Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 2020
Charles A. Clough
Divine Institution Series
Lesson #01 – Divine Institution #1
05 July 2020
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
[Note: We were experiencing technical difficulty with the audio during this lesson. Our apologies for not having a complete transcript.]
The American War for Independence had a lot of these incidents. George Washington and some of the colonial leaders saw this. Of course, in our own day we would dismiss these as just casual, chance events.
When Washington—going back prior to the [indecipherable]—when Washington had his colonial army trapped on Long Island, it was a ragtag group, and it was all we had as a military force.
They were all trapped on Long Island because the British fleet had come into New York harbor. They planned on cutting the East River, cut them off, and then they would invade Long Island and destroy what was left of Washington’s army.
Washington and the men prayed because it was at night and they knew what was going to happen the next day when the sun came up. So supernaturally there just happened to be a fog, a very thick fog, that suddenly descended on New York harbor. Washington and that placing army crossed under the nose of the British fleet across the Manhattan and wound up of course over in New Jersey and saved the day.
The second time that happened [corresponds to] that famous painting you see of Washington crossing the Delaware with all the ice. He had planned a two-pronged attack on the Trenton and Princeton areas, because the British had hired contractors, their contractor soldiers were called Hessians, and the Hessians had a century circle around Trenton.
And so Washington planned one crossing, the Delaware to the north, and I think it was General Gates—I’ve mistaken the name of the of the other guy—but he was to cross south. Well it turns out that ice in the Delaware River that happened that time, that was part of the little ice age, climate change, and it was cold.
So that the southern prong of the attack failed. They couldn’t get artillery pieces across the Delaware River because of the ice. Now Washington’s left on the north side, wondering: “What do I do now? I’ve lost half of my force.” Well, he crossed the Delaware and just as he was crossing, a northeast storm came up the east coast, a northeast storm with the winds going counterclockwise. The path was offshore, which meant the wind was from the northeast.
The Hessian centuries are sitting out there protecting the city supposedly, and sleet began to fall, and the northeast wind blew it into the centuries’ eyes. So they decided: “Nobody’s going to invade Trenton. Besides, we can’t see.” So they went into the inner city.
Washington came down with the wind at his back, and entered the city before the Hessians even realized he was there. Those are two instances.
The third one, which we just sang about, is that little phrase in our national anthem that says, “the bombs bursting in air.” Actually, that was great for us because the more bombs that burst in the air, meant they didn’t burst on Fort McHenry. Francis Scott Key saw that. The British had misused their bombs. So they timed the fuse so they’d blow but they miscalculated the distance, that the shells had to go. The commander at Fort McHenry at the time lost a lot of men because he insisted that the American flag was going to fly. There were bodies all over the place, and he had a small flag. So in the morning, he had a bigger, massive flag. I think it’s still down at the Smithsonian Institute. I saw them working that flag bag, it still exists.
The women of Baltimore sewed that flag together. I think it’s fifty feet by something, and how these ladies did that, I don’t know. But the commander decided that after that bombardment he was going to defy the British and “I’m going to fly that sucker on top of Fort McHenry.” Just to let them know “You failed. We won.”
So that was the spirit that occupied a lot of these people, and they thought in terms of the Judeo-Christian worldview.
Today I want to, in this first Divine Institution, I’m going to preface it a little bit because of our holiday, and I think some neat things about American history.
Most of us, because we have gone through the secular educational system have never been acquainted with some of the things I’m going to bring out. But these were fundamental because the founding fathers of our country thought in terms of the Judeo-Christian framework.
Very few people understand why they did that and the background of it. I hope this will help you have confidence in the Bible when it’s ridiculed today and you kind of feel embarrassed sometimes to say “Well the Bible says this,” and they “ho, ho, ho” the Bible.
Well “ho, ho, ho” the Bible is a book library of letters, poems, and stories, historical reports by forty people, sixty-six of these things in the collection, written over 1,400 years in three different languages by men who were people at the king level, people at the level of administration, and the Persian Empire all the way down to small businessmen that were fishing on Lake Galilee.
