Friday, July 20, 2012

Genesis 1: Post #4: God’s Great Plan in Genesis 1

Proposition #11
“Functional Cosmic Temple Offers Face-Value Exegesis”
This proposition itself is fairly self-explanatory, but it carries a good deal of weight: being able to read the text at face-value, hearing it in much the same manner as the original audience would have heard (and the original author would have intended it be heard) allows us to read the text a new and unique light that takes into account various factors. People have tried to read Genesis 1 as a number of things: myth (but it’s told as factual, not mythical), poetry (but the text simply is not near Eastern poetry at all), polemic (but the author’s intent is not notable polemic), theology (but it makes far more than theological points), literary (it belongs in a certain time and place—and must stay there) or other variations on such themes as these. What all of these lack is the fact that the author wrote the text as an Israelite and for Israelites, so it had a unique purpose for the Israelites
Being able to read the text at face value:
1) recognizes Genesis 1 for the ancient document that it is;
2) finds no reason to impose a material ontology onto the text;
3) finds no reason to require the finding of scientific information between the lines;
4) avoids reducing Genesis 1 to merely literary or theological expressions;
5) poses no conflict with scientific thinking to the extent that it recognizes that the text does not offer scientific explanations.

Propsition #12
“Other Theories of Genesis 1 Either Go Too Far or Not Far Enough”
Here Walton treats a few of the most popular positions on reading Genesis 1 in light of his findings:
Young Earth Creationism (YEC):
This is the view that the earth was created in all its form in consecutive 24-hour days as recorded in Genesis 1. This view, says Walton, holds the distinction of being willing to take the text at (perceived) face-value and stick by that straightforward interpretation, no matter how much ridicule you may face for doing so, and he has deep respect for those who are able to stick by their Christian guns. His critique is that, while they have a correct reading for yom, which is a 24-hour day, their reading of bara has been to narrow and as a result, they still subscribe to a material understanding, thereby having the wrong face-value reading.
Old Earth Creationism (OEC):
OEC often reads into the text of Genesis 1 scientific theory fitting behind the scenes and between the lines, and so they understand the 6 days of creation to be 6 undetermined periods of time. As previously mentioned, this view does not at all understand the true meaning of the word yom and it is still wholly a material understanding. It also has a tendency to attempt to read modern science (which as noted is a changing filed with mutable ‘conclusions’) into an ancient text, which is not out of the realm of God’s ability but doesn’t seem to be the point of Genesis 1.
Framework Hypothesis:
This view sees the literary and theological truths expounded in Genesis 1 and concludes that those findings are the purpose, a reading of the text that Walton claims is too narrow, not taking into account the fullness of the text.

