|By: Dr. John G. Weldon; ©2012|
|The questions of "Is America a Christian nation?" or "Was America founded as a Christian nation?" are, in one sense, not easily answered because the answer is "yes" and "no" and "to a major degree."|
The questions of "Is America a Christian nation?" or "Was America founded as a Christian nation?" are, in one sense, not easily answered because the answer is "yes" and "no" and "to a major degree."
It is a correct statement that America has been the most Christian nation ever founded. Also, Americans have typically seen themselves as constituting a Christian nation. As historian John Fea points out in Was America Founded As a Christian Nation? An Historical Introduction, "The idea that the United States was a "Christian nation" was central to American identity in the years between the Revolution and the Civil War" and "If the United States was ever a "Christian nation," it was so during the period between the ratification of the Constitution (1789) and the start of the Civil War (1861)" because "Christianity, and particularly Protestant evangelicalism, defined the culture".
Clearly, America has had more Christian influence upon it than any other nation in human history, but this influence has varied historically. Nevertheless, it is impossible to understand America, past or present, apart from biblical Christianity. While the early American states were far more biblically Christian than the average American has any idea, the federal government promoted freedom of and for religion (not freedom from religion as mistaken and biased secularists and separationists argue for today). As noted historian of the history of Christianity in America, Mark A. Knoll observes, Christian "theology played an extraordinarily important role in American thought" from the 1730s-1860s -- and that is been more or less true until recently. If you read the books by David Barton and the original documents at WallBuilders.com with Peter Marshall's, The Light and the Glory and historian John Fea’s book, you'll get pretty close to the truth.
True enough, no nation on earth has ever been fully Christian because no nation has ever been 100% Christian and even then it would still fall short of Christian standards because all Christians remain sinners until they die. The question is one of the degree of Christian influence and properly defining terms.
Clearly, God in His providence founded America for His purposes and glory, graciously providing it with major Christian influence in its founding, culture and history. From the early American settlers, the Puritans and the pilgrims, to the fact that the US government was founded on Christian principles, to the fact that its laws were based upon Mosaic law and the teachings of Christ, to the colonial charters, the state constitutions, and the colonial and state criminal codes, presidential religion, and much else, the powerful influence of Christianity is undeniable. As Dr. Jeffery Donley, an internationally known biblical authority points out, 52 of the 55 people drafting the U.S. Constitution were Christians; 27 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence had Bible seminary degrees; over one third of the documents written between 1760 and 1805 quoted the Bible more frequently than any other source; and "94% of all quotes by the founding fathers were based on the Bible."
In "Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States" (1892), a case involving immigration policy, the US Supreme Court did formally assert that the US is "a Christian nation." Of course, it was not so in the sense that Christianity should be the officially established religion or that people should be compelled to support or become Christians, but it was a Christian nation in the cultural and historical sense, something that was perfectly true.
Even the more liberal, secular Wikipedia (Cf. Conservapedia.com, Theopedia.com) observes:
"Perry Miller of Harvard University wrote in 1956:
Thus, it's logically impossible to deny that Christianity has had a majority influence in the nation’s history and culture. As a result, America has largely been an "unofficial" Christian nation in terms of dominating influence. Even today Christian influence remains strong, despite its recent significant decline, which in and of itself says a good deal. As Fea observes, "those who want to argue that the United States is a Christian nation have some strong historical evidence on which to rely, but they must also realize that Christian nationalism took many different forms during the 20th century" and, "the belief that the United States was founded as a Christian nation has a long history that dates back to the beginning of the Republic."
But again, belief and reality are not necessarily the same. It is mistaken for someone to argue that America today is a truly Christian nation – if that were so things would be vastly different in American culture and behavior. America today is a post-Christian, nominally religious nation with steadily declining Christian influence and increasing secular and relativistic influence with perhaps 15% of the nation truly Christian, although one can always hope this is a low figure.
Why did America become a nation with such unparalleled Christian influence? I can tell you in two Bible verses:
In God's Providence America was founded as she was because godly men obeyed Scripture. But things have changed.
If America is to survive, and experience God's blessing as opposed to His displeasure, she must return to her godly roots – which means that true Christians must take their calling seriously and be in prayer that God would bring repentance to His Church and revival to American culture – hopefully, a final Great Spiritual Awakening before His return. Indeed, anyone who does not know Jesus Christ personally should carefully ponder the words He spoke:
Ben Carson, M.D., America the Beautiful (2012)
The books of David Barton and WallBuilders.com offer a good deal of information for those interested in pursuing the issue: The Foundations of American Government; Practical Benefits of Christianity; The Influence of the Bible on America (10 Lesson Online Interactive Course); Separation of Church & State: What the Founders Meant; Original Intent: the Courts, the Constitution, & Religion; Four Centuries of American Education; America's Godly Heritage (video transcript); Keys to Good Government; Also Benson J. Lossing, Lives of the Signers of the Declaration Of Independence (reprint of 1848 edition). At WallBuilders.com, see Curriculum, Documents, New Products, Historical Documents, Historical Writings, Issues & Articles, Newsletter Archives. Plus there are many works of a similar nature by various scholars. See also: Michael Novak, On Two Wings: Humble Faith and Common Sense at the American Founding; John Eidsmoe, Christianity and the Constitution; Kirby Anderson, "One Nation under God," Probe Ministries; http://www.probe.org/site/c.fdKEIMNsEoG/b.4221051/k.5894/One_Nation_Under_God.htm; Gaustad and Schmidt's, The Religious History of America (revised, 2004); Edwin S. Gaustad (ed.) A Documentary History of Religion in America to 1877; Mark A. Knoll, A Documentary History of Religion in America since 1877 and A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada. For an interesting study see noted historian Philip Jenkins', The Next Christendom: The Coming Global Christianity.