The philosopher Rousseau or Voltaire or someone is reported to have said, “In the beginning God created man in His own image; then man returned the favor.” How true. If mankind is good at anything, it is in creating gods to his own liking. This is especially true in the postmodern world. Postmoderns pick and choose their deities as passionately as they choose their wardrobes or music preferences. After all, since according to postmodern thinking there is no “truth,” only “your truth” and “my truth,” the kind of god I worship is just a matter of personal preference.
So in the twenty-first century, we have become skilled idolaters, crafting gods in our own likeness as surely as those ancient silversmiths in Ephesus and Corinth or any other Greco-Roman city. The Bible is no longer the authority for what we believe; we are much too sophisticated to settle for an outdated and time-bound view of God such as is found in the Bible. Our “god” must be tolerant, chummy, easy-going, and not too demanding. We like our jeans cut in a relaxed fit; and we like our “god” to be comfortable and relaxed enough to allow for our own self-expression.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that postmoderns give their “god” a different name. No, indeed. They still call him “Jesus” or “Our Father” or “God.” But they don’t mean what Paul or John or Matthew or Peter meant when they spoke of Jesus the Christ. They have a reinvented god, a god made in their own image and to their own liking.
It’s a dangerous thing to bring our intellects and wills to the New Testament. The Bible is iconoclastic. It smashes our idolatrous, self-preferred images of God and reveals the only true and living God there is. It takes captive every thought that exalts itself against the knowledge of God (2 Co. 10:4-5).
But when we do that, when we come to Scripture and, in advance, lay aside our preconceived and prejudiced images, we discover the God who has revealed Himself, not the God we create by our own imaginations and preferences. The result is humbling, but it is also gratifying and exhilarating.
God is. He is what He says He is. He is not what I want Him to be or what I make Him to be. He is Who He has revealed Himself to be. Anything else is an idol.
“Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
(Copyright 2011, Alan Day)
Alan Day (1948-2011): Dr. R. Alan Day was pastor of First Baptist Church, Edmond, for 25 years. He also previously pastored churches in Mississippi, Texas, and Louisiana. A prolific writer, Day is the author of two books, Lordship . . . What Does It Mean? and Family First, and a contributing author for Baptist Theologians. He served the Baptist Messenger as a columnist for several years, writing a weekly Baptist Doctrine series from 1999-2002, then an “I’m Glad You Asked” column in 2005.
Alan Day tragically passed away in February 2011 following a motorcycle accident.