Proposition #13
“The Difference Between Origin Accounts in Science and Scripture is Metaphysical in Nature”
Before anyone gets scared off by the word ‘metaphysical,’ let me explain this simply: many people in their understanding of creation have relegated anything knowledgeable to natural causes of the God-designed universe and anything unexplainable to the supernatural work of God. But as we get to know more and more of the way the world works, more and more is attributed to God, until we (theoretically) just need God to set off some Big Bang and then things go merrily on from there. However, this distinction between the natural and supernatural parts is a modern, not a Biblical distinction. In Scripture, we see that the natural and supernatural run together in different layers, even interacting in ways at times, running simultaneously. We can see this in 1 Chronicles 14:15, where David is told by God that when he goes to battle and hears marching in the treetops (of the supernatural forces of God’s army) then he can go to battle for God is with him.
A more correct understanding is that the natural and supernatural form two layers, with the lower layer being the realm of the material, the realm in which we see and understand how the world works—the realm where science operates and can only operate, given its current design. The upper layer is the supernatural layer of the work of God, which covers the whole lower layer, since God is the ultimate cause and the material outworking as we see and understand it is the second cause. Our knowledge of the lower layer in no way decreases God’s work but simply gives us glimpses into how God made it happen.
The really important stuff in this proposition and chapter is the claim that science is unable to study the top layer: science has taken it upon itself to concern itself with the matter of the functions of the material world and the understanding thereof. In their intent to study sequences of causes and what causes what, they are missing something—purpose. Science can tell you what something is made of, how the parts interact, the laws the govern the interaction and making of parts, and even how something can be used, but it cannot tell you what the purpose of something is. The reason for this is that the purpose is not provable. Science demands that something be provable in repeatable, controlled, tests, and the purpose of something, at least the ultimate purpose in the greatest scheme, is not provable. For instance, science can determine the purpose of a part within a cell, a cell with an organ, an organ within an animal, an animal with an ecosystem, an ecosystem within a planet, and can determine the causes which that planet has within its solar system, etc. But it cannot answer why it all exists. It simply is not set up to do that. The why of everything existing—the grand purpose which everything feeds into, no matter where it falls in the sequence of causes and effects, is called teleology, a word meaning the study of the telos, a Greek word for end or goal which has come to mean final and ultimate purpose.
Science cannot prove that there is no telos to the cosmos. It also cannot prove that there is a telos to the cosmos. In this way, science is telos-neutral. However, science has in the past tended to emphasize the one and not the other—they have tended to emphasize that it cannot be proved that there is a telos, so there must not be telos. What science has failed to recognize is that they are unable to prove that there is not a telos to the cosmos.
Why this is important to Genesis 1 is this: Genesis 1 cannot be a viable scientific account of creation because it affirms, without a doubt, that there is a telos to the cosmos. In fact, Walton would contend that, because of the functional nature of the account of Genesis 1, the text is concerned only with the upper level—the level of the telos and how all things fit together into God’s grand plan, and it is not at all concerned with the material mechanisms. In fact, it is the extreme teleology of the Biblical understanding of all created things (that all things were created with a very specific purpose in God’s plan) that bolsters the idea that the account of creation would be far more concerned with how things serve to further that great plan, rather than with how they were made.

(All quotes, unless otherwise noted, and all creative material work unless I specify it as my opinion, comes from John H. Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate.)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Genesis 1: Post #3: Genesis 1 as Temple Liturgy

Proposition #7
“Divine Rest Is in a Temple”
If we read Genesis 1 as an account of the material creation of the cosmos, then day seven seems odd, a kind of a theological postscript to the real narrative of creation. But Walton contends than an ancient reader would have immediately understood two things: 1) Genesis 1 is a temple text and 2) day seven is the most important of the seven days and therefore the more important part of the temple text. In a functional account of creation, day seven would be the climax and the pinnacle of the narrative. Why? Because in an ancient mindset it would have been readily understood that “Deity rests in a temple, and only in a temple.” A temple is a place for divine rest (rest not meaning divine sleep, but divine sitting back, looking on the functional system, and letting it do what it was designed to do).  In fact, the Hebrew word shabat (from which is derived the word Sabbath) is an action which leads into a state of menuha, a position of safety and stability. The temple in which deity takes up rest is his headquarters (not primarily a place of communal worship as in churches today) from which he executes all the business of his realm, in this case the business of the entire cosmos.

Proposition #8
“The Cosmos Is a Temple”
Walton shows, through various avenues, that in ancient Near-Eastern mythology, the conceptualization, formation, and purpose of the cosmos and the temple were practically synonymous acts, showcasing the authority of the deity and serving as a place from which to execute that authority. And this is equally true in the case of the tabernacle/temple of the Israelites, which has often been seen as a microcosm of the entire cosmos and seen to be containing many images of both creation in general and the Garden of Eden in particular. In short, the Garden of Eden, the temple/tabernacle, and the entire cosmos are all similarly conceived sanctuaries in which God resides and in which humans can come and interact with and worship God. This is especially clear simply from Scripture in Isaiah 66:1-2c:
“Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord.”
So while the ancient Israelites were certainly paying attention to the functional, not material aspects of God’s creation of the cosmos, the function which they were most interested in was the function of creation as the temple of God, the place of God’s authoritative rule where humans could meet with him and worship him.
Here is what Walton has to say:
“The most central truth to the creation account is that this world is a place for God’s presence. Though all of the functions are anthropocentric, meeting the needs of humanity, the cosmic temple is theocentric, with God’s presence serving as the defining element of existence. … The establishment of the functional cosmic temple is effectuated by God taking up his residence on day seven.”

