Historically a Christian Nation? Yes & No

I recently finished reading George M. Marsden's excellent book A Short Life of Jonathan Edwards. It's a quick read and a very good summary of Jonathan Edward's life and ministry. The last chapter deals with things we should learn from Edwards.

One of those had to do with the understanding America's paradoxical heritage--at the same time both secular and religious. Marsden addresses what we can understand concerning the popular idea of America's Christian origins from Edwards' life and ministry, whether or not that idea is accurate.

Marsden writes,

"Knowing the story of Jonathan Edwards also helps provide an answer to the much-debated question of the extent to which the United States had Christian origins...Nontheless that observation[a significant Christian presence in 18th century colonial America] needs to be balanced by the fact that ardently revivalist Christians of the revolutionary era were never close to being a majority. They did not think that the new nation or its immediate colonial predecessors were nearly Christian enough--that was why they believed there was such an urgent need for awakenings. They considered their era, despite its many public expressions of Christianity, to be unusually profane and far too influenced by sub-Christian philosophies growing out of the Enlightenment. Even though most of them endorsed the break with Great Britain because they thought the mother country was even more corrupt, the ardent revivalist Christians of the revolutionary era considered themselves to be a beleaguered minority in a nation that was far from being truly Christian."

No comments: