A question I've long pondered without any convincing answer. As an American (and conservative) I think the Declaration of Independence is awesome sauce, but it significantly realigned the relationships between God, government, and citizens. Is citizen sovereignty more in line with God's will than divinely appointed kings?

The key to this is to be found in the second sentence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator 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."

Before the declaration, the standard political theory went something like this: God anointed a king, who is the locus of sovereignty on earth. Though the king is supposed to rule decently, it is the duty of everyone else to submit to the king, who is answerable only to God. The king might grant you rights, but if he did so that was an act of generosity on his part, not an entitlement on yours.

Divine-right political theory was understandably popular with kings and their supporters and hangers-on, and a form of it survives in assorted variations today. But the declaration takes a different approach. It says that rights come from God, not from the king, and that they are "unalienable" -- that is, incapable of being sold ("alienated") surrendered, or given away.

We Americans talk a lot about our God-given rights, but what scriptural authority do we rest these rights on? In Romans 13:1-7 Paul writes:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

So God instituted the authority of King George III and the American founding fathers rebelled against it... right?

In John 19:10-11 Pilate is questioning Jesus, who refuses to answer his questions.

So Pilate said to him, "You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?"

Jesus answered him, "You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above."

Jesus clearly asserts that Pilate's authority was given to him by God. Jesus does not oppose Pilate's secular authority despite his supremacy as God.

Thus, my quandary. I love the philosophy behind the Declaration of Independence, but I struggle to justify it scripturally. There are certainly other potential justifications for the belief in "God-given rights" (e.g., nature, love, submission to God rather than men, etc.) but the Bible gives no direct support that I can find.

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