I am often puzzled about how the “evangelical mind” works. We often apply logic to one side of an issue that could very well fit the other side of the same issue were we to simply take time to think about it.
There was a good example of this last Sunday at the church we’ve been attending. It was missions week and there was a guest speaker for that morning. His primary text was Psalm 96. His focus text was 96:5, “For all the gods of the peoples are idols…” From that text he emphasized two words which played off one another – god (Elohim) and idols (el’eel). Elohim is often used in the OT as a reference to God and of course, the play on words el’eel for idols shows the disparity between the two “deities.” (Note: although not addressed by the speaker, Elohim is not used in the psalm as a reference to God – Jehovah or Yahweh is.)
His emphasis was that idols were nothing gods only God was the true God. An argument that has merit not withstanding the fact that what constitutes “god” is often in the eye of the beholder, whether we like to admit it or not. An example of the folly practiced by those who believed in idols he referenced the fact that idol worshipers often planted crops based on their god or went to war based on their god. When I heard that I couldn’t help but jot a note to my wife – “so did Israel!” Something he failed to acknowledge and why there might have been a difference.
It’s that kind of logic that often hamstrings the message of faith. It’s not that we think idols are divine, but that people act in relationship to their idol based on their perception of what is divine. They reach out to something, anything, with a hope that they can live in such a way that brings the divine pleasure and minimizes the divine’s anger. Uhm…again, sounds a lot like Israel’s relationship to God – and perhaps our relationship to God through Christ.
We may not like to admit it but many of us have idols. We may not call them that, but that’s what they are. They could be a person, they could be a possession, they could be a perception of our own self-worth. I expect anything that dominates our time and resources could well be considered our idol.
Now, just as idol worshipers often lived in fear of disappointing their god and experience the consequences, many people of faith live under that same delusional perception. It could be, if we don’t tithe then God will extract from us His due by some other means – an unexpected broken appliance or car repair. If we don’t pray regularly then we’ll be visited by a “disaster” of some sort. Or if we don’t read our Bible regularly then God will pluck out those things that divert our attention. Consequently we live under a cloud of impending retribution
Perpetuating those myths is an easy way for Pastor’s to keep the flock in line, but it seems far afield from a life-changing faith.
I know very little about God. I know even less about how He does what He does. What I do know, is that through Christ I am released from all guilt and relieved of all punishment, so why would I choose to live under any form of divine tyranny again?