Then Man Made God in His Own Image
Love and blessings ekklesia.
Idolatry, or polytheism, is humanity's nature and norm. It is his default setting predetermined by his fallen nature, causing him to go astray even from the womb, the Word says often (Ps 51:5, 58:3, Pr 22:15, Isa 48:8, Eph 2:3).
We all, therefore, entered life drawn to worship something other than Yahweh. Whether it be a hand-carved statue, an animal, the ideal family, emotional overeating, a political figure, constant attention, needing to control, or a codependent relationship we struggle to let go of, unhealthy dependencies and devotions define the human race. It would be a grave misrepresentation to assign polytheism only to Hinduism, Animism, and other openly polytheistic religions. Even born-again Christians, those regenerated and indwelt by the Spirit of God, can experience unhealthy dependencies and devotions (1Jn 5:20,21, 1Co 7:23) if we are not spiritually proactive to grow in the opposite direction Godward.
The Anatomy of Idolatry
Idolatry or polytheism is not complicated: we create a deity that is simply a projection of our wants and needs. If we analyzed every manmade god ever created, we would discover each one to be a projection and deification of some human impulse. The more complex deities are simply elaborate combinations of multiple human impulses. Left to ourselves, we worship our wants, we worship our needs. Paul understood this and cut through idolatry's sneaky fog in Colossians 3:5 (NKJV, underline added): Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
Notice Paul simply lists human wants and needs that have been reshaped into a religious form. If we do not understand this, really understand this deep down, we will never get free from unhealthy dependencies and devotions. Worse, we will keep trying to make God into our own image, into the image of our own issues.
Different Names & Forms, Same Theology, Same Psychology
The names and forms of gods vary in different cultures and time periods, however, the substructure is always the same: our wants, our needs. For example, the Egyptians created Heket, a goddess of fertility. What society wouldn't want reproductive and agricultural fertility? They also created Khepri, a god of rebirth and renewal. Don't we all wish for an occasional renaissance in our life? The Greeks created Aphrodite, the famous goddess of love and sex--cravings we all certainly have. Mohammed created the Allah of the Koran, a moon god with toxic anger issues--something we all could struggle with if we do not deal with injustice correctly, like the Ishmaelites (Gen 16).
The list could go on forever. Humanity simply religifies its own traits, cravings, issues, hurts, and fixations. The temptation to do this is massive. Add to this the demonic factor and suddenly these idols come alive through false revelations and false manifestations (2Th 2:9, Ex 7:11,22).
John said, "Dear children, keep yourselves from idols" (1Jn 5:21). He did not mean avoid worshiping the Greek gods and going to their temples, though this would be one application. Rather, he meant any and all fixations, any and all objects of devotion, above the one true God. John's words are all-encompassing like the first commandment, "You shall have no other gods before me" (Ex 20:3). Only in the second commandment does God address the popular forms of idolatry of the day (v4), i.e., carved images.
Many born-again Christians are fiercely monotheistic in their words, but polytheistic in their emotional world and actual behavior. If we are not growing in self-awareness and learning consistently, we will reshape God in our minds into a lesser being reflecting our own issues. We will recreate God in our own image.
What about our legitimate wants and needs? We all have them, do we not? If we do not submit these to the Lord's presence daily, and relinquish their fulfillment to His time and His way, they will shapeshift our mental view of Him. Once our mental model of Him distorts, our attitude and theology distort. Once our attitude and theology distort, we start behaving and making decisions according to this new version of God (god). Then we wonder how our life, or certain areas of our life, became so desolate and so cursed. What happened? We created a god in our own image.
The Acquiescent God
- seeker-sensitive churches
- word of faith extremes
- blessings without preconditions
- hypergrace, greasy grace, sloppy agape
- Christianity without consequences, divine discipline, or judgment
In the West, the most popular distortion of God that Christians have created is what I call "the acquiescent god". This version of God turns Him into a me-centered servile butler, existing mainly to make you feel better about yourself, your life, and your idols. In the word of faith extremes, this version of God exists to give you what you want--blessings without sanctificational preconditions--if only you talk to yourself the right way and talk into the air the right way. This acquiescent god does not mete out consequences. He does not discipline or judge anyone for persistent or significant idolatry.
