Who is man, what is his nature and what is due him and His creator?
Miss Rosalie J. Slater in Teaching and Learning America’s Christian History, her guide to The Principle Approach™ to education, defined seven principles of America’s Christian history and government. The first principle, God’s Principle of Individuality, is primary as it deals with the nature of man, his relationship to God and his relationships to his fellow men.
All of creation, through its beauty, complexity, and diversity with unity reveal the nature and character of God (Romans 1:20.) The Genesis account reveals a God who begins with nothing and creates a universe with incredible variety, yet never repeats itself. A world where from the beginning of time every snowflake which has fallen is unique. This pattern repeats itself throughout creation, a pattern of physical diversity yet unity. Like the snowflake, God made each individual like no other, each has a unique fingerprint, profile, scent and shape. Yet, as human beings we have a unity, a oneness. Man is unique in creation in that when God created the physical world around us, he determined it “was good,” after creating man in His own image, He proclaimed that it “was very good,” thus man (and woman), individually made in the image of God, revealing some of the nature of God, has great value and worth.
While, each individual, has distinct physical characteristics, we are also diverse in our inner qualities, those things which make up the intellect, ideas, motives, opinions, creative abilities, and character. Although the things which are easily evident about an individual are external, how we look, our demeanor, our gestures, and our actions; it is the internal things which are most important. The internal causes or dictates the external.
“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” -Proverbs 4:23
“For as he thinks in his heart, so is he...” -Proverbs 23:7
“But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.” -Matthew 15:18
“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks -Luke 6:45
It is important to teaching our youth the importance or preeminence of the internal qualities, such as, character, temper, will, and conscience. Noah Webster in his 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language, indicated that, “Education comprehends all that series of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, form the manners and habits of youth, and fit them for usefulness in their future stations. ”God’s Word instructs us to renew our minds, this renewing of our minds, adopting the mind of Christ, will lead to external actions which comport to the will of God as revealed in the scriptures. Webster went on to say that “to give them a religious education is indispensable; and an immense responsibility rests on parents and guardians who neglect these duties.” Secular society teaches that value lies in the externals, upon physical appearance, upon athletic prowess, upon status or money. God’s Word teaches that those internal qualities, such as, character, honesty, integrity and a clear conscience are to be valued.
God creates each individual with unique gifts and talents, equipping each for varying tasks in order to meet the needs of the community around them. In 1 Corinthians 12 we are taught that there are many gifts but the same Spirit; members of the Body of Christ have been given diverse or varied gifts, but the same Spirit. God equips us differently (often in ways we do not understand) to work for the common good of His body.
The Christian view of individuality acknowledges that as God is our creator; we, His image bearers, have a duty to Him. That duty is to consent, of our own free will, to be governed by Him, to obey His commands and will for our lives. This view also acknowledges that we will be judged by how well we keep the Great Commandments; by how well we honor our duty to God and to our fellow man.
Societies which adopt the Christian view of man or individuality will have a different view of God’s role in society, the value of the individual, and how men should order their lives in relation to each other, then societies which adopt a naturalistic or humanistic view of man. A Christian view of man acknowledges that all men have a duty to God; that all men are equal before God; and that as image bearers of God, society should protect the individual. In these societies the individual is superior to the state, power is vested within the individual, and the purpose of government is to protect the life, liberty and property of the individual.
History teaches that societies which adopt a naturalist or humanistic view of man tend not to place the same value upon the individual, they often assume the natural inequality of man. Civil government becomes superior to the individual, decisions are made based upon what is best for the collective, or ruling class, rather than protecting the rights of the individual or minority.
We must individually follow the great commandments, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Is history a set of random disconnected events, soley the result of the activities of man? Or, does history reveal the hand of God working through men and nations bringing about His purposes?