Think about this: this is a library of men and women at all stages of life, all strata, they had all kinds of experiences, the same experiences we have, that God selected and collected a this collection, a vast collection, and it’s internally consistent.
Show me one library in the world that has forty-plus authors over 1,400 years that has internal consistency. You won’t find it. That’s what the Bible is. When we hold this Book, we hold an entire library.
I hope that this will be confidence building, and so we want to go to some of the background of the colonials, and then we’ll get into the first Divine Institution, which figures on our freedoms. So we’ll try to connect all of this if you follow with me here.
One of the problems we’ve got, it started with a professor, I think he was at Harvard. But he taught students back in the last century that you can’t have public discourse, any kind of discussion that gets down into the deeper things of life.
I sometimes show this because here is what that guy did, and he’s affected publish discourse for more than fifty years. Here’s what the issue is: the colonial Founding Fathers knew this, and they disregarded this “etiquette”, PC [political correctness] etiquette.
But if you notice on this [slide], I call it the four-layer cake. A friend of mine has another picture of this where he has an iceberg. You know most of the iceberg is under water, just the top of it sticks out of the ocean.
The point is that we often in our everyday conversation, we’re talking about issues up here. The social order, and what happened in the news, and so on.
That’s the normal level of discourse. Here’s the problem. When you get into real problems in life, that is insufficient. You’ve got to rely on something underneath that.
An example is the issue of abortion. “Well I’m for abortion,” “I’m against abortion.” But wait a minute. What is right? And that gets down into this first layer: What is just? What is ethics?
Well now the problem is, you have to support that. How do you support that? By your view of what the universe is. Is it just a random collection of matter? Or is it the creation of an infinite, wise God?
You can’t avoid these things. But, Rawls, Professor Rawls, thought you could. He said, “Civic peace in our country can be maintained,” and watch the language here, “can be maintained only if people agree not to make important public decisions by arguing on what is ultimately true.”
This is followed up by President Obama in his book The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, in which he denied the existence of absolute truth. Now once you do that, you’ve conceded the ground.
Now you have no real basis, and people say, “Oh the nation’s fractured.” Of course, it’s fractured, because you’ve got different worldviews competing. So we want to go into this in a little bit more detail.
Dr. Steven Smith, who was a law professor at San Diego University had written a book The Disenchantment of Secular Discourse, in which he goes through five examples of the U.S. Supreme Court decisions, these are crucial issues.
He says, if you look at the arguments that the court uses, you’ll see they try to go into these, get down into these levels and then they back off. Then they have to deal with something over here, and then they’ve got to deal with what’s right, what’s wrong, what’s just. Then they back off.
He gave the example of euthanasia. There was a case that came up before the Supreme Court about euthanasia. Can you as a Constitutional right, do you have the right to ask a physician to terminate your life?
You may be suffering, and there may be pain. This is a temptation. Can you demand that a physician help you end your life? Well a court didn’t like that because it was written, I think it was California and New York, you might guess where that kind of stuff comes from, and so you have it poorly written.
The court is obviously thinking, “What do you do with a fourteen-year-old girl who’s depressed because of something in her life? Are you going to have her go to the doctor and have him end her life at fourteen?”
It just didn’t make intuitive sense. So the Supreme Court struggled page after page after page trying to figure out, “How can we justify our position that that’s not right?” So, they basically had two big arguments.
Smith shows how neither one of these arguments really carries weight. So at the very end this is what they said. This was their justification to say “No” to unbridled euthanasia. They defined it as “the premature ending of life.”
Now wait a minute. What does that imply? When you say something is prematurely ended, aren’t you in effect saying there is a standard of life? That’s called smuggling.
In other words, what happens in a country where we only deal with this, these things can’t be avoided. So they’re “smuggled in” through these little ways of phrasing things.
The colonial people, our Founding Fathers, never bought into that at all. When they came to this country, the population in the 1600s and the early 1700s, historians tell us some were wealthy, some were indentured servants, we forget that.
