Christians in America

       Open BibleOver the years I’ve had discussions with Christians in America who have made the mistake of thinking we are a Christian nation. The two words Christian and nation are never united in Scripture, nor should they be. America is a great nation in many ways and I love my freedoms, but it is not a Christian nation. The concept of a Christian nation is nowhere found in Scripture. It is true that some of America’s founding fathers where Christians who lived within a biblical worldview, but some were Unitarians (who deny the Trinity), and others were Deists (who deny God’s sovereign involvement in creation). Often those who argue that America is a Christian nation selectively cite the founding fathers, but rarely, if ever, cite Scripture. The Bible alone must guide our faith and conduct. The Church is a biblical concept, but a Christian nation is not. A Christian is one who has trusted in the Lord Jesus as his Savior and received forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7), the gift of eternal life (John 3:16; 10:28), and the imputation of God’s righteousness (Rom. 5:17; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9). A local church consists of Christians who gather on a regular basis for Bible study, fellowship, partaking of the Lord’s Supper and prayer (Acts 2:42). America is not a giant church made up of Christians.  

…the locus of God’s people under the new covenant is not a nation, and every attempt to establish a unified “Christian nation,” where the respective boundaries of church and state are made to coalesce, has not only been misconceived but has resulted in disastrous failure.[1]

       Scripture never directs the Christian to establish Christian laws for any nation. Scripture calls us to proclaim the message of Christianity and to win men with words, never social or political force. We have failed as Christians as soon as we seek to politicize our message and control others through legislative means. If Christians want to have a lasting impact on a nation, it must be done at the grassroots level through evangelization and biblical teaching, not legislation. It must done through sharing the gospel and teaching Christian virtues that are applied to all of life, not by a forced morality imposed through the halls of congress. 

       jesus-helping-the-poorHistorically, Christians in America have been a positive influence in society by promoting law and being charitable to the needy (Gal. 2:10; Jam. 1:27). They’ve built schools, hospitals, orphanages and other helpful organizations that lift man up. They’ve fed the hungry, cared for the sick, housed the homeless, provided for widows and orphans, and visited prisoners with the gospel. Christians have also promoted art, literature, music and science. Certainly there have been abuses in the name of Christianity; however, the historical record speaks favorably about Christian service. For the most part, believers have obeyed Scripture and become law abiding citizens rather than rebels. Scripture teaches Christians to think of government as a “minister of God” (Rom. 13:4), to obey leaders (Rom. 13:1, 5; Tit. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-15), pay taxes (Rom. 13:6), regard rulers as “servants of God” who do His will (Rom. 13:6), and to pray for them (1 Tim. 2:1-2). We realize there is a legitimate sense in which the leaders of this world accomplish God’s purposes by keeping harmony and promoting justice (Rom. 13:2-4; 6-7). We do not blindly submit to their authority and should say no to governmental leaders when they command us to go against the commands of God (see Dan. 3:1-18; 6:1-13; Acts 4:19-20; 5:28-29). The Christian obeys or defies human authority only as the Bible directs. Ultimately, those who obey God’s Word prove to be a blessing that promotes righteousness within a nation. Christians who are learning God’s Word and growing spiritually will prove to be the moral fabric of any community, and this will make a nation strong. Mature Christians will reflect the highest and best virtues within a country, not the lowest and worst.  

Praying Hands       As Christians, we must get it into our thinking that our battle is spiritual (Eph. 6:12), not social or political. That’s not to say that we do not speak truth to leaders when given the opportunity; certainly we do (Dan. 3:16-18; Acts 4:19-20; 5:28-29; 26:1-29)! At times God will give us the ear of a human ruler, and we must take that opportunity to speak God’s truth and pray He moves the heart of the hearer. However, “The church cannot defeat spiritual wickedness by overthrowing corrupt governments or legislating better laws and ordinances. The conflict is far greater than such efforts and calls for divine power for the victory.”[2] As Christian’s living in America we should pray for our leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-2), strive to be upstanding citizens (Rom. 13:1-7; Tit. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-14), help the needy in our communities (Acts 20:35; 1 Thess. 5:14), and above all, share the gospel and teach God’s Word (John 3:16; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; 2 Tim. 4:1-2).

