EDITOR’S NOTE: The following was the keynote address by Dr. Clayton Diltz during the opening ceremony of the Field of Honor at Merced College. Diltz serves in the Air Force as the Wing Chaplain at the 144th Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard Base in Fresno. He is also an adjunct professor at Fresno Pacific University.
In 1918, Irving Berlin wrote a patriotic song that has become a classic plea for many Americans: “God Bless America.” For some, this song is included in their church hymnals, while the title alone is invoked by almost every single politician on the campaign trail as parting slogan as they leave the stage.
My question is: Has the slogan become so cliché that people rarely take it seriously? The phrase – “God bless America” – is not only the mantra-of-choice by politicians, you see the phrase posted by average Americans on their car bumpers – right next to their humanist slogans like “Humanist: In Good We Trust”; or their evolutionary, Darwinian slogans like “Darwin loves you” with the Christian Ichthus being consumed by a Darwinian fish with legs… telling us all to “Evolve.”
If nothing else, this gives the impression that even those who don’t believe in God want His blessing on our nation. But consider the following developments in our culture in the past two centuries.
- Anti-God philosophies dominate the American landscape, as evidenced by the bumper stickers and billboards.
- The mention of God is all but absent from public discourse.
- And it’s OK to mention “God” by name, as long as you don’t use the name above every name, “Jesus Christ.”
- The Supreme Court banned school sponsored prayer in 1962
- There has been a protracted legal battle to remove “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance.
- In 1864, the capitalized form of “IN GOD WE TRUST” made its first appearance on the two-cent coin; and was officially printed on paper currency in 1957. However, in 2019, College Pulse conducted a survey among university students. The headline in MarketWatch stated: “Two-thirds of college Democrats want “IN GOD WE TRUST” removed from US Currency.”
Mr. Berlin’s family fled Tsarist Russia in 1888 to escape the pogrom that destroyed his village. Irving wrote the lyrics to “God Bless America” in 1918 while he was a soldier in the US Army. Twenty years later, with the rise of Adolf Hitler, Kate Smith first sung the song nationally on Armistice Day, Nov. 11, 1938 — it was another “Good” Friday.
Originally, “God Bless America” was penned as a prayer to the Almighty. Over the years, however, it has been spuriously invoked as a shallow battle-cry for thousands of politicians, and even a superstitious invocation by corporations to garner God’s blessing no matter the cause, no matter the product, no matter the end result, and regardless of the personal beliefs of the one making the petition.
We’ve all heard President Biden say “God bless America.” Governor Newsom, on the other hand, regularly says, “God bless California.” In a more recent political move, Governor Newsom went as far as quoting the Bible to invoke his own pogrom on unborn children. You’ve probably seen the billboards.
One thing is clear, while many want God’s favor, many do not want God. They want His blessing and approval, they just don’t want Him, His permission, or to obey what He has commanded.
So let me ask you: Do you think our nation really desires God’s blessing? Are Americans truly pining for His guidance, His wisdom, His holy presence and rule?
Friends, His grace is not a divine right. No one is entitled to God’s favor. He owes us nothing. Both Moses and Paul expounded this truism: God will have “mercy upon whom He will have mercy” (Ex 33:19; Rom 9:15). God’s blessing is a gift; and He is beholden to no one for its obligation.
But is there a means for people to seek God’s blessing on a nation? Yes! It’s the same as in the military: do what the regulations require, and do so with a character of honor and moral resolve to obey every jot and tittle of the commandments. Merely influencing society through politics and protests achieves little. Moral reform alone does not outfit a nation for God’s Kingdom presence. Simply reciting “God bless America” will do nothing for us until the desperate cry comes from a broken heart for spiritual renewal, regeneration, and reconciliation with the one true God – and that can only happen on His terms, not our own.
Our nation, and the nations of the world, are morally wounded; we are morally bankrupt. Some have seared their individual and collective conscience to the point that not only can they not do what’s right, they can’t even think rightly. Therefore, the process of seeking God’s blessing must begin with personal repentance marked by genuine contrition and humility. Legislative efforts are admirable — and they can accomplish much good — but political policies cannot remedy spiritual depravity. Morality cannot be legislated.
Lives — not just laws — need to be transformed before America will ever be in a position to ask and expect God to bless her. Law can only force people to become compliant; law cannot transform people into righteous beings. A society cannot be delivered from moral bankruptcy unless the individuals of that society are first delivered from that which holds them captive to corruption and unrighteousness.
On Dec. 8, 1903, Herbert Spencer died. Who was Herbert Spencer? He was an English philosopher, biologist, anthropologist, and sociologist. Spencer became famous for his hypothesis of social Darwinism; he espoused that superior physical force shapes history. It was in his book Principles of Biology where he coined the phrase “survival of the fittest”…that’s where it came from — Spencer, not Darwin.
Spencer developed an all-embracing conception of evolution as the progressive development of the physical world, biological organisms, the human mind, and human culture and societies. An erudite polymath, Spencer made significant contributions to the study of ethics, religion, and political theory.
One area of Spencer’s definitive renown was identification of the “Five Manifestations of Natural Phenomena.” As an evolutionist, Spencer stated: “Space, Time, Matter, Motion, and Force…are modes of cohesion under which manifestations are invariably presented, and therefore invariably represented.” He goes on: “Though Space, Time, Matter, and Motion, are apparently all necessary data of intelligence, yet a psychological analysis… shows us that these are either built up of, or abstracted from, experiences of Force.”
This fundamental understanding of science was articulated by an agnostic in the 19th century. God, however, is not constrained by the world or its forces. Why? Because God is the Creator of them. No one is subject to that which they create no more than Gustave Eiffel was subject to the Eiffel Tower, Henry Ford to the Model A, or anyone here to their children. God created the laws of the cosmos to govern the universe, but those laws do not govern God.
For God, these laws are neither “built up” nor “extracted from” an impersonal Force because they all come from Him. God is a personal Being, a sovereign Creator, and an intimate Savior. And hear this: all these laws came into existence simultaneously. Space, Time, Matter, Motion, and Force must all come into existence at the same time; they cannot exist separately or independently. Listen:
- If there was “matter” but no “space”— where would you put it?
- If there were “matter” and “space” but no “time”— when would you put it?
- If there were “matter, space, time, and motion” but no “force”— how could you put it?
The laws of physics do not evolve, and they do not occur independently. Just as God created the first man and first woman fully grown and fully mature, so too every law came into existence instantly and simultaneously. Here is how the Bible describes this phenomenon of Space, Time, Matter, Motion, and Force. In Genesis 1:1 there are only 7 Hebrew words; in English there are 10.
- “In the beginning” – that’s time
- “God” – that’s force
- “created” – that’s motion
- “the heavens” – that’s space
- “and the earth” – that’s matter
Ex nihilo — from nothing — came everything.
Instantaneously Space, Time, Matter, Motion, and Force, God spoke each into existence!