These were people from Europe. Indentured servants were basically slaves until they paid off their loans. Some were very poor, but, and this is the but, but they all came with thought-through views of life.
What books did they read? To which worldviews did they subscribe? This is the background. Why did the Founding Fathers create the kind of government we have? It wasn’t because they got together in Philadelphia and “you believe this, and you believe this, and we’re going to eeny, meeny, miny, moe the thing and we’ll create a document.”
As Dr. Gardner showed at the park yesterday, our Constitution is our second Constitution. We had one before called the Articles of Confederation and it was basically falling apart because it had no strong central government. So here’s a quote, from one of the historians, this is surprising.
You’ll never hear this in school because it’s embarrassing to a secular faculty. Let’s follow this. “The revolutionary principles of republican liberty and self-government, taught and embodied in the system of Calvin, were brought to America ...
The vital relation of Calvin and Calvinism to the founding of the free institutions of America, however strange to some ears [this sounds] is recognized and affirmed by historians of all lands and creeds.” Does that surprise you?
Anybody ever hear this in the public-school course? What he’s saying is, Calvin is representative of European Protestantism. That’s what’s going on here. Here’s the background of why that kind of thinking came from the Bible.
When our country was founded we had three million Americans at the time of the War of Independence. That was the population of the United States, three million. Now watch these statistics.
Of those three million people, nine hundred thousand were Scotch or Scotch-Irish in origin. Now if they came from Scotland, what worldview and what church did they come out of? The Presbyterian Church.
Six hundred thousand were Puritan English. They came out of the people who were opposing divine right. I’ve showed you several times in speaking that book I got from the Harvard University library called Lex Rex.
Lex Rex was considered a tract, it’s three hundred pages long. And Lex Rex is arguing against the king of England’s right to tell Scots people, Scotsmen, how to worship. The king took over the Anglican Church, because he wanted a divorce, so he kicked the Catholics out and formed the Anglican Church, he was part of the Anglican Church basically.
Not all Anglicans went along with that. But what happened was that he decided that he was an Anglican and to unify all of his kingdom, including Scotland, “I am going to compel everyone to worship according to the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.
And the Presbyterians of Scotland said, “You’re not going to do it here.” And so there was a big, long war between the Covenanters: they were called Covenanters because they had covenanted to defy the king.
Lex Rex is the book they used and the argument they used to show that no civil authority has the right to interfere with our worship, period. He can be called a king, He can be called parliament, or anyone else. So now you see that was all decided before we started thinking about how to organize this nation.
400,000 others besides the Puritans were Germans or Dutch Reformed. So you can see the population favored people who had come out of northern Europe. And they had been taught, and by the way they had been taught how to read. Do you know where universal education started?
It started with Martin Luther. Do you know why he started universal education? Because he wanted people to read the Bible. Remember, the printing press came out in Gutenberg. And so there again God was providentially working.
So, Gutenberg prints the Bible in everyday language. Well that doesn’t help if you can’t read in your language. So, Luther started teaching that universities and colleges need to get with the common person and teach them how to read.
We’ll see later what happened to that idea. So, here’s the relationship now with the Bible. I’m going to show you several verses. These are all familiar with you.
But I want you to think about these verses, what they do to thinking about the Founding Fathers’ concept of the role of government.
They believed, particularly the northern European Protestants, they believed in the depravity of human nature. They believed that we all live east of Eden. Meaning, original sin, we are all made in God’s image.
We have value, but it has a ruinous nature to it. So, human nature has a sin problem. And it afflicts everybody, from lay people to priests to kings to governments. So, they were imbued with this idea. This kind of thing. Let’s look at some of what they were reading.
“Our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,” This is Isaiah. We think about “Who was Isaiah?” Isaiah is one of the prime prophets of the Old Testament who is talking about his own countrymen.
These are people who think they have got brownie points with God, because they kept a few pieces of the legislation. And he says you got it wrong. You have a depraved nature, we all have a depraved nature.
