- by Marlin Detweiler
Feature Article – Was It Right to Fight the War for Independence? by Gary DeMar
Educational Helps - by Laurie Detweiler
In the May epistula we focused attention on the lost holiday of Pentecost. This month we will focus on the celebration of July 4th. Our friend Gary DeMar of American Vision has contributed the feature article addressing the argument of whether the “revolution” of the 18th century was justified. He has also made a free offer available (See below).
As we consider the roots of the United States, we find ourselves amidst much discussion on whether America was a Christian nation at its core. Wherever we fall on this debate, one thing is certain: the United States was formed within the memory of the First Great Awakening (1740’s) by people who would have been greatly affected by it. There is no doubt that extraordinary Christian influences were at work during the early years of our country’s beginning.
Was It Right to Fight the War for Independence?
Every July 4th, Christians often debate the biblical appropriateness of fighting a war against a duly constituted civil government like Great Britain. Can a biblical case be made for America’s “revolutionary war”? The first place to start is by understanding that the thirteen colonies were operating civil governments that had a contractual relationship with the King of England and Parliament. The terms of the agreement between the two governing bodies were violated in numerous ways. The war for independence “was not a lawless rebellion against authority, as some historians claim. Rather, it was a legal interposition of one lawfully elected level of government (the colonial legislatures) against a king who insisted in obdurately breaking his feudal contract with the colonies.” This understanding of our nation's constitutional beginnings has been lost on most Americans, Christians included.
For years we have been taught that we are the product of a revolutionary generation who, because of religious, economic, and political disagreements, finally (through anarchistic and violent means) tore themselves from a loving and legally constituted government.
Government vs. Government
Each of the thirteen colonies had a governor, a written constitution and laws, and a court system. The colonial militia was commanded by General George Washington under the authority and supervision of the then existing colonial governments. “Not one State, or one nation, but in the plural States; and again, in the next breath, so this multiple birth could not be misunderstood, ‘that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and things which Independent States may of right do.’”
As Fisher and Chambers point out in The Revolution Myth, the modern view of America's “revolution” is “at variance with the actions and beliefs of those who participated in the ‘Revolution.’. . . The American colonists did not revolt against constitutional authority; they did not seek independence from the King of England. The king, instead, severed all ties with his American colonies. The Declaration of Independence was not written to gain independence but to maintain and define what had been forced upon the colonies.”
A Broken Contract
The colonies wanted a dissolution only of the “political bands” with Great Britain. The colonists and their governments had kept their part of the contract with the Crown. Therefore, any discussion of the legitimacy or illegitimacy of the colonists' actions is best handled under the topic of war. While revolutions are generated by “the people” against existing civil governments (e.g., the French Revolution), wars are fought by one constituted civil government against another constituted civil government. The people are conscripted to defend their national sovereignty. Some Christian writers fail to understand these dynamics behind the colonies’ war with England. The following is a representative example:
It is understandable that everyone would like to believe that the revolution in his country was just, even if those in other countries are not. But in all honesty, given the biblical criteria listed here, it is not possible to justify the American Revolution either.
None of the “biblical criteria” that this author sets forth in his book fits the circumstances surrounding the American “revolution.” In his chapter on “War,” the author summarizes his position by stating that “God has ordained government and given it the sword.” The thirteen colonies were sovereign civil governments that also had the right to “bear the sword” (Rom. 13:4). Individuals and churches are not given the sword, and they cannot legitimately revolt against the existing civil powers. But legitimate civil governments can, and the colonies were legitimate civil governments.
Noting the Exceptions
Because of its no exception tone, Romans 13 is seen as prohibiting all forms of resistance: “Let every person [soul] be in subjection to the governing authorities,” Paul writes (13:1). The apostle lists no exceptions. Peter offers a similar no-exception obligation: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right” (1 Pet. 2:13–14). The same Peter who admonished believers to “submit yourselves . . . to every human institution” also declared, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29; cf. 4:19–20). How do we reconcile the apparent contradiction?
There are a number of places in Scripture where one verse speaks in absolute terms and another verse offers an exception. This is not unusual. If I tell my children to go outside and play until dinner is ready, I have spoken in absolute terms. They are not to come into the house until they are called. No exceptions are given. What if it rains? What if a large dog enters the yard? What if a stranger offers them candy or a ride in a car? Can they enter the house without violating my absolute and no exception command? They would not be violating my “no exception” command because there are unspoken or previously spoken exceptions.
The Bible operates in the same way. In one place Jesus says, “All those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword” (Matt. 26:52). Does this include the civil magistrate? What about the person who strikes an assailant in self-defense? Is this not an exception to Jesus’ “no exception” statement? Since the Bible already discusses self-defense (Ex. 21:23–25; Lev. 24:19–21; Deut. 19:21) and the role of the civil magistrate (e.g., Gen. 9:6), there is no need to repeat the exceptions since His hearers know that Jesus has anarchy and revolution in mind (e.g., Lev. 19:18), not every use of the sword.
