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Book Review: "Defending the Declaration" by Gary Amos
Without the Bible and Christianity, the Declaration of Independence could never have been written.”
100 years ago such a statement would not have raised an eyebrow. In today’s climate and culture, those are fighting words.
However, this assertion - repeated and proved extensively in Gary Amos’ book Defending the Declaration - may prove to be one of the most important truths for modern Christians living in America to embrace.
When I picked up the book off my bookshelf to read, I realized just how long I’d owned it. The bottom of its pages were stamped “M.O.W.” That stands for Meals on Wheels. I have owned the book since I was in seminary (1991-1995). I bought it in Waco, Texas. There was a wonderful bookstore there which received imperfections and overstocks from several Christian book publishers back then. They sold softcovers for $1 and hardbacks for $2. My friends and I would make the trek about once a month to this nondescript bookstore, and we’d inevitably leave with a cardboard box full of books.
I have commentaries and other fantastic resources still on my shelves with the unforgettable M.O.W. stamp on their end. Defending the Declaration was published in 1989, and while I still don't know what prompted me to pick it up and read it almost 30 years later, I was stunned with its contemporary relevance. I also realized that I too had drunk to Kool-Aid of modernity which sought to divorce the founders and their intentions from biblical Christianity.
From John Locke to John Calvin, from Lex Rex to the Magna Charta, from the apostolic fathers to the Reformers, this book shows and proves extensivelythat the language, principles and sources of this country’s origins came from Christianity, not from the so-called Enlightenment.
Amos traces the denigration of the Declaration and proves that even Christian “scholars” jumped in on the act:
To get Christian intellectuals to agree on anything is rare. But Christian scholars from the left, right, and center all agreed that the Declaration was anti-Christian and deistic. It offended their faith, and more importantly, it offended God. Their duty, then, was to blast the Declaration, to ensure that ordinary Christians would not be deceived into thinking that it had anything good to say. And in this they have been sadly mistaken.
The author says that the movement to detach the Declaration from Christian sources and principles led to a lack of confidence in the rightness/righteousness of America’s founding among the church. It wasn’t just Christian scholars claiming this in the 70s. There was a full-court press in secular culture as well, rabidly claiming that the Founders and their influences were not biblically Christian but were more logically deist in their worldviews. This cultural redefining of the Founders’ faiths undermined pride in our country as a “special” nation, and today you see it everywhere - a distaste for America. It’s the fruit of 50 years of destroying and demeaning the Christian roots of our national origin.
Their view of the Declaration dominates almost every Christian seminary and college in America. It has fueled a growing sense of shame and guilt about America that has spread among Christian young people in the past few years. It gives a reason-a wrong one - for anti-American activism among some Christian political and social organizations.
Amos dives deep into the writings of Locke, Calvin, Blackstone, English common law, and even the vernacular of Christianity throughout history to explain in detail why phrases like
“laws of nature and nature’s God”
“consent of the governed”
“the Supreme Judge” and “Divine Providence”
all find their roots in biblical, orthodox Christianity as revealed in scripture and throughout church history.
Writers assume that ideas are deistic by definition. They do not start by explaining the differences between Christianity and deism nor show into which category an idea fits. Also, since they routinely ignore what the Bible and Christianity teach, they are unaware when an idea is Christian. Thus, they call many Christian and Biblical ideas deistic, capturing Christianity for paganism. Also, they assume that Christians can be influenced by non-Christian ideas, but for the most part do not admit that non-Christians can be influenced by Christian ideas. So a double standard exists.
I found this book to not only be compelling but hauntingly relevant to today’s cancel culture. From kneeling during the national anthem to flag burning to a loss of national pride among the Left, social movements which castigate the country and seek to root it in racism, privilege, ignorance and materialism are shallow and miss the profound and brilliant creativity of some of history’s greatest men and women.
In the founding of America, the principles for human flourishing as revealed in the Bible are codified and amplified in the Declaration of Independence as a global statement to all humanity of the Creator’s intentions in the establishment of governance and man’s responsibility to God and one another in society.
If you’ve ever drunk the Kool-Aid of national shame or been embarrassed over insinuations that the Founders were not angels (and in reality were very much like us), this book will encourage you, open your eyes, and not just make you “proud to be an American.” It will reaffirm your zeal to live distinctly and joyfully Christian.
From the beginning, Amos proves his assertion and provides extensive documentation (his comprehensive footnotes are a full 1/8 of the book).