We all tend to drift, all of us, the older we get in Christ the more we’re aware of our own personal shortcomings and sins. This is not to be a morbid self-reflection thing. It’s just a confession of the limitations of our human nature.
“All of our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” Alright, that addresses the nation Israel. Now, here’s Paul talking about the Gentiles. Now by Gentiles he means non-Jews. People who have no exposure to the Bible. People who come out of a pagan background.
And he says, and this was important because what his verse teaches is that everyone, including professed atheists, everyone knows basically in their heart of hearts that God exists “and I got a little problem with Him.”
“When Gentiles, who have not the law, ...—no revelation, not in contact with the Bible—by nature do the things in the Law … and show the work of the Law written in their hearts, and their conscience also bearing witness.”
So there’s a confession that we can appeal to a common conscience. Even though people won’t agree with the Bible or they don’t. Then we have a third verse I’ve just picked out, because again this was in the reading of the Founding Fathers. You all knew this.
Here’s Paul himself, the guy that wrote most of our New Testament. He’s talking about his own inner life. This is not some morally superior person talking down to us.
This is someone who shares our nature. He’s confessing that, “you know, I know the Lord, I met Him on the road to Damascus. And the Holy Spirit’s taught me, and that’s why I’ve written these epistles out.”
But look what he says about his own personal life. “I wouldn’t have known covetousness unless the Law said, ‘You won’t covet.’ … I am carnal, I’m sold under sin for what I’m doing, I don’t understand for what I want to do, what I will to do, I do not practice. But what I hate that I do.”
Now, we all know, if we’re candid, that’s our experience isn’t it? As Christians, we try to follow the Lord and what He wants but that’s that struggle that we have on the inside.
Now what I want to do now is we talked about this as the source. Either human nature is depraved, or human nature is okay and can be perfected.
The depravity is not a bad thing in the sense that the Founding Fathers thought it’s hopeless. They didn’t think it was hopeless or else they wouldn’t have bothered with the effort.
The idea of a depraved, fallen nature is that we have to cope with it, and of course the gospel is the only real way of coping with what is inside us.
So, on the left side of this chart is the idea that human nature is depraved and apart from the gospel unchangeable. Now if you believe this, remember the four-layer cake [slide 2]? What is reality? What is truth? What is right?
If that is your view of human nature, it has political consequences. It means that if you’re constructing a government you need to have defined, strict laws and punishments.
Why? Because we have to be reminded of what is just. You have to have standards of justice articulated in the legal system. The second thing this idea would compel you to think about is: limit rulers’ powers.
Remember what I told you about the Scotchmen, Lex Rex’s argument about divine rights of kings? That second layer means that when the Founding [audio cuts out]. Yes it’s not perfect and it’s not highly efficient, but it’s the price you have to pay to limit power. So this is why they thought about this. Remember, the Declaration of Independence was an argument against unlimited power of the king of England.
The third thing is, and this is kind of interesting because we don’t think of this. If we hold to the fact that depravity is universal among men, among all nations, doesn’t it follow that we can be threatened by people from another country? [Audio is interrupted]
So, if you believe the idea that human nature is depraved and it’s universal, it’s also true of other nations. If it’s true of other nations then that tells you we should be able to defend our country because although we can limit of our government we can’t limit the power [of another government], and we’re finding that out with the Chinese.
The Chinese have a hundred-year program of conquering the United States and taking over the world. They’re going to use military, economic trade, everything else. My son who works at the Pentagon was just saying, “You know, when we put our DNA into Ancestory.com, you know who owns half of it? The Chinese do.”
They’re building a genetic database of the world’s population. Then they can sell it to medical research. These guys are shrewd. So, we have to be suspicious of other nations, and be able to think through: How do we defend ourselves?
It’s not like we’re looking for war, it’s just we’re looking to defend ourselves. On the other hand, on the right side of that chart is what thinkers of Europe thought and that gave rise to the French Revolution in 1789.
They’re idea was: you have lax laws and few punishments. You have lax laws and few punishments because you don’t really need them if the human nature is basically good.
