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American Revolution Debate: God Desires Freedom, Not Slavery, for His People

June 1, 2018

Israelites Leaving Egypt by David Roberts, 1830.  Depicts the release of the captive ancient Israelites by Pharaoh and the beginning of their journey to the Promised Land of Canaan, as told in the book of Exodus.

Prior to and during the American Revolution, American colonists of the 1700s intensely debated whether it was biblical to go to war with Britain.  The “loyalists” of King George III and Britain opposed revolution.  The “patriots” supported revolution.  One argument of the patriots in support of resistance to Britain was the Bible-based view that God desires freedom—literal and spiritual—rather than bondage and slavery for His people.

Like the American Puritans of the early 1600s, Americans of the revolutionary era compared themselves to the ancient Israelites, God’s people, in the Old Testament of the Bible.  They cited the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt and their coming into the Promised Land of Canaan in the book of Exodus.  When Pharaoh of Egypt refused to obey God and free the captive Israelites, God sent plagues upon Egypt until Pharaoh let the people go.  Such acts of God, patriots believed, demonstrated that God ordains liberty for His people.  Much like the Israelites’ Promised Land, colonists saw America as the “Promised Land” of civil and religious liberty for God’s believers.

Various American ministers drew a connection between the Israelites and the American colonists.  Rev. Stephen Johnson of Connecticut warned in 1766 that enslaving God’s people is a great sin in God’s sight, violating mankinds’ natural rights and hindering God’s covenant with His people.  In a 1776 sermon, Rev. Samuel Cooper of Boston (like Puritan John Cotton and his God’s Promise to His Plantation) cited 2 Samuel 7:10 and the idea that the American people had a just cause for freedom from Britain based on God’s promise and covenant with them.  2 Samuel 7:10 says, “I [God] will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own and move no more; nor shall the sons of wickedness oppress them anymore, as previously.”  Patriot Americans cited God’s desire for liberty for the Israelites as support for their own revolutionary cause.

Patriot Americans also supported the revolutionary cause from the New Testament.  The New Testament used words like “slavery,” “bondage,” “deliverance,” “freedom,” and “liberty” to describe the believer’s spiritual freedom from sin in Christ.  Ministers used such terms to compare spiritual liberty with political liberty, and thus to support civil liberty.  Ministers cited Galatians 5:1 in which the Apostle Paul declares, “Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”  Galatians 5:1 was often invoked during the American Revolution and became an American motto.  The Bible’s principle of spiritual liberty became an American principle of religious and civil liberty.

With these Bible-centered arguments, the American patriots justified the revolutionary cause and freedom from Britain.  They believed that God desires freedom—both spiritual and civil—for His covenant people and expects His people to seek and defend it.

Contributed by AHEF and Angela E. Kamrath.

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Sources:
Kamrath, Angela E.  The Miracle of America:  The Influence of the Bible on the Founding History and Principles of the United States of America for a People of Every Belief.  Second Edition.  Houston, TX:  American Heritage Education Foundation, 2014, 2015.

Related articles/videos:
1.  The Principle of Popular Sovereignty
2.  The Pilgrims Identified with the Israelites
3.  The Pilgrims’ Mayflower Compact was a Covenant
4.  The Puritans Identified with the Israelites and Practiced Covenants
5.  The Puritans Elected Representatives to Govern in their American Colonies
6.  Why the Puritans Favored Limited Government
7.  Thomas Hooker as the “father of American Democracy”
8.  Why Thomas Hooker Favored Democracy over Aristocracy
9.  Great Awakening Effects:  Unity, Democracy, Freedom, and Revolution 
10.  The American Revolution:  An Introduction
11.  The Bible was the Most Cited Source of the American Founding Era
12.  The American Revolution was sometimes called the “Presbyterian Rebellion”
13.  American Revolution Debate:  Submission to Authority
14.  American Revolution Debate:  God Desires Freedom, Not Slavery, for His People
15.  How the American Revolution shed light on the Moral Problem of Slavery
16.  Thomas Paine’s Common Sense:  God’s Opposition to Absolute Rule
17.  American Revolution Debate:  The American Quest for a New, Bible-Inspired Republic
18.  American Revolution Debate:  The Principle of Civil Covenants
19.  American Revolution Debate:  Obedience to God Over Man
20.  American Revolution Debate:  Ancient Israel’s Resistance to Oppression & Divided Kingdom
21.  American Revolution Debate:  The Lawfulness of Defensive War
22.  Freedom:  The Most Important Characteristic of America

Poster:  Declaration of Independence

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Activity:  The Miracle of America High School Teacher Course Guide, Unit 6, Part 2, Activity 3:  Bible-Based Justification for Revolution, p. 219, 359.  MS-HS.

Bible-Based Justification for Revolution

Purpose/Objective:  Students examine the bible-based arguments made by Patriot Americans in support of revolution against Britain.  Students learn about the influence of the Bible during the Founding era.

Suggested Readings:
1)  Chapter 6 of Miracle of America reference/text.  Students read sections 6.1 to 6.12.
2) Essay/Handout:  Principles of the American Revolution by Angela E. Kamrath found in the “Supporting Resources” of the Miracle of America HS Teacher Course Guide, pp. 354-356, or in the “Miracle of America Snapshots” handout under member resources at americanheritage.org.
3)  Related blogs/videos (see above).

Patriot Revolutionary Chart:
In your own words, explain/describe the following biblical principles or arguments used by many patriot Americans to justify/support the American Revolution.  Students may include the sources/thinkers who promoted each argument.  Provide relevant scripture verse(s) for each argument.  See the “Bible-Based Justification for Revolution” Patriot Chart in the “Supporting Resources” section of the course guide, p. 359.

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To download this whole unit, sign up as an AHEF member (no cost) to access the “resources” page on americanheritage.org.  To order the printed binder format of the course guide with all the units, go to the AHEF bookstore.

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Published by: The Founding

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