Previously at American Creation, I asked two questions I think better frame the "Christian Nation" debate in clearer context. They are:
1. Which Christian ideas, if any, helped bring us into the modern world?Jack Goldstone's essay at "Cato Unbound" arguing "a community of free individuals sovereign over a limited state" created the engineering culture that launched the modern world, inspired my posts here.
2. Which Christian ideas, if any, derail us from progressing toward the modern world?
"What I believe is most critical to insist upon is the degree to which Europe itself had to repudiate central elements of its own history and culture — the absolute authority of hereditary rulers, the prohibition of diverse religious beliefs in any one society, the elevation of the rights and needs of political and social status elites above those of ordinary inhabitants — in order to develop and implement the idea of society as a community of free individuals sovereign over a limited state. Yet this was necessary if the marriage of engineering culture and entrepreneurship was to survive and flourish, and produce the economic and technological miracles of the last two centuries."I argue that Christianity, properly understood, provided the fertile ground that launched modernity, promoting the the idea of the free sovereign individual. And as such, those who invoke the authority of "science" and "rationality" should be less hostile, as many of them oft-seem, to what I term "rational Christianity," a theological system that helped bring about science, rationality and political liberty.
In this vein, I argue "rational Christianity" and the "rational Judaism" that preceded it, grounds inalienable rights in the notion that man is the workmanship of God and His property. Genesis 1 first discussed this notion when God states man is made in His image. Later in Genesis, the idea is further expounded when God tells Noah it is wrong for man to murder man because he is made in God's image.
This notion was promoted by medieval Roman Catholic Canon Law, most notably by St. Thomas Aquinas, and later by the Anglican natural law theologian Richard Hooker. Citing Hooker, John Locke's Second Treatise directly influenced the Declaration of Independence.
Locke's Second Treatise stresses that inalienable rights exist because man is God's Workmanship and as such, His property.
With that, ladies and gentlemen, John Locke:
"This equality of men by Nature, the judicious Hooker looks upon as so evident in nature and beyond all question, that he makes it the foundation of that obligation to mutual love amongst men on which he builds the duties they owe one another, and from whence he derives the great maxims of justice and charity. His words are:
'The like natural inducement hath brought men to know that it is no less their duty to love others than themselves, for seeing those things which are equal, must needs all have one measure; if I cannot but wish to receive good, even as much at every man's hands, as any man can wish unto his own soul, how should I look to have any part of my desire herein satisfied, unless myself be careful to satisfy the like desire, which is undoubtedly in other men weak, being of one and the same nature : to have anything offered them repugnant to this desire must needs, in all respects, grieve them as much as me; so that if I do harm, I must look to suffer, there being no reason that others should show greater measure of love to me than they have by me showed unto them; my desire, therefore, to be loved of my equals in Nature, as much as possible may be,imposeth upon me a natural duty of bearing to fbemward fully the like affection. From which relation of equality between ourselves and them that are as ourselves, what several rules and canons natural reason hath drawn for direction of life no man is ignorant.'
But though this be a state of liberty, yet it is not a state of license; though man in that state have an uncontrollable liberty to dispose of his person or possessions, yet he has not liberty to destroy himself, or so much as any creature in his possession, but where some nobler use than its bare preservation calls for iw The state of Nature has a law of Nature to govern it, which obliges every one, and reason, which is that law, teaches all mankind who will but consult it, that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty or possessions; for men being all the workmanship of one omnipotent and infinitely wise Maker; all the servants of one sovereign Master, sent into the world by His order and about His business; they are His property, whose workmanship they are made to last during His, not one another's pleasure.
And, being furnished with like faculties, sharing all in one community of Nature, there cannot be supposed any such subordination among us that may authorize us to destroy one another, as if we were made for one another's uses, as the inferior ranks of creatures are for ours. Every one as he is bound to preserve himself, and not to quit his station wilfully, so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he as much as he can to preserve the rest of mankind, and not unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another."