Is the United States of America in the Bible?

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Short answer: NO.

Bible scholar Pete Enns explains:

America is not in the Bible.

In no way, shape, or form.

Not a hint. Not a whiff.

America is not in the Bible, not even here:

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

This verse gets cited a lot in American politics. But “my people” refers to the people of Judah, the survivors of the 6th century BCE Babylonian Exile, who have returned to their homeland and are humbly seeking God to rejuvenate their kingdom.

This passage has nothing to do with America or any political entity other than the ancient theocracy of Judah.

It is not proof of God’s stamp of approval on our political actions, no matter how many speeches end with “God bless the United States of America.”

It cannot leap over the millennia and simply be mapped onto American democracy.

It is not a blueprint for how to ensure that God will “Make America Great Again.”

It is not justification for privileged Evangelicals to impose their moral vision through political means.

It is not an invitation to perpetuate tribal thinking and see ourselves as closer to God than, say, Canada or Mexico.

If anyone wants to bring this passage into the present, let it be on the level of their own lives and the life of their church (if I may restrict my comments to the Christian tradition).

See this passage as a call for followers of Jesus and public Christian leaders to be humble, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from their wicked ways. Let it be, in other words, a call to inner spiritual transformation.

When that inner work is taken to heart, it will be hard indeed to see how anyone could ever countenance thinking that the Infinite Creator of the infinite cosmos could be pinning the divine hope on one small landmass in the western hemisphere that decides to write itself into an ancient Jewish story.

Read the rest here.

18 thoughts on “Is the United States of America in the Bible?

  1. Justin,

    Magic has a relationship to the unknown, the unexplained, the mystical, and the arcane but isn’t necessarily the same. Magic had a greater element of human manipulation behind it.

    By the way, I never said that America specifically was in the Bible. Please see my initial posting regarding Dr. Enns’ remarks. My point to Paul dealt with the folly of radical empiricism, a far broader subject.

    James

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  2. That sounds a lot like magical thinking, like you have elected to treat the Bible like a magic book with magic words because you want to believe it does something magic for you.

    America is not in the Bible, but the Bible does talk about the rise and fall of empires and false religious movement that convince people they are justified, entitled, and invincible, and that God will always support their politics if they use his name correctly. So in a way… I guess you could say that America is there… “in spirit.”

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  3. Paul,

    Let’s stay away specifically from the Bible on your question. The larger question you are asking deals with whether or not supernatural events can occur. Leave any particular religion out of the discussion. The supernatural need not be directly tied to any formal faith. If miracles are categorically impossible, then obviously a 1,700 year prophetic gap is not going to work out. On the other hand, many people might stand with Hamlet who famously remarked, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

    James

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  4. Is a country that was founded 1700 years after a book was written mentioned in that book?

    Seriously, this is a real question?

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  5. Ron,

    I did.

    We don’t mark history by the birth of Charles Martel, Diocletian, Richard the Lionhearted, Moses, Erasmus, or Mick Jagger. We mark history by Christ and the Incarnation. Everyone knows that; it is just that the BCE/CE folks try to deny it through linguistic slide of hand.

    James

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  6. Ron,

    In your second paragraph you are missing the point. You state that you do not see Christ’s first coming as the dividing line of history. But it is, and even atheists tacitly admit this by using the term B.C.E. and C.E. They are still using the Incarnation as the line of demarcation; they just won’t say it definitionally. Christ’s birth still defines B.C.E.

    James

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  7. Like I said, watch for this to become yet another To-The-Death battleground in the Christian Culture Wars. Just like Merry CHRISTmas (NOT Xmas) vs Happy Holidays.

    Today is an Age of Extremes, with the accompanying Zero-Sum thinking elevated to Cosmic Importance.

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  8. I’m happy to see my two gurus come together, Peter Enns and John Fea. There is only a sliver of time in the Bible when Israel/Judah enjoyed political hegemony. Most of the Scriptures are about how to live properly in the hostile rule of empires. In today’s world we are that empire. Joining the Faith to the Empire has always led to the diminution of the Faith even though it might gain earthly power.

    Perhaps we see this in the use of BCE and CE. We Christians joined at the hip with the Empire introduced measuring time on the basis of the birth of our Savior and imposed it on everyone. As a Christian I do see the coming of God to earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth as the the dividing line of human history. But, should I use political power to impose it on non Christians? What should be my attitude toward my non believing brothers and sisters? Humility or brazenness?

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  9. Unicorn,
    You are correct that certain people might argue that they are designating “The Christian Era.” Of course, that begs the question, “Just how Christian were Rome, Northern Europe, The Levant, etc. in A.D. 100?” They were mostly pagan. It seems much more accurate to simply say B.C.

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  10. I once heard a middle-of-the-road solution where “C.E.” meant “Christian Era”, i.e. measured by the Christian Calendar.

    This seems to make the most sense (identifying which calendar is used to measure the year), which means it will get attacked from both sides in today’s Age of Extremes. Expect “Year of Our LOOOOORD!” to become a litmus test of Salvation, just like “Merry CHRISTMAS” vs “Happy Holidays”.

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  11. Thanks Jeff,

    You know, there is an interesting psychology to the whole thing. The secular academy has migrated to the revised designation. Like trained seals many Christian academics have followed suit. I can only assume that their goal is acceptance within the broader academic world; this is at the expense of making an indirect witness to Christ.

    Interestingly, I used to subscribe to an excellent magazine, Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR.) A routine statement used to appear in the front of each issue. It essentially said that both time designations were welcome in the the magazine. BAR is not an academic journal per se, but it is a serious magazine. I can understand that a non Christian would balk at using the traditional designation, but Dr. Enns is a professing Christian employed by a professing Christian institution.

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  12. Hi James, I wholeheartedly agree that anyone who uses b.c.e. doesn’t belong in a sound conservative academic setting.

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  13. Dr. Ends got this one right. He deserves credit here. He is, nonetheless, a scholar who must be carefully scrutinized. In the body of his comments Enns uses the term “…6th century BCE…” This designation as opposed to the traditional B.C. is essentially a sop to secularism. Many ostensibly Christian scholars are seeking vain acceptance in the broader academic world. It is not surprising Dr. Enns moved to Eastern and is no longer at Westminster.

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