Proposition #9
“The Seven Days of Genesis 1 Relate to the Cosmic Temple Inauguration”
When a temple is made, there are two stages prior to use—creation and inauguration. The creation deals with the material building of the temple, the wood, stone, and gold that goes into it. Then comes the inauguration, and it is not until the inauguration was complete that a temple would have truly been considered a temple. In much the same way, the earth, in whatever form it took prior to the account of Genesis 1, was a collection of well-organized materials. But then came Genesis 1, and the seven days of creation are a seven-day inauguration ceremony for the greatest temple ever made—the cosmos.
We can see this happening in Exodus n the portrayal of the making of the tabernacle: in Ex. 39:32 it is reported that all the work on the tabernacle was complete. But the tabernacle-making wasn’t finished yet—the inauguration had yet to be completed; so then we have the blessing of Moses over the tabernacle in 39:43 and the description of the organizing of the things in the temple and the entrance of the glory of the Lord in Ex. 40, so that by Ex. 40:34, the temple is actually complete.
Walton even suggests, perhaps accurately and in conjunction with others, “that Genesis 1 could have effectively served as the liturgy” of a festival which celebrated the inauguration of the tabernacle/temple, such as the festival spoken of in 1 Kings 8:65 with the temple of Solomon.
This would allow us to more accurately handle the present discussion regarding the term ‘day’ in Genesis 1 (Hebrew yom). Many have tried to see ‎yom as referring to a period of time, rather than to a 24-hour period, but the language simply does not accommodate such a reading, given the usage of yom elsewhere in Scripture. But if the seven days of Genesis 1 are in fact the ‘inauguration ceremony’ of the cosmos, then they could very well have been seven, literal, 24-hour days in which God set up, not the material origins of the universe, but the functional origins of the universe as the temple of God.

Proposition #10
“The Seven Days of Genesis 1 Do Not Concern Material Origins”
This may seem fairly obvious from previous discussions, but here Walton makes a point of coming out and saying a few things which he has previously implied. First off, he states that, unless it can be proven alongside of his theory that Genesis 1 does contain an account of the material origins of the cosmos, it should not be retained simply because that is what we are accustomed to. That being said, he makes it abundantly clear that he is not saying that God did not meticulously and powerfully make every material thing, but simply saying that Genesis 1 does not tell that story. (And given that the rest of Scripture is far more concerned with what the purpose of the earth is for a good life for humans and for the glory of God, rather than how it works, this seems to me to be very consistent with the witness of Scripture as a whole.)
Walton addresses systematically the possible places where material origins could be discussed ad this is what he comes out with:
= Days one, three, and seven speak of no material creation at all.
= Day two, the firmament, is potentially material, but it is clear that the Israelites had more concern with what it did and little concern with how it was made.
= Days four and six have material components but they are discussed on a functional level.
= Day five speaks of the function of the created beings and uses the verb bara, previously established to be a verb concerned with the functional, not material creation.
Then Walton takes his vehicle to a place where the rubber hits the road with a screeching that many might find uncomfortable and others will love the sound of: if all of this is true, then Genesis 1 does not support a young earth position. It also does not support an old earth position. It simply doesn’t rule out, or confirm either one—it just doesn’t speak to the age of the earth. And I quote:
“If there is no biblical information concerning the age of the material cosmos, then, as people who take the Bible seriously, we have nothing to defend on that count and can consider the options that science has to offer. Some scientific theories may end up being correct and others may be replaced by new thinking. We need not defend the reigning paradigm in science about the age of the earth if we have scientific reservations, but we are under no compulsion to stand against a scientific view of an old earth because of what the Bible teaches.”
God still made the earth—functional and material. Colossians 1:16-17 and Hebrews 1:2 affirm that God is the source of all that exists, material, functional, or anything else you can think of.
But then what do the seven days do? The seven days add two things to the material world: 1) humanity in God’s image and 2) God’s presence in his cosmic temple. “Without those two ingredients, the cosmos would be considered nonfunctional and therefore nonexistent” and this is consistent with Scripture’s understanding that the cosmos exists for humans second and God first. Once Genesis 1 has passed on, the material temple has been granted the presence of the Deity and the presence of the priests (human beings, ministering before God in his temple) and is therefore complete.
One major objection which many hold and which I held to this view is the question of death. A material world implies death, unless it is without animal life or even plant life, since both require death. But Walton contends, perhaps rightly, perhaps not, that Paul is not speaking about death in general, but about death for humanity as it came into the world through sin. Death came to humanity through sin in the fall, but that does not mean that it didn’t exist in the rest of the world prior to the Fall. Once humans sinned, the mortality with which they had been created as a part of the earth (‘from the dust’) their one antidote to mortality, the Tree of Life, was denied to them and so death came to humanity through the Fall.

