For PDF Version: The Bible: America’s Source of Law and Liberty
Foreword by Delegate Mike Azinger
In the spring of 2015 at the invitation of my pastor, Jon Lands, I co-hosted our church’s “Godly Heritage Tour” to Washington, D.C. With 60 other history lovers and thrill seekers, we loaded onto a bus in Vienna, West Virginia and headed to our nation’s capital. We were anxious to discover the abundant treasures of Godly landmarks etched in stone on copious buildings and standing tall in stoic statues of bronze, stone, marble and steel.
On the first day of the tour we were to have a guest tour guide whose name was unfamiliar to me, but who would, before the day was over, have me awe-struck by his seemingly infinite knowledge of our American history. His name is Stephen McDowell, and he is the long-time president of Providence Foundation in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Stephen didn’t just teach us our history per se that Friday; he taught us our real history — our Christian history. He taught us the history of what God did in our beginnings during the days of the Pilgrims at Plymouth, the first permanent colony of Jamestown, the original 13 colonies, and the tough and tenuous days of the American Revolution…and much more. Stephen answered many questions for me on that tour of D.C., some of which I have had for many years. Questions such as, What was the foundation of our forefathers’ belief system? What was the source of the laws of the original 13 colonies? How did the forefathers educate their children? What was the source of that education, and who actually taught their children? Did America become the greatest nation in history by accident or was there a causal effect that began before our nation was even founded?
As I listened to Stephen McDowell (and subsequently read his books), I couldn’t help but ask myself another question: How could America have so thoroughly forgotten and forsaken what it should have fought with all its might to preserve—its Christian history? How did it happen that we quit telling the stories to our children and grandchildren of our miraculous Biblical foundations? How did we quit teaching it in our schools and in our history books?
In the book of Joshua chapter 4, verses 3-9, when the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, God said to Joshua,
“Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you”…That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, “What mean ye by these stones?” Then ye shall answer them, “That the waters of Jordan were cut off [divided] before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off:” and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever…And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day. [emphases mine]
When God did something of significance in the lives of the Israelites, He wanted them to remember. So God would have them create a memorial; in this instance He had them build a memorial of 12 stones. The Israelites, like Americans today, were quite adept at forgetting.
As with Israel, even the most important of lessons, lectures, and life-changing events can fade from our memory in no time at all, can’t they? “Don’t forget!” is a common refrain from parent to child, from teacher to student, and from pastor to congregation. We can forget the most important of things—the most essential of things—even the things that are vital to the survival of our civilization—like our history.
And that is what this book is—it is a memorial; it is a reminder; it is a “Don’t forget!” It is a dusting off of the long-forgotten history of how God raised America from a mere babe to become the greatest nation on earth. This book is 12 stones.
This is not a comprehensive work. It is not meant to be. It is rather short—only about 200 pages—and is designed as a congealed briefing of irrefutable, documented facts short enough to be a primer of sorts for us as legislators (as well as all citizens) to get a taste of what happened in the shaping of America in the 17th and 18th centuries.
I am not lecturing you to learn our history as a teacher might lecture. I am just one fellow legislator anxious to share with my colleagues some long-forgotten American history, most of which I have just recently learned myself. And sadly, what you are about to learn in this enlightening book is no longer in our history books or text books—but it once was.
It is essential that we resurrect our true American history. It is essential that we teach our Christian heritage again. It is essential to our survival, essential to our identity, essential to how we create our laws. It is essential for us to learn it for ourselves, to teach it to our children, and to the generations following. If a nation does not know its past—its origins—it cannot know its own identity. It cannot have a common purpose, a common destiny.
With no historical perspective—with no historical identity, a nation has no direction. The great British pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon used to say that if you shine a light on the past, it—like a mirror—reflects light on the future. One of the main reasons there is so much confusion, balkanization, and division in America today is because we no longer know our common Christian history. We don’t know who we are, and thus, we don’t know how we’re supposed to behave. We quit shining a light on the past, so we have no light to guide us into the future.
Several months after returning from our “Godly Heritage Tour” to Washington, D.C., I was asked by Eric Ross, an old friend who pastors in Arizona, to come and speak in his church. “On Sunday night,” he asked, “can you speak on ‘How the Bible influenced the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence?’”
