Prior to last week’s Colorado Christian University all-campus event, the “Symposium on Faith, Family and Freedom,” members of the CCU faculty and fellows of the Centennial Institute have engaged in a spirited debate over the proper role of faith in the public square. Part of this debate has turned on the question of whether or not our founders were Christian and the level that Christian ideas and values went into the shaping of our government. There was a discussion of whether some scholars over-emphasize, while others ignore, the role that Christianity played in the American founding.
As Christians we are, of course, conflicted between the two “cities” in which we reside. While our ultimate hope and aspiration is our residence in the City of God, our temporary residence leaves us concerned with the City of Man. As Christians, our ultimate concern is with salvation; as citizens of the earth, we are concerned with establishing the best possible political order in our temporary residence.
The tension that exists between these two cities is great. It has been central to our recent debate on our country’s founding fathers. As we consider our founders, most can be placed into one of two camps: Christians or Deists. As Christians, we know that our salvation is found only through the saving work of Christ. Deists do not subscribe to this belief and, as such, are not saved. This is of great concern to Christians, as God commands us to evangelize those who are lost.
When we turn to our consideration of the City of Man and the establishment of the best regime, we need to temporarily set aside our primary concern for the lost, and consider what pragmatic doctrines work toward the establishment of good government. As Christians, we can agree that Jefferson’s deism is indeed faulty and ultimately tragic. However, his worldview that recognized a Creator God who authored the proper order of how man ought to live in society is one that Christians can wholeheartedly endorse.
Doug Bandow and the CCU Symposium summarized well the common ground that our Christian and Deist founders shared: A common Christian moral worldview. Both sides of our recent debate concerning the role of faith in both the founding should agree on this.
So while the debate will continue regarding whether the role of Christianity in the shaping of our founding has been over- or under-emphasized, we can certainly share this common ground.