiss not to include something from George Washington.

“While just government protects all in their religious rights, true religion affords to government its surest support.” – George Washington

The Writings of George Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, editor (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1932), Vol. XXX, p. 432.)

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. … And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who, that is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?”

Address of George Washington, President of the United States . . . Preparatory to His Declination (Baltimore: George and Henry S. Keatinge), pp. 22-23.

It is difficult to overestimate the influence John Adams had on our country.

“[I]t is religion and morality alone which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue.”

The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown, 1854), Vol. IX, p. 401, to Zabdiel Adams on June 21, 1776.

“[W]e have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. . . . Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States, Charles Francis Adams, editor (Boston: Little, Brown, and Co. 1854), Vol. IX, p. 229, October 11, 1798.

We could draw from the influence of individual states…

“[I]t is impossible that any people of government should ever prosper, where men render not unto God, that which is God’s, as well as to Caesar, that which is Caesar’s.”

Fundamental Constitutions of Pennsylvania, 1682. Written by William Penn, founder of the colony of Pennsylvania.

“No free government now exists in the world, unless where Christianity is acknowledged, and is the religion of the country.”

Pennsylvania Supreme Court, 1824. Updegraph v. Commonwealth; 11 Serg. & R. 393, 406 (Sup.Ct. Penn. 1824).

We might turn to famous statesman…

“[I]f we and our posterity reject religious instruction and authority, violate the rules of eternal justice, trifle with the injunctions of morality, and recklessly destroy the political constitution which holds us together, no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us that shall bury all our glory in profound obscurity.” – Daniel Webster

The Writings and Speeches of Daniel Webster (Boston: Little, Brown, & Company, 1903), Vol. XIII, p. 492. From “The Dignity and Importance of History,” February 23, 1852.

And we could assess the thoughts and writings of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

“The only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.”

Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical (Philadelphia: Thomas and William Bradford, 1806), p. 8.

“We profess to be republicans, and yet we neglect the only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government, that is, the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by the means of the Bible. For this Divine Book, above all others, favors that equality among mankind, that respect for just laws, and those sober and frugal virtues, which constitute the soul of republicanism.”

Benjamin Rush, Essays, Literary, Moral and Philosophical (Philadelphia: Printed by Thomas and William Bradford, 1806), pp. 93-94.

I conclude (with reams of additional primary sources to draw from) that there is no possible way to honestly contest the factual evidence that America was founded because of her Christian presumption, upon her Christian principles, and to be a beacon of light for liberty and freedom among the nations, as a result of the outworking of Christian theology. There is no other alternative that can be honestly propounded after a survey of the available history/literature.

It’s 1775. The year 1787, with its novel constitution and separation of church and state is a long 12 years away. At the moment, you and your friends are just a bunch of outlaws. You’ve heard the debates in Parliament over taxation and representation; you’ve seen British troops enforce royal supremacy at the point of a bayonet. Your king, George III, and Parliament have issued a declaration asserting their sovereignty in “all cases whatsoever” in the colonies. You are, at least in New England, a people under siege with British troops quartered in Boston. You’ve dumped tea into Boston’s harbor in a fit of rage and had your port closed.

Who will you turn to now for direction? There are no presidents or vice-presidents, no supreme court justices or public defenders to call on. There are a handful of young, radical lawyers, like the Adams cousins, John and Samuel, but they’re largely concentrated in cities, while you and most of your friends live in the country. In many colonies, including Massachusetts, there are not even elected governors or councilors—they have all been appointed by the British crown and are answerable to it.

Where you turn is where you have habitually turned for over a century: to the prophets of your society, your ministers.

Harry S. Stout, “Preaching the Insurrection,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 50: Christianity & the American Revolution (Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today, 1996).