The Providence of God is the Biblical principle “by which all the creatures God has made are preserved, governed, guided, and directed…The government of the world, and the ordering and disposing of all things in it, are attributed to Him, without the counsel and direction of others.” (John Gill, A Body of Divinity, 1769-70)
“Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is none else; I am God and there is none like me; declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure…yea, I have spoken it; I will also bring it so pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.” (Isaiah 46:9-11)
“Seeing He giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find Him; though He be not far from every one of us: for in Him we live and move and have our being .” (Acts 17:25-28a)
These passages declare the sovereignty of God over all things, that He “declares the end from the beginning” that His purposes will come to pass. His sovereignty extends not just over men and nature, but over nations as well. The passage in Acts indicates that God has made all nations, that He “hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” Psalm 2 warns nations about the futility of rebelling against the sovereign God, stating He would give them to His Son as an inheritance and that they should “serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are those who put their trust in Him.” This Psalm, pronounces judgment upon nations which rebel against His sovereignty and blessings for those “who put their trust in Him.”
This understanding of the sovereignty of God goes to the issue of cause; and reveals that He is the ultimate cause. God has a plan. That plan, as revealed in Ephesians 1:9-11 and Colossians 1:19-20, is the redemption of man. He has spoken it and He will bring it to pass. The history of this world is like a huge drama with the earth as the stage. The coming of Christ and the gospel are the focal point. The unfolding of the rest of history are acts in that play, until ultimately, all people and nations bend their knee and acknowledge the sovereignty of Christ.
He has a big picture plan, the redemption of man. However, within this overall plot there are many subplots which playout in the lives of individuals and nations. Many today understand something of the grace of God, the big picture or plot, but few consider the hand of God in history. Is man the primary shaper of history? Or is God? The book of Acts tells us that He “hath made… all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” In the Old Testament the nation of Israel is constantly reminded to remember the mighty works of God. In Psalms 78 the Israelites are admonished to teach each successive generation the law along with “His strength and His Wonderful works that He has done,” so they might set their hope in God.
In January of 1876, in a sermon titled “The Hand of God in American History,” Rev. S.W. Foljambe stated, “The more thoroughly a nation deals with is history, the more decidedly will it recognize and own an overruling Providence therein, and the more religious a nation will it become; while the more superficially it deals with its history, seeing only secondary causes and human agencies the more irreligious will it be…history is not a string of striking episodes, with no connection but that of time. It is rather the working out of a mighty system, by means of regularly defined principles as old as creation, and as infallible as divine wisdom.” Rev. S.W. Foljambe goes on to describe history as “the biography of communities; in another and profounder sense, it is the autobiography of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will (Ephesians 1:11), and is graciously timing all events in the interest of his Christ, and of the kingdom of God on earth.”
“Neglecting to teach America’s history from a providential view which sadly has been the case for nearly one hundred years in our nation, leads the citizenry into a non-Christian or secular interpretation and without hope for the future. This is the “superficial” approach, “seeing only secondary causes and human agencies.” The result…is to make us an “irreligious people.” (The Noah Plan History and Geography Curriculum Guide) “The failure to recognize the importance of the Providential Approach has resulted in educating Christians to live in two worlds – a spiritual world and a secular world. This was not the way of the Pilgrim, who lived in one world, the world created by God, ruled and directed by God, for God’s purpose and glory.” (Rosalie Slater, “Partners of a Glorious Hope,” The Journal of the Foundation for American Christian Education, Vol. 1, 1989, p.22)
This begs the question, was America an accident? Was it merely the result of a group of men who wrestled through political and economic issues to arrive at a governmental framework which produced the most powerful and richest country in the world? Or is it possible that God shaped a people over 150 years, a people who embraced the idea of being self-governed, subject to His law. Is it possible, He was present in a hall in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787; that He guided the discussion and debate? Is it possible, He had a hand in forming both the hearts of the men and the Constitution formed during that convention in 1787?
As the Constitutional Convention dragged on throughout the summer of 1787, without a great deal of success, there was a key turning point which changed the tenor and tone of the convention; it was a call to prayer by Benjamin Franklin, “to the Creator of the universe, and the Governor of all nations, beseeching Him to preside in our council, enlighten our minds with a portion of heavenly wisdom, influence our hearts with a love of truth and justice, and crown our labors with complete and abundant success!” Was America an accident, or was it brought about by the hand of God?