What is a ‘Christian’ Nation?

Any nation begun by Christians as a Christian nation — even if founded firmly on “Christian” principles — will inevitably fall away from that Christian foundation and cease being a Christian nation within but a few generations.  Men are born sinners, and can only be changed through Christ — and it is strongly affirmed throughout the Bible that the people of God will always be in the minority (a “remnant”).  So if there are enough Christians to get together and start a nation, then a Christian nation it will indeed be… but, how can it be expected to remain a Christian nation, generation after generation?

Unless Christianity is made a constitutional requirement in order to vote, it cannot long remain Christian.  Not even the children of believers are guaranteed to be believers themselves.  By 1776, the birth-date of this nation, there were many unbelievers in this country already.  Not only were there Christ-denying Deists, such as Thomas Jefferson, in some key positions in our government, there were the usual criminal activities, such as prostitution, in our cities.  Unbelief was rampant even then.  But still, the world and the Church seemed to get along better then than they do now.  Christian principles in government and law were tolerated by the world, and were not challenged as they are now.  In fact, it seemed at the start of this nation that the Church actually was the world — the world and its control taken away from sinners and ran as it should be ran, by saints.  The sinners were relegated to a proper illegitimacy.  But was that really the proper role for the Church to take?  Is there a Biblical warrant for Christians to take over the administrative and governmental aspects of the world?  Certainly, Christ will one day do just that when He sets up His physical Kingdom here on earth.  But until then, is it our role as believers to try to do something similar and form Christian nations?  Again, we are brought to my initial question: How would such a nation remain Christian?

How exactly are we to define a “Christian nation?”  It is often said that this country has turned its back on God and we need to get back to the good old days when we were a godly Christian nation.  This puzzles me.  When exactly were we as a nation seeking God?  When exactly could we be said to be a Christian nation on the right track?  Some seem to think it was as recently as the 1940’s or ’50’s; but this is just looking at the past through rose-colored glasses.  Then, as now, believers were a remnant.  Sure, there may have been more church-goers, and the sinful world wasn’t as hostile toward God as they are now.  But is that really all we’re looking for?  Is a Christian nation defined by disingenuous morality and the false appearance of godliness?  Is a Christian nation defined by outward appearances?  And if we look at the 19th century, will we really find Christians in the majority?  What about the 18th century?

Perhaps the defining factor of a Christian nation is that its laws and government are founded on “Christian principles.”  If that is the defining factor, then it does not matter how small the minority of true believers really is, since those principles remain at the foundation of our law and government.  However, we then must ask, even with the Christian principles in our laws, can we still be a Christian nation if there are no more Christian citizens within it?  Think about the direction we are heading, and look at Europe and Britain.  The Holy Spirit did a mighty work over there once, but He has evidently moved on, and now the great works have begun in Asia and maybe Africa.  What if the same lies ahead for America, and one day no more true believers remain here?  Would we still be a Christian nation even without any Christians?  And what if China, which was not founded on Christian principles, experiences such a revival that true Christians become the majority (at least for one generation)?  If that were to happen, how could we not then call China a Christian nation?  So you see, what makes a nation truly a Christian nation are only the Christians within it, and not its governmental principles.  Quite simply, Christianity cannot be legislated or governed into prominence — not on this side of the Millennial Reign.  And the smaller the minority of Christians within any nation, the less Christian that nation is.  By that definition, America is only slightly Christian, and is becoming less Christian every day.

The administrative and governmental aspects of the world are just that — of the world.  The Church is not of the world. In this noble experiment called the United States, the Church confiscated part of the world and tried to make it its own.  We cleaned it up, straightened it out, and tried to make it livable for the Church and fit for Christ to call His own.  But the world cannot be cleaned up for very long.  No feeble efforts of the flesh on the part of the Church will ever stem the world’s tide of sin and rebellion for long.  We may have been successful at establishing our settlements on this shore and permanently keeping the “Indians” at bay, but the King of Kings never gave us a charter to establish a settlement on the shores of the world, and so the natives of that world — the unbelieving sinners — are driving us back and keeping us at bay.  They are gradually destroying all the work we have done to bring a civilized Christian morality to this part of the world.

Our effectiveness as salt and light, and our mandate as well, is directly related to what Christ wants to accomplish in this world through His Church.  His desire is to redeem; and it is people, not governments, that are the objects of that redemption.  As more and more people are redeemed, then the natural result of that will be more and more voters who stand up for what is morally right; and this would be reflected in our laws and government accordingly, as the number of true believers rises.  However, this would be a secondary consequence, and not a mission to be accomplished.  As such, believers should vote their consciences when the votes are taken, but should not be overly concerned with forcing the will of the Church on the government through such fleshly power as petitions, demonstrations, and threatening letters to representatives.  Our mission is to preach the gospel to all the world, not to conquer the world into submission to an outward Christian morality through political power.  The weapons of our warfare are not the ballot box, the petition, or the picket sign — that’s the wrong field of battle for the Church, and nothing but a diversion from the adversary.