(All quotes, unless otherwise noted, and all creative material work unless I specify it as my opinion, comes from John H. Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Genesis 1. Post #2: What God Really Did in Creation

Proposition #3
““Create” (Hebrew bara) Concerns Functions”
One word that I have found interesting to examine in my study of biblical Hebrew is the verb bara, a verb that appears about 50 times in the Old Testament (and a few instances of note in Genesis 1) and is typically translated ‘create.’ The interest in it comes from the fact that this verb concerns an action which is only ever an action performed by God—if a human being makes something, a different verb is used. So in the Old Testament, if bara is used, the activity is inherently divine and humans cannot participate. Walton, with extensive discussion, contends, I believe rightfully so, that bara is a verb that is not only inherently divine, but also concerns creation within the aforementioned functional ontology.

Proposition #4
“The Beginning State in Genesis 1 Is Nonfunctional”
If it is true that the creation account in Genesis 1 speaks not to material creation but to functional creation, then it is also true that the chaos that is spoken of in 1:2 is most certainly a chaos that is nonfunctional, or even anti-functional. The two Hebrew words that are typically translated “formless and void” (tohu and bohu) are another source of proof which Walton employs for support of his position. The word bohu is rare, and it is difficult to pinpoint a meaning for it, although its semantic range deals with ‘nothingness.’ Tohu appears more often in the Old Testament, and its semantic range deals not so much with nothingness but with a state of nothing useful—unproductivity. So the phrase of what the world was pre-Genesis 1 was not so much that there was nothing (although I fully believe in creation ex nihilo) but that whatever was there was simply unproductive—not carrying out its intended function.

Propositions #5
“Days One to Three in Genesis 1 Establish Functions”
= Day One: In Genesis 1:5, God “called the light day and the darkness he called night.” Why? Why not just call light ‘light’? The simple, perhaps guessable, answer is that God was talking about making a period of light for human beings, not the ‘material’ creation of light. In 1:4, it says that God “separated the light from the darkness,” a nonsensical statement unless the text is speaking about God’s designation of a period of light. This standard can be extended to 1:3, where it reads “let there be light.” If this is referring to a period of light then God’s creation of the light is an act of creating a function intended to support human existence and it is also the creation of some measure of time.
= Day Two: For hundreds of years, we have known full well that the earth is not covered by a protective dome which shields us from masses of water above (the firmament of day two). Typically, it has simply been said that this was God speaking to the Israelites at their level. But then what do we think of creative activity on day two? Do we ignore it? This is far less of an issue if we understand that what God did on day two was to create something functional; the functions of the firmament were twofold: 1) make a safe space for humans to live and 2) control the weather, esp. precipitation. So day two was not so much about creating the ‘sky’ as we like to say, but about God’s creation of “the functions that serve as the basis for weather.”
= Day Three: people have been put into a quandary because they think that God didn’t ‘make’ anything on day three. Well that’s true, if you still work from a material standpoint. From a functional standpoint, on day three, God made a functional differentiation of terrestrial space. Others have noted that God’s creative act involved two things on day three (water and dry land, and vegetation). But in fact, if you think functionally, this is not two acts but one: it is the creation of the production of food by placing soil, water, and the principle of seed-bearing all together.
All in all, we see then that this is the functional creation of the first three days of creation: time, weather, and food—the three foundations of life.