“Sure”, I replied. “As soon as I find out how the Bible influenced the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence!”
Turning to my new friend, Stephen McDowell, was the obvious next step. He recommended a book he had written, and that book revealed to me the truth on how America—her founding documents, her laws, and her educational framework—was truly founded. It was founded on the Bible! This book, Building Godly Nations, coupled with another of Stephen’s works, the study guide to the documentary he did with Kirk Cameron called Monumental—opened my eyes so profoundly that as I was reading I kept thinking, I must get a copy of this material to my fellow legislators. I was determined to get it into the hands of my colleagues in the West Virginia House and Senate.
I called Stephen McDowell and asked what he thought about putting several of the most profound chapters from these two books of his together to make a brand new book for all Americans—but especially designed for the lawmaker. Then the next step would be to get a copy to every legislator in the West Virginia House and Senate (and we are planning beyond the West Virginia borders to as many statehouses as possible!). Stephen loved the idea, and that is what we have done. What you hold in your hands is the fruit of our efforts—and our donors’ sacrifice!—and it is our gift to you. The material in this book is composed 100% by Stephen McDowell; my only role was a small one—facilitator of the idea and “co-expediter” of the dream.
And to God be the glory!
Memorials are an intrinsic force. They are God’s tools to remind us of people and events of great importance—of Providential moments of consequence. And that’s what this book is—a reminder, a memorial—12 stones in paperback to stand in our way and say, “Hey. This is very, very important. This is our heritage; this is our history. We must learn it and teach it to our children and to our children’s children. And we must never forget.”
It is Stephen’s and my prayer that you will read this book and be reminded, as I was just a short time ago, of Whom it was that raised America to the apotheosis of nations, and Who it is that, if America returns to Him, will preserve her in generations to come.
Vienna, West Virginia
Member, West Virginia House of Delegates
Introduction: American Exceptionalism
By Stephen McDowell
America is different than any nation in history. She is special. When America began in the late eighteenth century she was insignificant on the world stage, although her unique form of government and unmatched liberty would become examples to the world. Her great personal, religious, economic, and civil liberty produced advancement and growth unlike any nation before.
By the beginning of the twentieth century America had become the leading nation in the world and held that place for generations. She led the way in new inventions, discoveries, and advances that benefited all men. She became the most productive nation in the world and a leader in education, medicine, technology, and science. By 1960 she produced 39% of the world’s output, with only 6% of the population.[i] America, even with her faults and shortcomings, became the most free and prosperous nation to have ever existed. America became an exceptional nation. This had nothing to do with any inherent value of the American people, but had to do with the valuable ideas upon which she was founded.
A few of the ideas incorporated into American society making it exceptional include: valuing the individual; freedom of worship; freedom of assembly; opportunity for all to labor and benefit from the fruit of their labor; freedom to elect representatives and have a voice in government; freedom of thought and expression of ideas; freedom to own property; freedom to obtain ideas, start businesses and create wealth; limited jurisdiction of civil government; equal standing before the law for all people; no class distinctions; the central role of the family. These are part of the American Dream.
These ideas produced great liberty, justice, prosperity, charity, virtue, and knowledge. They made America a success and made her powerful. This power and wealth were used, not for conquest, but for good — for furthering liberty in the world. America has been a great blessing to the nations. Blessings have come from the private sector by giving aid, starting hospitals and schools, sending forth missionaries, and much more. The American government has also been a great blessing in assisting many nations who have fought against tyrants seeking to oppress them, and by sending large sums of money to nations encountering natural disasters and other threats.
Throughout America’s history, people have flocked to her shores to experience the fruit of her liberty and prosperity. Those that have come have been greatly blessed. Many have escaped persecution and experienced freedom to worship God and pursue their calling. Other nations, recognizing this exceptionalism, have sought to imitate the principles that made America great, and have, to some degree, benefited as well.
