When many people hear talk of building a “biblical” or a “Christian” nation, they equate this idea with a civil government run by the Church. When non-Christians hear us talk about gaining political influence, they are afraid. Liberals fear the Church taking over government because they correctly understand that a nation run by a particular church or religion could lead us to tyranny.
Liberals are more likely to think of a “theocracy” as a state run by the Church, than as a Christian Republic, the form of government the founders of our nation intended. They do not understand that our goal is not a state run by the Church, but a nation that accepts and honors Biblical Law. Therefore, liberals (and especially the liberal media) are likely to misrepresent our goals when we speak of building a Christian nation.
A biblically based state does not imply the domination of the state by the Church. To the contrary, it implies a godly separation of powers. It assumes that men (even Christians) are capable of great evil and that the powers of government should be limited and separated. A Christian nation is based on the principle that civil government ought to be founded on the moral laws found in the Bible. Therefore, the issue for which we ought to be contending is the place of Biblical Law in civil government. This is the true path to building a Christian nation.
We should not advocate an ecclesiocracy – a nation run by the Church, but a theocracy – a nation ruled by God and God’s laws. There have been many ecclesiocracies (states run by the church) throughout history. Some were successful, but most ended in tyranny. This was due to the failure of sinful men, however, and not the fault of Biblical Law. There have been several successful theocracies – states based on Biblical Law – in history. The Netherlands during the term of Abraham Kuyper, Oliver Cromwell’s term as Lord Protector of England, and the governments of the American Puritan colonies are examples of some successful theocracies.
The Puritans of Massachusetts set a pattern of local self-government that was a natural extension of their congregational church government, a pattern imitated throughout the colonies and later by our U.S. Constitution. Thomas Hooker, helped found a new colony at Hartford, and assisted in the drafting and adoption of the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut in 1639.
Harvard historian John Fiske writes: “It was the first written constitution known to history, that created a government, and it marked the beginnings of the American republic, of which Thomas Hooker deserves more than any other man to be called the father. The government of the United States today is in lineal descent more nearly related to that of Connecticut than to that of any of the other thirteen colonies. The most noteworthy feature of the Connecticut republic was that it was a federation of independent towns, and that all attributes of sovereignty not expressly granted to the General Court remained, as of original right, in the towns.”
The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut is one example of a biblical covenant with God which also served as a basis for civil government. This document states that Connecticut was submitted to the “Savior and Lord.” Connecticut began as a true federal union under God, perhaps the first since the days of the Hebrew Commonwealth.
Later, the Preamble to the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights (1780) made it clear that the state was under the authority and rule of God: “We, therefore, the people of Massachusetts, acknowledging, with grateful hearts, the goodness of the Great Legislator of the Universe, in affording us, in the course of His providence, an opportunity, deliberately and peaceably, without fraud, violence or surprise, of entering into an original, explicit, and solemn compact with each other; and of forming a new Constitution of Civil Government, for ourselves and posterity, and devoutly imploring His direction in so interesting a design, Do agree upon, ordain and establish, the following Declaration of Rights, and Frame of Government, as the Constitution of Massachusetts.”
We should understand that this model will not lead us to “utopia” – or a perfect society – but is a necessary first step in successful nation building. We should also understand that the most advanced model for government is not “democracy.” A democracy implies majority rule – or even “mob” rule. This can lead to tyranny of the majority over the minority. The most advanced model for government is a Christian republic: a representative government which protects the God-given inalienable rights of minorities while recognizing Biblical law as the basis for all legislation and civil authority.
Building a Christian Republic does not require all of its citizens – or even a majority – to belong to the same denomination. It only requires some standard of orthodoxy to be held by the majority of its citizens: a common creed or confession based on the bare minimum standard for what it means to be a Christian. For instance, Reformed Protestants, Baptists, Pentecostals, Charismatics, Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics can agree on the first four ecumenical creeds of the church (Apostles, Nicene, Athanasian and Chalcedonian) and they can agree on the standard of Biblical Law for ruling a society.
There will still be disagreements on how God’s Law is to be applied in many cases, but these disagreements would exist in a representative government in which Christians were the civil rulers. Protestants would gladly accept the rule of righteous Roman Catholic representatives (and vice versa) if the only other alternative was rule by the “lewd left.”
Building a Christian nation assumes that a large portion of the population would be truly converted. It assumes that members of each church and denomination would work hard to get their representatives elected to office. It would also imply the idea religious liberty or freedom of religious conscience as a God-given human right. In other words, there would be no establishment of a particular Christian religion by the state. It assumes that the Church would rule by training civil rulers in their knowledge of the Bible, but would not rule with civil powers directly.
I look for a day when our government, from the city council up to the U.S. Congress and presidency is occupied by people like Matthew Carroll, Steve Beltz and Helen Voltz (Christians recently elected to the Melbourne City Council and the County Commission). This level of success is not an impossibility, but it does imply a national revival in our churches to precede or accompany reformation of government.
Building a biblical state is possible in other nations of the world as well. The current national government of Zambia is run by Christians and has a Constitution which recognizes Biblical Law as the basis for government and Jesus Christ as Lord. This could also happen in the former Soviet Union, in China, and in many Third World countries. Considering the growth of churches in these nations, the success of theocratic government may come even sooner than in America!
It is possible to build a Christian nation. In fact, the Great Commission given by our Lord, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:18-20), commands that we should now be busy doing this very thing!