Steven R. Cook, D.Min.

[1] D. A. Carson, How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 89.

[2]Allen P. Ross, Creation and blessing: A guide to the study and exposition of Genesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 301

23 thoughts on “Christians in America

  1. Your opinion is thoughtful but untrue. America was built as a Christian nation, with Christian founders influencing our world view and American character.
    Our documents and legal system, our social morals and convictions, were all built on a Christian Biblical foundation. America was not founded by Communists, Hindus, Muslims, or atheists. Sure, many Christians then and now, being sinners, have fell short, but you simply cannot say we are not or were not a Christian nation. Today, perhaps less religious, influenced by post modernist thinking, secular humanism, relativism, widespread immorality…..but with all these imperfections, millions and millions of our citizens are devout believers and many have not abandoned the precepts of our Christian faith. As I used to work at a national cemetery, I was a representative who spoke to a thousand or more families of deceased veterans….and almost all chose a Christian cross for their loved ones headstone…..go to a national cemetery and look for yourself. America is indeed a Christian nation.

  2. Dear Mr. Flanagan, thank you for your comments. I agree there were Christians who helped found this country and some biblical concepts were used (some non-biblical concepts as well). I also agree there are many fine Christians in America now who contribute to make America the greatest nation on earth; however, Christian involvement and influence does not make America a Christian nation. When I search through the Bible–which is my sole guide for Christian faith and conduct–I cannot find a single reference to anything called a “Christian nation”. The Bible addresses how Christians are to behave in whatever nation they find themselves (Rom. 13:1-7; Tit. 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-14), but it never calls us to found a nation. I love America and appreciate those Christians who help make it great, and I continue to pray for our leadership (1 Tim. 2:1-2). If I am to be convinced that America is a Christian nation, it must be from Scripture.

  3. I agree that America has never been a Christian Nation. Would a Christian Nation give the indigenous people blankets laced with smallpox in an effort to kill them off? I think not. Yet that is a part of our American history – though we do our best to ignore it (and fail to teach our children the full truth).

    The closest I can see Christians as being a nation is in 1 Peter 2:9. Other than that, there is no call for us to set up a theocratic state or nation. Though we may choose to live together in harmony with the teachings of Christ as our guiding principles.

    Thanks for the wonderful article.

  4. America may not be categorically a “Christian Nation” but it does not exist without Christianity and its notions of freedom through the one and only Savior. Prior to America, all political systems assumed a monarchy or other hierarchical ladder was necessary to know God. America dismantled that and said each individual is free through Christ, not through government, and built a Constitution to reflect that. You actually can’t have a democracy (or federal republic) without a defined standard of morality as laid out in the Bible and a means by which people abide to it. This is why this country is where it is today. We’ve removed the one thing that holds humans accountable – God. America doesn’t work without Him and the redemption through Christ. You don’t have to be a Christian per se, but this system doesn’t work without a belief in Christian virtue and principles. DeTocqueville offers excellent commentary on this.

  5. And all other alternative political systems (socialism, communism, fascism) emanate from explicitly atheist traditions. Marxists thought hates God.

  6. Thanks for your comment Jennifer. I agree. Part of the problem is that even if non-Christians accept biblical values as a good moral system upon which to build government, there’s no way to guarantee subsequent generations will continue with that same moral framework. The faith of one generation is always and only the faith of one generation. Though we may teach and model all the Bible provides (which we should), there’s no guarantee the next generation will continue in it.

    I think of Jonah who preached to the Ninevites (ca. 750 BC), who in turn responded positively to God and His Word, and that generation was spared the Lord’s judgment. However, subsequent generations did not follow in the values of their ancestors, and a little more than a century later (612 BC), Assyria fell to the Babylonians. I would love to see America renewed in its biblical values, and though we may teach and live God’s Word for others to see, it’s up to them to accept or reject it. The future of America depends on what this generation does with God, Christ, and the Bible.

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