Early Americans recognized the special nature of the nation in history. John Adams said,
I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in Providence for the illumination of the ignorant, and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth.[ii]
Historian B.F. Morris said: “God held this vast land in reserve, as the great field on which the experiment was to be made in favor of a civil and religious liberty.”[iii] Historian and leading educator of women, Emma Willard, stated: “In observing the United States, there is much to convince us, that an Almighty, Overruling Providence, designed from the first, to place here a great, united people.”[iv] Alexis de Tocqueville wrote:
In that land the great experiment was to be made by civilized man, of the attempt to construct society upon a new basis; and it was there, for the first time, that theories hitherto unknown, or deemed impracticable, were to exhibit a spectacle for which the world had not been prepared by the history of the past.[v]
Many of the early colonizers of America came with the vision of establishing a unique nation in history. John Winthrop wrote of the Puritans’ desire to be “A Model of Christian Charity,”— “as a city upon a hill,” where all the people of the earth would look upon and say of their own nation, “the Lord make it like that of New England.”[vi] William Penn said that God gave him the land that became Pennsylvania so that he could set up a model state — “a holy experiment” — “which should open its doors to every kindred” and be a refuge for men of all creeds.[vii]
Abandoning Our Unique Founding Principles
America’s founding principles made her unique, free, and powerful, but there are many today who would have her abandon those principles. Many leaders in education and the media have promoted a different ideology, and many governmental leaders have implemented policies contrary to our founding principles which have diminished our greatness.
As we have abandoned that which made us exceptional and embraced socialistic ideas, we have witnessed increasing problems and diminishing liberties. Over the past few generations there has been an increase in crime, a breakdown of the family, an increase of social immorality, growth of taxes, run-away government spending, declining educational skills, attacks on religious liberty, and government intrusion into private, family, and church life.
Consider these statistics reflecting the breakdown of the family and sexual morality. In 1960, 72% of adults were married. Today it is about 50%. In 1980, 18% of children were born outside of marriage; today over 40% are born outside of marriage.[viii] Today, only 32% of people think premarital sex is wrong; 69% thought so in 1969.
In the 1960s America was at the top of the nations for best educated students. But over the years that position has steadily declined while spending has increased. In 2012 America ranked 24th in reading, 28th in science, and 36th in math.[ix]
We have also experienced a decline in our economy with the implementation of policies that do not protect private property rights nor encourage business growth. Currently, America has one of the world’s highest rates of taxation on capital gains,[x] which has led to plummeting productivity, from 32% of the world’s GDP in 2000 to 24% in 2010.[xi] And now, for the first time since the measurement started, America has fallen out of the top ten most economically free nations, even being surpassed by Chile and Estonia.[xii]
This decline is largely due to the nation rejecting the ideas upon which she was founded and embracing humanistic, immoral ideas. If we continue to throw off the foundational principles that produced the American Dream and embrace man-centered philosophies, we will see America decline even further.
The Source of America’s Founding Principles
America’s founding principles made her exceptional, powerful, and free. They produced the American Dream. Where did these principles originate? How were they planted in the nation? These questions are thoroughly and clearly answered in this book.
The founding of America is unique. It has no parallel in history. The nation started from scratch, by a people providentially prepared and greatly influenced by the Protestant Reformation. They were a people of the Book. The founding ideas came from the Bible. They were Christian in their origin. Beginning in the sixteenth century these ideas were released to many people through the printing of Bibles in the common languages. The early settlers of America carried these seed ideas with them as they colonized the nation in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. These ideas were planted, grew, and began to bear great fruit. This seed determined the fruit of the American Christian Republic. It produced America as an exceptional nation, the most free and prosperous in history.
However, in recent decades we have been systematically casting aside the Bible from education, government, and law. We are removing the Ten Commandments from classroom walls, courthouses, and public life in general — and more importantly failing to teach the fundamental principles in these commandments to our children — but then wonder why our jails are being filled with people who steal, murder, and rape people. We teach that men are merely animals and then bemoan the societal result of men acting like animals.
Some people say that America’s greatest threat today comes from those who believe the nation should be governed by God-given moral standards. After all, they say, we cannot mix God and government. However, these are the official standards the Founders gave us; truths, according to the Declaration of Independence that are self-evident, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” These rights, derived from “the laws of nature and of nature’s God,” are part of the founding principles that produced the American Dream.
