Christian Roots of Government

America's government was strongly influences by our Christian heritage, as Harvard sociologist Samuel Huntington pointed out in his book, Who Are We? Huntington's research into our original founding attributes much of our governments heritage and structure to Christianity. In particular he shows that the Reformed Calvinist Puritans had a major impact on both the founding of the nation and its Constitutional form of government. Harvard legal historian, Harold Berman, comes to the similar conclusions in his books, Law and Revolution I and II. Another great resource for this historical connection to our early founding is the Heritage Foundation. 

A major concept that serves as a foundation for our form of government is the "covenant." A covenant (Hebrew berith, Greek diatheke) is a legal agreement between two or more parties.  The word "covenant(s)" occurs 284 times in the Old Testament (as found in the New American Standard Bible).  "Covenant(s)" occurs 37 times in the New Testament, which gives a total of 321 occurrences. Making covenants is how God relates to us. He redeemed us and gives us eternal life once we become Christian.  A covenant is a promise made by God. It cannot be broken since it is based on God's character.  

The Bible is a covenant document.  The Old and New Testaments are really Old and New Covenants.  The word "testament" is Latin for Covenant. The Reformed branch of the church, from which the Puritans originated, placed a strong emphasis on the covenant. This was especially important when it came to establishing governments. They believed that the Bible teaches the King, or governmental ruler today, is in a covenant relationship with both God and the people. This means the King has been delegated authority to rule according to the parameters laid out in the Scripture. The King was thus accountable to both God and the people with regard to how he ruled. The parameters laid out in the Bible kept the King accountable to both the people and God. This accountability led to the rise of liberty and republic forms of government.

As we can see, ideas from the Bible played a major role in the rise of liberty and republic forms of government. Where ever these ideas became a part of a culture, they would help transform that culture so that it reflected Biblical principles of God's kingdom. As a result, it became difficult for tyrants to abuse the rights of the people. The people knew their rights and could remove the King if he abused his power, according to this arrangement. In fact, when we examine the Declaration of Independence we will notice that the Founders followed this covenant principle when they originated the document. In it they listed their grievances against King George and how he had failed to address their just complaints against him based in English common law. They then stated that they were forming a new government based on the principle that he had been untrue to the legal covenant that he had with the people. 

The break with England was based in principle. It could not be placed in the same category as the French revolution since it really was not a revolt. The colonists made their case based on the current law at the time and the King refused to honor his own contractual agreement. The colonists seen this as a just cause - not a revolution.