A Christian Nation?

Faith, Freedom and Virtue

Rating: 5.00

One way to grasp what kind of nation we were founded to be is to look closely at what we’ve abandoned. I’ll explain, next on BreakPoint.

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Eric Metaxas

The debate over whether America is a “Christian nation” has been raging for decades. On the one hand you have those who claim the founders were deists, and that the ideals that sparked the American Revolution were as secular as those that drove the French Revolution.

From this perspective, our best bet would be to keep religious views out of the public square and maintain a radical separation of church and state.

On the other hand, some Christians paint most or all of the American founding fathers as evangelical Christians, who sensed a call from God to establish a Christian nation, a new “city on the hill.” Certainly, many founders did take their personal faith in Jesus Christ seriously; but others like Jefferson and Franklin certainly did not. In fact they expressed views that were far from orthodox.

So what’s the truth? I think my friend Os Guinness offers terrific clarity in his new book A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future. Friends, I simply cannot overstate how important this book is at this moment in our history.

In the book, Os points out that revolutions are not rare in the history of nations, nor is the pursuit of freedom. History tells plenty of stories about how freedom is won through revolution. But what made the American experiment unique is not that freedom was won, but that the founders provided a formula for how freedom could be sustained.

Sustaining freedom, according to Os, is incredibly rare because freedom is its own worst enemy.  James Madison observed that, “Liberty may be endangered by the abuses of liberty as well as the abuses of power.”  Think about it: The risk of freedom is that when freedom is achieved, it often leads to a sense of entitlement, justifying whatever lifestyle choices we want to enjoy. Unbridled license undermines liberty.

And as Chuck Colson often pointed out, the loss of virtue is the greatest threat to freedom.

The American founders, for the most part, shared the Judeo-Christian understanding of human nature, that man, the most creative and intelligent of creatures, is also fallible; he possesses an insatiable appetite for power. So the founders offered a recipe for sustaining freedom based on an accurate understanding of fallen human nature.

In A Free People’s Suicide, Os Guinness calls this recipe “The Golden Triangle of Freedom.” The critical thing we must understand, Guinness says, is that the three truths that make up this triangle — freedom, virtue and faith — are interdependent.

In other words, freedom requires virtue. Virtue requires faith. And faith requires freedom. If freedom, virtue or faith cease to be central to the American way of life, the most radical and effective experiment in self-government in the history of the world will fail.

That’s why we care so deeply about the HHS mandate, or the Chick-fil-A fiasco, because they reflect the cultural and political trend to push faith from the center of our public life.

Please take the arguments of this book by my friend Os Guinness seriously. And please get a copy of this book. We have it for you at our online bookstore. And whether you listen by radio or at BreakPoint.org, please do not miss BreakPoint this Week when I join my colleague John Stonestreet for an in-depth conversation with Os Guinness himself about his terrific new book A Free People’s Suicide.


Further Reading and Information

BreakPoint This Week

A Free People's Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future
Os Guinness | IVP Books | August 2012



Tolkien quote
I was on vacation last week and was only just now able to read through the BP commentaries I had missed. I found it interesting that I read this today and also had a friend post this quote on his FB wall:
“I am not a ‘democrat’ only because ‘humility’ and equality are spiritual principles corrupted by the attempt to mechanize and formalize them, with the result that we get not universal smallness and humility, but universal greatness and pride, till some Orc gets hold of a ring of power–and then we get and are getting slavery"--J.R.R. Tolkien
(FYI-Tolkien was refering to democracy at a political system not the U.S. democratic party.)
While I do not want a monarchy like Tolkien seemed to prefer, I find it interesting that Tolkien saw the danger inherent in democracy and found the quote tied in well with this commentary.
I pray we can restore and strengthen the 3 pillars of freedom, faith, and virtue that keep our democratic republic from falling into a slave state.
Dear Mr. Biss,

We provide a link to Os Guinness's book above. It's working on our end. If you continue to have problems, let me know and I'll work with our tech people. (Guinness is spelled with two Ns.)

Thanks for this post. From my European context I find this post to be a good description about the fundamental American viewpoints on liberty and freedom.

Following the debate going on I have in many ways been surprised by the hard and hateful debate going on, like the ones about HHS mandate, or the Chick-fil-A.
Your "wheel" virtue=>freedom=>faith=>virtue shows a great insight, I like it. But is it the center of faith that is discussed in the political debate, rather than the virtues?

The virtues I find important in the HHS matter would be charity and kindness on one side, diligence on the other (as those using HHS in some way must be validated in the system). Faith in this question comes more into if we have faith (confidence) in those delivering the HHS (and how to solved that not braking the constitution of freedom)

In the Chick-fil-A I find chastity may be the main virtue. On the other hand is humility towards those who chose another way of living, using their right to freedom. Either side do not shows humility if they try to use power.

If faith in a living, loving God, shown for us thru Jesus Christ is important, then all these aspects would be equally balances in the debate and we would see less of hate and anger.

Where I see hate and anger in the political debate I see a nation walking away from its faith. Especially in a nation that claim itself to be Christian. To put God back into a nation must start with kindness and humality.
Distorting the Triangle...
A great concise way to put it.

Have shared this...

I notice that some do not want to even talk about the key issues rationally.

It's just screaming about "rights"... the kindest, gentlest dialogue will not work...

Descending into irrational control...by name calling and slander
Os Guiness' book
Went to your store....New releases...etc.. search for Os Guiness. Could not find the book for sale.
A Free People’s Suicide
Eric, if I were to permit myself license, I would be perpetually terrified and anxiety-ridden over the current state of our culture and our nation, as well as the future we seem to be careening recklessly toward. Since that mental state certainly seems counter-productive, I trust in God's omniscience, omnipotence, and all-compassing, merciful love; I also have a healthy respect for His judgment upon ungodly nations. Instead of giving in to fear and anxiety, I actively do what I can to firmly stand against ungodly trends in our nation, and proactively seek to engage those in my sphere of influence, including the dozens of Advanced Placement English students I teach each year. A surprisingly high percentage of them graduate, get their university degrees, and then enter the fray in an active way, many serving in REMARKABLE capacities for God, country, and "true truth" (as Francis Schaeffer termed those few absolute truths related to God). I love Os Guinness' writing--we often study his work in the classic book group I've shared with you about. I know his assessment is correct. Thank you for letting us know about this book. I will get it, read it, and let others know about it. Perhaps we'll study it in our book group soon. I look forward to your coming discussions with Os on these pivotally important issues. God bless you and your work, dear brother!