August 2, 2009 Stu Andrews

Making God From Our Own Imagination

“They say to the prophets, ‘Do not prophesy to us what is right; prophesy smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel’…”  (Isaiah 30:10, 11)

Art Linkletter, the famous Canadian American broadcaster once saw a small boy scrawling on a piece of paper, “What are you drawing?” he asked. The boy replied, “I’m drawing a picture of God.”  Linkletter said to him, “You can’t do that because nobody knows what God is like.” “They will when I’m finished,” the little boy said.

Why do we have this tendency to redraw God according to our own imaginations? One of the main reasons is that we want to believe that God is not a judge who has been offended by the way we live, but a servant who is waiting for opportunities to affirm our dignity. In other words, God exists for us. Robert Schuller captures this sentiment perfectly when he says, “What we need is a theology of salvation that begins and ends with a recognition of every person’s hunger for glory.”

In Isaiah’s day, there were many people in the church who believed that God’s role was to provide them with unconditional acceptance. They were uncomfortable with a God who confronted them and challenged their sin. Instead, they thought that it was God’s job to affirm them and make them feel comfortable in the lifestyles that they had chosen.

This same tendency is at work in church today. The vast majority of people want to be in control of their own lives; they don’t want to be constrained by God’s demands. This explains why so many people have now become practical atheists. They understand the truth that, “If there is no God, then everything is permissible.”

In his famous book, The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky spells out the logical consequences of practical atheism. In the story, one of the brothers in the Karamazov family contemplates murdering his abusive father. One of the excuses that he devises is if that God no longer exists then we can do whatever we like without fear of eternal consequences. If God is the source and basis of morality, then to disprove God is to dispose of morality as well.

Now Dostoyevsky was a Christian, not an atheist, but he knew the moral consequences of rejecting the God of the Bible and it seems that the Israelites knew the force of this argument as well. This explains why they were keen to use it to justify their actions. This serves to remind us that for the most part people who dismiss the God of Scripture don’t have logical reasons for doing so. It would be truer to say that they have an agenda for wanting him out of their lives.