Proposition #6
“Days Four to Six in Genesis 1 Install Functionaries”
= Day Four: the creation of the sources of light is difficult to make sense of from a material standpoint, but from a functional standpoint it is very simple. The light-sources serve to act as the functionaries of the functions of day one’s creation: they provide light upon the earth and they divide time into measurable segments.
= Day Five: rather than carrying out the function of their space as do the functionaries in day four, the functionaries of day five are put into the function established in day two and are meant to carry out their own functions. Animals of the water and sky are created and ordered to carry out their lives with their place in the functional system: “be fruitful and multiply and fill…”
= Day Six: these functionaries were also put into their space as it was designed on day three, wild animals placed on the land and told to be functional in their own way: “be fruitful and multiply and fill…”
= Humanity: (due to their special nature, they get their own category, despite being created on day six.) Three other things are of note in the creation of humans in Genesis 1:
1) Humans, like the other animals of day six, get placed on the earth and instructed in their functions, but unlike the other animals, they have an extra function: “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over…”
2)  While all creation is made to function underneath human beings (earth for the animals, animals for the humans, etc.) human beings are made in the image of God (a statement that in the Hebrew is repeated to a degree that is somewhat ridiculous) and as the bearers of the image of God, they are his vice regents, his agents in the world.
3) There is little concern over the material from which humans are made; the reference to dust in Genesis 2 is not a statement of material composition, but rather a statement of origin—a reference to the earth-bound and mortal nature of the created man. So the concern is not with material origin, but with archetypal origin, a concern with the interconnectedness of all human beings and their connectedness to the earth and its mortality.
So the creation (very simplified) might look like this: the creative acts of the first three days have the function of creating appropriate space for the created beings of the following three days, the pinnacle of which are human beings, whose function is to rule over the created beings and the space designed for them, and all of this serves to give glory to God.

(All quotes, unless otherwise noted, and all creative material work unless I specify it as my opinion, comes from John H. Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate.)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Genesis 1. Post #1: The Foundations of Functional Ontology

“For the Israelites, Genesis 1 offered explanations of their view of origins and operations, in the same way that mythologies served in the rest of the ancient world and that science serves our Western culture.”

Walton begins his examination of Genesis 1 by trying to make clear that our reading and understanding of Genesis 1 hinges on our ability to enter into the culture in which the text was written and understand the solid principles that are there, applying them to our current setting. Working from that starting point, Walton moves on to offer a series of 18 propositions about Genesis 1 and the truths which it contains, some of which I will treat separately and others of which I will treat in groups.

Proposition #1
“Genesis 1 Is Ancient Cosmology”
This may seem fairly obvious, but it is a nail that needs hammering nonetheless: “it [Genesis 1] does not attempt to describe cosmology in modern terms or address modern questions.” As the saying goes, ‘the Bible is not a science textbook.’ A viewpoint that seeks to find modern science in Genesis 1 or to allow Genesis 1 to dictate modern science is labeled ‘concordism,’ and such an activity is not simply an adding of new information to the reading of the text, but a changing of the meaning of the text, something that flies against a proper understanding of the supreme authority of Scripture. And anyone with their head in the scientific world knows that reading the Bible especially to fit current scientific consensus is dangerous; like terms and conditions, scientific consensus is subject to change.

