More Christian Nation Nonsense

More Christian Nation Nonsense August 15, 2014

Eddie Hyatt, the author of this profoundly silly article in Charisma News that echoes most of David Barton’s more absurd claims, calls himself a historian. Like Barton, however, he has no credentials at all in the field (his degrees are in divinity, from Regent University, and “Pentecostal-Charismatic Studies” from Oral Roberts University). Let the ridiculous claims begin:

The Constitution’s Division of Powers Is Based on the Biblical Worldview of the Founders

America’s Founders divided the powers of government and provided various checks and balances because they held to a Biblical world-view, which recognizes that “man” in his present condition is flawed because of sin and cannot be trusted with “power.” They would agree with the adage of Sir John Dalberg-Acton who, after extensive studies of both secular and religious history, declared, “Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

This was the view of the early Puritans to whom the Founders were indebted for much of their thinking. Most of them would have agreed with William Bradford, five-time governor of Plymouth Colony, who spoke of “man’s fallen state” and declared that “all men have corruption in them.” In this fallen state human beings cannot be trusted with power; hence the division of powers and other checks and balances in our country’s founding documents.

I always laugh when people cite the Puritans and their alleged influence on the founding fathers. The colony they established was a rather brutal theocracy that imprisoned, exiled and sometimes put to death even their fellow Christians if they were the wrong brand. Funny how they trusted themselves with such power. It’s also laughable to suggest that one needs a Christian worldview to recognize that too much accumulation of power is a bad thing. You know how they learned that? From watching the behavior of Christian kings who ruled by alleged divine right.

Whereas modern liberalism claims that human nature is essentially good and that people only need a change of environment and circumstances to improve and perfect their behavior, the Founders held no such utopian view of the human condition. In fact, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, both signers of the Constitution, pointed to Jeremiah 17:9 as an underlying principle for the separation of powers provided for in that document. This passage reads, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?”

Really? They did? Please cite them saying such a thing. There is no record of it.

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  • The wrote those notes on the ORIGINAL Constitution. The one hastily scribbled on the back of a bar napkin.

  • dingojack

    Lord Acton made that remark in a letter to Mandell Creighton in April 1887, concerning the powers of the Pope (Acton lobbied, unsuccessfully, against the doctrine of Papal Infallibility) and (at least nominally christian) Kings.

    Methinks someone’s been dabbling with a book of quotations again.


  • Synfandel

    Thomas Jefferson wrote “Jeremiah 17:9” on the outhouse wall at Monticello. You can still see it today. Also, “John Adams eats worms.”

  • Chiroptera

    …the Founders held no such utopian view of the human condition.

    I don’t know an out the Founders themselves, but at least a few of the Enlightenment writings I’ve read suggests that human society is perfectable if the corrupting influence of the clergy and aristocracy were removed. In fact, I’ve always interpreted the viciousness of the politics of the first several decades of the Republic as the typical reaction after a revolution when the various factions blame each other for preventing the manifestation of the expected utopia.

  • …his degrees are in divinity, from Regent University, and “Pentecostal-Charismatic Studies” from Oral Roberts University…

    He double-majored in bullshit?

  • dingojack

    ‘Jerm. 17:19’

    Just under it you can see his wife’s hand in a lovely carving:

    ‘Hic ego immissus defaecetur’.


  • wscott

    Compare and contrast with my favorite* quote from Federalist Paper #51:

    “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary….A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”

    * OK, more like “Only Federalist Paper quote I know off the top of my head, and I had to Google which # is was, but the point remains.

  • cptdoom

    Let’s see, the Founders were creating a new government after separating from a government that comprised an elected House of Commons, an unelected House of Lords and an hereditary monarch. They replaced that with an elected House of Representatives, and unelected Senate and an pseudo-elected monarch/President who could, if he chose, keep that office for his lifetime, assuming the electors continued to support him. Seems to me they simply tweaked a system that had worked pretty well and that, at the beginning of the Revolutionary movement, they simply wanted to join as full members. Perhaps their only real innovation was an independent judiciary, which I believe was under the control of the monarch in Great Britain. I don’t see a lot of Biblical inspiration in any of that.

