The Gift of Bethlehem and the Rule of Law, Part 2

Since 2007 Peter Johnston has periodically used the holiday season to draw attention to the remarkable overflow of cultural common good stemming from the Gift of Bethlehem two millennia ago. Drawing upon the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, join Peter as he documents the constructive contributions Christ and Christians have made particularly to economic, political, and social liberty throughout the centuries.

A previous post focused on the Gift of Bethlehem and the rule of law.

The rule of law specific to the United States was birthed with the Declaration of Independence in July, 1776, portions of which were referenced in my previous post.

Can we find links in the Declaration to the Gift of Bethlehem?

Indeed, we can.

Is there evidence of Michael Novak’s wing of faith, as highlighted elsewhere in this series, referencing his book On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding.

Indeed, there is.

In my article “The Decay of Liberty and the Rule of Law in 21st Century America”, I cited Novak, writing, “[a]uthor Michael Novak asserts that the ‘very form of the Declaration was that of a traditional American prayer, a compact not unlike the Mayflower Compact.’”

I continued, stating that Novak “explains how Jefferson included two references to God in Hebrew terms and that two additional Hebrew names for God were added by Congress before the document was affirmed.”   Novak specifically added:

If these Hebraic texts of the Declaration were strung together as a single prayer, the prayer would run as follows: Creator, who has endowed in us our inalienable rights, Maker of nature and nature’s laws, undeceivable Judge of the rectitude of our intentions, we place our firm reliance upon the protection of divine Providence, which you have extended over our nation from its beginnings. Amen.

Novak points out that the names Creator, Judge, and Providence identified in the Declaration “unambiguously derive from Judaism and came to America via Protestant Christianity.”

But those are not the only links.

As the principle writer of the Declaration didn’t Thomas Jefferson reference self-evident “truths…that all men are created equal”?

Novak writes that “the ‘truth’ that ‘all men are created equal’ [has its] roots…in Judaism, carried around the world by Christians.”  Interestingly Novak added, “Jefferson himself believed that, if shorn of its miracles, there was no better ethic than that of the New Testament for instruction in republican self-government.”

And those rights…didn’t Jefferson call them “unalienable rights,”  rights “endowed by their Creator.”

Writing that same year, 1776, founding father John Dickinson stated, “[o]ur liberties do not come from charter; for these are only the declaration of preexisting rights.  They do not depend on parchment of seals; but come from the King of Kings and the Lord of all the earth.”

Our Declaration of Independence is a foundation stone to Western liberty.  Let us not forget the pivotal part the Gift of Bethlehem played in laying the groundwork for that seminal document and ensuing liberty springing forth therefrom.


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