The men who founded our great nation understood something important, and it is that understanding that created American exceptionalism and a form of government that has stood for over 240 years. When we seceded from the British Empire, the founders wrote that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” and that “governments are instituted among men” to secure these rights.
This understanding is in line with Scripture’s teaching in Romans 13:1 that “there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” Government’s authority flows from God, and He has delegated that authority to various institutions to see that His will is done. Those institutions are the home, the church and the state, but my concern here specifically is the state.
The reason it is important that rights come from God is because it places something in authority over government. If there is no God, then the government becomes a god – and human beings are terrible gods. Just in the last hundred years, we have seen this with tyrants like Stalin, Hitler, and Mao – all of which are individually responsible for the murder of millions of innocent civilians.
This is why the Bill of Rights assumes rights exist separate from government. This is why the first ten amendments include statements like “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech” in the First Amendment, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” in the Second Amendment and “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects” in the Fourth Amendment. The founding fathers never intended to grant rights. They sought to forbid government from restricting rights the people already have naturally.
If we are going to maintain our liberty, we need to remember that our rights do not come from government. We also need to remember that the government’s authority is limited by the God who granted that authority. In a world that often seems out of control, God’s ultimate sovereignty is a great comfort.