“Toward a Christian Worldview” Confusion in the American Christian community today causes many to take partisan stands which

are unbiblical and unreasonable. This confusion is the result of misunderstandings of Scripture and of the proper role that Christians are to play in a democratic society. Let’s view some popular distortions and misconceptions using a biblical and historical lens to gain a proper perspective. The first and predominant view mistakenly taught by some Christian leaders is that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. While it is true that the dominant religion in the United States is and has been Christianity we should not confuse this fact with the notion that the United States is a Christian nation in any Biblical sense. The fact that we have a system of government based on majority rule does not equate to a national structure based on Christ. Our government is based on the U.S. Constitution. Most of our laws are based on English common law and represent an accumulation of legal thought throughout the centuries. Our laws are the result of the compromise of divergent interests that negotiated their positions under the notion of the consent of the governed. Indeed, the Declaration of Independence states: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” Notice that no mention of God or the Bible is made. The validity of a government is based on the consent of those directly affected by a government’s decisions. The overriding concern is the extent to which the government affects the citizen’s safety and happiness, rather than its ability to encourage the sanctification of its populace. Corresponding viewpoints to the Christian nation theory include the belief that our nation was born as an act of divine will according to Scripture. There is a notion that the founding fathers were on a mission of God in demanding their independence. We must be careful to distinguish between the permissive will of God and his active authoritative will that for example was exercised when Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt. George Washington experienced no burning bush and King George was no pharaoh keeping the American colonists in slavery. According to the Declaration: “When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” The document claims that God has entitled them to exalt themselves to the equal of England. No Scripture is referred to that would support such a claim because none exists. Romans 13:1-7 makes it clear that complaints such as “no taxation without representation” and other concerns about British control over the colonies did not justify rebellion against the God-ordained government. God is unchanging. So either Paul was wrong or God had no active role in America’s struggle for independence. First Peter 2 instructs, “Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to

governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right” (2:13-14). Nowhere in Scripture are we told to insist on a democratic form of government. Christians are given no right to rebel if the government is not to their liking. These verses apply to every Christian in every nation no matter what form of government they live under. Fortunately for Americans we live in a representative democracy. This form of government grants us certain privileges and responsibilities. Understanding how to meet these demands as Christians is imperative if we are to live up to our calling to be salt and light (Matthew 5:1316). This is not to say that God is incapable of using events as a blessing to the world. But it does show that those who see the rebels as God’s emissaries involved in a holy mission can make their claim only in opposition to Scripture and not because of it. In the same sense it should be noted that the founding fathers were not acting under divine inspiration either. Upon the signing of the Declaration, for instance, John Adams said of the 4th of July: “I believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival,” he wrote his wife, Abigail. “It ought to be celebrated by pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other...” He takes a totally secular view as well he should. Someone working directly for God would have been more inclined to call for hymns of joy, sermons of praise and prayers of thanksgiving to a benevolent God for rescuing America from the evil clutches of mad King George. Another popular, but bogus notion commonly taught is that all of the founding fathers were Christians. The founding fathers were among the most gifted group of men that one era has ever seen assembled in the history of the world. Collectively, their talents are awe inspiring. Based on their writings we may conclude that as a group they certainly believed in God. But their beliefs could hardly be described as Christianity in any Biblical sense of the word. A smattering of the record they left us: George Washington wrote, “Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. I had hoped that liberal and enlightened thought would have reconciled the Christians so that their [not our?] religious fights would not endanger the peace of Society.” (Letter to Sir Edward Newenham, June 22, 1792). James Madison wrote, “During almost fifteen centuries, the legal establishment of Christianity has been on trial. What have been the fruits of this trial? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; and in both, clergy and laity, superstition, bigotry and persecution” (Speech to the General Assembly of Virginia, 1785). "I have found Christian dogma unintelligible. Early in life I absented myself from Christian assemblies." (Declared Benjamin Franklin in Toward The Mystery.) None of these is intended as an indictment of the gentlemen mentioned. It is not our responsibility to determine the faith of others. But these quotations should give us pause when we are tempted to think the founding fathers were saints of the first order who live in heaven today and wonder what went wrong with the Christian nation they established. Another related misconception is that God’s promises to the nation of Israel in

