History, principle, and the now

D.A. Carson on the value of Christians continually appealing to the notion that America was founded on Christian principles:

In the long haul, Christians have to appeal farther back than to the middle of the eighteenth century — to the Scriptures themselves, and the events to which they attest — and think through to where we are today and will be tomorrow.  To learn from history is one thing; to make constant appeal to yesteryear is to support rather too much of the nostalgic and rather too little of the prophetic.  [Christ and Culture Revisited, p. 210]

The danger, of course, to appeals like this, is that at some point the opposition says, “So what? We’re changing things now.”  When a people refuses to care about history, what our founding fathers may or may not have believed matters little.

Every position should stand on its own merits now.  History should inform us — as it’s always difficult to judge the now as it happens — but it should never be the central plank in our efforts to speak for a better society.