John Locke’s Enlightenment Influence On The U S Constitution

The social contract theory of John Locke provided the philosophy and source of governing authority for both U.S. Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson borrowed freely from Locke’s phraseology.

John Locke laid out the social contract in the 5th paragraph of the chapter entitled “Of the Beginning of Political Societies” in his “Second Treatise on Government”. There he states that the will of the majority is the only source of authority for civil government. God and His law are ignored.

“And thus that which begins and actually constitutes any political society is nothing but the consent of any number of freemen capable of a majority to unitethis is that, AND THAT ONLY, which did or could give beginning to any lawful government” [John Locke, Second Treatise of Government (New York, NY: The Liberal Arts Press, 1952), p. 56]. This is the heart of democratic social theory — note the conspicuous exclusion of God and the ruling authority of His Word.

Under the Lockean model the people contract with one another to ordain a civil government. God and His law are not Party to the Contract. The Preamble of the U.S. Constitution clearly adopts this model: “We the people of the United States . . . do ordain this constitution for ourselves and our posterity.” God is snubbed, and Article VI, Section 3 forbids requiring an officeholder to swear allegiance to God.

The Bible contradicts Locke’s ascription of power to the majority. Romans 13:4 states that “there is no power but of God. The powers that be are ordained of God.”

Locke’s factionalized, pluralistic society is doomed to rip itself apart. God judges the society that fails to acknowledge the supremacy of Christ. Anarchy ensues.

Without the living and true God and His law there can be no justice. But contrary to popular Christian opinion, the founding fathers never appealed to the Bible. There is only one substantive reference to Scripture in the four-volume set of notes compiled from the Constitutional Convention.

The Federalist Papers, written in defense of the Constitution, make no reference to the Bible. Having spurned God’s law, the founders were forced to employ Social Contract of John Locke and so-called natural law.

When Adam fell, he was expelled into a darkened world that fell with him. Man’s fallen mind cannot correctly interpret the fallen creation. “For the creature [creation] was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope” (Rom. 8:20). Looking for justice in the “law of nature or “natural law” is an exercise in futility in a fallen world.

The Founding Fathers opened the door for their posterity to arbitrarily reinterpret the vague social contract articulated by John Locke. As our current desperate plight indicates, the Constitution cannot shield us from social, economic, and political devolution.

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The U S Constitution — John Eidsmoe Falls Short Of Proving It’s A Christian Document

According to John Eidsmoe, the U S Constitution was heavily influenced by Christianity. That is the thesis of his book Christianity and the Constitution. Published in 1987 by Baker House, the book is 415 pages in length.

The book leads off with a survey of various philosophical schools popular in the 18th Century, not least of which was Calvinism. John Eidsmoe states that a majority of Americans were Calvinist, but fails to demonstrate its influence on the Founders.

The book deals briefly with “John Locke’s social contract theory,” which is said to be the “secular expression” of the covenant. Mr. Eidsmoe equates the two, a usual tactic of Christian Federalists to explain away the obvious secularism of the U S Constitution.

For example, he glosses over Locke’s humanism with the assertion that he was “a Puritan by background” who “based his political theories on Rutherford’s Lex Rex.” Thus he excuses Locke’s humanism and Latitudinarianism to arrive at an very tenuous conclusion. John Locke was a Puritan prodigal, not a faithful son.

Mr. Eidsmoe’s repeated confusion of social contract theory and Bible covenant is his biggest problem. He naively mistakes the preamble of the U S Constitution as a commitment to Bible covenantalism, instead of the godless social contract which it is. This confusion is typical of Christian Constitutionalists, who frequently equate the U S Constitution and the Word of God.

Another chapter looks at aspects of 18th Century Puritanism such as optimistic eschatology and the application of Biblical law to all of life. John Eidsmoe wants his reader to draw the conclusion that these were incorporated into the U S Constitution. But this does not follow. The first Great Awakening of 1742 is described as a revival of Puritanism. This tenuous conclusion supports the non sequitor that Puritanism was built into the U S Constitution of 1787.

Several aberrant philosophies of the time are also discussed, including Freemasonry and Deism. Freemasonry is introduced and then waved off as an innocent social club, useful for political and business networking. John Eidsmoe simply ignores the anti-Christian oaths integral to Freemasonry.

It is hard to summarize all the problems in the chapter on “Law and Government”. For one thing, Mr. Eidsmoe presents Montesquieu as a champion of Biblical law. In reality Montesquieu took the Bible as but one among many authorities, with all subject to natural law.

Likewise Blackstone’s Common Law is presented as a compendium of Biblical law par excellence. The fact of the matter was it had morphed into a barnacle- laiden anachronism by the 1750s. For example, some 200 mostly petty crimes carried the death penalty. Most juries refused to enforce it because it was so obviously unjust.

In reality Blackstone rarely even mentioned the Bible in his Commentaries. We assume John Eidsmoe has read Blackstone, so he should be aware of that.

Returning to Locke, Mr. Eidsmoe justifies his humanism and “blank slate” theory of the mind, which denies original sin. Again he draws the faulty conclusion that Locke’s “social compact theory is similar to the Calvinist idea of covenant.” This is a misleading statement because the two ideas are diametrically opposed. They represent the authority of man versus the authority of God.

All of these misperceptions color the religious biographies of the founders which comprise most of the book. For example, of John Witherspoon he notes that “He devoted his life to instilling the principles of Holy Scripture into the minds and souls of young men who then used these principles to shape America.”

It is difficult to see how anyone who has read Witherspoon’s class notes for his moral philosophy class could draw such a conclusion. Moral philosophy was the culminating class of the curriculum that Witherspoon taught personally to all the graduating seniors at the College of New Jersey. They are an exposition of natural law and secular social contract theory, with very little reference to Holy Scripture.

Typical of Christian apologists for the U S Constitution John Eidsmoe spends a good deal of time arguing that the Founding Fathers were all solid Christians. The usual assumption is that if we can prove the founders were Christian, the document they gave us must of necessity be Christian. But this is a non-sequitor. Space does not permit us to say all that could be said of these biographies.

At the end, John Eidsmoe lists all of the alleged biblical principles he has found in the U S Constitution. But most of what he cites is Enlightenment theory of the natural rights of man, egalitarianism, and natural law. The “consent of the governed” is the source of governing authority rather than God.

Mr. Eismoe is correct in concluding that knowledge of the sinfulness of man prompted the Constitution’s limited, delegated powers. This is the one point at which the Founders got it right, and we have Witherspoon to thank for that. But overall the complexities of this book should limit its use to the advanced student who is well-versed in the issues involved.

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