The god of our imagination

It has been said that, “In the beginning God created man in His image and every since then man has been trying to return the favor.” That is, we fashion a god who agrees with our perspective of life and agrees with what we believe and do.

The ancient Greeks elevated making their imaginations into an art form when they began to make statues that represented their many gods and temples to house them. But their various gods were clearly human creations.

Zeus, the king of the Grecian gods, was an inveterate adulterer. He was portrayed in Grecian mythology as having numerous sexual affairs with beautiful human women. The hero Hercules was the offspring of one such relationship.

Zeus and his goddess wife Hera had three children one of which, Hephaestus, was born with a limp according to the Greek poet Homer. What kind of gods are these that are consumed with mortal desires, are born and have birth defects? Clearly they are deities endowed with all the human foibles of character and body by their very human creators.

When Paul visited Athens and preached to them about the unknown God, the one they did not know, they dismissed his preaching because he had declared to them the resurrection of Christ. Paul’s teaching of a God who could raise the dead must have seemed strange to an audience whose only conception of gods are tainted with human-like weaknesses.

We live in a culture that was founded amid a Christian consensus, so it is not unusual that a statistic that has remained unchanged for decades is that about ninety percent of Americans believe there is a God. But something that has changed is the percentage of those who read their Bible with any degree of regularity. That figure stands at less than forty percent.

The Scriptures reveal to us God’s holy nature and divine will; they reveal who God is and what He is like, and what He expects from us. This means a very large portion of our population believes in a God they do not know and can only imagine what He must be like.

It is no wonder then that when someone says or writes things about God or what the Bible says many become confused and are easily duped into believing something that is not taught in the Bible, because it is unread.

The psalmist has said, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path,” Psalm 119:105. The wisdom and guidance we so desperately need as a nation lies in many homes collecting dust while our nation is literally falling apart before our eyes.

It reminds me of a saying that I have found to be true, “If you see a Bible that is falling apart, it belongs to someone who isn’t.”

The idol we fashion by our imagination is as poor a substitute for the God of the Bible as an idol that has been fashioned by hands.

Advertisements

I am not a theocrat

I read an article recently that said, “For years, Democrats accused Christian conservatives of being closet theocrats, seeking to impose Christianity on the country and refusing to accept, let alone embrace, American diversity.”

The article goes on to claim this now seems to be true because, “The evangelical defense of President Trump has taken on a religious fervor immune to reason.” That claim is not entirely baseless. If you listen to some pastors turned political pundits you might think this past election was a coronation. It wasn’t.

I cannot speak for others, but I am not a theocrat in or out of the closet. By that I mean, I do not care to see our nation governed by any particular religious group, but I do think government should be founded on the biblical principles of justice, honesty, and peace. That would be a refreshing change we could all enjoy.

We are told in the Scriptures, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes,” Proverbs 21:1. My take on this verse and others like it is God is in sovereign control of human history so that He takes the actions of men, acting as free agents, and weaves them into the tapestry of His divine will so that human history flows inexorably to the culmination of His perfect will.

I further believe Trump’s election to President of the United States was a miracle in the metaphorical sense, not the biblical sense, and because of his position of authority I pray for him as Paul commanded, 1 Timothy 2:12, just as I did for President Obama.

I believe he is President to fulfill God’s will, but I believed that also about former President Obama, and though I think Trump’s winning the election was ordained in a sense by God, I do not think that makes him immune to criticism when he says or does something stupid, nor should he be allowed to break the law with impunity.

So if he has done something criminal then impeach him, but if he hasn’t then give that fake news a rest. Until then someone should take his cell phone away and close his twitter account. I do not really think he is the friend to the evangelical community many think he is, because I am not sure he fully knows what an evangelical is.

I agree with what Billy Graham said a number of years ago, “The central issues of our time are not economic or political or social, important as these are. The central issues of our time are moral and spiritual in nature.” I’ll add to that the problems in our time are not about who is President; it is about who is our God. Because He is the One who made us great at one time, and only He can make us great again.