The truths that our Founding Fathers believed and built this nation upon came from the Creator and His Holy Scriptures, the Bible. That book, according to President Jackson, “is the Rock upon which our Republic rests.”[xiii] While this fact is not known by most Americans and is not taught in government schools, the evidence is overwhelming and is presented in part in this book. We must understand the source of our great liberty and prosperity, and pass it on to all Americans, in order to return America to her foundational ideas and keep this country a place of liberty, truth, and prosperity.
For years, we at WallBuilders have been working to teach the Biblical and constitutional principles of good governance, especially through our annual Pro-Family Legislators Conference. Many of those principles are now clearly set forth in Stephen McDowell’s new book, The Bible: America’s Source of Law and Liberty. Stephen shows that the single greatest positive influence in forming our unique constitutional government was the Christian faith, and that adherence to its fundamental ideas as set forth in the Bible made us the most free and prosperous nation in history. If we are to retain these blessings, both elected officials and citizens must understand and apply the principles of this book.
David Barton, Founder and President, WallBulders
This latest book by Stephen McDowell is a great resource for anyone who desires to know the true source of law and liberty in America. For decades, American Family Association has worked to restore biblical values in our culture and this book by Stephen is a great tool to do just that.
Tim Wildmon, President, American Family Association
When a select 4% of the population of the world (Americans) have produced more books, more plays, more symphonies, copyrights, patents and Nobel prize winners than the other 96% combined, there has to be a reason. That reason is spiritual. America is more than just a physical place. Modern revisionists have aggressively excised the spiritual heritage of America. Stephen McDowell reminds us of the ingredients, such as the entrepreneurial spirit and the Protestant work ethic, that comprise the ‘Spirit of America,’ this sweet Land of Liberty, this lighthouse for the world.
Bob McEwen, Former U.S. Congressman, Ohio, National Speaker
Stephen McDowell has a gift for taking timeless Biblical truths and applying them to the issues of today. What sometimes appear to be new, complex issues in our culture are not that different from those faced by previous generations. Stephen not only reminds us of the immutable truths and solutions implemented by the founding era, he shows us how to renew our nation by restoring these same principles of exceptionalism to our society before all liberty is lost.
Rick Green, Former Texas State Legislator, National Speaker, Author, Radio Host
If you are a leader, this is absolutely essential knowledge. On our shoulders rests the future of the greatness of our nation. Read this! Finish it. Read it again. Retain it. Teach it until it is retained!
Kevin Jones, Kansas State Representative, 5th District, Former US Army Green Beret
Stephen McDowell’s newest book is must reading for any legislator—any American!—with a desire to learn the story of America’s Christian heritage.
John D. O’Neal IV, House Majority Whip, West Virginia, 28th District
This book looks to be the answer I’ve wanted when I am challenged by a liberal saying our country did not have Christian roots – our Founders were a bunch of opportunists and theists. I appreciate all the research and footnoting that supports this information. This is definitely both a book that inspires and one that needs to be on every conservative’s shelf for quick reference.
Dennis Guth, State Senator, Iowa, District 4
With the revisionist view of American History dominating so much of the academic landscape, Stephen McDowell’s extensively researched work does an admirable job sorting the wheat from the chaff of historical confusion. He demonstrates again and again how biblical lessons were incorporated into public thought and the result was the unique American perspective that embraces God as the source of civil liberty. From the founding of the colonies, to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence and finally the ratification of the US Constitution, there can be no doubt, American ideals were drawn from biblical principles by Godly men.
Robert Karnes, West Virginia State Senator, 11th District
In this very well researched book, Stephen McDowell has reminded us of the central role that the Bible and Judeo-Christian values played in the founding of this country. From education to our justice system to our political structure, Biblical principles were woven into the very fabric of American society. Today’s elected officials would do well to learn of this great heritage and do what he or she can to uphold them while in office.
Matthew Krause, Texas State Representative, House District 93
Having a solid foundation is essential in life whether you are building a house, making a golf swing, or establishing a family. The same is true for forming a government and having it function properly. In Stephen McDowell’s book he skillfully shows how the foundation for America’s Constitutional Republic is Biblical principles. The main function of legislators is to pass laws, and so it is imperative that we understand and apply Biblical principles to this task, helping to ensure that future generations also understand the Godly heritage that our Founding Fathers gave us.
