Articles‎ > ‎

GOD IN OUR IMAGE (published in The Tribune 10/26/13)

posted Dec 9, 2013, 9:06 AM by Fccea Webmaster
Remember the movie Oh, God! starring George Burns?  Burns’ God admits his mistakes (ostriches, for example, and avocados) and is modest in his successes (“Sometimes I get lucky!”). He claims credit for the NY Mets’ 1969 miraculous World Series victory, but mostly dismisses miracles as “Special effects!” He is a cut above normal, but immenently approachable, non-judgmental, and concerned to propagate the message that mankind is basically good.

He is God as we would like Him to be. God in our image – the same God that most people worship – a being of their own making, but having no more relevance to reality than Burns’ God.

Philosopher Blaise Pascal identified this tendency: “God made man in his own image and man returned the compliment.”

But logically, to worship a God of our own making is to worship ourselves (self-deification) – a seductive but tragic fantasy.

In his bestseller, When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Rabbi Harold Kushner, describes how his grief at the untimely death of his son caused him to question his faith. He concludes that God must have been powerless to prevent the tragedy and reasons, “I can worship a God who hates suffering but cannot eliminate it, more easily than I can worship a God who chooses to make children suffer and die.”  In other words, I can only worship a God who conforms to my own sense of morality and definition, whether or not that corresponds to His own self-revelation. God in one’s own image.

Kushner’s dilemma is painful. Life’s unexplainable cruelties, whether inflicted by an “act of God” or thoroughly evil people cause any compassionate person to similarly question. But the answer cannot be to construct a God of one’s own making. That enthrones human reason as the ultimate reality, essentially deifying mankind.

True knowledge of God can come only through His own self-revelation. And while that revelation does not answer all the questions, nor does it propose to do so (reference God’s answers to Job in Job 38 ff.), it does clarify that He is loving, good, kind and merciful.

He is also holy, righteous and just. He makes claims such as, “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he” (Deut 32:4). He requires we take that on faith, realizing that He is not subject to human limitations in working His purposes. Eternity is a long time. Justice is coming, but in His time and His way.

The answer to tragedy is not in God’s limitations but in His infinity! Allowing the death of His own Son in human history to meet our greatest dilemma is proof enough that His ways are not our ways (Isa 55:8); the resurrection of His Son in human history demonstrates that He is not subject to our constraints.

A group of scientists labored for more than 20 years to build the world’s most advanced computer. When completed it was a thing of beauty, holding zillions of bytes of data and programmed with every bit of information known to man. To celebrate its completion, the scientists posed a question: “Is there a God?” The computer responded, “There is now!”

The fact is millions of people are doing exactly that – creating their own God, tailored to their specifications. A tame God – controllable, definable, flexible, exacting nothing, but also powerless to do anything.

The true God is not tame nor powerless nor tolerant of those who violate His character. But He is loving and He is gracious. And what He demands, He also supplies to those who accept Him on His terms. His declaration stands: “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.” We were made in the image of God; it doesn’t work the other way around.

Dave McNeff is pastor of the First Congregational Church of Eaton