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The Only Opinion that Matters

posted Jan 27, 2016, 7:36 PM by Kelly Griffin   [ updated Jan 27, 2016, 7:37 PM ]
On leaving church one Sunday a couple assured the pastor, “We listened to every word you said.” He thanked
them, saying, “I look forward to seeing you next week.” They replied, “Oh, next week we’re going to another church to get a second opinion.”

That’s pretty much standard operating procedure when we get information we don’t like. “I need a second opinion.” We want a second opinion accords more closely with our own desires. 

Naturally, second opinions are only as valuable as the authority of the source. For example, if we want a second opinion about a cancer diagnosis, we consult a reputable oncologist, not a psychiatrist! Least of all would we credit your own opinion.

All of which makes it interesting to see how people address the big questions in life – Who am I? Why am I here? Is there a God? What is He like? Is there an afterlife, or is this all there is?

Many seek second opinions by moving from one train of thought to another. Frank McCourt, the author of Angela’s Ashes and The Teacher Man comes to mind. Growing up in Dublin he saw a lot of abuse in the church, documented in his books. It had its effect. Asked about his faith during a C-SPAN interview he replied, "I grew up a Catholic but I'll take a little bit of Hinduism, a little bit of Islam, a little bit of Shintoism. I'm a buffet religionist.”

See any problem with that? Who’s picking and choosing for buffet religionists? Themselves, naturally. Buffet religionists are their own god. Given that none of us has been to the afterlife, buffet religion seems a bit dicey at best.

Many skip any reference to a second opinion and go straight to their own devices to define God. Commonly heard: “I believe in a God of love, but not in a God of judgment”. When pressed on how they know this God, inevitably it turns out to be God as they wish him to be, not God as defined on any rational or evidential basis. 

In effect, such “believers” have declared themselves god – a questionable practice, given the limitations that attach to even the greatest among us. 

Being one’s own god is nothing new. An interesting example is found in the early chapters of Genesis. A group of people pledge to themselves: “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves [i.e., be our own god] . . . (Gen 11:2).

Meanwhile, the God of creation visits another man with this promise, “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great” (Gen 11:4). We know the latter as Abraham – one of the best known names in world history. Those “making a name for themselves” are long forgotten. God was making a point.

Bertrand Russell once noted, “Every man would like to be God if it were possible; some few find it difficult to admit the impossibility.” In the end, it is God who makes the man, not the man who makes God.

When it comes to authority on the big questions, it’s best to seek information from someone who’s been there. The God of the Bible has revealed Himself in nature (Rom 1:20), in his God-breathed Word (II Tim 3:16) and in the person of Jesus Christ (Heb 1:2; John 1:18). 

He is not the second opinion; He is the only opinion. And, thankfully, He has left plenty of corroborating evidence – for those who will see.

Dave McNeff is pastor of the First Congregational Church of Eaton (

Published in The Tribune on January 23, 2016.