Was The United States Ever A Christian Nation? (Gospel Coalition)

Good thoughts… actually, refreshing to hear a reformed brother speak this truth:


"Yes to almost all of this except possibly "the intent of the author": we can't ..."

Sometimes Reading the Bible Literally is ..."
">>"When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons ..."

What happens to people who never ..."
"The entire Bible is God's plan as revealed through His relationship with His people, Israel. ..."

What happens to people who never ..."
""8 When the Most High divided to the nations their inheritance, when he separated the ..."

What happens to people who never ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • One of the few balanced historical analyses of our country’s founding. I wish it could be given wider discussion, as its provoking to both sides of the question.

    • Pneumajohn

      Bryan, is a homiletics man, not a historian!  No doubt there were a few deist in early america, but does that mean ipso facto, we were not primarily a Christian nation. Were we really more like the Berkley campus? I contest this is a fiction of history.  How is that one of the great minds of the early period says this, “…let us not forget the religious character of our origin. Our fathers were brought hither by their high veneration for the Christian religion. They journeyed by its light, and labored in its hope. They sought to incorporate its principles with the elements of their society, and diffuse its influence through all their institutions, civil, political, or literary. Let us cherish these sentiments, and extend this influence still more widely; in full conviction, that that is the happiest society which partakes in the highest degree of the mild and peaceful spirit of Christianity.”-Daniel Webster, 1851

      Was he quite deluded, or was he much closer to the ad fontes, than we liberal minded, revisionist?  I once was at the home of George Washington and they had some of his diary readings, they sounded like Charles Spurgeon, Jesus the Lord, God, truth, repentance, godliness, are a few words I remembered… It was more like the sayings of a reformer.  I also contest his 10% church attendance, some historians use baptismal records, etc… If you did that 500 years from now in US, they would say only a handful were Christian….. Bryan back to orations classes….

      • Ian

        Most of these founding father’s quotes that people use to make the claim that they were hardline Chritians are really only them arguing for the Judeo-Christian system of morality and that the nations laws are founded on them. I can’t really think of any person that signed the Constitution that was a Christian other than John Jay. 

        • Pneumajohn

          You are greatly mistaken:
          1.       John Adams:” I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”
          2.       John Quincy Adams:” In the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior. The Declaration of Independence laid the cornerstone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity. “
          3.       Samuel Adams: “I . . . [rely] upon the merits of Jesus Christ for a pardon of all my sins.”
          4.       Gunning Bedford: “To the triune God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost – be ascribed all honor and dominion, forevermore – Amen”
          5.       Elias Boudinot: (PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS; SIGNED THE PEACE TREATY TO END THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION; FIRST ATTORNEY ADMITTED TO THE U. S. SUPREME COURT BAR; FRAMER OF THE BILL OF RIGHTS; DIRECTOR OF THE U. S. MINT)  “Let us enter on this important business under the idea that we are Christians on whom the eyes of the world are now turned… [L]et us earnestly call and beseech Him, for Christ’s sake, to preside in our councils. . . . We can only depend on the all powerful influence of the Spirit of God,”

          Time would fail me to add an abundance more. To grabb the shirt tails of a few prominent deist, and say there were None, if any Christian Father’s of this nation is a shifty, and sleight of hand business of the radical left ideologues. . They want a pagan agenda and to eridicate any sense of a Christian heritiage to build on. Can you find mistakes, yes, but can you find a treasury of an abundance of great Christian Father’s too. Absolutely!

  • Erin Thomas

    An unpopular view, but one I agree with and would include Canada is this discussion as many Canadian believers insist we were founded upon Christianity. In reality, we were a race between England and France, Protestantism and Catholicism, anglophone and francophone, destroying the lands and lives of First Nations people, and dominating a land through colonial power that we still have not adequately come to terms with. This is not the kingdom of Christ. I would agree that there certainly were Christians around at the time Canada was founded, and that some of these Christians had godly, pure intentions. However, other believers found it necessary to force the God of the Bible onto the local savages, remove their children from their families to learn the English way of God, and forged a land not on Christ’s love and Gospel, but on power, control, and fear.

    I know this is a ‘rhetoric’ many don’t like hearing, and call down those of us who see history this way as ‘ungrateful’, ‘un-Christlike’, etc. However, we Christians attempt to rewrite the truth in favour of polishing what we want our good intentions to be, we have fallen into deception and continue to engage in extreme nationalism as god, rather than placing our allegiance upon Christ Himself.

    Living in a largely aboriginal community, I can say with honesty that the ‘Christian’ history of how WE founded this land is not exactly the way others’ see it.

  • Solid historical perspective and nuance…good commentary!

  • His words are true enough, but beside the point.
    The people (mostly Christian conservatives) who are calling for the “America was founded as a Christian nation” perspective are doing so in response to laws and cultural changes which appear, to them, to be aimed at removing all mentions of God from daily life. Chapell says that the US wasn’t a Christian nation, but then concedes that God was mentioned consistently in documents and writings of the Founders. Whether that God is the God of Christianity of not, it’s very different from no God at all. And it’s the idea of no God that they are arguing against.

    • Well, no, what they’re really arguing against is a whole set of political and moral principles (basically a Republican platform) that they have erroneously tied to Christianity and then try to use a selective read on Christian history to buttress those principles.  As a healthy counter to this I strongly recommend The Myth of a Christian Nation by Greg Boyd.

      • Dan, I’d half-agree. they have certainly done what you said, and also what I said.: arguing against the tendency of laws, policies, and history revisions for the apparent purpose of ignoring the role of religion altogether. The two are not mutually exclusive.

  • B63mcc45j

    I totally agree!

  • This discussion continues to miss the point (not you, Kurt, but the general debate). The question of whether America is (or has ever been) a Christian nation is not an historical question, but a theological one. If it is possible for a body of people besides the church to be a Christian nation, it would have to demonstrate in its very nature and its ongoing practices that its existence is in harmony with the gospel and is furthering the Kingdom. What this debate is about is really the history of American self-perception, not the actual reality of the nation. Any country that requires Christians to kill other Christians in order to be born is NOT a Christian country. Forgive the shameless plug, but I discuss this in regards to the whole Christian Right nationalist narrative in my forthcoming book *Chosen Nation: Theopolitics, Scripture, and the Project of National Identity* (Cascade/Wipf & Stock, 2012). The bottom line is that whether the advocates of Christian America realize it or not, their narrative serves to undermine the church and to accommodate Christian discipleship to the claims of the powers.

    • “Any country that requires Christians to kill other Christians in order to be born”  Can you elaborate on this? I honestly have no idea what this means.

      • Sure, James. As with many early modern nation-states in the West, Christian identity was subordinated to national identity, and Christians were made (or volunteered) to fight and kill Christians across their border in the name of their own nation-state. In the American case, it was colonial Christians versus British Christians. Any country whose inception or continued security requires Christians to kill their brothers and sisters in Christ is, at the very least, not a Christian country. (Of course, if Christians are required to kill anyone at all in the name of the state, the same thing holds. I’m just pointing out a particularly blatant and obscene phenomenon here: the church killing itself (committing suicide, in Hauerwas’s words) for the sake of the state.)

  • Ian

    I agree that the nation has never really been a Christian nation, but i think so for a different  reason. I wouldn’t define a nation’s character by it’s laws alone or by the people who founded it alone, but by the character of the people that make up that nation. If only 10% are church goers at the birth of the nation, then we weren’t a Christian nation.