10.26.2008

GOD IN MY IMAGE

I'm in the book of Zephaniah in my morning read through the Bible. This is a favorite book of John Piper, one of my favorite Christian authors. So I went over to his church's website to read some of his old sermons on the book. Here's a money quote from one of those sermons:

"There is in every human, I think, a deep longing to worship something great—to have a god or a hero or some beautiful or powerful thing to admire. But there is also in every human the sinful and insatiable longing, too, for self-determination and autonomy—we will do our own thing and get our own glory. Therefore, man does not cease to be a worshipping creature when he rejects the true God. Rather he searches out a god in his own image who will give him all the leeway he craves and exert on him no moral constraints of which he does not approve. There may be no more arrogant man on the face of the earth than the man bowing humbly before the god he has created in his own image."

This paragraph causes considerable consternation in me. For I am mindful of the ways I, even as I seek to be a faithful follower of Jesus, have, whether consciously or unconsciously, bent that path to my will, rather than seeking with an open mind and a willing heart to understand and then follow the path as He has laid it out.

There is a missiological term called "syncretism," in which converts meld the Christian faith with elements from their home culture and religion. We Americans often scoff at such practices, which often involve animism or other seemingly odd forms of non-God worship.

And yet we ourselves are guilty of syncretism when we subtly bend the God of the Bible and the Bible of our God to more closely suit our tastes. If justice is our pet issue, we focus on those aspects of Christian living, de-emphasizing other standards we are loath to live up to. We fancy Jesus to share our political and economic persuasions. We alternate between capping tout understanding of God's abhorrence of our sin (and in doing so flirt with disobedient behavior) and His all-encompassing mercy (and in doing so think ourselves too far from the truth to be redeemed).

We Christians are most susceptible to this form of idolatry: outwardly doing Christian things, even while refusing to cede the driver's seat to the One we profess as Lord. Previously, I have referred to cat or dog Christians, and to American syncretism, and yet I am challenged anew that I too am guilty of making God in my image when it is He who has made me in His.
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