Lincoln Laments at Gettysburg: Biblical Creation and Civil War Insights
by James J. S. Johnson, J.D., Th.D. *
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth
on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and
dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.1
These words spoken by Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago allude to America’s Declaration of Independence. In that foundational document, the colonial declarants proclaimed a creation-based view of human liberty:
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.2
Why is Lincoln’s 1863 cemetery dedication important to us today? And why did a nation that professed creation-based liberty principles in 1776 suffer such a devastating civil war less than a century later, fighting over the practices of racist slavery?
Although the majority of the 1787 U.S. Constitution’s provisions are admirable, and many are much better than their 18th-century counterparts, the Constitution’s treatment of slaves is clearly unbiblical. For example, notice how it bars runaway slaves from being legally emancipated if they escape to a free state:
No person [slave or servant] held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged [emancipated] from such Service of Labour, but shall be delivered up [involuntarily returned] on Claim of the Party [slave-owner or master] to whom such Service or Labour may be due.3
Compare how the preceding constitutional mandate for the return of runaway slaves blatantly contradicts Deuteronomy 23:15-16:
Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee; he shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best; thou shalt not oppress him.
In light of the creationist liberty tenet in America’s Declaration of Independence, why did our predominantly Christian forefathers put an opposite mandate into the Constitution? Could it be that America’s slavery policies are evil fruit from the same corrupt tree that produced evolutionary science?4 If so, what is that corrupt tree, and why does it produce such evil fruit?
Are Evolution and American Slavery Related?
There is a logical correlation between American slavery and evolutionary theory: Both are effects produced by the same cause, namely, disregarding the Bible when it applies to secular topics such as politics and science. But some might protest that American slavery preceded Charles Darwin’s influence—so how can evolution and slavery be related?
American slavery practices were constitutionally formalized in 1787. Darwin’s natural selection theory was not published until 1859, over seven decades later. Darwin is not to blame for American slavery practices.5 However, Darwin does share the blame for promoting racist attitudes and abuses after America’s Civil War.6, 7 Darwin’s own words proposed a theory that all men were not equal, and Darwinism’s promoters used preexisting racist attitudes to help sell Darwin’s natural selection theory, teaching that darker-skinned humans were less evolved than lighter-skinned humans:
No rational man, cognizant of the facts, believes that the average Negro is the equal, still less the superior, of the white man.8
As shown by this quote from evolutionist hero Thomas Huxley, “Darwin’s bulldog,” ethnic racism clearly predates the influence of Darwin’s natural selection theory.5 Yet Darwin’s theory and American slavery practices can both be traced to the same kind of humanistic thinking—closed-Bible thinking about secular topics—called “rationalism” or “free-thinking.” Led by leaders of the deism movement, rationalism experienced a popular revival in the 1700s and early 1800s. Deists were closed-Bible creationists, precursors of the Intelligent Design Movement.9 Deists actively and passively rejected the biblical creation teachings of Genesis, including teachings on human origins, ethnic origins, and geologic history.
Deism-dominated science concepts—taught since the late 1700s—sowed tragic misinformation and destruction.10 Those ideas influenced America’s slavery policies and the pseudo-sciences of natural selection and social Darwinism.10, 11
Applying the lessons of Genesis, including its teaching that all humans are created equal in God’s sight, would have spared America two agonizing tragedies: race-based slavery and the human slaughter of its civil war. But to have a biblical view of human dignity, one must appreciate how Adam’s race (the only race recognized in the Bible) was uniquely created in God’s image on Day Six and understand that every human born after the Flood descended from the solitary surviving family that disembarked the Ark.8
Deists such as James Hutton (a medical doctor who promoted old-earth ideas as early as 1788) and Sir Charles Lyell (a barrister who popularized Hutton’s uniformitarian old-earth ideas as early as 1833) scoffed at Genesis’ history, including its detailed record of a global flood. In order to accept the geological theories of Hutton and Lyell, their contemporaries (including other deists and even many Christians) ignored or dismissed Genesis’ explicit record of the earth’s geologic and human history.10, 12
In deism-grounded science, the earth was imagined to be millions of years old (or older). Similarly, deists rejected the family history of Adam’s race recorded in Genesis, teaching that the words of the Bible were a prescientific Semitic myth (unfit for the enlightened minds of reason-ruled intellectuals). Thus, this mindset that rejected Genesis history was already becoming popular, thanks to Dr. Hutton and his ilk, long before the U.S. Constitution was ratified!
Just like many popular “intellectuals” of today, many leaders of the “Enlightenment” (in the late 1700s) exalted the powers of human reason over the authority and reliability of the holy Bible. They closed their Bibles and chose to study nature (including human nature) without the benefit of Genesis’ data.10, 12 Freeing themselves from the framework of biblical revelation, these free-thinkers relied only upon human reason as they strove to analyze and understand their world—including geologic beginnings and human and ethnic origins.
