In my sermon this past Sunday, I said this:
America is not a Christian nation. In fact, there’s never been any such thing as a Christian nation. There has been a Jewish nation, which was a theocracy. But never has there ever been anything like that since then. America has never been in a covenant with God like Israel was. We’re not a theocracy. In that regard, we are more akin to Babylon as a nation than to Israel.
But I could have said more. I didn’t due to time constraints, and because I plan to say more about it as I preach through Daniel.
Here’s what I was driving at with that comment.
I know that, unlike Babylon, America is unique in that it was founded on many principles that derive directly from Scripture. Biblical principles and concepts abound in the founding documents, which have been woven into the fabric of our American government and culture. Yet, it is without question that those principles that have influenced American life and though for so long have been eroding at alarming rates in the past number of decades. The trajectory toward increased secularism is just that: a movement away from the Christian concepts, practices, and principles that have undergirded and permeated our American society.
And yes, this concerns me greatly. Yes, there is much more that Christian individuals should be doing to influence government, society, and our culture to retard this trajectory. The operative word here is Christian individuals, not Christian churches.
Christians are citizens of two kingdoms simultaneously, and so should participate in both for the sake of the good of others and the glory of God. But the responsibility of the church is to minister the Gospel, not seek to run a government. That is the realm of individuals. And I believe that it would be a good, God-glorifying thing if more Christian individuals were involved in these matters than there are at present.
On the other hand, the church is to serve a prophetic function in the world, not a civil one. The church proclaims the good news of the Kingdom of God, but individual Christian citizens of the kingdom of man are free to influence government, culture, and society for the sake of maximizing the effectiveness of the preaching of the Gospel of the kingdom of God by the church. The church’s task is simple and clear: to minister the Word and the ordinances – to preach the Gospel, not to promote political agendas, politicians, or parties. The church’s function is prophetic, not political.
This would mean that while the church does have a responsibility to preach on abortion, homosexuality, marriage, murder, theft, stealing, etc. (because the Scriptures directly address each one of those issues), the Scriptures do not promote any one political agenda, and therefore the church shouldn’t either.
Furthermore, pastors need to be careful not to blur the lines between what Scripture says, and what even the pastor thinks is the best political agenda. As a pastor, when I speak behind the pulpit (that is, in a prophetic role) I am to speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where it is silent. The pulpit is not the place for expressing my personal opinions or political persuasions.
Now, to be honest, I am a political junkie, and love to talk politics in private. But I do not have the freedom to impose my political persuasions on those whom I pastor, when I stand to preach or when I counsel those who come to me for Biblical guidance. I must keep my heavenly charge in clear view: preach the Word. And Christian individuals must recognize that the function of the church is not to play politics or try to create a “Christian nation,” it is to preach the Gospel.
If Christian individuals want to be more involved in politics, then there is great freedom from Scripture to do so, and there is a great motivation from the second greatest commandment to do so, because serving your neighbors in positions of authority can be a good way to “love your neighbor as yourself.” And if anyone should be loving their neighbors, it’s Christians! But Christians shouldn’t confuse their function as an individual seeking to serve and influence government and the culture through political involvement, with the function of the church to proclaim the good news to all men. Politics isn’t for that, pulpits are. Ultimately, the goal is not a “Christian nation,” but a nation filled with Christians.