WAS AMERICA FOUNDED as a CHRISTIAN NATION?
Written by: Unknown Posted on: 03/31/2003
WAS AMERICA FOUNDED as a CHRISTIAN NATION?
The question of our Biblical origins has been bandied around in
intellectual circles for many years, especially now that there is a
renewed Christian involvement in the culture of AMerica.
The major hurdle
in answering the question is to define terms properly. The concept of a
Christian nation is often written off because of misconceptions as to
what this means. A Christian nation is not one in which al people in a
society are all Christians, just as in an Islamic country, not all
people are necessarily Moslems. But in a Christian nation, as our
Founders would have defined it, the principles and institutional
foundations are Biblically based and the people in general share a
Nor should we confuse the term "Christian Nation" with a "Christian
state." since the word state refers to a political body or the body
politic of the nation, the term "Christian state" would mean one in
which the government ruled in religious matters through a state church.
This would, of course, preclude religious liberty.
All Laws Are a Codification of a Religious System
Nevertheless, it is imperative to understand that all laws of a nation
are the codification of a presuppositional world-view, i.e., the laws of
the Untied States have presupposed form the beginning that the Bible was
the foundation of our system. Rev. John Wingate Thornton said:
"The highest glory of the American Revolution, said John Quincy
Adams, was this: it connected in one indissoluble bond, the
principles of civil government with the PRINCIPLES OF
Rev. Thorton's words condense and paraphrase comments Adams made in a
July 4, 1837 oration, which are even more powerful in their full
"Is it not that, in the chain of events, the birthday of the nation
is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Saviour? That it
forms a leading event in the progress of the Gospel dispensation?
Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the
social compact on the foundation of the Redeemers's mission? That
it laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts
of Christianity and gave to the world the first irrevocable pledge
of the fulfillment of the prophecies announced directly from Heaven
at the birth of the Saviour and predicted by the greatest of the
Hebrew prophets 600 years before?"
Such convictions as these concerning the Christian foundations of
our government persisted into comparatively recent times. John W.
Whitehead analyzes the Supreme Court's historic understanding of the
relationship between Christianity and government in the United States:
"In 1892 the United States Supreme Court made an exhaustive study
of the supposed connection between Christianity and the government
of the United States.
After researching hundreds volumes of
historical documents, the Court asserted 'these references add a
volume of unofficial declarations to the mass of organic utterances
that this is a religious people...a Christian nation.' Likewise in
1931, Supreme Court Justice George Sutherland reversed the 1892
decision in relation to another case and reiterated that Americans
are a 'Christian people' and in 1952 Justice William O. Douglas
affirmed 'we are a religious people and our institutions presuppose
a Supreme Being.'"
Christianity the Dominant Influence in America
America was under the dominant influence of Biblical Christianity from
1620 until well into the nineteenth century. There are many who, in
their desire to lay claim to the great accomplishments of that era, have
tried to minimize the Christian influence and take the credit for
themselves. But only God deserves the glory for what He did in the
founding of this great nation.
People from many denominations came to America in the early years, but
the vast majority of them shared a common faith in the basic tenets of
Christianity. Whitehead's research reveals that
"when the Constitution was adopted and sent to the States for
ratification, the population of America numbered only about 3 1/4
million. The Christian population numbered at least 2 million.
James c. Hefley has commented that about 900,00 were Scotch or
Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, with another million also holding to
basic Calvanistic beliefs."
Christian Nation in Apostasy
It must be admitted that today, although we are still essentially a
Christian nation in form (i.e., the Constitutional, legal structure,
church affiliation), we are not one in conduct. For the first 250 years
of our existence Christian character determined the conduct of
self-government in homes, churches, and civil society. But today we have
forgotten our heritage and only the skeleton remains. Even so, deep
within the American character there lingers a Christian conscience ready
to be revived by the spirit of God through awakened american Christian
It should be noted that by stating that America was a Christian nation
we are not saying that we were the "New Israel" or a special race that
God must bless. Quite the contrary, God Blessed America because our
forefathers built their nation with reliance on Him and His Word, and
because God had a Gospel purpose for our nation. If we turn from His
purpose we can expect His judgement, perhaps greater judgement than
other nations because "to whom much is given, much is required."
Every nation can be a nation under God if it chooses to follow Jesus
Christ. Our history is unique in that we were allowed to express the
full flower of Christian civilization and government. This fact should
give us cause to ponder the price we have paid for the maintenance of
our Christian liberty. Will we be the generation that presides over its
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