Presidents, Christian Faith, and the Bible
By Dr. Robert Youngblood
The best government is powerless to save a soul, but when the principles and wisdom of God guide the government, all of us are better served by it.
When a president like Harry Truman (1945-1953) says, “This is a Christian nation,” should we see this as an oddity? An aberration?
Never! When Americans want to let freedom ring, we are asking for the documented Christian underpinnings of our land to be restored and grow stronger.
“American democracy rests on the belief in the reality of God and His respect for the individual,” wrote Billy Graham in a 1962 Saturday Evening Post article. “Ours is a freedom under law. But it is also a freedom that will evaporate if the religious foundations upon which it has been built are taken away.”
How can we intervene? 1 Timothy 2:1-2 admonishes us to pray for our leaders. Fret not if some deny the obvious, because Proverbs 21:1 says, “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it where he will.” Our obedience in prayer glorifies God and may help turn our leaders’ hearts.
Presidents through history have shared their views on the matter. Imagine asking them the following three questions and the conversation they might have.
Q: How are American freedoms, liberties, and laws linked to the Bible?
“That Book, sir, is the Rock on which our Republic rests.” – Andrew Jackson (1829-1837*)
“The fundamental basis of this nation’s laws was given to Moses on the Mount. The fundamental basis of our Bill of Rights comes from the teachings we get from Exodus and Saint Matthew, from Isaiah and Saint Paul…. If we don’t have a proper fundamental moral background, we will finally end up with a totalitarian government which does not believe in rights for anybody except the State!” – Harry Truman (1945-1953*)
“In regard to this Great book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right
from wrong.” – Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865*)
“The Bible … is the only guide of life which really leads the spirit in the way of peace and salvation. America was born a Christian nation. America was born to exemplify that devotion to the elements of righteousness which are derived from the revelations of Holy Scripture.” – Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921*)
“[T]he teachings of the Bible are so interwoven and entwined with our whole civic and social life that it would be literally … impossible for us to figure to ourselves what that life would be if these teachings were removed.” – Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909*)
Q: How do these biblical foundations serve us compared to other governments?
“[T]he comparison of our government with those of Europe is like a comparison of heaven and hell.” – Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809*)
“The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.” – John F. Kennedy (1961-1963*)
“American life is builded, and can alone survive, upon…[the] fundamental philosophy announced by the Savior nineteen centuries ago.” – Herbert Hoover (1929-1933*)
“If you take out of your statutes, your constitution, your family life all that is taken from the Sacred Book, what would there be left to bind society together?” – Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893*)
“[T]he authority of law, the right to equality, liberty, and property under American institutions, have for their foundation reverence for God. If we could imagine that to be swept away, these institutions of our American government could not long survive.” – Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929*)
“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were … the general principles of Christianity.” – John Adams (1797-1801*)
“We cannot read the history of our rise and development as a nation without reckoning with the place the Bible has occupied in shaping the advances of the Republic. Where we have been the truest and most consistent in obeying its precepts, we have attained the greatest measure of contentment and prosperity.” – Franklin Roosevelt (1933-1945*)
Q: What does the Bible offer for America’s future?
“Hold fast to the Bible as the sheet anchor of your liberties, write its precepts in your hearts, and practice them in your lives. To the influence of this book are we indebted for all the progress made in true civilization, and to this we must look as our guide in the future. Righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.” – Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877*)
“The first and almost the only book deserving of universal attention is the Bible. I speak as a man of the world…and I say to you, ‘Search the Scriptures.’” – John Quincy Adams (1825-1829*)
“The strength of our country is the strength of its religious convictions. The foundations of our society and our government rest so much on the teachings of the Bible that it would be difficult to support them if faith in these teachings would cease to be practically universal in our country.” – Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929*)
“Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of law under God is acknowledged …” – Ronald Reagan (1981-1989*)
As we pray for our leaders regardless of their titles (1 Timothy 2:1-2), don’t be discouraged when some deny the obvious. Remember, the Lord turns the King’s heart wherever He desires. (See Proverbs 21:1 above.)
When we say, “God bless America,” let us remember Numbers 6:24-26: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.”
How great it is that we may have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1) even as we obediently pray for our leaders.
* Indicates the president’s years in office.