In short, God did not design to communicate the truths in Genesis 1 in any way other than the way that its audience would have understood. So if God did not intend to reveal details about cosmic geography as it ‘truly’ took place, then he intended to make some kind of different point by what he did say in Genesis 1, and what we find there is, like many other things in Scripture, culturally-conditioned; for instance, Bible translations often translate ‘mind’ when the Hebrew word means ‘guts,’ because everything that Westerners associated with the mind was associated with the internal organs in the ancient world. So God doesn’t need to revise peoples’ thinking along such lines, but is pleased to speak to humans on their own level, as he did throughout Scripture.

Proposition #2
“Ancient Cosmology is Function Oriented”
This is the proposition which I was referring to when I spoke of a complete paradigm shift in the viewing of Genesis 1; as such, it is this proposition, above all else, that must be understood and internalized to make sense of the matter, despite how difficult it may be.

In our Western world, we believe that existence is tied intrinsically to the material. A chair exists because it is material, a ghost does not exist because it is immaterial, etc. If our senses (esp. sight and touch) can interact with it, it exists. But this is not the only way to think of existence. Does a company exist when it is official? Or when it has a building? More likely we would say that it exists when it is doing business. In short, some things we say exist only when they are performing the function which they are supposed to be performing. The question of existence is a philosophical topic known as ontology, and is simply the study of something’s ‘being’—its existence. In our Western mindset, we hold to a material ontology: something exists because it exists in space and we can sense it there. But in the ancient world, the ontology was primarily a functional ontology, much like the company that I mentioned earlier: something exists because it carries out its appropriate role. (Walton spends a fair amount of time substantiating this claim from multiple near-Eastern cosmologies and makes his case quite well, though you’d have to read the book to see that.) Why this is important is this: “If ontology defines the terms of existence, and creation means to bring something into existence, then one’s ontology sets the parameters by which one thinks about creation.”

You might see where this is headed now: when we read Genesis 1, we immediately think about God’s creative acts as pertaining to his creation of the material forms which we interact with in the world. But that was not what the ancient Israelites had in mind when they read Genesis 1; rather, they had in mind God’s work in creating a series of functions which, when working together, made for a functional and ordered system. So in such a system, the sun does not exist because it is a burning ball of gas, but because it lends light and warmth for the earth (and numerous other functions) and especially for humanity, since humanity is the pinnacle of God’s creation and the reason for creating the earth.

So in such a system, the actual act of creating is not about bringing the material of a thing into being (which, by the way, the ancient Israelites fully believed that God did by himself, from nothing) but rather by making something a functional part of an ordered system, often from a previously nonfunctional condition.

It is at this propositions that I must stop until the next post. As it is, this is plenty of information, and the second proposition is very difficult to wrap around, given how entrenched we are in modern, material ontology (this is not bashing this, just saying that to understand Genesis 1 properly, we need to be able to step outside of material ontology). In the next post I will continue with the propositions, some of which are less weighty and less thought-provoking than the second proposition. So consider what I have said already, mull over it, think about its possible outworking, and stay tuned for continued reading.

(All quotes, unless otherwise noted, and all creative material work unless I specify it as my opinion, comes from John H. Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate.)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Thoughts on the 5th of July