  • abb3w

    While it’s been a while, I do recall hearing some Madison scholar giving a talk which would support this to some degree. However, the talk indicated Madison’s recognition was not so much because he was raised a Christian, but because he saw the corrupt interaction of the Anglican church in their treatment of the Baptists.

    As an illustrating example from my Google-aided non-scholarly repertoire, in Federalist 55 Madison referenced “depravity in mankind” — a concept I think heavily emphasized in the Calvinist theology of his former professor, Witherspoon. (There’s another reference in #78.) However, Madison believes it only “in degree”, and that “there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence”.

    Contrariwise, the idea that people can be bad is hardly unique to the Christian religion; and nohow, the influence of religion on Madison seems frequently overstated. The Federalist Papers of the particular example are essentially ad copy, suggesting it may simply have been framing chosen to resonate with Christians.

  • Pierce R. Butler
  • cgm3

    Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

    But if God is omnipotent — all-powerful — then doesn’t it follow that…

  • dingojack

    Pierce R. Butler – Who knows what lurks in the hearts of men? *



    * MAD magazine knows!

  • howardhershey

    Obviously why Christianity and the Bible supported the divine right of kings and other autocrats like Emperors. They didn’t want to concentrate power. Or did they?

  • colnago80

    Re Butler @ #10

    There were several B movies made back in the 1940s based on the Shadow radio program starring Richard Dix.

  • dingojack

    Pierce – Or, more accurately, Sergio Aragonés.


  • moarscienceplz

    George Washington and Alexander Hamilton, both signers of the Constitution

    They can’t tell the difference between the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The Constitution was presented to the thirteen colonies for ratification by their legislatures. I’m pretty sure nobody “signed” it.

  • moarscienceplz

    Oops. I was wrong. They did sign it as member of the committee.

  • Modusoperandi:

    He double-majored in bullshit?

    Maybe his next degree will be in homeopathy.

  • Sastra

    Whereas modern liberalism claims that human nature is essentially good and that people only need a change of environment and circumstances to improve and perfect their behavior …

    Is Hyatt implying here that changes in environment and circumstances — which can include education, therapy, upbringing, training, discipline, and even religion — is incapable of even improving anybody’s behavior? Not even slightly? That seems more than a little pessimistic.

    As for perfection, anyone who uses that concept as anything other than a vaguely idealized but practically unachievable model is motivated by religious ideology and its quest for absolutes. I suspect the Founders were more down to earth. Age of Reason and all, you know.

  • Chiroptera

    Good point, Sastra!

    Whereas modern liberalism claims that human nature is essentially good and that people only need a change of environment and circumstances to improve and perfect their behavior….

    So prayer and creationism and religious mottos in schools actually won’t improve anything?

  • Loqi

    “Pentacostal-Charismatic Studies”

    Is that the marketing term for griftology?

  • freehand

    chiroptera: So prayer and creationism and religious mottos in schools actually won’t improve anything?


    Of course it does! Ya hafta train up the child properly, don’t spare the rod and all that. Just don’t say that the way somebody was raised broke him; that would be blaming behavior on society, and only liberal lawyers try to excuse heinous criminal behavior like that.* Where’s the free will?


    To clarify, if it works, it’s to God’s credit, unless it doesn’t, in which case it’s the boy’s fault (or girl’s).


    Of course, none of the 40 billion or so people who have lived so far have chosen to live sinlessly, cause we can’t, even though it’s our own damn fault. That’s what we get for being descended from two sinners who chose to sin even though they didn’t know right from wrong until after the act.


    * Although God can, of course, so when a Republican politician or televangelist is caught with his pants down all he needs to do is say he’s sorry and mean it, and we can all glory in the Power of the Lord to bring a sinner back into the fold. Halleleuia Hallejeuha …Glory Be! This doesn’t work for liberals however ’cause we never mean it when we say we’re sorry. If we did we’d say “Jesus!” more and ask for money.