Most important is the second row in that second column: “Trust the ruler’s good intentions.” What that means, they didn’t build in limitations, and you remember the blood in the streets of Paris in 1789 when people were facing the guillotine by the thousands.
That’s what you have, you have an anarchy leading finally, because nobody can tolerate and live in an anarchy. Anarchy always breeds tyranny.
Tyranny is unlimited power. This is why Marxism is so dangerous, because they start out saying “we want to reform, we want to reform, we want to improve society.” Then they get frustrated “so we are going to wreck the whole thing” and out of this garbage heap is going to some how miraculously emerge the Millennial Kingdom. This always has failed.
Here’s the problem though. If that is the case, and our nation is basically founded on a human nature idea like that, what do you do with this?
The latest American worldview inventory of 2020 by Barna, who operates out of Arizona Christian University, finds that six out of ten, almost seven out of ten, a whopping sixty-nine percent of Americans see man today as basically good.
So there’s been a shift in the idea of human nature. This affects politics, because as the Founding Fathers knew, it was grounded on one model and now we’re replacing that model. And it has political consequences. More on that Divine Institution later.
Now I want to get to this Divine Institution #1, which I’ll define and explain in a few minutes here. One of the researchers back in 1984—in 1984 we didn’t have digital databases, right? No personal computers in 1984—one scholar by the name of Donald Lutz, I think he at the time was teaching at the University in Houston [Texas].
He got a bunch of graduate students together and they manually read through 15,000 documents of the Founding Fathers looking for what reference material they [the Founding Fathers] were looking at for their ideas. You don’t get this in any history course that I know of today.
They looked at the materials between 1760 and 1805. They found a total, as they read carefully, of 3,154 references, and here’s what they found.
There’s [sic] the citations they found in the writings of the colonial fathers, and there’s the percent of where those citations came from. Notice what’s on the top.
Imagine today if the leading thinkers of this nation spent thirty-four percent of their study time in the Bible. Think that might make a difference? That’s what happened to the population that started this country.
The Enlightenment thinkers, they weren’t the radicals. Of that twenty-two percent, people like Montesquieu, John Locke who himself came out of a Puritan background …
Where you see the wigs, that was a fallacious term the Brits called the Scottish Presbyterians, and Lex Rex was a lot [of the references,] eighteen percent of references. So, I think how you can see how there’s been a total shift, and this is why, parents, when you send your kids to universities today, let me show you something.
There’s been a total intellectual shift that’s been going on and it’s been lead by the universities. Here’s the result of work by John Ellis. John Ellis is a distinguished professor emeritus at the University of California-Santa Cruz, and he had been in the University of California system, so here’s his research going back, asking a simple question:
“Of the faculties of our universities, if I divide the faculties into those who are conservative, and not necessarily biblical, but they at least believe in enduring truth, versus the liberal, who are progressives, they want to improve society because human nature is perfectible, here’s what he found:
In 1969 for every two conservative faculty members there were three liberals on the staff. In 1999, thirty years later, for every one conservative there were five liberals on the faculty. By 2005 for every conservative faculty member in the university there were eight progressive liberals on the faculty.
And in 2019, for every conservative faculty member there are thirteen liberals. I just talked to Dr. Gardner, a friend of mine, I think he teaches at [unclearly spoken word] somewhere near, Baltimore. He’s a nice, black scholar.
I asked him, “Don’t you feel lonely?” He said “Yes, I feel lonely. I have very little fellowship on this faculty, with anyone who agrees with me.”
Now, what is really startling is the people who are being hired. For every one conservative that is being recruited for a college campus today forty-eight liberals. How are you going to get an education with that?
There is no diversity, there is no intellectual diversity in that. And you can’t learn to think if you don’t see the conflict of ideas. If you steadily get one sort of idea … you’re going to come out.
We don’t understand that the students you see tearing down monuments and so on in our streets have been radicalized by the university education. There are three applications/lessons here to learn.
Parents better consider college expenses versus education. Are your kids going to be indoctrinated or are they going to be educated? This is not to say there aren’t good campuses. It’s just to say, use your tools of research and think through where you’re sending your kid.