As the American experiment with slavery tragically proved, a closed-Bible approach to human relationships will never prove satisfactory. In fact, America’s most costly war (in human lives) was fought to abolish that shameful experiment.
Why, then, did the American slavery practice produce such a curse in America, with generations of turmoil and tragedy following its official abolition?
Because the unbiblical practice was founded upon two fatal flaws: 1) wrong beliefs about the origin and history of the human race, including how and why humanity was ethnically divided at Babel; and 2) wrong practices toward some of Adam’s descendants, based on ethnic differences that flowed from linguistic differences created at Babel.8, 11, 12
The practical question, then, for any society is this: When people assertively reject the truth and morals God has provided in Scripture, why should they expect God’s providential blessings, rather than tragic and cursed outcomes?
How a society treats its own people will determine whether that society invites or rejects God’s blessing. Rejecting Deuteronomy 23:15-16 led to the cause of America’s tragic Civil War, including the bloodshed at Gettysburg, and the loss of more than half a million American lives.
Likewise, how a society teaches and practices origins science will determine whether it invites or rejects God’s blessing on its origins science. If we settle for closed-Bible deism (often referred to as the Intelligent Design Movement), do we have a right to expect God’s blessing on our origins science?
Only the truth—biblical truth—truly emancipates the human mind: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).
- Both Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863, and his slavery-prohibiting Executive Order, the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, celebrate their 150th anniversaries in 2013. See Laura Pratt. 2012. Hidden in Plain Sight: A General Overview of the Human Trafficking Issue. Texas Bar Journal. 75 (10): 762-765 (analyzing 22 U.S.C. § 7101 et seq. (2000). Pratt documents that the worldwide problem of slavery is worse—more than 27,000,000 slaves exist today—than it was during Lincoln’s lifetime.
- U.S Declaration of Independence.
- U.S. Constitution, Article IV, § 2 (3).
- Bad trees produce bad fruit. “But a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit” (see Matthew 7:17-19, Luke 6:43-44).
- The U.S. Constitution’s unbiblical slavery provisions—especially Article I, § 9 (1); Article IV, § 2 (3); and Article V—were drafted in 1787, before Darwin’s Natural Selection theory publications of the late 1800s. American slavery laws contradicted many biblical standards, e.g., prohibiting kidnapping to acquire slaves, requiring return of runaway slaves, prohibiting the violation of slaves’ family relationships, requiring freedom for permanently injured slaves, and guaranteeing rest from labor on the Sabbath for slaves. (See Exodus 21:2-6, 26-27; Leviticus 19:20-22, 25:53; Deuteronomy 5:14, 15:12-16, 24:7).
- Weiland, Carl. 2012. Slavery and “One Drop of Blood.” Posted on creation.com, accessed November 30, 2012. Abraham Lincoln acknowledged that many Americans faithfully practiced biblical Christianity-based compassion during the Civil War era. See usccgettysburg.org (Civil War history site of the U.S. Christian Commission in Gettysburg).
- Bergman, Jerry. 2012. Winchell’s Theistic Evolution Evolved into Racism. Creation Matters. 17 (2):2.
- Morris, H. M. 2005. Many Infallible Proofs. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 320, quoting T. H. Huxley, 1871. Lay Sermons, Addresses and Reviews. NY: Appleton, 320-321.
- Johnson, J. J. S. 2011. The Failed Apologetic of the Wedge Strategy: How the Intelligent Design Movement Treats the Bible as Irrelevant. Acts & Facts. 40 (8): 10-11.
- Mortenson, Terry. 2004. The Great Turning Point: The Church’s Catastrophic Mistake Before Darwin. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 28, 32-36, 38-39.
- Advocating social Darwinism and eugenics, Adolph Hitler and other totalitarian tyrants argued for human evolution policies, rationalizing genocidal massacres in modern times. Johnson, J. J. S. 2012. Hidden in Plain View: Evolution’s Counterfeit History Is Everywhere. Acts & Facts. 41(2): 8-9. Note that evolutionary racism was used to rationalize WWII genocides by both Hitler’s Germany and Hirohito’s Japan.
- Johnson, J. J. S. 2011. Just Say No to Trojan Horses: Worldview Corruption Is Lying in Wait. Acts & Facts. 40 (2): 17-18.
* Dr. Johnson is Associate Professor of Apologetics and Chief Academic Officer at the Institute for Creation Research.
Cite this article: Johnson, J. J. S. 2013. Lincoln Laments at Gettysburg: Biblical Creation and Civil War Insights. Acts & Facts. 42 (2): 10-11.