In God We Trust!

by Eric Landstrom

In God we Trust! It's our nations motto. It is imprinted on every coin and every piece of printed currency issued by our national treasury. Its proclamation calls back to our national heritage when our country was caught within the throws of civil war. Our national treasury records reveal that on November 13, 1861, then Treasury Secretary Chase received a letter from Rev. M. R. Watkinson who wrote of his great concern that if our country should be shattered beyond recognition and perish, would future generations remember it as a heathen nation? His letter called for the recognition of the Almighty God upon our national currency in place of the goddess of liberty saying, "This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my hearth I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters."

What followed the receipt of this letter is a matter of our national history: Secretary Chase instructed James Pollock, then Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, to prepare a motto. In a letter dated November 20, 1861, Secretary Chase wrote, "Dear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins. You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition."

After a review of several different mottos, "In God We Trust" was selected, and by an act of congress on April 22, 1864, the charge was given to mint the first national coin inscribed with that motto. Later acts of congress upheld and expanded the decision in 1865 and 1873, culminating in a Joint Resolution of the 84th Congress (P.L. 84-140) to make "In God We Trust" the national motto. This resolution, was approved by the 34th President, Dwight David Eisenhower, on July 30, 1956, and declared IN GOD WE TRUST as the national motto of the United States by a thankful nation who had seen God preserve it through national calamities.

My point? The United States of America was built upon a Christian foundation. Notions such as absolute truth and morality, the existence of Almighty God, and other Christian teachings are ingrained into the very core of this great nation's foundations. But time has eroded these foundations to the point where we now have a nation of seekers who ask, "Which God?"

The week after September 11th saw millions of seekers, people who hadn't seen the inside of a church since the last wedding they attended, sitting among our congregations in unprecedented numbers. We had them folks! We had them where we wanted them! We had them right where so many of us had prayed and labored to get them. In droves they were sitting in congregations and assemblies across our nation!

Three months later, thousands of pastors looked out from over the pulpit and seeing the pews empty once again, wondered where all the seekers had all gone. Clearly the Body of Christ had failed somewhere and in someway to reach out and touch these people. This thought should wake us up!

In a recent study published in the May 6th edition of U.S. News & World Report, some nine out of ten Americans are said to hold to some kind of religion with 3 out of 4 Americans claiming some form of Christianity (Source: Religion & Ethics Newsweekly/US News & World Report poll). Contrary to what you may think, what this means is that most people are open to discussions about spiritual things because most Americans are religious.

What this means to evangelical Christians is that we live in an age of unprecedented opportunity to make real disciples of our Savior Jesus Christ. Thinking rightly about the fact that 9 out of 10 Americans claim some kind of allegiance to religion, it should be easy, almost natural, to bring up and enter into discussions about spiritual things. Yet the antithesis of complacency is found among us.

Alex Montoya astutely pointed out that “Biblical evangelism is outreaching, that is, going out to the lost souls of this world. Many pastors have fallen into the error of thinking that if sinners among the nations want to be saved, they need to come to the church. The greatest single reason why the church is declining it that it has ceased to go out to the lost. For some reason, evangelism has become something to do in church—within the walls of the church building. The church today expects unbelievers to come to it, when in fact the church should go out to them. Effective outreach will take place when Christians realize that the starting point of the Great Commission is to move out from the comfort zones of ecclesiastical structures into the lives of the lost around them. From the pulpit to the pew—from the pastor to the parishioner—the perspective of evangelism must be that of a proactive, aggressive endeavor” (Alex Montoya, Rediscovering Pastoral Ministry, p. 307).

Return to the Protestant Apologetics and Theology page