Monday, July 16, 2012

Which God Are You Adoring?

Why do people chase after gods of their own design or alter worship of the true God to suit their own tastes?  Arnobius puts forth a reason worthy of investigation: God's transcendence.
From where, therefore, have these vicious opinions flowed, or from what causes have they sprung?  From this it is clear, in great measure, that men are unable to know what God is—his essence, nature, substance, quality—whether he has a form, or is limited by no bodily outline, does anything or not, is ever watchful, or is at times sunk in slumbers, runs, sits, walks, or is free from such motions and inactivity.
(The Case against the Pagans, VII.34)

In this point, he acknowledges that there is a divine being of some sort who is beyond comprehension, having evidential characteristics manifest in creation (Psa 19:1-6; Rom 1:20).  Each person is born understanding this truth, and though some later reject it as folly, most make an attempt at trying to understand this God and what his intentions are.  But there is a problem, mankind is incapable of that understanding, as Solomon said:
He has made everything beautiful in its time.  Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.  (Eccl 3:11)
This lack of ability does not excuse the prospective worshiper for skewed or failed attempts.  Arnobius continues by giving details of the inherent problem.
Being, as I have said, unable to know all these things, or to discern them by any power of reason, they fell into these fanciful beliefs, so that they fashioned gods after themselves, and gave to these such a nature as they have themselves, in actions, circumstances, and desires.  But if they were to perceive that they are creatures of no account, * and that there is no great difference between themselves and a little ant, they would cease, indeed, to think that they have anything in common with the gods of heaven, and would modestly humble themselves within proper limits.
The issue is sin, specifically pride.  Since Adam fell, the human race and all creation has been suffering under the effects.  We turn from the Lord's clear desire and command, sometimes with gusto, to undertake our own direction.  We believe we know better than God what pleases him and what we want and need.  God becomes the object of our affection by being our remaking him into what pleases me—the very effort the pagans undertook.
But now, because they see that they themselves have faces, eyes, heads, cheeks, ears, noses, and all the other parts of our limbs and muscles, they think that the gods also have been formed in the same way, that they contain their nature in a corporeal form.  And because they perceive that they themselves rejoice and are glad, and again are made sad by what is too disagreeable, they think that the deities also on joyous occasions are glad, and on less pleasant ones become dejected.  They see that they are affected by the games, and think that the minds of the heavenly beings are soothed by enjoying games; and because they have pleasure in refreshing themselves with warm baths, they think that the cleanness produced by bathing is pleasing to the gods above.  We men gather our vintages, and they think and believe that the gods gather and bring in their grapes.  We have birthdays, and they affirm that the powers of heaven have birthdays.  But if they could ascribe to the gods ill-health, sickness, and bodily disease, they would not hesitate to say that they were splenetic, blear-eyed, and ruptured, because they are themselves both splenetic, and often blear-eyed, and weighed down by huge hernias.
One could argue that these pagans acted in this manner because they did not know what the true God wanted.  They had not heard the message.  True, but is that a valid excuse?  As has already been mentioned above, sin is the underlying problem.  Even with an increased knowledge of righteousness required to please the Lord, we will fail.  A good example is from Jesus' own lips:
Woe to you, Chorazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!  For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.  But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.  And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven?  You will be brought down to Hades.  For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.  But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.  (Matt 11:21-24)
Those in Jesus' hearing and for whom he worked his miracles had far more understanding of sin, righteousness, and judgment than Tyre, Sidon, Sodom, and Gomorrah, yet those latter cities known for their wickedness will serve as a witness to those receiving greater divine revelation.  All the cities are and were guilty for rejecting the truth that had been freely given them.  Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

How does this now apply to Christ's church in the world?  We have God's full revelation of himself and what he did to procure our salvation.  This amazing work of redemption  has been declared through the prophets and apostles and handed to us with an assurance that the Lord has indeed spoken through these writers, as they express with one voice and mind what is so fearfully expected by law and wondrously given by grace.

Since we have all that the Lord intended to have at this time concerning himself, we are left in the same position as the pagans: ignorance is no excuse.  God tells us plainly what is expected for doctrine, practice, worship, discipleship, etc. while allowing variation.  Yet these allowable parameters are increasingly cast aside to allow what scripture condemns and promote what brings shame to the name of Christ.  Once again, sinful men (even believers) are trying to work a new thing centered around themselves.

The truth is actually better than what man devises.  Let's follow his plans instead.
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
"For who has known the mind of the Lord,
        or who has been his counselor?"
"Or who has given a gift to him
        that he might be repaid?"
For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be glory forever.  Amen.  (Rom 11:33-36)

* Lit., “an animal of no value.”

1 comment:

Karen said...

AMEN!!! This gets to the heart of the matter.