What is a nation? What is a country? What is the state? What is the government? People define these different ways. My good friend the Jollyblogger has written another great article regarding the religious right, "Is This Land Our Land?". In it he addresses several issues, one being can we have a Christian nation. Another is whether we had a Christian nation and some how it was stolen out from under us and now it has to be taken back.
While I like a good, clean debate, I find myself more in agreement than disagreement with Jollyblogger's critic of those who want "to take back America". This type of rhetoric is used to inflame Christians who feel that they are in the minority. If Christians want to be salt and light in the culture, it is not because they are going to rule the culture but because Christians serve their fellow mankind.
History Of The Nation
I read several years ago The Light and the Glory -- by Peter Marshall, David Manuel. This book takes a fairly optimistic look at America's history and the thesis is that America had a Christian heritage. Those who have a secular worldview will find this book a trivial work which is the result of a bias on the part of the authors. The strength of the book is that the authors take at face value the evaluations of those who lived through our nation's history. They interpreted their own history. The founding fathers were not inerrant, nor even inspired in the sense of scriptural revelation. The weakness of the book is that it really is much too popular in its tone and composition to have an effect on anyone but the evangelical community in America. In a sense though, the great tide of interpretation of American history by secular historians has declared that America was evil and the powers that be are evil. The authors of The Light And The Glory are too optimistic about our nation's heritage, but their claims of God's providence in our history as Americans is not unfounded.
Francis A. Schaeffer
Francis A. Schaeffer talked about in his lectures and books about Christian culture vice a Christian individual. Christian culture is that which has developed in a Biblical worldview. In his book "How Should We Then Live?" he says...
"Not all individual men who laid down the foundation for the United States Constitution were Christians; some, in fact, were deists. But we should realize that the word Christian can legitimately be used two ways. The primary meaning is: an individual who has come to God through the work of Christ. The second meaning must be kept distinct but also has validity. It is possible for an individual to live within the circle of that which a Christian consensus brings forth, even though he himself is not a Christian in the first sense. This may be true in many areas - for example, in the arts or political thought. Some of the men who laid the foundation of the United States Constitution were not Christians in the first sense, and yet they built upon the basis of the Reformation either directly through the Lex Rex tradition or indirectly through Locke. To whatever degree a society allows teh teaching of the Bible to bring forth its natural conclusions, it is able to have form and freedom in society and government."
What is a Christian family?
A Christian home has at least one parent who is a beleiver.
"For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy."
I Corinthians 7:14
We pass the covenant from one generation to the next. It is a inherintly sloppy process to pass the covenant from one generation to another. Some children do not place their faith in Christ; some men and women turn from the faith they once embraced in their youth. Some have attempted to clean this situation up and it really makes each generation stand alone without intergenerational connections. The God of the Bible is the God of Abraham, Isacc and Jacob. The God of the grandfather, father and son. He has revealed himself as an intergenerational God. But not all of Abraham are truely children of faith. But a family which does not have an ideal state, Christian father, Christian mother, and Christian children, does not mean that the family is not Christian.
What is a Christian nation?
If we say the nation is the people, not the government as an institution, then a Christian nation is one which has Biblical thinking and values as the worldview of that society. Again, a lot of sloppy things happening when this does exist.
How would we get a Christian nation? Not through politics that is for sure. That is a sure path away from a Christian nation. To get there, we need to preach the gospel. That's it. Yeah, I know, it is difficult to engage the culture and all that, but a winsome preaching of the gospel is the core activity of the church.