The Significance of Reformation Day for the United States

October 31, 1517 was a forerunner to America’s Independence Day.

The following scholarly excerpts can be found in Amos and Gardiner’s Never Before in History: America’s Inspired Birth, which enthralled me at the age of 14.

“The American Revolution might thus be said to have started, in a sense, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door at Wittenberg. It received a substantial part of its theological and philosophical underpinnings from John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, and much of its social theory from the Puritan Revolution of 1640-1660, and, perhaps less obviously, from the Glorious Revolution of 1689. Put another way, the American Revolution is inconceivable in the absence of the context of ideas which have constituted Christianity. The leaders of the Revolution in every colony were imbued with the precepts of the Reformed faith.”

- Page Smith

“The founding of the United States and the principles on which it was established belong to the ongoing human quest for political and religious liberty. That quest is ancient and has been a central theme of Western civilization…For Luther, God alone had authority over peoples’ consciences…For Luther, the creator-redeemer distinction meant that there was a clear difference between the role of the church and the role of the state. Because church and state are separate institutions, the government’s role has to be restricted.” – Gary Amos and Richard Gardiner

“God has ordained the two governments: the spiritual, which by the Holy Spirit under Christ makes Christians and pious people; and the secular, which restrains the unchristian and wicked so that they are obliged to keep the peace outwardly

…The laws of worldly government extend no farther than to life and property and what is external upon earth. For over the soul God can and will let no one rule but himself. Therefore, where temporal power presumes to prescribe laws for the soul, it encroaches upon God’s government and only misleads and destroys souls. We desire to make this so clear that every one shall grasp it, and that the princes and bishops may see what fools they are when they seek to coerce the people with their laws and commandments into believing one thing or another.”
- Martin Luther

‘The anti-humanist celebration of the century…’

Alright, perhaps that’s not the header you remember seeing on my Thanksgiving column last year. But I made the juxtaposition for this post while the contrasting subjects are fresh on my mind – The Pilgrims (in 1621) and Voltaire (1694-1778). I’m currently working on a term paper about Voltaire’s influence on the French Revolution. The Pilgrims, of course, represent a very different tradition which would influence the American Revolution.

I wrote about this last year in my column, “Angelina Jolie thinks Thanksgiving celebrates a ‘story of murder’“:

(The original header)

. . .The Separatists who ventured to start a new government in the New World endured an awfully rude voyage across the Atlantic and had managed to survive a year in a strange land. But when a successful harvest took place in 1621, did they praise themselves and their superior culture? Did they thank themselves for all their hard work?

No. They thanked God.

While the first rays of the Enlightenment were appearing in Europe, the multicultural and anti-humanist celebration of the century was taking place in a humble community in North America. While the movement in Europe would play a significant role in ushering in an era of folly and bloodshed (particularly in France, a country Jolie is notably fond of), the movement in America would result in a mindset which would make the American Revolution unique compared to others around the world.

The Pilgrims could not have survived if certain events and certain people had not been placed in their way – and they knew it. They set sail for Virginia, but happened to land in Massachusetts due to a navigation error. There they were greeted by Squanto, the Patuxt Indian who happened to be fluent in English and happened to have returned to Plymouth just in time. The Pilgrims understood these and other strategic happenings to be acts of Providence, for which they were very thankful.

This spirit of thanksgiving that was nurtured throughout U.S. history is a uniquely American brand of a Biblical tradition. . .

Click here to continue reading my 2010 Thanksgiving column. I was informed by a member of the EIB Network that this article of mine has been placed in Rush Limbaugh’s “Stack of Stuff”.

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

~ Amanda

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