Please don’t misunderstand me.  I love my country, and I pray for revival, too.  I am just as saddened by the ever-increasing wickedness as anyone else.  And I do believe that God had a purpose in history for this country and that it was founded by His power.  But I do not think He intended it to be a colony of the Millennial Kingdom, so to speak.  Rather, I think He intended it to be a country heavily influenced by Christians at its founding, and the earthly home of many Christians since.  But I don’t think God ever regarded this nation as anything other than a secular nation — ultimately a part of the world and not a part of the Church.  And when we start confusing the two, by thinking that this geopolitical country is a Christian country, then we cannot tell where the Church ends and the world begins.  Even worse, we lose sight of where our true efforts and emphasis should be: evangelism.  The true role of the Church, and its only biblical warrant and mandate, is to change the world one soul at a time through evangelism.

As Christians and Americans, let us remember that this is not our home, and our treasure is elsewhere.  We cannot “take back” what was never really ours.

Ken Hamrick

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6 Responses to What is a ‘Christian’ Nation?

  1. I am very glad you wrote this. Almost every week I hear some direct or indirect reference to the USA as a “Christian nation”, or to Isaiah 7:14 and its applicability to the USA, and most of the time I have to bite my tongue to keep from interrupting a teacher or preacher in a big way.

    Simply put, if we started a church and wrote into the bylaws that the church could not establish any rules pertaining to the beliefs of any member, we could scarcely call that a “Christian” church. Or even a church. But that’s what the Constitution does.

    It could well be that the nation was simply a good nation, standing up against the bullies, having a good work ethic, and a good education system, and it worked well by what might be called common graces. In my own lifetime, I’ve personally witnessed the decline of all of those. And the family. Ignoring the Spiritual altogether, I’d expect the country to head downhill as it has.

    Oh .. I heard a preacher this morning blaming the church .. more specifically its “silence” .. for the plague of abortion. That’s tantamount to blaming sickness on well people. The church has never been silent about abortion (but remember .. I’m in the Bible Belt).

    Amen on this not being our home. We didn’t come here to stay.

  2. parsonsmike says:

    Ken,
    Good article. It needed said.

    But i disagree with one thing, you said:
    “Even worse, we lose sight of where our true efforts and emphasis should be: evangelism. The true role of the Church, and its only biblical warrant and mandate, is to change the world one soul at a time through evangelism.”

    We don’t change the world one soul at a time and neither is that our mandate.
    Our mandate is to witness for Jesus and leave the results up to God.
    That first witness of the church resulted in over 5000 souls being saved.
    Much witnessing results in 0 souls being changed.
    Either way or whatever in between, we are to be His witnesses, and leave the results up to God.

  3. Ken Hamrick says:

    Mike,

    Of course, you’re right. But I was speaking to those who think we need to be a force of change in order to bring this country back to being the godly nation that it should be. Any change that is implied in our role as “salt and light” is only effected through individual salvation of sinners, and not through political power.

  4. Ken Hamrick says:

    Bob,

    Good points. The most abused text of Scripture in America is the one that says, “If My people, which are called by My name, will humble themselves…” It was never intended to be applied to any other nation than Isreal, where the entire nation was a people, called by God’s name. The American Church is so caught up in the fantasy of being the covenant nation of God that we parallel the Mormon idea of America as the promised land…

  5. Whoops .. my bad .. I mean 2 Chronicles, not Isaiah.

    I blame age.

  6. We are a nation that is grossly confused about the definition of Christian. Before we can discuss being or not being a Christian Nation we have to agree to a definition of Christian. If we are talking about proclaiming to be a Christian well Bishop Eugene Robinson of the Episcopal Church USA declares himself to be a Christian more claims to be called into the ministry. Yet his ordination as the first openly gay Bishop has cost his denomination to lose many members and Churches while spending a fortune in legal battles to hold onto property. You have faiths like the Latter Day Saints, Unitarian Universalists, and others that often get listed as Christian. The best example of this confusion is my Gov. Robert Bentley was speaking early after being elected in an African American civil rights historic Church and mentioned that he felt comfort with them because they were his brothers and sisters. (Yall can look up the exact quote this is a paraphrase). He got criticism from several unlikely places one was Glenn Beck the very conservative Mormon t.v. and radio star who seemed honestly offended by the Gov’s language. I call my Pastor Brother all the time and have called all my previous pastors by that title. I wouldn’t have even thought about it had not people been offended. A whole host of people have devised ways for us Christians not to cause these types of offenses one group is the Emergent Group. They have written books and training materials for people to use that will not offend the unbeliever. The problem with this is Jesus Christ, the Disciples, the early believers, and Christians all over the world have been killed and tortured for offending people. I wonder if the emergent people have read the scripture where people tore clothing etc in anger in the Bible over the Christian message. Our very message is offensive to the world we can’t sugar coat it the message is salt. If your salt the world is going to get high blood pressure I do not think a way exists around it. In conclusion I would say the U.S. is 1. Confused about the term Christian 2. Christians are confused about what the term means 3. The nation needs Christ and if we are Christians then we need to worry about how to lead people to Christ no matter the cost. The cost may be people unfriend you on facebook or even be stoned hey it is not something new to the Christin faith after all.

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