God and being good

I was reading an article the other day that asked a perennial question, can people be good without God? Well that depends on what you mean by “good.” Good is one of those words that is very flexible, that is, it’s meaning is determined more by the context in which it is used than a definitive denotation.

For instance, Jesus was asked, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone,” Mark 10:17-18.

In the context of this statement Jesus is making the point that God’s nature is so completely holy and consummately just that it is unapproachable by any human standard or example. Jesus could have as easily said, “No one is perfect except God alone,” because in this context good is a synonym for perfect.

The word good does not commonly mean perfect though. If we say, “She is a good woman,” we typically mean that compared to other women we know she is better in some respect in our estimation. She may possess a better character, be a better attorney, or can clean house better than other women, but we would be using the word “good” in a relative sense. We would not mean, “She is a perfect woman.”

So when we talk about being good, it is important whether or not we are talking about being good in a perfect sense or a relative sense.

So the answer would be yes, a person could be a good productive, contributing member of society and a law-abiding citizen in a relative sense without God. Society would have no right to expect that of each citizen unless we were capable of being good in this sense.

But the psalmist did not lie when he wrote, “There is no one who does good,” Psalm 14:1. None of us can say we have always done what is right in every situation all the time. All of us have sinned at some time, and more; none of us can say we are perfectly good.

It is those imperfections, that lack of perfect goodness, that makes us unfit citizens for the Kingdom of God. We may get by on our relative goodness here, but we cannot enter there unless we are perfectly good, and we cannot do that without God.

Since we were imperfect and incapable of perfecting ourselves, the Father “made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,” 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Having been created in the image of God each of us are capable of great good, but having inherited our first parents propensity to sin we are also capable of committing great evil and often do. So you can be relatively good without God here, but will never be perfectly good enough without God to make it there.

A Madman in Las Vagas

Stephen Paddock was the suspected madman of the Las Vegas massacre. I say, “was” because after unleashing a barrage of deadly gunfire on a crowd at a concert, with arrest imminent, he took his own life.

During the next few days news commentaries will be awash with speculation as to why Paddock shot up a crowd of fun-loving folk who only wanted to hear some country music. The truth is we will never know why he did it. Even if he had been arrested and was later questioned as to his motives, could we trust the testimony of such a madman?

Jay Michaelson recently opined that “conservatives,” too readily blame the cause of such violence on this being a “sick world” because of our “theology.” What does he blame it on, that Paddock went on his murderous rampage because he was sipping from the jug labeled “the milk of human kindness.”

Every time evil rears its ugly head fallen men fail to recognize we live in a sin-cursed world populated by people whose “heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). So they search about futilely for a cause, something or someone to blame.

He actually blames the massacre on Paddock being able to possess modern automatic weapons. I agree with Michaelson here, I see no need for a ordinary citizen to possess automatic firearms, but I also know Timothy McVeigh killed almost three times as many people (168) when he bombed the Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City with a truckload of fertilizer.

We cannot blame what Paddock did on guns, but there will be a debate on gun laws because of this fresh instance of violence. So let me clear the air on where I stand on this issue. I own guns but I am not a member of the NRA. I have contemplated getting a concealed weapon permit, but in my heart of hearts I would rather be killed than kill another.

The only other reason to get one would be to protect my wife and those I love should someone try to harm them, but if I can trust the Father with my own wellbeing then I think I can trust His capable hands to care for them. So this is not a gun issue for me.

The issue for me is that we fail to see that the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. The first violent act in the Bible was a murder and at its core it was a religious conflict: Abel’s sacrifice was accepted and Cain’s was rejected, and Cain killed him for it after God had given him sound advice.

When Cain turned his back on God’s counsel, he turned on his brother, and it has been that way ever since; as people turn away from God’s truth, they turn on one another. Our only hope as a nation is to repent and turn to Christ.