In light of recent events, I’ve been thinking about this famous quote:
“I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers—and it was not there. . . . in her fertile fields and bound less forests—and it was not there. . . . in her rich mines and her vast world commerce—and it was not there. . . . in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution—and it was not there. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.“
OK, so Alexis de Tocqueville didn’t actually say it (even though Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and others have made use of it.)
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.”
The logic seems fairly straightforward: No nation has ever been great because no nation has ever been truly good in God’s eyes because no nation has ever been made up 100% of those trusting in Jesus Christ alone for their right-standing before a perfectly holy and just God, their sins forgiven at the cross, credited with His righteousness, not our own, and not by any works of our own.
Any effort to make a nation “great” in the sense in which the Bible and multiple American presidents from multiple parties have meant it must therefore reference the goodness and greatness of God. Any effort to make a nation “great” without such a reference at its very core must necessarily be false and misleading no matter how compelling it may seem.