How do we correctly understand, therefore, the various scriptures used to remake God into an acquiescent butler?
The Anal God
- grueling moralism, cold moralism
- blessings marginalized or ignored
Christians with hypermoralism issues remake God into a being that is exhaustingly angry and nitpickingly anal. In other words, the Christian version of Islam's angry moon god. This distortion of God is often an overreaction by one group of Christians watching other Christians not take sanctification, spiritual growth, and divine consequences seriously. In this distortion the many scriptures about blessings and rewards are marginalized or ignored altogether.
How do we correctly understand, therefore, the various scriptures used to remake God into an angry, anal dictator?
The Apathetic God
- de facto deism
- intellect-driven Christianity
- emotion-driven Christianity
God is not uninvolved in the lives of His people or in earthly affairs. However, certain situations can seem as if He is "sleeping" or frustratingly apathetic. The story of Jesus sleeping during the storm delves into these very concepts and paradoxes (Mk 4:35-41).
Because most people, Christians and nonChristians, do not know how to invoke God's intervention and activity, they (knowingly or unknowingly) develop a view of God that is deistic. Deism is "belief in the existence of a supreme being, specifically of a creator who does not intervene in the universe" (Oxford Languages Dictionary). The concept of deism rose to prominence in the European intellectual movements of the 1600s and 1700s. Deism acknowledges the existence of God, but that He remains distant and uninvolved in His creation. Cessationism is a milder, but nonetheless equivalent, version of deism. This opinion, often found among our Presbyterian and Baptist siblings, says God stopped speaking subjectively (to individuals) and acting miraculously after the Bible was completed and compiled.
When Christians (knowingly or unknowingly) wander into de facto deism, they remake God into "the apathetic god". To fill in the empty spaces where God's supernatural power and activity should be, some Christians overfocus on their intellect (cold fixations on theology and academic study) or their emotions (Pentecostal-Charismatic extremes, emotionalism, sensationalism).
How do we correctly understand, therefore, the various scriptures used to remake God into a sleepy recluse, or that He is taking a power nap after the Bible was completed and compiled?
Who Is God, Really?
The quick answer is this: the one true God is a multidimensional, perfectly balanced being. Yes, He is willing to answer our prayers and give us the desires of our hearts, however, that benevolence is balanced, restrained, and occasionally delayed by the sanctificational requirements of His holiness and uniqueness. See 1John 3:22. Yes, He will mete out consequences for persistent or significant idolatry, however, that severity is balanced and delayed by His merciful patience giving us time to repent and cooperate with Him. See 1Corinthians 11:31,32 and Revelation 2:21. Yes, He will occasionally "mute" His supernatural presence and overt activity to accomplish a more nuanced goal in a situation, however, that activity selectivity is balanced by the fact that He will never leave us or forsake us and that we will eventually find Him if we persevere in seeking Him with all our hearts. See Hebrews 11:6 and Jeremiah 29:13.
Understand, then, beloveds, that God is not one set of Bible verses only, in the same way that you are not one set of stories or experiences only. Anyone can string together five scriptures and make God out to be whatever they want. It is only when we understand how God has revealed Himself in all of Scripture--every verse, every story, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21--that we begin to understand who God is, really. We can then worship and cooperate with Him as He is, without deforming Him into a lesser being in our own image.
Our God is a multidimensional, perfectly balanced, omni-everything being whose thoughts and ways are light years above our own, as high as the giraffe is above the ant. Grow in self-awareness, keep your wants and needs in their proper containers, keep God transcendent in your mind and prayer life, keep asking and waiting on Him to fulfill Ephesians 1:23 for you (NKJV): ...the fullness of Him who fills all in all.