I’m betting that you’re already mad at me.
Declaring that the United States is not a Christian nation beneath the banner of The Christian Post has got to be some kind of violation, right? Just the idea probably invokes outrage along the lines expressed by that great American hero, Daffy Duck, who once said: “Doesn’t that just gall ya sister?”
But before you leave nasty comments or send me links to David Barton books, hear me out.
I’m not saying that American society has not been heavily influenced and supported (for the better) by Judeo-Christian values and ethics. Only historical revisionists wishing to erase God from our culture would assert such a thing.
What I am saying is that, if you define a “Christian nation” as one governed solely by New Testament principles, then there has never been a Christian nation. There have been, and are, plenty of countries with Christians living in them who influence their culture, but not one solely piloted by the precepts of the New Testament.
Further, in all of history, there has only been one theocracy governed directly by God and that was ancient Israel. And there will never be another one until the Millennial Kingdom overseen by Christ at the end of the age.
All that said, it was the dream of some who first came to America (e.g., the Pilgrims) for the country to be a Christian nation. However, things didn’t work out as they planned.
The fly in the Christian ointment
In a sermon he preached a couple of years ago, entitled “America – a Great Idea,” Tommy Nelson discussed how many of the English reformers in the 1500s and 1600s longed for a Protestant government. While some (the Puritans) stayed in their homeland with the hopes of “purifying” their country’s authority, others came to America with hopes of building that type of national governance.
The Pilgrims who came wanted to establish the ancient medieval idea of Augustine – the City of God. There would be no church-state separation, but rather a State that was the Church.
But by the late 1600s, their desires were dashed. Why? Nelson gives a humorous but accurate one-word answer:
In short, the faith of the parents didn’t carry on to their children and so began the downward descent of non-Christian thought and secularism to the point where we are today. Nelson says that America was, “the last vestige of the medieval dream of Augustine to have a city of God,” but it wasn’t realized due to the Pilgrim’s underestimating the biblical doctrine of depravity.
If you want to do a depressing Bible study (aren’t those the best?), look at all the Old Testament personalities who were devoted to God and then see how their kids turned out. Sure, a few continued in the parent’s faithful footsteps, but many did not.
The same is true today. Maybe in your own family.
The stories are endless of faithful parents who lived out Christ in front of their offspring and did everything to pass along the truths of God, only to have their children seemingly run off the Christian rails, sometimes in spectacular fashion.
The problem is they were never on the “rails” to begin with. The Hellenistic and classical Greeks actually had a word for such a thing: nomizo. The term described a type of faith held only because it was passed down by custom and tradition.
The word nomizo is never used in the New Testament to identify Christian faith; instead the Greek term found everywhere in its pages is pistis, which comes from the verb peitho that means “to be persuaded,” and denotes trust, confidence, conviction, reliability and something worthy of belief.
In other words, it’s the real thing.
In the future, the fake nomizo and true pistis faith will come to a head in Christ’s Millennial Kingdom where Satan leads a revolt of those who have lived under the perfect rule of Jesus, but (incredibly) side with the devil against Him. One of the saddest verses in all the Bible says, “the number of them is like the sand of the seashore” (Rev. 20:8).
I don’t know about you, but the fact that a glorified, reigning Jesus (in the flesh) is not enough to keep a 100% believer-filled “Christian nation” intact gives me pause. It makes me reflect on the guilt and sense of failure some have shared with me over having children or other family members that aren’t – despite their best efforts – in the faith.
But Christ’s upcoming Millennial reign, and the tares that are prophesied to exist within it, teaches a great truth about the inherited sin nature we all have, how powerful it is, and God’s sovereignty over salvation.
As for us today, living in an America that is not a Christian nation, our duty remains what it always has been: be salt and light (Matt. 5:13-16) and, for our unsaved loved ones, pray that “God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 2:25).
Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.