the Old Testament apply to the United States today. God’s promise in 2 Chronicles 7:14, “if my people, who are called by name, will humble themselves and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” is regularly quoted by Christian leaders in a misguided attempt to motivate American Christians to obedience and prayer as a means to save America from its present day decay and inevitable destruction if action is not taken. When read in context (see 2 Chronicles 7:11-22), it is abundantly clear that the verse in question is directed to the Israelites only and not to American Christians. As Christians we may pray for the holy nation, the church, and we may pray for our temporal nation, the United States, but we should not expect special consideration based on nationhood rather than church hood. In the Christian era when God refers to his people, he means the church and not Americans. When a Christian thinks of his nation he should think of what Scripture calls “a holy nation” and not primarily his physical nation. This means that our fellow citizens are Christians anywhere in the world and not just those people who have a claim to citizenship in our secular community. There are many nations but only one church. Those of us in the church have a dual citizenship but only one ultimate loyalty. When deciding political questions we must use that one loyalty as the sounding board for all our positions. According to 1 Peter 2, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God.” When a Christian thinks of belonging to a nation he should see himself as set apart from his fellow (non-Christian) citizens. As Paul points out in Ephesians, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household” (2:19). And to the Philippians in chapter 3, “But our citizenship is in heaven” (3:20). We have a dual citizenship: American and Christian. But we are to have only one ultimate loyalty: to Jesus Christ and his church. This ties us to every Christian in every nation. They are our brothers and sisters—members of the same family. When we think of family we know that we are to treat its members differently than we do non-family. We have a special obligation to support them that is stronger than any obligation we may feel to others. In terms of nationhood, we are internationalists functioning in a world of national interests. We should be concerned for the welfare of our fellow Christians in other lands. We are one people—the church. This fact has profound implications when a Christian views the nation’s foreign policy. The true welfare of others should be of paramount concern to us even at the expense of the more narrow national interests of the United States. People we have never met should count. We love them even though we don’t know them and we have a responsibility to them. By adopting us into his family, God has essentially obligated us to view foreigners as a part of us and not just as an impersonal “them.” Likewise, Christian leaders also regularly use the idea of restoring “the good old days” as a rally cry for the American church and plead for a return to some magical cultural point in time. When some Christian leaders compare today’s culture with the past they are very troubled with what they perceive to be the dwindling influence of the church in society. Prayer and Bible reading in public schools are often cited as two elements of the past that are sorely missed in the present. It is assumed that if only the

