NASHVILLE (Christian Examiner) – America is not a Christian nation, but it is a nation of those who identify themselves as Christians, the president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty has said in a new social media video from The Gospel Coalition.
In fact, just how Christian the nation is may depend on who is asking and how the term "Christian nation" is defined, according to Russell Moore.
"If what you mean by that, is that a nation in which most of the people profess to be Christians, then, certainly, the United States of America was — and is — a Christian nation, based upon that sociological definition of a 'Christian nation,'" Moore said.
But that isn't what most people mean when they use the term. Instead, Moore said, the idea behind their perception is that God has created a special place in history for America – under a new type of "covenant" when it founded as a "new Israel."
"What they mean is the idea that God was in covenant with the United States of America in order to bless the United States of America as a special people, as a new Israel, as a group of people covenanted under Christianity," he said. "And the answer to that is, clearly, 'No.'"
That does not mean that the Founders of the United States were not "influenced deeply by Christian ideas" stemming from the Protestant Reformation. They were also influenced by the Enlightenment, which sought to dislodge many quarters of public life from Judeo-Christian ethical moors.
"But they did not found the country as a Christian nation, which is why there is, for instance, no religious test for office holders and why there is a separation between the responsibilities of the state from the responsibilities of the church or of worshipping communities in the United States," Moore said.
Still, there is much confusion among Christians who believe passages in the Bible, originally intended as references to Israel, are imputed to the United States.
"This shows up in people taking, for instance, Old Testament passages and applying those passages directly to the United States," Moore said. "The most common of these would be 2 Chronicles 7:14, [which says,] 'If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves, repent of their sins, and pray and seek my face, then I will hear from heaven and I will forgive their sins, and I will heal their land.'"
Moore said it is an error to assign America a "providential place in history that the Bible never assigns."
"God did not promise that to a political body. He did not promise that to anyone apart from the mediation of Jesus Christ," he said. That is why Christians should see that those passages referred to Israel in its covenant relationship with God.
"So the idea that we're living in a Christian nation in that sense, is really a form of theological liberalism," Moore concluded. "It assumes the person or the nation can be a Christian apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, apart from new birth. That is contrary to the gospel that we have received in Jesus Christ."
"Instead, we must say that we are Christians who live in a nation among many people who profess to be Christians — some of whom are and some of whom aren't. And we must be the people to give a faithful gospel witness in those days."