The following are excerpts from Devra Dato-On’s second place essay titled “Unless the Lord Build the House”:

The sweltering heat paralleled the debate temperature inside a Philadelphian chamber in the summer of 1787. Delegates of a fledgling nation assembled in that city to reconstruct a more effective form of government. For the first month, progress was stalled. Debates were rampant; no satisfactory compromise could be reached. It seemed as if the founding of a country would only be a working of the imagination. In the midst of that gridlock, an elderly man, stood up and sagely pronounced:

I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that "except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall be become a reproach and a bye word down to future age. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human Wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest. (Federer, William J. America's God and Country: Encyclopedia of Quotations, Coppell, TX, FAME Publishing, Inc., 1994, 248)

Despite his Deistic theology (72), Benjamin Franklin recognized that building a nation would be futile and impossible without the aid of Providence. He believed that men must turn to God to gain political wisdom and guidance. It was not until after the Constitutional Convention took up Franklin’s proposal to pray that the Convention began to make significant progress and ultimately form a “more perfect union” known as the United States of America.

Two hundred twenty-one years later, the United States is once again in the midst of political troubles. The country is embroiled in a military conflict in the Middle East which has lasted nearly as long as the current administration. Large influxes of people have illegally entered the country. Gas prices are skyrocketing; the dollar is falling. In this presidential election, the candidates and the people know that this country needs “change.” Candidates have touted their backgrounds, claimed mantles of past presidents, espoused ideologies, and promoted a range of solutions to this country’s problems. Yet not one has proposed turning to the Bible to find the answers. Political leaders seek advice from politicians, historians, economists, scientists, and even pastors and priests. But how many seek aid from the Giver of liberty, Almighty God?

In his collection of essays entitled Freedom and Capitalism, Dr. John W. Robbins examined all the tenets of a successful government and economy to show that they are found in God’s revealed Word (28-30). Christianity is the bedrock for freedom and capitalism. Many Christians have avoided mingling religion and politics, claiming that the two do not mix. Yet Dr. Robbins affirms that Christianity is tied to a political system (553-558); freedom and Christianity are inseparably linked.

The original Hebrew republic created by God Himself is the model government (30). Unlike the other nations in the ancient Middle East era, Israel had no king. It was free from the tyrannical, oppressive, big government that the other nations were subject to (31). Jehovah Himself was the Lawgiver to which all earthly leaders were bound to and held accountable to. The Lord warned of the dangers of monarchy; yet Israel rebelled against her Creator’s rule and demanded an earthly king. According to God, an earthly monarchy comes hand-in-hand with big government. A king would impose oppressive taxes, establish standing armies, draft men and women into civil service, nationalize production, and seize citizens’ property (36). Dr. Robbins observed that, “big government is both the result of, and the punishment, for sin” (32).

The Biblically limited government will heed the Word of God on matters of politics and economics. The Bible is not silent on these matters. In his epistle to Timothy, Paul wrote, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16). Surely the Scriptures contain precepts and “instruction” for the “good work” of politics (136, 411). The Bible contains the answers to the questions that our earthly political leaders vainly seek elsewhere. God’s Word gives guidance on areas such as foreign policy, church-state relationship, welfare, and economics; the truly limited government will be ordered by the principles the Bible lays down on these topics.

America’s early presidents would probably be appalled to know that in the 20th century alone, the United States sent troops abroad at least 188 times to fight in another country’s war. In 1823, Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, said: “I have ever deemed it fundamental for the United States never to take active part in the quarrels of Europe. Their political interests are entirely distinct from ours. Their mutual jealousies, their balance of power, their complicated alliances, their forms and principles of government, are all foreign to us. They are nations of eternal war.” But with the Spanish-American War, Americans failed to heed Jefferson’s advice and American mentality regarding foreign policy was greatly changed.

However, Jefferson was not the only one who issued such a warning. The Lord laid down similar instructions for the nation of Israel. God commanded Israel not to make any treaties or alliances with other nations; in fact, He pronounces His curse upon them (43). “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD! Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit. When the LORD shall stretch out his hand, both he that helpeth shall fall, and he that is holpen shall fall down, and they all shall fail together” (Jeremiah 31:1, 3). The nation of Israel was to rely on Jehovah alone for military help. Forming an alliance manifested their lack of trust in God (42-43). The Lord would destroy both Israel and her ally together.

