The Next American Idol: In Whose Image is the god you serve?
In Herman Bavinck’s, The Doctrine of God, he states that, “In reality, all recognize a power which they worship as God”. Though Bavinck is saying this in response to an atheistic worldview, it does make me wonder how it applies to the way in which many of us view God in the world today, and even particularly in America. It seems as if there are various “mainstream views” of who God is and all are valid at least to some extent. But what does the Bible say in response to the question of who God is? What is God’s “identity” according to Scripture? I am willing to bet that the biblical notion of who God is differs, by far, from the way in which mainstream culture would view Him, and in fact, I believe that the Bible would label the way many perceive of God as idolatry in many cases. If idolatry is present in our perception of God, then that is an issue that needs to be fixed very quickly.
The prophet Isaiah paints a beautiful picture of God’s true nature and identity in chapter six of his book. In fact, there is such a detailed example of God’s distinctiveness that we see three important features that pertain to Him. The reader will notice God’s majesty before all the created order, God’s complete and utter sovereignty over all creation, and God’s rightful place as just judge and redeemer of mankind. All three attributes speak of great theological importance that all should consider.
Isaiah opens up with a description of God on His throne with the train of His robe filling the temple (Is. 6:1). The reader will also notice the mentioning of angels around the throne worshipping God and calling out “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of host, the whole earth is filled with His glory” (Is. 6:2-3). This account of God in His throne room is unique because it shows that God is praised as a majestic King. God alone is worthy of worship and not even the angels in heaven can bear to look upon Him.
This has much to say when it also comes to God’s place before idols that were worshipped as gods by other people. In the whole history of redemptive history, God has been put on the backburner because of man’s worship of false idols. These false idols were made by man and in the image of man. These idols are seen to be true atrocities in the sight of God (1 Sam. 5, Hab. 2:18-20). God is to be praised as the only true God as King.
We also see that since God is portrayed as a King, this demands a high view of His sovereignty. I have often heard from those who are not Christians that the Christian God is a “weak” individual with all that He does focusing around the choices that humans make. God does nothing to bring about what He wants. This kind of thinking is very flawed and does not fit the biblical picture of the God Christians worship.
Being the King that God is means that everything is under His authority. Not even the smallest molecule or atom is outside of God’s control. In the event that there would happen to be even one “rebel” molecule, God would immediately cease to be God because He would no longer be completely sovereign. The Bible is clear on this issue. So apparent in fact, that God is even seen to be in complete authority when it comes to the salvation of man. Consider Rom.9, John 3, and Ephesians 1&2.
Finally, the reader comes to a place in Isaiah’s writings where God is seen to be a judge and redeemer at the same time (Is. 6:4-8). In verse 4 and 5 of the passage, Isaiah sees the majesty and authority of God rendering him to only saying, “Woe is me” pronouncing judgment on himself because he is in the presence of an almighty and just God. Isaiah has recognized that he is a sinner before a righteous God.
As this is happening, God is starting to take action by making Isaiah cleansed of his sins. God also shows that He is a redeeming God and in this passage shows a clear picture of God’s redeeming grace that would ultimately come through Jesus Christ. This passage goes so far as to indicate that man is in need of clear help from God. If this salvation is not attained by God, then every person that has ever and will ever exist, is totally guilty before God and deserving of just judgment (John 3:36).
All of what was just written goes to show the importance of getting the biblical character of God right. There are many cases in which people will tend to elevate one of God’s attributes above another and just focus on that aspect of God. If not careful this can lead to a false worship of God and a person fashioning a god after their own image rather than serving the God in whose image they were created. There must be a biblical understanding of all of God’s attributes in order to appreciate the full character of God.
This often happens for example when it comes to the doctrine of hell. Some would reason that since God is a loving God that He would not eternally punish those who are “bad”. However, if you try to line this reasoning up with what the Bible says, you will quickly find that this way of thinking is not the case (John 3:36). Of course the Bible teaches that God is love, but He is also a just judge along with many other attributes. Making God what you want Him to be is very humanistic in approach and that is not theologically or spiritually healthy.
In the end, it would do well to search and have a correct biblical view of who God is. If not, we as sinful humans before God run the risk of forming a false god in our image that we wrongly worship. When one attribute of God is elevated above His others, it is not as though that is the single most important one to focus on. There must be a biblical understanding of who God is so that He will be worshipped in a theocentric way that He deserves.