Sally Kern, Oklahoma State Representative, HD 84
With no historical perspective; with no historical identity, a nation has no direction. We’ve witnessed members of our own Legislature fail to recognize the difference between permissions (granted by people) and rights, which are granted by God. In this day and age where our government exercises more and more power over the people it is intended to serve, it is critical that we have works such as this to remind us of the source of our nation’s grant of grace and success.
Mark Finchem, Representative, 11th Legislative District, Arizona
In a time when America has forgotten her history, it is refreshing to see research into the writings of the Founders and hear what their thoughts and intentions for America really were.
Mitch Holmes, Kansas State Senator, 33rd District
This book harkens back to the story of Josiah in the Bible who rediscovered God’s plan for Israel after decades of societal decay under the leadership of kings who rejected a relationship with God. Sadly, America in recent decades has also increasingly rejected a relationship with God after a promising beginning under His providential guidance. With this book, Stephen McDowell is providing America with a modern day ‘Josiah moment.’ We would do well to reflect upon its contents and restore our appreciation for the principles that have made us a truly exceptional nation.
Pat Colbeck, Michigan State Senator, 7th District
I think every legislator needs to be reminded from time to time of why America is an exceptional and blessed country. This book does that in a simple, short and straightforward way. It is an outstanding counter-balance to what popular culture bombards us with daily.
Bill Kintner, Nebraska State Senator, Legislative District 2
Stephen McDowell points to the foundational truths that made the United States of America great. Readers are led on a historical tour of America’s early history and provided a great reminder of the trust in God and the biblical precepts that guided our forefathers in the birth of our nation. The Bible: America’s Source of Law and Liberty is a valuable resource for home and school.
Mike Moon, Missouri State Representative, District 157
This book is not for liberals or conservatives; it is for those who consider themselves Americans. It for those of us who sense we have been blessed as a nation but not sure if we did it by ourselves or with the help of divine Providence. Any political leader needs to look in the mirror in this book, and see how high we’re standing on the shoulders of God-fearing men and women who led this nation in the past and are giving us some warning signs as we increasingly abandon God and the Bible in this nation. The facts and biographies in this book are empirical not imaginary, but there’s one caveat. It might be difficult for skeptics or those who think God is irrelevant or non-existent to think we are a part of a nation descended from the Bible and the Judeo-Christian ethic, but that’s exactly why America’s policy-makers need to read this book and do an identity check.
Rep. Gene Ward, Ph.D., Minority Leader Emeritus, Hawaii House of Representatives, 17th District
It is crucial for America to know its history; for how else are we to know who we are and the direction we are to take? Stephen McDowell’s book is a well-spring of facts answering both of these questions. He teaches our Christian history in its purest form. I sincerely hope you will read it!
Donna Boley, West Virginia State Senator, 3rd District
[ii] B.F. Morris, The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, Philadelphia: George W. Childs, 1864, p. 109.
[iii] Morris, pp.41-42.
[iv] Mark A. Beliles and Stephen K. McDowell, America’s Providential History, Charlottesville: Providence Foundation, 1989, p. 17.
[v] Ibid., p. 17.
[vi] John Winthrop, A Modell of Christian Charity, 1630, Old South Leaflets, No. 207, Boston: The Old South Association.
[vii] William Penn, Letter to James Harrison, August 25, 1681, Remember William Penn, compiled by the William Penn Tercentenary committee, Harrisburg: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 1945, p. 77.
[viii] CDC: U.S. Fertility Rate Hits Record Low for 2nd Straight Year; 40.7% of Babies Born to Unmarried Women. http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/terence-p-jeffrey/cdc-us-fertility-rate-hits-record-low-2nd-straight-year-407-babies
[x] “Capital Gains Rate by Country, 2011,” Tax Foundation, July 6, 2012 (at:http://taxfoundation.org/article/capital-gains-rate-country-2011-oecd).
[xiii] George Herbert Walker Bush, February 22, 1990, at the request of Congress, Senate Joint Resolution 164, in a Presidential Proclamation declaring 1990 the International Year of Bible Reading.