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To what extent is the United States of America's form of government based on Biblical...

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joli777 | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 11, 2009 at 8:07 PM via web

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To what extent is the United States of America's form of government based on Biblical principles and Christian values?

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readerofbooks | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 11, 2009 at 8:16 PM (Answer #2)

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This is a great question. There are a few clear ways in which the United States reflects biblical principles. Here are a few:

1. There is a separation between church and state. Jesus says clearly that we should give to Caesar what belongs to him and to God what belongs to him. Jesus speaks these words in a context that did not know separation between church and state. So, they are pretty radical.

2. Our government has the ability to enforce laws and punish wrong doers. Paul says that this is established by God in Romans 13.

3. We have the freedom of religion, which, unfortunately, some people do not have. This also shows tolerance.

These points should get you started.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 11, 2009 at 8:19 PM (Answer #3)

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Great question!

This is a matter of a great deal of debate.  If we're talking solely about the FORM of our government -- democracy, separation of powers, etcetera, I would argue that they are not necessarily based on Biblical or Christian principles.

Of course, there is no democracy in the Bible.  The Old Testament governments are monarchies, and the New Testament doesn't deal much with government.

Is democracy a Christian/Biblical value?  I would say not.  Christian societies existed for centuries without democracy and non-Christian societies (Japan, for example) have democracy.

To me, our government (its form) is based on Enlightenment values of the political and legal equality of all people.  This value is not incompatible with Christianity, but it is not a specifically Biblical/Christian value.

So I posted this and then saw the above answer which was typed while I was typing.  It shows why this will be moved to the discussion boards -- it's not a factual question.  My responses to him:

  1. Okay, I'll grant that separation of church and state can be inferred from that passage, but there were centuries of Christian societies that lacked that.
  2. All governments of all time have had the ability to enforce laws and punish wrongdoers.  This is not, to me, a specifically Christian value.
  3. I would argue that religious toleration is not necessarily a Christian value.  Christianity is an exclusivist religion -- no one comes to the Father except through me, says Jesus.  This is also related to point #1 above.
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krishna-agrawala | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted November 12, 2009 at 3:28 AM (Answer #4)

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There are some countries in the world which are governed by constitutions that explicitly support one religion as the religion of the country. People from other religion may live in such countries and may also be its citizen, but the government is committed to support and follow the tenets of its declared religion. One such country is Pakistan, which was carved out of the undivided India, as a county specifically for Mohammedans. In contrast thee are countries like India and USA that have no state religion.

This means that USA constitution does not owe any explicit alliance to Bible or Christian Religion. But this does not stop it from supporting and being in line with the principles and values of Christian and other Great religions of the world.

All major religions of the world support the principle of brotherhood and equality of people before God. The same principles also underline the concepts of freedom and equality at the root of USA form of government.

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted November 13, 2009 at 7:43 AM (Answer #5)

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The Founders of the United States, although mostly Christians or members of some derivative sect of Christianity, wisely did not make any "official" or state religion.  Being pupils of the Enlightenment, they knew well the history of Greece and Rome and saw the effects of a state-mandated religion.  In their recent past history, they were well aware of the Protestant Reformation and the civil wars that ensued between Catholics and Protestants in England as well as the rest of Europe, in addition to knowing about the failure of the New England Christian theocracy in the late 1600's. So although the principles upon which the US was founded may be understood as Christian (which are similar to any other religion that espouses the betterment of mankind) they did not insist on any particular practice of those principles.  By allowing individuals to choose their own path, perhaps they allowed expression of the greatest Christian commandment to "Love your neighbor as thyself."

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 19, 2012 at 2:21 PM (Answer #6)

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God and Christian views were definitely involved in the founding of the United States colonies and the eventual constitution.  The founders included the separation of church and state, but many of the religious sects were Christian based.  Our money does still mention God.

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