Read my first post on this issue here.
My first blog entry was titled, “The Church is Israel.” In that entry I tried to argue that God has ONE covenant community. These are His chosen people, the apple of His eye, and there is no other body of individuals that rivals them. However, it seems that it is the opinion of many Christians that a new contender has emerged—the exceptional United States of America. I would like to offer a critique of the idea that America is, was, will be, could be, should be, a “Christian nation.” This seems to be a prominent belief amongst Evangelicals, but does Christian theology affirm any such idea?
In Gen. 12:2-3, God first announces to Abraham His intentions to create the nation that will belong to Him:
“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Of course, we know that this initially began as ethnic Israel. In my last entry on Israel, I argued that God’s covenant community is now Abraham’s spiritual descendants through faith in Christ (which ethnic Israel will eventually become apart of). Jesus makes a similar statement of purpose when he tells his disciples, “I will build my church” (Matt 16:18). Christ’s church is the “great nation” that God told Abraham He will create. This is the only nation that God has ever intended to create, and this is the only nation that He will create.
God did tell Abraham that “all people on earth will be blessed” through his descendants. Certainly, God’s intentions have always been for every nation to be represented in His community. For this reason, we should be fervently active in missions & evangelism. This is how Jesus builds his church and how all the nations will be blessed, but God is not interested in creating additional nations or “subnations.” Again, there is only one Christian nation.
Evangelicals have done a good job of advancing the Kingdom throughout the earth, but there is a serious misconception present within evangelicalism that bringing God into politics is apart of this mission. One of the essential elements of God’s community is His Law, which was given to Israel, and I believe that it still remains an essential part of God’s community. Just as the Law was given specifically to Israel, it is still specifically for the Church. There is no doubt that God has always been angered by the wickedness of pagan nations, but He did not expect them to keep His law. That expectation is reserved for Israel/Church. Furthermore, when we look at the Old Testament through new covenant eyes, we see that God did not give the Law to Israel for the purpose of them faithfully obeying it. Rather, it is only through the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit that a person is able to be faithfully obedient. If God’s covenant community was unable to live up to the holy standards of God’s law, how can we expect a pagan nation to meet such requirements?
When I use the term “pagan,” I simply mean it in the very loose sense of an unredeemed person or entity. This is what I consider America to be. Obviously, I do not consider each individual American to be a pagan, but the community at large is unredeemed. Even if the majority of Americans were redeemed, that would not make America a Christian nation; it would simply mean that many Americans are apart of God’s Christian nation that is the Church. This is the only redeemed community that there will ever be. All others are pagan.
If a pagan nation such as America is incapable of keeping God’s law, why is it the purpose of many Christians to synthesize America’s laws with God’s? This is why I believe the efforts of Evangelical political activism is simply a lost cause. Moreover, I consider the efforts to be misplaced. I would much rather see this time, energy, and resources devoted to the spread of the Gospel and discipleship of believers. I am not concerned with seeing America become of Christian nation (because it cannot); I am concerned with seeing Americans become apart of God’s Christian nation, that is the Church. And I am equally concerned with persons of any ethnicity becoming apart of the Church.
There are a number of arguments set forth for why American should be a Christian nation. I will address two of those here. First, “America stands with Israel and as a result has been particularly blessed by God.” The problem with this reasoning is that America did not become a serious supporter of Israel until 1967, and Israel was not even an official nation until 1940. So what about the previous 200 yrs of America’s history? Second, “Our founding fathers were all Christians, and it was their purpose to establish a Christian nation.” Unfortunately, this is not accurate. Some of our founding fathers were indeed practicing Christians and did want to see American operate on Christian principles (Patrick Henry is a good example of this). However, many were only deists at best (i.e., Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin). This argument is supported by a lot of prooftexting of the father’s writings, and the argument takes the beliefs of some and then projects those upon the whole. Finally, even if it were true that it was the intentions of all or most of the fathers to establish a Christian nation, my point is that has never been God’s intentions. America is not a Christian nation; America has never been a Christian nation; America will never be a Christian nation.
This brings me to one final concern that I have regarding the error of many Evangelicals on this issue. I believe that there are strong elements of Nationalism flowing through this type of thinking. Christians are guilty of Nationalism when their allegiance to their country is greater than their allegiance to Christ. I do not think that Evangelicals would consciously admit that, but subconsciously, I believe this to the case. Explain to me why I hear the beliefs of our founding fathers to be noted or expressed by Evangelicals far more than our Church Fathers? I would venture to say that most cannot even name more Church Fathers than founding fathers. I find that Evangelicals tend to be more influenced by modern conservative leaders than they are by Christian leaders. Also, it seems that many Evangelicals speak of the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence as if they are additional pieces of divinely inspired literature. They may not consider these pieces of lit to be as authoritative as scripture, but when it comes to the formation of their worldview, it seems these are just as or more influential. When I ask Christians if their thinking on a particular issue is Constitutional or Biblical, many look at me with a perplexed look, as if there are not serious differences between the two. Finally, many Evangelicals hold dearest to the American values of liberty and independence, instead of Christian values such as humility and obedience. There is something seriously wrong about all of this.
In my previous entry on the topic of Israel/Church, I mentioned the Law of Identity, A is A. In order for A to be A, there cannot be anything true of A that is not true of A. There are many things that are true of the Church that are simply not true of America. The following are a few that are worth mentioning:
The Church is chosen by God; America is not chosen by God.
The Church is redeemed; America is not redeemed.
The Church is called to holiness; America is not called to holiness.
The Church is Israel; America is not Israel