Rome Was Not Founded as a Pagan Empire

A central debate in modern US politics is whether or not America is a “Christian Nation”. Both sides appeal to what the founding fathers said. The right cites the Christian values in constitution (which aren’t really Christian but classically liberal) and our Christian history, while the left cites documents such as separation of Church and State guaranteed by the first amendment.

I have to agree with the left here. America is not a Christian Nation. Our constitution is based off the Enlightenment values of liberalism, not Christianity. America was also founded off a rebellion, but all authorities are established by God, so we should be subject to them (Romans 13:1). The only reason to disobey the law is because it contradicts the laws of God (Acts 5:29). However, we are commanded to pay taxes even if it is going to bad use (Matthew 22:21), so rebellion was not justified here.

We can also look at the writings of the founding fathers. For the most part, they were deists, not Christians. The Treaty of Tripoli, signed by President John Adams, states that “the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion” (Article 11). Thomas Jefferson even went so far as to commit the blasphemy of editing Christ’s miracles out of the bible inĀ The Jefferson Bible. It is quite clear America was intended to be a deist, not Christian nation.

It is clear however that the founding fathers believed in natural law. This is important because many Christian values that are directly involved in government can be directly inferred from natural law. We see this in the pre-Christian ideas of natural law in philosophers such as Aristotle, as well as the Christian use of natural law in Thomas Aquinas.

Natural law is often not enough though. It is often open to interpretation. Thus divine revelation is needed. We should not be discouraged by the fact that America is not yet a Christian nation, because neither was Rome. We don’t have to pretend Thomas Jefferson had some magic vision of a Christian future.

It is our duty as Christians to witness to the gospel to transform America into a Christian nation. We have a unique opportunity to do this in a democracy. We can witness through our votes to transform society. So if we wish to transform society, we must first go out and preach the Gospel.

Sources:

http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/bar1796t.asp

http://scholarship.law.nd.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2005&context=law_faculty_scholarship

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