Because they can come back radicalized and it’s going to be heartbreaking experience for you as a mom and a dad to see the girl or boy you’ve spent years raising suddenly taken over with this kind of nonsense.
Young people, here is something for you. You better get training thinking through the great ideas of the Bible and how to defend them or you’re going to be mincemeat when you get on a college campus. You simply have to do that.
Back in the days when I went to college we were at MIT where there were only about thirty of us Christians that we knew of on the whole campus. There probably were more, but in our group [there were about 30].
Do you know what we did? We had a file cabinet with folders in it. When any of the Christian kids took a course, we kept notes about a this professor’s attack, whether he attacked us as Christians, if he may sly comments in his lectures and so on This was in some of these courses we had to take. Before we took those courses, we knew before going in how that faculty person would teach us, what he would try to do for us, and so forth.
It wasn’t a total solution but it surely helped us out. Another thing that helped us out was meeting together for prayer and the study of the Word of God. Just to know there were other students who were there and we didn’t feel like the lone ranger, all alone in this hostile situation.
Just to know you have some buddies that you can pal with, that you can pray with, you can grieve with, you can laugh with, and so forth.
And the third application, not only parents and students, but here is the third one. If you are an alumni of a university and they come begging money from you, you better find out whether they’re still what you thought they were. A couple of years ago, we have Brooke Shertzer come in here and point out that a major university right here in downtown Baltimore, when it came time for alumni weekend, all of the signs about transgenderism, LGTBQ, and the Atheist Society, they all disappeared.
Why do you suppose those signs were all taken down for alumni weekend and put right back up on Monday? Because they don’t want to offend the alumni because what does the alumni give?
So that’s what’s happened to us and when we now come to the Divine Institutions, let me define this. We’re talking about the first Divine Institution; it’s just a label for God’s design. But in particular, God’s design of human society.
Divine Institutions are there from the very time of our creation. They describe the structure that affects every person. They’re universal. It doesn’t matter whether the person is a believer or not, whether they’re a Buddhist, whether they’re a Christian, it doesn’t matter.
Everyone human being has a certain structure. The first Divine Institution is “human responsibility”. Some people call it “free will,” I prefer “responsibility” because I want to be reminded that I have to live before my Creator. So I have a responsibility how I live my life. And we have, of course, the anchor verse, two parts of Genesis 1.
We all know this, but let’s think about what we’re doing here. Let’s look through the verse and think “what is the opposite of this verse?” “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” What’s the opposite? The opposite is that He didn’t create, that we got here just by accident.
Second, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” What is the opposite of that? The opposite is that we’re just animals, evolved animals.
In the biblical worldview, we have a Creator over the creation. In the biblical worldview, every person, every single person, no matter what their ethnicity is, has value. The value is not given by society to the individual. The value is inherent in the individual by virtue of their creation in the image of God.
Here’s another thought. In the course I teach at seminary I always bring this up. One of the great Church Fathers early on said this about that second verse [Genesis 1:26], he said, “I imagine God stooping down into the clay of the Garden of Eden, and forming man, as He molds his body—patterned after what He knows He has to incarnate Himself in. This is not a dog, it’s not a horse, it’s not anything like that. It’s a unique creature, made in the image of God. In order that God Himself can come to the earth and incarnate Himself and that what Jesus Christ is.
He is God incarnate in a man. He is called the Son of God, but He’s also called the Son of Man. That’s the absolute uniqueness, that’s the absolute source of value. But think about this. Here is one of the quotes from Karl Marx (1818–1883), don’t just kiss this off.
Marxian thought affects sociology today. Whenever you hear the word “class”, or “privilege”, or “dividing people up”,” that is an idea that started back with Karl Marx. Granted, it’s true, it was economic Marxism, but what we have is cultural Marxism.
Here’s what he says. “A being only considers himself independent when he stands on his own feet; and he only stands on his feet when he owes his existence to himself.” Is that an idea? What’s the implication?
