How The Gospel Led To American Individualism And Prosperity

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Posted: Apr 24, 2018 10:33 AM
How The Gospel Led To American Individualism And Prosperity

The Great Experiment, America, has constructed the greatest civilization the world has ever seen.   While it took principles and practices from a variety of other civilizations, the configuration of the Great Experiment is utterly unique; never before has man put together such a system which has continuously delivered more freedom, liberty and prosperity.   It is unique in history and remains unique in the world today; as John Quincy Adams stated in 1837, “This organization is an anomaly in the history of the world.”[1]  Other successful modern civilizations owe their success to America and are themselves modeled after it; though none have ever reached its level of success.  The key element of the American experiment was the focus on the individual, and the individual’s relationship with God.   “You’re individuals, [the Founding Fathers are] saying to the colonists.  You’re children of God.  You’re no longer subject to the king.”[2]

"[O]ur nation was founded on the most unusual economic principles in history – the principles that people should be free to engage in economic activity without government permission, engage in mutually beneficial exchanges with anyone in the world without government interference, and accumulate unlimited amounts of wealth (given that the original Constitution did not empower the federal government to levy taxes on income).

The result of this unusual society was a level of wealth and a standard of living that would have been unimaginable to people just a short time before."[3]

The message of America was carried by its clergy.  The message of liberty emanating from the Gospel and Biblical Scripture rang out from the pulpits loud and clear and, not only resonated throughout the American colonies but also traveled across the Globe.  This Light would not just impact the American colonies and their prosperity, but it would carry the Light of abundance across the planet.  The great American Historian, Daniel Boorstin, wrote,

“During the first decades of settlement, the New England mind found its perfect medium and achieved its spectacular success in the sermon.  This success would have been impossible without a firm orthodoxy and a practical emphasis.  The Puritans of Massachusetts Bay thus foreshadowed the circumstances which, throughout American history, were to give peculiar prominence to the spoken, as contrasted with the printed, word.”[4] 

The American pulpits would forge the American mind and eventually spread this Light throughout the world.[5]  Dr. Boorstin would reveal that “America had something to teach all men: not by precept but by example, not by what it said but by how it lived.”[6]

God is the owner of all property – of all things.  We, as His children, as individual sovereigns who have inherited His creation from Him and by Him (Genesis 1:26-28), have fundamental rights to our property.   Period.  The acknowledgement is in our Compact (the Declaration of Independence and Constitution), and in Scripture, which is the source from which our Compact derives its authority.   “[T]hese sacred rights are amply secured by the most solemn compact.”[7]  In his deeply insightful book, The Hebrew Republic, Eric Nelson discusses the Hebrew distinctive theory of property from the Pentateuch.  He quotes the 11th century Rabbi Solomon Ben Isaac of Troyes, who wrote,

“All the earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He; He created it and gave it to who he pleased.  When he willed, He gave it to [the Canaanites], and when He willed He took it from them and gave it to [the Israelites].” 

Dr. Nelson then clarifies that God does, indeed, put conditions on His blessing of property.  Nelson explains these conditions:

"It must be demonstrated that (1) God is the creator of the earth, and therefore its owner; (2) God gives possession of his land to certain people under certain conditions; (3) when those conditions are violated, he may transfer possession to others; in this specific case [the Israelites and the Promise Land], land was initially given to the Canaanite nations, who then violated the terms of their occupancy; and (5) accordingly, God transferred possession to the Israelites."[8]

But even further study reveals that this acknowledgement and scholarship extend back to Francisco de Vitoria, one of the principle founders of the Spanish School of Salamanca, the theological and philosophical source of modern free-market, economic systematic thinking.  Vitoria discusses man’s dominion over God’s creation and its correlation to property rights in his 16th century treatise, Da justitia.  Cornell historian of medieval church history and law, Brian Tierney, summarizes “that Vitoria relied on Artistole and natural reason as well as on scripture in constructing a doctrine of natural right, an original ‘right and dominion’ of each individual over all things of the world.”[9]  Thus, Natural Law was in application.  Francisco de Vitoria’s systematic construct and the economic philosophy of the School of Salamanca, with its transformative Christian theological roots[10] became the foundation of the Dutch Republic, British Industrial Revolution, and American colonial moral commerce.  Additionally, it ultimately formed the spectacular and unprecedented American political and economic ascension.  These revolutions in economics and natural rights in law and jurisprudence (Natural Law) derived directly from “an attitude that a unique value to individual persons as children of God, made ‘in his image,’” as the Salamanca jurists and philosophers “often quoted scripture, especially the first chapter of Genesis.”[11]  This is the Natural Law of United States.  This is the source of the Light.

[1] John Quincy Adams, July 4, 1837, “An Oration Delivered before the Inhabitants of the Town of Newburyport, at their Request, on the Sixty-First Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence,” (Newburyport Herald Office: Printed by Morss and Brewster), p. 49.

[2] Bruce Feiler, 2009, America’s Prophet: Moses and the American Story, (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers), p. 62.

[3] Jacob G. Hornberger, June 2002 – May 2003, “Economic Liberty and the Constitution,” Freedom Daily, (Fairfax, VA: The Future of Freedom Foundation), Part 11, The National Industrial Recovery Act, [http://www.fff.org/freedom/fd0304a.asp].

[4] Daniel J. Boorstin, 1958, The Americans: The Colonial Experience, ((New York, NY: Random House), p. 10.

[5] Hans Rosling’s historical and statistical analysis vividly illustrate the immense impact the worldview which rose out of the United States as a result of Western Civilization and Christendom.   See Hans Rosling, November 26, 2010, [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbkSRLYSojo], September 11, 2014, [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sm5xF-UYgdg], and, November 23, 2015, [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vr6Q77lUHE].

[6] Daniel J. Boorstin, 1958, The Americans: The Colonial Experience, ((New York, NY: Random House), p. 4.

[7] Antifederalist Paper No. 8, March 5, 1788, (published in The Norfolk and Portsmouth Register).  Taken from Patrick Henry, Robert Yates, and Samuel Byron, The Anti Federalist Papers, 2010 (originally published 1787-1790), “, (Lexington, KY:  Pacific Publishing Studios), p. 14.

[8] Eric Nelson, 2010, The Hebrew Republic:  Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought, (Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press), p. 65.

[9] Brian Tierney, 2001 (originally published in 1997), The Idea of Natural Rights:   Studies in Law and Religion, Natural Law, and Church Law, 1150 – 1625, (Grand Rapids, MI:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.), p. 265.

[10] For a summary see Brian Tierney, 2001 (originally published in 1997), The Idea of Natural Rights:  Studies in Law and Religion, Natural Law, and Church Law, 1150 – 1625, (Grand Rapids, MI:   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.), pp.   263-265.

[11] Brian Tierney, 2001 (originally published in 1997), The Idea of Natural Rights:   Studies in Law and Religion, Natural Law, and Church Law, 1150 – 1625, (Grand Rapids, MI:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.), p. 287.