“This is the greatest nation on the earth.” I heard that a number of times last night. And as a citizen of a country other than the aforementioned greatest country on earth, such a statement always sounds a little harsh. But I suppose that it is fair: America is an incredible nation, with international influence, extensive might, and an average standard of living that ranks high above most, if not every, country that currently exists or has ever existed.
I guess the real reason that such a statement rings in my ears is my familiarity with ancient mythology. In ancient mythology, the most classic motif, and also the most deadly, is hubris—proclaiming oneself to be in a better station in life than one really is. It was commonly an action of a mortal who claimed to be better than a god in some way or another. The end result was that the god would appear, show that he or she was far superior, and then kill or curse the mortal in a fitting way that would serve as a lesson to all.
            As far as the statements spoken all across this country yesterday, are they hubristic? Yes and no. In one sense, they are not: America isn’t claiming anything that isn’t arguably true—it is a pretty great nation. In another sense, it is hubris, because there is a sense in which a declaration can be hubristic if it is somewhat true but ignores major factors in the process. For instance, the proclamation from a mythological king that his is the greatest country on the earth could be hubristic, not because it is untrue, but because it fails to recognize from where that greatness comes.
            Now this is Texas, and three things were a part of this 4th of July celebration (and I would assume most celebrations in Texas): the Star Spangled Banner, Deep in the Heart of Texas, and God Bless America. I actually heard plenty about ‘God bless America’—a lot more than I would have heard at celebrations in other parts of the country. But here’s the interesting thing: there are two statements—‘God bless America’ and ‘America is the greatest,’ but the connection between the two is vague and often nonexistent.
            A mythological king under the patronage of Poseidon who proclaimed that his nation was the greatest and then asked that Poseidon bless his city, with no mention of how his city got to be the greatest (by prior blessing of Poseidon) would be liable to lose his capital city to a Poseidon-induced tidal wave in short order. What about America? Is America professing her own greatness, and asking God to bless her, without accepting or proclaiming that it is God who has made her great? If you asked most people at that festival last night, many of the ones who cheered and clapped at the phrase ‘God bless America’ would tell you that America is great because it has hardworking people, dedicated military, etc. God’s blessing would be further down the list, if it appeared at all. But at the end of the day, I as a Christian must confess that it is God who not only can bring blessing in the future (as many are willing to admit, it would seem) but has also brought blessing in the past (as fewer, it would seem, are willing to admit.)
            What do we as Christians do then, when the nation which we live in and love is standing on its pinnacle and proclaiming that it is the greatest, and beseeching God to turn an eye to its future without realizing that its tendency to fail to accept God’s prior provision—rather taking such blessing as its own work—might well lead it to suffer something less than blessing from God? On the one hand, we could simply ignore it, accepting that I have it right and most people have it wrong, and so long as I’m in the right, everything is OK. That would be easier—it’d certainly be easier for me! Saying the pledge of allegiance in America is probably some minor level of treason on my part. So sticking my head in the sand would be easy (and perhaps justifiable).
            But if we really do love this country as much as we say we do, and if we really do profess that we desire to maintain the American way of life (which might need some adjusting as well…) so that future generations can enjoy the freedom and standard of living which we enjoy, then we have to work to protect that way of life. We sing salutes to soldiers who we say are protecting that way of life for us and trying to lead others to such a way of life throughout the world. So perhaps we at home should be willing to do the same thing, knowing full well that life as we know it in America, blessed as it is, comes only because of God’s favor extended to this nation, and if this nation would have any hope of seeing ‘God bless America’ in the future, they need to be willing to accept that God blessed America in the past and they need to work to make a nation that is less undeserving of God’s national blessings.

Fun Facts about American Patriotism from a mildly sarcastic Canadian:

On-board a military vessel is 'sovereign territory' and for all intents and purposes is considered the soil of the country which owns that ship. So although penned by an American author, watching an American flag fly over an American fort, the Star Spangled Banner was written on British soil.

While the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, 1776, the war for independence began on April 19, 1775 with the battles at Lexington and Concord.

The popular song This Land is Your Land was written as an antagonistic response to God Bless America by a communist-friendly songwriter.

Martin Van Buren was the first American president who was born as an American citizen, and he was inaugurated in 1837.

My Country, ‘Tis of Thee, although written by an American, uses the tune of God Save the Queen, the British national anthem (and Canadian royal anthem).

In 1812, America launched a war against Britain due to tensions between America and Britain and the American expansionist dream. The British repelled various American attempts to take British territory and succeeding pushing into the Chesapeake Bay and burning Washington D.C. With the Treaty of Ghent in 1818, the Americans lost their first war, failing to wrest any territory from the control of the British military and the local militia who would later form the country known as Canada.