I once again had the occasion to hear Dr. Gregg Frazer speak on the religious faith of our founding fathers. This talk was a scaled down version of the ones I linked in a previous post addressing David Barton and his exaggerated, dishonest citations of a “Christian” American history.
With this talk, Dr. Frazer provided a handout that on the first side defined the term “theistic rationalists” he has coined to describe the beliefs of the founding fathers, or those men who were directly involved with crafting the documents of our country. The second side was his 13 reasons why he believes the so-called “Christian” America view of U.S. history promoted by Barton and others similar to him is not merely problematic, but in the end, dangerous. I thought I would write it out and share it with a larger audience.
Keep in mind that he is not advocating that Christians drop out of politics, or not vote-in good candidates that reflect Christian values, or abstain completely from any form of governmental participation. What he is addressing is a specific ideology pushed by Christian/conservative activists who have re-invented American history to shape their modern day “Christian America” narrative. What we could say is “patriotic idolatry.”
Consider this article by a historian who recently attended one of Barton’s lectures. He states that the first part of Barton’s talk was good, but after a brief break, he returned to the lectern with his endgame in mind. That being: “the United States has been uniquely blessed because of its Christian character.” He went on to describe how the founders were “Christians” because they used “Christian” words, and draws the conclusion that we are thus a Christian nation.
Ultimately, Barton’s theology has a lot to do with his proof-texting of historical events. As the author notes in his review, “The biggest problem is his version of Civil Religion, wherein the nation displaces the church, and America emerges as the new Israel with whom God has a special covenant.” I am not entirely certain of Barton’s eschatology, but this is the kind of idea that was developed by state-church Puritans in the Boston colony that flourished into the theonomic postmillennialism that is advocated by a number of individuals in our country today.
With that in mind, here’s that list by Dr. Frazer. I haven’t modified anything and all the emphasis is his.
Why the “Christian” America View is Dangerous
It is theologically wrong. In the church age, there is no such thing as a “Christian nation.” Earthly nations are no longer the primary tools God is using for His work. Rather, the church is “a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession.” (1 Peter 2:9)
It is historically inaccurate. Christians should base their arguments and positions on truth and reality — not myths or history as we wish it had been.
It tarnishes the Word of God. By designating a mixture of Christian and non-Christian influences as simply “Christian,” “biblical,” or “Judeo-Christian,” we attach the authority and reputation of the inerrant, infallible Word of God to a hybrid/mixture of biblical and non-biblical influences.
It cheapens and corrupts the Gospel. Identifying merely “religious,” “decent, generous, moral” churchgoing people as Christians makes the Gospel one of moral behavior and pronouncements rather than the saving work of Christ and personal commitment to Him.
It exalts what God hates. Scripture clearly teaches that God hates generic, moralizing “religion” worse than a lack of religion. While the framers were “religious,” they were not (as a rule) distinctively Christian.
It cause believers to confuse their cultural heritage with biblical Christianity. Many lose the ability to distinguish what is truly biblical from what is merely American tradition. They, in fact, worship the “tribal god” of America rather than the transcendent God of the Bible. (Romans 12:2)
It reduces the Bible to a mere tool or servant of a political agenda. According to the “Christian America” view, proper use/interpretation of Scripture is not important — what is important is counting how many times it is quoted.
It (sometimes idolatrously) places confidence in processes and institutions rather than the sovereign God. Belief that the political system was originally Christian/biblical focuses or directs efforts towards correcting the political system and misdirects the resources of the church. “If we could just elect the right people….”
It accelerates the process of secularization in society. When believers fail to maintain an independent Scriptural position by which to judge and evaluate the culture, the most important independent voice to stem the tide of secularization is co-opted and, thus, rendered impotent.
It obscures the principles of evaluating true Christianity by the fruit it produces — Rather than simply on the basis of claims of piety.
It leads to national idolatry and national self-righteousness. The naturalistic political ideals of the nation are treated as if they were on a par with Scriptural revelation.
It increases the tendency to violence. One may become convinced that God is “on our side” and focus on “awakening” the system.
It emphasizes redeeming the world system rather than redeeming people.