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The American Patriot’s Bible

Have you  seen this? Have you heard about this? Among crazy evangelical Bibles, this one definitely takes the prize for being the most utterly terrible. Thankfully, Greg Boyd has thoroughly spanked this idolatrous piece of trash in a recent two-part review. Here’s one snippet:

But the Revolutionary War is not by any means the only nationalistic violence celebrated in the Patriot’s Bible. To the contrary, the glory of nationalistic violence permeates this Bible. For example, every book of the Bible opens with a montage of national monuments, symbols, stars and stripes, etc… which include, with few exceptions, images of armed soldiers, bombers and battleships. Most stunningly, each Gospel opens with a scene that includes soldiers struggling to raise a flag under the words “In God We Trust.” All the subsequent books of the New Testament open with a montage that includes a flag waving behind the Statue of Liberty on one side and armed marching troops on the other. It’s quite breathtaking—and I don’t mean this in a good way.


Similarly, a very high percentage of the commentaries sprinkled throughout this Bible exalt American wars and their heroes. To give but one example, a comment in 2 Samuel about how “the mighty have fallen in the midst of battle” (2 Sam. 1:25) elicits a half page commentary entitled “Duty-Honor-Country.” In it the commentators review a famous speech given by General Douglas MacArthur in which he claims that “[t]he solider, above all other men, is required to practice the greatest act of religious training – sacrifice.” In facing danger, MacArthur adds, the soldier “discloses those divine attributes which his Maker gave when He created man in His own image.”

The soldier on the field, prepared to die and kill for his country, apparently exemplifies the greatest act of religion and the best expression of what it is to be made in the image of God!

(I have to assume MacArthur and the commentators of the Patriot’s Bible only intend to refer to American soldiers, though it remains unclear how they could justify such a selective application of the imago dei). The commentary becomes even more amazing as it recounts MacArthur’s statement that “…the solider who is called upon to offer and to give his life for his country is the noblest development of mankind.” The contributors clearly agree with this theology, for they comment that, “as long as other Americans serve their country courageously and honorably, [MacAthur’s] words will live on” (p.341).

Without in any way detracting from the courage of soldiers who lay down their lives for their country, I find myself utterly confounded as to how Christian commentators can agree that a military combatant is “the noblest development of mankind.” Since Christ is the perfect illustration of what it means to be “in the image of God,” and since he is our Lord and the one we are called to imitate, shouldn’t he be the criteria for what constitutes “the noblest development of mankind?” Yet, he refused to buy into the Jewish nationalism of his day (despite the fact that Israel, unlike America, actually had been sanctioned by God in the Old Testament). And he laid down his life for his enemies rather than engage in violence against them (Mt 26:53) or allow his disciples to do so. (Jn 18:10-11, 36).

People who obey the New Testament and follow this example, I submit, should be viewed by Christians as most clearly reflecting the image of God and as constituting “the noblest development of mankind.”


  1. Nathan wrote:

    I spotted this on Dreher’s blog a few days back. This has damaged my esteem for TN.

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 10:27 am | Permalink
  2. I had the misfortune of coming across this a few days ago. This is appalling, completely absurd and miserable. I don’t fault the naive evangelicals and fundamentalists who will buy this because they do not know any better. I fault Thomas Nelson for playing into the malaise. I’ll never buy a book by them again, not that there were many I wanted anyways…

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 10:33 am | Permalink
  3. Daniel wrote:

    Did they substitute the word “America” for the word “Israel” in the Hebrew (OT) portion?

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 10:52 am | Permalink
  4. R.O. Flyer wrote:

    You should send one to Prof. Carter.

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 11:31 am | Permalink
  5. Brad E. wrote:


    P.S. Halden, since this thread is less deathly/serious than the last couple, question: How’s the CD reading going? Keeping up with the schedule?

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 11:55 am | Permalink
  6. Jason Oliver wrote:

    I saw this yesterday in the new catalog I just received. Just plain tragic! When will these some of these evangelical publishers (and bookstores!)wake up from their nationalistic slumber!

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 12:51 pm | Permalink
  7. Halden wrote:

    To wax Eagletonesque for a moment, I’m afraid that I cannot do as you suggest, for as Prof. Carter may be relieved to find out, I do not know where he lives.

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 12:52 pm | Permalink
  8. Bobby Grow wrote:

    This is seriously sad, but not surprising. I think James Merrick nails it though, it’s all about “Show me the kwan!”

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 12:57 pm | Permalink
  9. Bobby Grow wrote:


    (sorry Halden, off point for a sec.)