If you seriously believe that, … how does that affect your behavior versus if you believe you are unique and made in God’s image? When we see these things think about implications.
This is why when we read the Declaration of Independence, what do you see in this section of the Declaration?
If you don’t have a copy of the Declaration of Independence, I recommend you do what I never did until recent years, look at pages three, four, and five [of the Declaration of Independence]. If you look at pages three, four, and five, you’ll see a list of grievances that the colonials had while they were declaring independence.
If you notice that list, you’ll see they all reappear in the Constitution’s Bill of Rights. There are scholars today who say there’s no connection between the Declaration and the Constitution.
Oh yeah? Where do you think the ideas for the Bill of Rights came from? They came from the Declaration. Notice the Declaration is Judeo-Christian. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”—I know, there were slave owners, but that was an aberration.
If you didn’t have this you wouldn’t have any progress, ethically, through that. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain Unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
Do you notice two key words here? Two key expressions. Look carefully at this phraseology. “They are endowed” … by the government, or who? By the Creator.
And therefore, if the rights come from the Creator and not from the government, what is the conclusion? What kind of rights? “Unalienable”. Why are they unalienable? Because no government can take them away.
The government can try to take them away. But the government can’t take them away inherently. They may beat us, they may kill us, like they’re doing to Christians around the world by the tens of thousands. But they can’t take the right away. It’s still there.
Let’s contrast that Barna’s research on America today. They find that the majority of Americans no longer believe that human life has intrinsic value. Six out of ten were questioned about the fundamental idea that human life is sacred. Stunningly, only thirty-nine percent of Americans today agree that human life is sacred or it has unconditional, intrinsic worth.
If that’s really what’s happening in our society, then that’s going to have consequences. We want to notice something here. When they’re [the writers of the Declaration of Independence] talking about every man, are they talking about a class of people? Or are they talking about individuals? Let’s think through this thing a minute. Let’s look at this first.
“And the Lord commanded the man, saying ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’ ” (Genesis 2:16–17). How many people was that addressed to? One.
Let’s look at another one. “When I was made in secret and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth, Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they were all written—the days fashioned for me when as yet there were none of them (Psalm 139:15–16).
Is that addressed to a class of people, or is it addressed to an individual? An individual. Let’s look at more data from the Bible.
Here’s a familiar verse: “He who believes in Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John 3:18–19).
Does it start out with a plural or a singular subject? Singular. “He that believes” [is singular]. Then finally:
“We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ”—he’s talking to believers here in the New Testament—“that each one may receive the things done in the body according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10–11).
Is that addressed to a class or to a individuals? It’s addressed to individuals. I want to go to a textbook given to me by one of the young people who goes to this church, and who went to a local university.
Because you have to take electives, this young person had to take this course. Here’s the title of the book, you can tell what’s coming: Race, Class, and Gender in the United States: An Integrated Study.
I want to read to you the table of contents for the first section of the book. See if you can gather, as I read the titles of what’s going on here. “Racial Formations”, plural. “The Ethics of Living: Jim Crow”, which would be a legitimate issue.
But now listen to the phraseology: “Constructing Race, Creating White Privilege”. Another one: “How Jews Became White Folk”. Another one: “The Social Construction of Sexuality”. We will get into this one during the lesson on the second Divine Institution.
In other words, it is a class characteristic that is invented by society. Another title: “The Invention of Heterosexuality”. Listen to that. The whole chapter. Kids are quizzed on this. Another one: “Masculinity as Homophobia”.
“Disability and the Justification of Inequality in American History”. “Deconstructing the Underclass”, and so forth. “Domination and Subordination”. You can go on and on and on.
It’s another case of what is going on in our culture and the engine that is causing this: the massive investment and effort in the universities.
The take away of the first Divine Institution:
The first Divine Institution conveys value and responsibility to individuals. Value and responsibility does not come because society creates it by associating you or your neighbor in a certain class. It starts with God.
Let me bluntly show how this works out. If the Bible’s view of human nature is wrong, if the Founding Fathers were mislead by the Scriptures, then no lives matter, no matter what you are.
