The idea of religious freedom did not rise out of Hinduism or Islam. It also did not originate from the enlightenment but instead arose from the teaching of the holy scriptures as understood throughout the history of the church. The seeds of religious freedom were sown by the early church fathers, grew in the rich soil plowed by the reformers and began to bear fruit with the American founding fathers and the birth of a new nation founded in part by a desire for religious freedom. This paper looks at the development of religious freedom both theologically and historically within the church and the impact it had on the US founding fathers and the unique political theology they developed.
Hugh Whelchel is the executive director of the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics and the author of How Then Should We Work? Rediscovering the Biblical Doctrine of Work.