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I have been in a dialogue with persons on whether America was founded as a Christian nation. It has occurred to me that we have not yet defined what we mean by that term 'Christian nation'. So here is a brief attempt to describe what I would call a Christian nation -- or rather a Judeo-Christian nation (or government). Christians are at every step of their way building on the foundations of their spiritual ancestors, the Hebrews. The Old Testament gives us the worldview foundation upon which alone the Gospel of Jesus Christ makes any rational sense.
Being a Judeo-Christian nation would include the
1. maintenance of an honest pluralism through our Bill of Rights (as originally passed);
2. the separation of powers which puts teeth in honest pluralism;
3. the maintenance of a level playing field upon which all legislation and public debate would take place;
4. the freedom to promote the Lordship of Jesus Christ in any and all aspects of political life.
Christians should aim to have Jesus Christ understood as King of kings and Lord of lords (President of presidents, Judge of judges, etc.). We would have to defend this view with truth and grace in open public contest.
The following will explain these items.
Christians (and just about everyone else) have struggled to reconcile the apparent conflict between faith and reason, between freedom and discipline, between Church and State, etc. The struggle hovers largely around the notion that a religious nation will be a tyrannical nation, forcing its religion on unwilling citizens, taxing them to support the Church, etc.
(Read Rodney Stark's book, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, & Western Success. He documents what any serious student of the Middle Ages has known for a very long time -- that Christianity was not the cause of a Dark Age, that the Middle Ages were a hotbed of intellectual, moral, and spiritual ferment.)
What we know as Western Civilization -- defined (1) by due process in civil law (equality before the law, the freedoms outlined by the Bill of Rights, limited government, etc.), and (2) by the rise of science -- could never have happened apart from the Biblical worldview.
And they will not survive the loss of that view. We are already seeing the subversion of our Constitution toward centralized government, and we are already seeing the subversion of science among us by poor education, the nonsense that truth can be relative, etc., and an education system which has no intention of setting people free with the truth. Both political freedom and science will erode with that kind of treatment.
The historical fact is that our freedoms come directly out of the Biblical view of politics, and substantially from no other source. A secular or a pagan worldview cannot invent, support, or sustain either personal or political freedom. Freedom will always be a short-lived anomaly, especially the more complex and crowded civilization grows.
God uses a very finely tuned strategy to approach and win the human race, a strategy revealed and illustrated all through Biblical history. The strategy is to create a level playing field upon which He will call His people together to invite (not force or scare) them back into His Kingdom -- which they had left at the Fall, led by Adam and Eve. The invitation is into a freewill covenant, a covenant whose terms are defined by God, but we freely choose 'yes' or 'no' as to whether we will participate (read C. S. Lewis's The Great Divorce). At every covenant ceremony in the Bible, God asks His people whether they want to follow Him. He does not threaten to beat up on them, He simply offers His guidance and spells out the consequences of either choice. Then we "choose this day whom we will serve".
The strategy is signified by Isaiah 1:18, "Come, let us reason together...." But a freewill covenant and an invitation into a reasonable discussion imply certain things. Accepting such an invitation does not yet mean joining God, but simply agreeing to discuss with Him, reason together with Him, about whether to join with Him and make the real commitment. God will present His case, and the people can say what they want to say, ask what they want to ask.
In short, the strategy of God implies that we put truth ahead of God, that is, that we agree to worship and follow Him if and only if He really is God. The Biblical test for the true God is that the true God can keep his promises. So God puts truth ahead of Himself.
On that level playing field, God invites us to test Him and His word. God will, of course, in all of that be also testing us and our word. That is the scary part, and the reason why most of the human race does not show up for the discussion -- "Come, let us reason together..."
Such a strategy requires that we use our minds as well as our hearts. God seems to want only willing participants, not robots.
If God is using that strategy for building His Kingdom of Heaven, then it is reasonable to assume that in our own community building, we should be using it as well. Politically, citizenship and voting rights should depend on each individual's commitment to "reasoning together". That is, no one should become a citizen or vote who is not publicly committed to the maintenance of that level playing field -- the very level playing field for which the American Constitution was written to ensure. No one should vote who does not support the principle of open, honest contest of ideas for legislation.
The separation of powers is all about preventing coercive force (the executive branch) from overriding open and honest discussion by the people and their elected representatives (the legislature). The separation means that he who holds the gun of enforcement (executive) is not allowed to decide how the gun will be used, and those who make those decisions (legislature and judiciary) are not allowed to hold the gun.
So, the first order of business for membership in the political community is a stout upholding of the level-playing-field principle. That provides the foundation for honest pluralism. Everyone who agrees to the level-playing-field principle is allowed to state his case on an issue, not because he is right, but rather to find out in the honest contest of ideas and goals, who is right.
That foundation will provide for religious freedom. Every religion is allowed to pursue its beliefs, including in politics, so long as it does not intrude on that same freedom for others.
So the first and basic sense of being a Judeo-Christian nation is maintaining that level playing field. No religion or philosophy outside of the Bible has consistently, as a part of its very cosmology and meaning of life, pointed in that direction. Not one. Only the Biblical worldview can sustain such a view. But individuals who can swear allegiance to the American Constitution with its enforcement of a level playing field, whatever their religion, would be welcome to participate.
Politics and government, however, is about more than a level playing field. On that field, we must come to particular decisions about governing. We must choose specific values which we want enforced (government is all about enforcement). So how are we to decide? What principles are we to use?
The Biblical way is to submit ourselves to the law of God, which alone has authority. In a world without God, there is no legitimacy, only power struggle.
So a Judeo-Christian government will (as the founding fathers and legal scholars of the time asserted) make laws consistent with the law of God. The Decalogue is not posted in the Supreme Court for no particular reason, it was posted there to remind the politicians of the God to whom they were to submit their governing.
Non-believers would not be excluded so long as they agreed to the "reason together" and the "level-playing-field" principles. Judeo-Christians ought to rejoice in this open playing field where the opposition can state its case. We all need such opposition to keep ourselves honest. The Kingdom of God, whether here on earth or in heaven, is built on truth and on the honest and open search for truth -- or it is not built at all.
So God wants us to use the very principles by which He calls His own people to Himself, to reach out through every aspect of life to invite others into His kind of society, His kind of Kingdom, His kind of America (or or any other country or people group). God understands the power of truth. The word of truth is not called the Sword of the Spirit for no reason (see Ephesians 6 and Revelation 1). As Jesus said (John 8:31 ff.), the word of truth alone can set any of us free. And He is willing to put that to the test on the Way of the Cross.
Much more, of course, can be said on the subject, but these few principles will help Judeo-Christians over the terrible hurdles which have been erected against Biblical participation in the public arena. We can leap over those hurdles -- because only the Judeo-Christian foundation can in fact sustain the freedom, peace, and truth-seeking which any honest person wants, where all views are welcome to express themselves in the open contest of ideas and of goals.
The Biblical form of government is not the "theocracy" threat to freedom which secular people often make of it. The truth is exactly the opposite, the law and the grace of God are the only substantial support for that freedom. Secular or pagan persons who want a free people under a limited government want something they can have only at the price of something they are not willing to pay -- the sovereignty of the God of the Bible.
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