So then, when we read passages like Romans 13:1 and 1 Peter 2:13–14, we must not neglect the rest of the Bible that is equally authoritative and more fully explains these passages.
Many general statements of Scripture must be open to admitting exceptions even if those qualifications are not immediately spelled out. Why are so many generalizations stated without qualification? Because the exact conditions restricting their applicability are not known, or because the "accidental" or providential circumstances that render them inapplicable occur so seldom as to be practically negligible, or because such qualification has already been stipulated in another inscripturated context.
Our founders did not choose their course lightly. There were many meetings and consultations. There were attempts to bridge differences with England. In the end, they concluded that the political relationship was broken beyond repair.
of July Crackers
OK, it’s summer. This is a stretch to call it “Educational Helps.”
Fourth of July is always a fun family time. And the day is never complete
without firecrackers. Click here to find
instructions to make some rather unique “firecrackers” for your celebrations. They
are “Chococrackers” that the whole family will enjoy. We enjoy setting the
tables with red and white checked tables and using red bandannas for napkins.
The children can join the fun by making the “Quietcrackers” for the guests and
decorating the table with them.
Free Audio CD
Free with orders in July (while supplies last), we'll include America: The Untold Story, the award-winning audio drama CD from American Vision. This 35-minute presentation covers 360 years of history and tells the story of America's rich Christian heritage.
No doubt you’ve seen in our catalog we offer a free consulting service during the summer months. The service is intended to assist you in planning your school year. Our consultants are teachers or students who have used the materials extensively and will be quite helpful. Just call us at 800-922-5082 and ask for a consultation.
If you have already bought your materials and have questions, you do not need a consultation.
The consultations are for people who have not yet purchased them. However, you are encouraged to call anyway for any help you might need using materials you bought from us. And no appointment is necessary.
Q. I seem to get to the end of the school year and have not finished some of the materials for the year. How can I avoid this?
A. The old proverb “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” would seem to apply. We have always encouraged planning out the year on the front end. This involves dividing up the year into sections, generally quarters. Then check your progress against the plan, maybe as often as weekly, to monitor the progress against the plan.
Q. I have done plans like you suggest and still get behind. What else can be done?
A. One of the biggest problems in most plans is a failure to include a cushion into the plan. Including a cushion puts in non-committed time. Teachers a t Veritas Academy might plan a cushion of as much as 5 – 10% of their entire schedule. There is nothing wrong with not using the cushion. But if you have it there and one morning you wake up to find that your local museum has an exhibit coming that you don’t want your students to miss, you now have the time built in for it. Of course if you get to the end of the year and have time left over there are many, many ways to productively use the extra time.
2005 Veritas Academy Teacher Training
It’s not to late! July 20–22, 2005, Lancaster, PA. Joel Belz, founder of World Magazine will be the keynote speaker. Brochures have been mailed. If you have not received one and would like one please call 717-556-0690 to request one. Find more information at www.veritasacademy.com.
2005 Trinity Festival and History Conference
August 8–10, 2005 in Moscow, Idaho. This summer in Moscow, Idaho, Credenda/Agenda magazine is hosting the First Annual Trinity Festival, which will include its Tenth Annual History Conference: AMERICAN WAR FOR INDEPENDENCE: MEN AND BATTLES.
Speakers are Douglas Wilson, pastor of Christ Church, author, Senior Fellow at New St. Andrews College, and long time leader of the Classical and Christian education movement; Steve Wilkins, pastor of Auburn Avenue Presbyterian Church and author; Dr. Peter Lillback, pastor of Proclamation Presbyterian Church, author, and Executive Director of The Providence Forum, an organization which educates Americans on the faith and values of our Founding Fathers.
In addition to the history talks, festival registration includes access to afternoon lectures by instructors from New St. Andrews College, film screenings, the first annual St. Brigid's Feast, open air theater (Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream), art displays and workshops, and a performance by Cherish the Ladies, an all female Celtic group with Irish dancers coming off a recent performance at the White House for the Bush family and friends. To register or for more information click the link to go to www.christkirk.com/trinityfest/ or call 208.882.2034. Mention this email and receive Early Registration Rates.
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Norman L. Geisler, Christian Ethics: Options and Issues (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1989), 254. In a later book, Geisler seems to have backed away from the view that the American “Revolution” was “unbiblical.” See Legislating Morality (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1998), 18–20.
Jim West, “Rahab’s Justifiable Lie,” in Christianity and Civilization: The Theology of Christian Resistance, ed. Gary North (Tyler, TX: Geneva Divinity School Press, 1983), 68. Emphasis in original.
For an account of this history, see Gary DeMar, with George Grant and Gary L. Todd, On the Road to Independence, the third volume in the “To Pledge Allegiance” American History Textbook Series (Powder Springs, GA: American Vision, 2005).