History is not taught in schools as it once was. And when schools do teach history, it’s often with a very secular spin. But David Barton, a well-respected Christian historian, has deep insight into the United States’ Christian founding that every American needs to know. He says only 2.8% of American pastors are willing to preach biblical truth on political topics, and if God’s people won’t step up, the trend will only get worse.
I recently interviewed Barton on my “Strang Report” podcast, where he exposes the truth behind America’s uniquely Christian founding—and why that matters for us today. Bible-believing colonists once devoted this nation to scriptural principles, but now, many American Christians don’t even believe the Bible is true. Click here to listen to that episode, or click on the podcast icon in this article.
“When you look at where we are now, my question is not ‘Where has God gone?’ But it’s ‘Where are His people?'” Barton tells me. “I say that for several different reasons. I work closely with George Barna. We just put three massive polls in the field on Christian values and beliefs, and we know that … 72% of churches and senior pastors do not agree with the Bible and do not agree with its teachings.”
The Barna Group conducted that survey among 384,000 churches and senior pastors. That leaves 28% who actually believe the Bible is true and agree with its teachings. Among those 28%, Barton says, 97% say the Bible speaks directly to hot-button political topics today. But those same people said they refused to preach about those issues because they were political.
“That puts us at 2.8% of pastors addressing what the Bible addresses if it’s also in the news,” Barton says. “Now that’s a problem. We also have a problem when only 14% of Christians read the Bible every day. … And only 9% of Christians have a biblical worldview. … So we’re looking at a nation that doesn’t think biblically.”
This modern trend of unbiblical thinking stands in stark contrast to the common mindset during our nation’s founding, Barton says.
“When you look at the founding of America on the side that was the really biblical side, they were very covenantal as a people, and they believed in covenants,” he says. “As John Winthrop said, ‘If you deal treacherously with God in this endeavor, you’ll bring judgment.’ … And they viewed their contracts as covenants. As a matter of fact, that’s why the longest-lasting treaty back in history was between Pilgrims and the Wampanaugs. And it wasn’t the Pilgrims who broke the treaty; it was the Wampanaugs who broke it.”
In this way, Barton explains, the Bible-minded colonists of early America acted like Israel. Israel had a covenant with God that could not change. That’s how these early colonial Americans viewed their national covenant with God.
But not all colonists had this biblical view. The covenant-minded colonists only represented one camp of the British settlers. The Spanish, the French, the Dutch and the rest of the British all had different approaches to their faith. As a result, those nations often promoted or allowed slavery and broke their treaties with Native Americans. Even the Dutch, who were gentler than the harsh Spaniards, had no problem making money by transporting slaves.
“They weren’t really Bible-believing; they were Bible-professing and Christian-professing,” Barton says. “The way that the Jamestown colonists treated the Native Americans is pretty poor. But then you get to the Reformation Christians, the back-to-the-Bible Christians and the Puritans and the Pilgrims and the Huguenots and others, and you find that the Plymouth Plantation colony is completely different.”
Barton says these Reformation Christians wouldn’t take a foot of ground unless they had bought it and had a title deed from the Native Americans. Their covenantal view affected their way of living so much that when they found corn buried during that first harsh winter, they refused to eat it until they had found the owner and paid him for the corn.
“So they respected biblical rights of property, of life, of freedom,” he says. “When you’re in the U.S. Capitol, you see the embarkation of the Pilgrims. They’re all gathered around the Bible. The reason is that the Geneva Bible drove their life. They spent hours a day literally studying the Bible.”
Yet now, Barton says, most Christians in America don’t hold that same reverence for the Word of God. The result of that disdain for the Bible is that secular America has grown more ungodly.
“We’re now in a place described three times in the Bible where everyone did what was right in their own eyes,” he says. “[They say,] ‘I can choose my identity if I want.’ … So we now have 92 legally recognized identities in America. … So I would say that it’s not ‘Where’s God?’ It’s ‘Where’s God’s people and why have they stopped studying His Word and why do they no longer believe what He said?’ That’s where America is right now. That’s where the crossroads is.”
If you agree with Barton, I encourage you to speak up for what you know is right. Don’t be afraid to take God at His Word and love the Bible the way early God-fearing American colonists did. The more God’s people boldly embrace His truth, the more we can make a difference.
Be sure to listen to my full interview with Barton, where he shares many more fascinating insights into America’s Christian history. And if you like what you hear, subscribe to my podcast on iTunes or GooglePlay!