Your life has no meaning, and it does not matter. And we see that. In the twentieth century, there’s been thirty, to forty, to fifty million people butchered by Communists who were run by the atheistic view that man has no inherent nature, and if society doesn’t grant him value, then he doesn’t have any value.
This is why under Hitler’s regime, people, guards, Auschwitz, that were gassing Jewish people. And gassing by the way, crippled people. Anybody that wasn’t normal. Do you know what they do?
They [Nazis] would go home and listen to Mozart. Why do you suppose they did that? Because it assuaged their conscience. They could do that, because they didn’t want to be reminded that the people they just gassed were valuable people. And they knew it.
So they had to assuage their conscience by going home and listening to Mozart and Beethoven and so forth.
Our conclusion: the Founding Fathers of this great nation saw life and liberty in terms of the Judeo-Christian worldview. There’s no debate about that. We do not have to be embarrassed to make that point. Thirty-four percent of all of their referencing materials came from the Bible. Why is this important?
It goes back to what we said. It affects the view of our government, it affects the worldview that is going on. We’re obviously coming up to an election, and a lot of us have family differences, and we don’t want to get into a big argument at home.
Let me just suggest a diplomatic, gracious way of responding to someone when they ask you how are you going to vote or who did you vote for. Here’s a way I think to get the conversation at a better level. You can just reply “I’m trying to live and vote consistently with my worldview.” “I’m trying to live and vote consistently with my worldview.”
You haven’t answered them directly, you’ve answered them indirectly. Hoping that they will then ask you “What does that mean?” That opens the conversation. We’re struggling to get clear the way you build a nation with liberty and freedom like we’ve had.
Summary, we’ll give nine lessons about Divine Institution #1, about individuals. Think of yourself, to think of myself. What does it mean when we say that we are made in God’s image?
1. We are the creation of a God.
2. We are a unique creation among all of the things He’s created. He’s created nothing like we’ve been created and now we know why. He wanted to come to this earth and manifest Himself.
He was born to a seventeen- or eighteen-year-old girl, virgin birth, who by the way was taught by her mom and her dad with a heavy theology. If you want to see what that seventeen- or eighteen-year-old girl believed, because she had been taught well and she had thought well, read Luke 1.
3. A creature I am, I am held morally accountable to my Creator, Who is also my holy, righteous Judge. I am responsible, I can’t excuse my choices, blaming them on circumstances, blaming them on the fact that I was raised this way or that way. I have to accept personal responsibility for my thinking and my choices and you do too.
4. A creature that is held accountable as an individual, not because I belong to a class.
5. I am a creature who lives east of Eden, and therefore unable to overcome my moral unacceptability to my Creator. I am unable by my works to overcome my moral unacceptability to my Creator.
6. I am continually surrounded by my Creator’s designs. I am continually surrounded by His providential working in my life. I am not ignorant of His existence.
7. I’m a creature who in this life can come to a personal relationship and meet God and His hand of gracious forgiveness, only by coming into contact with His Word about His Son. I can only do that as I read the writing of Christians or I read the Bible for myself.
8. We all, whether believers in the Bible or not, whether white or black, whether man or woman, whether poor or wealthy, are creatures responsible for our thoughts, words, and actions, and one day we’ll be certainly held individually accountable to our Creator, our Judge, and our Savior.
9. The invitation He has given us is still open. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever—any individual—believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”
I’m going to conclude the service today with a hymn that Isaac Watts developed based on Psalm 90. Psalm 90 is a psalm by Moses in his elderly life. He said of God, “You have been our dwelling place in all generations. From generation to generation You are God. Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Let Your work appear to your servants. Establish the work of our hands. Establish the work of our hands.”
We need God to help us to establish the work of our hands in our home, in our families, in our communities at this time in our history. Let’s reflect on what Isaac Watts put to music in Psalm 90. Please view the following YouTube video of “O God, Our Help in Ages Past” posted by SE Samonte, sung by Sharon Mennonite Bible Institute Singers.