Letter to the editor: Catechism on the Declaration of Independence

The purpose of this Catechism is to remind Americans (individuals, families, classes) of the rich Godly heritage in the document we celebrate each July 4th.

A Catechism on the Declaration of Independence

From Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

CATECHISM, n.

  1. A form of instruction by means of questions and answers, particularly in the principles of religion*.
  2. An elementary book containing a summary of principles in any science or art, but appropriately in religion, reduced to the form of questions and answers, and sometimes with notes, explanations, and references to authorities.

The Declaration is a religious document. Notice references to God, which have been underlined here.

“God is acknowledged as our Supreme Ruler not man” is the principle of religion considered here.

  1. What is significant about America’s Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776?

    It was a written statement in which the 13 colonies declared their independence from Britain and their freedom to serve God without the tyranny under the King’s rule.

  2. Why is the Declaration called the Charter of the United States?

    It established the foundation for our future government and was the “who” and the “why” to which the later Constitution (1787) was the “how” principles of liberty would be implemented.

  3. Into what four parts does the Declaration naturally fall?

    1. The preamble or introduction, which states the purpose of the document.
    2. A paragraph discussing the statement of the purpose and nature of governments, and explains why this document is being made.
    3. A list of charges against King George III, justifying the declaration; and
    4. The formal Declaration of Independence itself (from Know Your Declaration of Independence and the 56 Signers by George E. Ross).
  4. How does the Preamble to the Declaration read?

    “When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

  5. What is meant by “laws of nature and of nature’s God”?

    The “laws of nature” are unwritten laws identified to be laws God put into all of nature. The “laws of nature’s God” are the laws of God, the revealed law known to be the Bible.

  6. How does part 2, which is the statement of the purpose and nature of governments, read?

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created [not evolved] equal; that they are endowed by their Creator (Jesus is the Creator. Colossians 1:15-16) with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

    (This was later stated in our Constitution as “We the people”).  Read the remaining Declaration in Section C in this issue of the Tulsa Beacon.

  7. What is meant by “truths to be self-evident”?

    These are truths, which are obvious, clear even to the casual observer. Romans 1:20

  8. What is meant by “all men are created equal”?

    Every person is equal before God (in worth, even though all have sinned) and equal before the law.

  9. The next line states, “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” What are “unalienable rights?”

    These are God-given individual rights that cannot be taken away from the individual; hence, unalienable, as opposed to government granted privileges given to groups, and taken away by governments. See Romans 13.

  10. What are these basic rights from the Creator?

    These rights are “life” (even for the unborn), “liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The right to pursue and enjoy God’s blessings/property, without interference and control of the government.

    Internal liberty inside Christians must be expressed externally. Real freedom can only come from Jesus because “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” 2 Corinthians 3:17

  11. Where did the founding generation learn these principles of Godly civil government?

    From their knowledge of the Bible, from the pulpits of patriot pastors and from others who quoted extensively from the Bible in their writings and/or speeches.

  12. Does “pursuit of happiness” mean free to do anything a person wants with no restraints?

    No, it was a phrase known to be the right to own property and be productive without the interference of government – a pursuit of happiness that is blessed by God.

  13. How does the Declaration deal in part 3 with the charges against Britain’s King?

    Part 3 opens with these words: “The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these States. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.” (The king’s tyrannical acts are then listed. See the Declaration for these and compare to I Samuel 8:10-18.]

  14. How does the Declaration of Independence close in part 4?

    It closes with these words: “We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace contract Alliances, establish  commerce, and to do all other Acts and things which Independent States may of right do.

    “ — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

  15. What happened to the 56 signers (24 had seminary degrees) who pledged “our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor?”

    Many lost their lives, lives of family members, as well as their fortunes, but none lost their honor.

  16. How did John Adams, in a letter to his wife, Abigail, on July 3, 1776, suggest this event should be celebrated?

    It “will be a memorable epoch in the history of America…celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.  It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, illuminations from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever.”