reinstitution of these and a few other great traditions were made America would once again be a great nation. The desire to turn back the clock, although natural in times of turmoil, is more a sign of a fear of the future than of a fidelity to the past. The challenge of each generation of Christians is to determine ways to obey God’s word in whatever circumstances they find themselves. If this means that we no longer have a captive audience in schools, then we are to cope. In fairness it should be noted that the same society that required prayer and Bible reading in schools was also a society that was racially segregated, denied equal opportunities to women and dealt unfairly with many of its neediest citizens. In short, if we do not oversimplify “the good old days,” but instead engage in a sober analysis of the entire picture we must conclude that not everything was better and that we have an opportunity to correct perceived problems today. Even if we could require prayer and Bible reading in our public schools we should not do so. Making everyone abide by the same standard would be a violation of their civil rights. No child should be made to conform to activities that violate his conscience or that of his parents. First Peter 2:17 instructs us to “show respect to everyone.” It is hardly a sign of respect to coerce students to engage in even semi-religious behavior. If prayer in school is required, then the questions of the content and the recipient of the prayers need serious attention. Prayer to the god of the lowest common denominator should offend real Christians. Just as prayer to God the Father in the name of His Son Christ Jesus offends atheists and proponents of a myriad of other religions as well, repeating a watered down prayer to an amorphous being in a public setting is not spiritually uplifting nor is it satisfying to a real believer. Playing at worship is not designed to please God, which should be our goal. There is no reason to assume that such prayers would have an uplifting affect on the students or any tangible benefit such as improved school discipline or improved test scores. Finally, it needs to be pointed out that students are free to pray or read their Bibles in school now. Institutionalizing these acts would carry no real benefits and would cause a host of problems. God expects us to be a positive influence on our society by setting an example for others. Our American citizenship should be seen as a blessing that not all Christians enjoy. By granting us citizenship in a free society, God has placed a burden on our shoulders that not all Christians share. For instance, we have an obligation to vote. And voting is counterproductive if we do not choose wisely among the candidates. This does not mean that we are to vote for the most Christian candidate. Such a strategy would be impossible to implement anyhow since we cannot accurately judge. Jesus told us in Matthew 10:16, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” Part of being shrewd is determining which candidate is most likely to accomplish the most rather than which one seems to be the best Christian. Regardless of who is in office, it is possible that some demands of government run counter to the word of God. Should this occur we must take a stand similar to Peter’s when he declared, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29)! While it is not likely that our government would require something that runs counter to God’s instructions in the Bible we must be willing to reject such a measure if it were ever made.

On some issues there is no Christian position. But all Christians are obligated to search Scripture to inform their decisions. We must recognize that there is a difference between principle and policy. We look to the Bible as our guide to the principles upon which we base our policy positions. Some Christians feel that the best way to be “salt and light” to the society is to mobilize and vote to require all Americans to abide by what they see as Christian principles of conduct, but there is no Biblical mandate to do so. In fact, doing so violates our instructions given in 1 Peter 2:17, “Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, and honor the king.” For example, consider a modified pledge of allegiance: “There being no god I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” This is not the pledge being sought by those who wish to remove the phrase “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance; but what the “separation of church and state” crowd is after, however, is neutrality in the pledge on the question of God’s relationship to the nation. Before disregarding these dissenters, we should try to understand the issue without relying on our prejudices to shape our opinion. First, consider the atheist. Making a pledge to a fictitious god is a violation of his personal beliefs. Opting out of saying the pledge degrades him also. He is no less a citizen or an American because he is so fundamentally wrong about God. As a full partner in our nation, he is entitled to the respect to which Peter referred. Second, consider the non-Christian person of faith. Whether Muslim, Hindu or Buddhist, he is not referring to God the Father when reciting the pledge. If the pledge is to be something held in common to serve to bind us together as Americans, how can we all have a different deity in mind as we speak? Third, imagine the howls of protest that we would hear if “under God” were suddenly replaced with “under Allah”. We cannot pretend that the words do not matter or that it is only the thought that counts. When Christians say “under God” we mean under the rule of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To think otherwise demeans the very act of pledging. Being in the majority does not give us the right to disrespect our fellow citizens. They are partners with us in the nation—not in Christ’s church. The best way to show respect for our fellow citizens, love for our fellow believers, respect for God, and honor for our government is to delete “under God” from the pledge. To insist on its retention is nothing less than an attempt to Christianize a secular exercise under the guise of doing God’s will. God’s will for us is the same as it has always been: to make faithful believers of all people regardless of their national identity. We should not become sidetracked by fighting meaningless battles over the nation’s facade of faith. With a worldview based on the preceding concepts American Christians are not just ordinary citizens. Our outlook should be different than non-Christians and because of those differences, not all Christians will be popular. Jesus said in John 15:20, “No servant is greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.” We are not called to seek the approval of men. We must take our stand as God would have us stand: on Biblical principles that we hold to regardless of the views of our fellow citizens or the inconvenience of holding them. Our guiding principle as American Christians is not the narrow self-interest of regular citizens but the instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ. We should want

no other.