America not founded as a Christian nation, says Russell Moore, to say so would be 'contrary to the Gospel'

It has long been argued by many that America was founded a Christian nation, but evangelical theologian Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention thinks otherwise.

A U.S. Flag is displayed in front of the Capitol during a Flag Ceremony hosted by the Tea Party Patriots in Washington, November 2, 2010. | REUTERS/MOLLY RILEY

"If what you mean by that is a nation in which most of the people profess to be Christians, then certainly the United States of America was and is a Christian nation, based on that sociological definition of a Christian nation," he said in a video uploaded on YouTube by conservative group The Gospel Coalition.

He went on the say, however, that that is not what people mean when they use the term "Christian nation."

"What they mean is the idea that God was in covenant with the United States of America in order to bless the United States of America as a special people, as a New Israel, as a group of people covenanted under Christianity," he said. "And the answer to that is clearly, no."

He explained that the founders of the United States were influenced by Christian ideas, including those from the Protestant Reformation as well as The Enlightenment, but they did not found the U.S. as a Christian nation. This is why there is no religious test for those who hold office and why there is a separation between church and state.

"I think the confusion often comes in when people assign to the United States of America a providential place in history that the Bible never assigned it," he said.

He cites as an example people pulling out passages from the Old Testament and applying those directly to the country, such as 2 Chronicles 7:14. But the promises were given to the people of Israel, and they were fulfilled in Jesus.

"So the idea that we're living in a Christian nation in that sense is really a form of theological liberalism," he said. "It assumes that a person or a nation can be a Christian apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, apart from new birth. That is contrary to the Gospel."

Liberal activist organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State shares a view similar to Moore. In a brochure titled "Is America a Christian Nation: Religion, Government, and Religious Freedom," the group asks if the founders intended to create a government that gives special recognition to Christianity. Their answer is no.

"The U.S. Constitution is a wholly secular document," the brochure says. "It contains no mention of Christianity or Jesus Christ. In fact, the Constitution refers to religion only twice in the First Amendment, which bars laws 'respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' and in Article VI, which prohibits 'religious tests' for public office. Both of these provisions are evidence that the country was not founded as officially Christian."