    Do you know a guy named, Josh Ralston? I think he goes to school at Emory (theology guy too).

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 12:59 pm | Permalink
  10. Derek wrote:

    “Thankfully, Greg Boyd has thoroughly spanked this idolatrous piece of trash”

    Love this-I think every blogger hopes their critiques of others are met with such appreciative and deprecating flair. Just awesome.

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 10:59 pm | Permalink
  11. Derek wrote:

    The editor of the work has responded to Boyd:

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at 11:12 pm | Permalink
  12. kim fabricius wrote:

    Spare a thought for poor Boyd, volunteering for latrine detail. And a two-part review. I might just manage two words – though they’d be dominical: John 11:35.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 4:32 am | Permalink
  13. Brad E. wrote:

    Sorry for the belated answer. I know of him (i.e., seen him around), but he’s in the GDR doing his PhD, and I’m still a lowly MDiv-er. However, it seems likely he’ll be teaching a class of mine soon! I’ll say hello from the blogosphere.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 6:42 am | Permalink
  14. Jason Oliver wrote:


    Just e-mail him. His address is on. the Duke Divinity School website.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 8:22 am | Permalink
  15. Halden wrote:

    Ry was talking about a different Carter, I’m afraid.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 8:25 am | Permalink
  16. Jason Oliver wrote:

    Oh, ok. It would be interesting to hear or read what J. Kameron Carter or Hauerwas would have to say about the Patriot’s Bible.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 10:10 am | Permalink
  17. rasselas wrote:

    the promo video is smashing :) (barf bag not included)

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 10:40 am | Permalink
  18. Brad A. wrote:

    Halden, thanks for this. Steve Long referred me to your post.

    Not only is this inherently heretical with a good measure of idolatry to boot, but it is also inherently anti-ecclesial, since – as with every other historical example of the same thinking – it makes the America the heir of Israel instead of the church. The church is left a depoliticized spiritual support club.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 10:51 am | Permalink
  19. Nathan wrote:

    I know exactly what Hauerwas would say: “It’s idolatry.”

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 10:55 am | Permalink
  20. Halden wrote:

    I will say this for the American Patriot’s Bible: at least its up front with its idolatry.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 11:29 am | Permalink
  21. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a montage of so many people reading a book. Previous to the video, I thought Hot Fuzz won the prize for a static-task-put-to-music with its paper-work montage. Perhaps the idolatry wins out.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 11:46 am | Permalink
  22. Dave wrote:

    The best part of the video is when they play the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

    Well, I didn’t watch the last 5 minutes, but I assume that was the best part.


    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 11:53 am | Permalink
  23. roger flyer wrote:

    Everybody all together-

    I pledge allegiance to the flag and to the republic for which it stands…one nation under God…indivisible…

    an we think Muslim fundamentalists are brainwashing their children…?

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009 at 1:35 pm | Permalink
  24. Dan wrote:

    I’m sure that yet again Thomas Jefferson will be shocked to learn that he and many of his compatriots weren’t Deists. Heh, actually they should include Jefferson’s reimagined gospels stripped of the divinty of Jesus in there for good measure.

    Friday, June 5, 2009 at 6:42 am | Permalink
  25. Pensans wrote:

    Many people, not unreasonably it seems to me, have seen in the history of the United States signs of a special providence and favor. Those who adopt this view tend to distinguish elements and currents of American history which are authentic and patriotic expressions of the U.S.’ divine purpose and those which are signs of rebellion against it. In holding up a vision of Christian America, many who otherwise would lack any vision of political life have gained a compelling and improving one.

    I think it is equally reasonable to disagree with this assessment of providence, but the vitriol expended here really goes beyond what that disagreement. The fact that those who speak of patriotism and Christian America tend to come from the lower classes in the United States and speak in idioms that are owed to popular, not university, culture makes them easy targets of ridicule. But they deserve as much respect as those who hold other more refined theological views that we conceive to err.

    Sunday, June 7, 2009 at 11:26 pm | Permalink
  26. Bobby Grow wrote:

    The Search For Christian America by Mark A Noll, Nathan O. Hatch, and George M. Marsden is an excellent resource for anyone who might link Christianity and the conception of our nation to closely. Just thought I would mention this book, in this context, for anyone interested.

    Monday, June 8, 2009 at 12:08 am | Permalink
  27. Blech! You need a barf smiley to go with this topic!

    I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that someone realized they could make money off of combining bibliolatry with Americolatry. It’s more proof that our nation has turned the Declaration, the Constitution and The Wealth of Nations into its secular scriptures.

    Saturday, July 11, 2009 at 9:20 am | Permalink

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