A Constitution Without God?

For the LORD is our Judge, The LORD is our Lawgiver, The LORD is our King; He will save us. – Isaiah 33:22.

Many critics of Christianity’s influence in the birth and development of America like to point out the fact that the Constitution does not mention the words “God” or the “Bible.” It does beg the question: Why doesn’t the Constitution mention God prominently as the Declaration of Independence does?

The answer is that most likely it was not necessary to mention “God” numerous times in the Constitution because the Declaration of Independence, with its multiple references to God, had already laid the foundation. The Constitution actually assumes the Declaration as its foundation. In fact, the Constitution is dated in relation to the Declaration, demonstrating its place as the founding document of America. So the Constitution adds to that founding document the rules by which the new nation would be governed. It could be said that the Declaration of Independence is the “why” of American government, while the Constitution is the “how.”

To explain the relationship between the two documents, Abraham Lincoln used Proverbs 25:11, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver.” Lincoln boldly states that the Declaration expresses:

“The principle of ‘Liberty to all’ – the principle that clears the path for all – gives hope to all – and, by consequence, enterprise, and industry to all” is a word ‘fitly spoken’ which has proved an ‘apple of gold’ to us. The Union, and the Constitution, are the picture of silver, subsequently framed around it. The picture was made, not to conceal, or destroy the apple; but to adorn, and preserve it. The picture was made for the apple – not the apple for the picture. So let us act, that neither picture, nor apple shall ever be blurred, or bruised or broken.”

The Declaration therefore lays the foundation for the Constitution, and the liberties set forth in that Declaration flow from belief in and dependence upon the Creator God described in the Bible, who operates the universe according to law, grants the inherent and self-evident rights of Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness, functions as the Supreme Judge of the World, and who rules over His creation and creatures with a benevolent Providence. Every Framer of the Constitution would agree to at least that much, as they all had some sort of a Christian background, displayed varying evidence of a biblical worldview, and most expressed their faith publicly.

pf declaration of independence

But it still begs the question, why the lack of overt references like is found in the Declaration? The Constitution was mostly silent on the subject of God and religion because of the principle of Federalism. In other words, the Federal Government deferred to the states on matters regarding religion. Many of the states still had religious establishments and most had religious tests and/or oaths for office holders. The Federal Government had no jurisdiction in matters of religion (see Article VI).

The perfect illustration of this principled approach is Thomas Jefferson, who as Governor of Virginia issued a “Proclamation for a Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer” on November 11, 1779. However, as U.S. President, Jefferson refused to issue a national prayer Proclamation as his predecessors (Washington, Adams) had done because of the principle of Federalism: Matters of Religion are best left to the individual and to the states in which they reside.

What about the Framers of the Constitution then? Weren’t they just a bunch of Atheists, Agnostics and Deists? On the contrary they honestly reflected the general population at the time of the framing of this Constitutional Republic.

In 1776 America had a population of approximately 3 million people.

Estimates are that 99.8% were orthodox Christian, with some Jews, even fewer Muslims, Atheists, Agnostics, and “Deists,” who are probably best described as Unitarians (didn’t believe Jesus is equal to God).

About 98% were Protestant Christians.

About 75% of those could be considered Reformed in their beliefs.

Also, the Framers were born, grew up, and began their public service during the First Great Awakening, which had a profound impact on their collective biblical worldview and thus on their philosophy of government. Yet modern-day Progressives contend and argue that the Framers were elites and as such the formation of their political ideology would have been based upon the European Enlightenment, not the Great Awakening, a spiritual awakening. Thus, according to Progressives the Framers owed their philosophy of government more to French Philosophers like Voltaire and Rousseau rather than to Moses and the Gospels.

Interestingly however, political scientists Donald S. Lutz and Charles S. Hyneman conducted a ground breaking study at the University of Houston by examining some 15,000 documents (2,000 closely) written during America’s founding era from about 1760 to 1805, and they painstakingly analyzed their political content.

Included were political volumes, monographs, pamphlets, newspaper articles, and printed political sermons. There they found 3,154 citations or references to other sources. The source cited or quoted most often in these references was the Bible. In fact, 34% of the citations from outside sources came from God’s word. The most cited book of the Bible? Deuteronomy, and specifically, the second giving of the Law. After the Bible, the top sources cited were: Baron Montesquieu at 8.3%, William Blackstone at 7.9%; and John Locke at 2.9%. Rousseau and Voltaire? Well they rated less than 1%, and many of those citations were actually arguments representing their respective contentions.

Passage of the U.S. Constitution was, in and of itself a remarkable achievement. George Washington wrote Lafayette on February 7, 1788 from Mount Vernon:

“It appears to me, then, little short of a miracle, that the Delegates from so many different States . . . should unite in forming a system of national Government.”

One of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, Dr. Benjamin Rush went even further, writing to Elias Boudinot on July 9, 1788:

“I do not believe that the Constitution was the offspring of inspiration, but I am as satisfied that it is as much the work of a Divine Providence as any of the miracles recorded in the Old and New Testament.”

Looking back over 230 years, seeing the many ways God has prospered and protected this nation, even with all its flaws, America is still the most prosperous, most compassionate, most free, and the greatest mission sending, Gospel sharing nation on the face of the earth. So under God, let’s do everything we can to keep it! I personally contend that the only way that is going to happen is upon our knees crying out to our Sovereign God!

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Adaptation from excerpts of a sermon by C. Jason Walker, Broomfield Baptist Church (2017) Courtesy of Faithlife Sermons.
*Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the New King James Version®, NKJV © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.

About Roland Ledoux

Pastor of Oasis Bible Ministry, an outreach ministry of teaching, encouragement and intercessory prayer from the Holy Bible, the written Word of God and author of the ministry website, For The Love of God. He lives in Delta, Colorado with his beautiful wife of 50+ years and a beautiful yellow lab whom they affectionately call Bella.
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