When America’s Founding Fathers were drafting the Bill of Rights, they knew that one thing a strong federal government might bring with it was a state-controlled church (or even a church-controlled state). In order for religion to flourish, they realized that it must be free from the control of the government. Most European nations established a national religion; the church was the spiritual extension of the government. Thus, those who would not conform to the national religion were considered to be transgressing the law. An established religion put the church in the hands of the government, making the church subject to the government’s dictates. The drafters did not follow in the footsteps of their European predecessors, but gave the federal government no power to establish a national religion with the words: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The idea of religious liberty can be traced directly back to Martin Luther. Dr. Robbins called Martin Luther the “Founder of Western Civilization” (24); it could well be said that he was the true drafter of the First Amendment. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church which has always supported establishmentarianism (222), Martin Luther opposed government control in religious matters (23). Reformed Christians began to realize that a separation of church and state must exist and that a republican government must be constitutionally limited in its power and scope.

In this election year, one issue that has become a major hot-topic is health care; opinion polls usually produce this topic near the top of the list. The people’s demands and the candidates’ plans seem to take us step-by-step closer to socialized medicine. Every major candidate is talking about the government’s role in health care. They claim that every citizen deserves the right to good health. However, they fail to realize that rights are not a gift from the government; they are endowed by God the Creator. Again, political leaders turn a deaf ear to the Word of God. They will take our country down the steep, dangerous slope that totalitarian governments have taken rather than submit themselves to Biblical commands.

Dr. Robbins expounds on the Scriptural view of health care in a very eye-opening way. He begins with the familiar parable of the Good Samaritan to illustrate that individual charity is the only moral and successful way to health care. The priest and the Levite, representing the “politico-religious establishments” (270), showed no sympathy and provided no care for their wounded countryman. Yet the Good Samaritan took pity for the man and used his own resources to help him. He did not believe that the Israel government should be responsible for the general health and welfare of its citizens. Nor did he use the victim’s plight to demonstrate the need for a national health care plan (271). He simply saw a man in need and helped him. This is how Christ illustrated the embodiment of that great commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself” (Luke 10:27). Loving the Lord with all of our heart will enable us to, in return, love our fellowmen. Loving our fellowmen will cause us to personally help those in need and not try to shoulder that responsibility to the government.

The Bible establishes and respects property rights, a tenet of capitalism. The Lord, the Righteous Lawgiver, commanded the nation of Israel, “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not covet.” These two commandments are based upon the premise that individuals own property (73). Individuals have the right to their property, and that right must not be infringed upon – not even by the government (89). When the Israelites demanded a king, the Lord warned them that a king would “take” their property (33); this was merely one evil that would result from Israel’s rebellion of Jehovah’s rule. Violation of property rights comes hand-in-hand with big government.

America’s Founding Fathers recognized that the citizen’s right to property must be protected in order for a society to be truly free (73). They based this country upon this Biblical principle of individual property rights. Capitalism is the only economic system that places great importance on free trade, limited government, and the individual’s right to life, liberty, and property. Alexander Hamilton once said during the Federal Convention of 1787: "One great object of Government is personal protection of the security of property." John Adams echoed: "Property must be secured or liberty cannot exist."

In answer to Benjamin Franklin’s rhetorical question that opened up this essay, a nation cannot rise without God’s aid, because the very principles of a free society and economy are found in God’s Word. The Scriptures provide the only moral and successful guidelines to politics and economics. Building on any other foundation will be, as Franklin said, like building another Babel. America’s Founding Fathers erected a “city on a hill,” revealing to the world a nation built upon the principles of the Scriptures.

The Founding Fathers depended on God and His Word as they wrote the Constitution (85). The ink was hardly dry when they acknowledged the divine aid and providence of God. On September 25, 1789, the day after the Bill of Rights was approved, Congress drafted a resolution: “That a joint committee of both Houses be directed to wait upon the President of the United States to request that he would recommend to the people of the United Sates a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a Constitution of government for their safety and happiness.”

The Holy Scripture equips the man of God, not only in theology and moral living, but also in government. The Bible is the only God-inspired document; in its mine of wisdom, we can discover the precepts that the Lord gave to guide a nation. The United States Constitution may well be the epitome of political freedom, reflecting the genius of its drafters, yet the ultimate political and economic guide must be Sola Scriptura. “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it” (Psalm 127:1). George Washington said, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”