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Creating gods

An ancient writer once wrote that if horses had gods, they would look like horses. Likewise, in the various religions of the world, when people create their own gods or idols, they look very human like. The ancient Greek gods were scoundrels and perverts. So were the gods of the ancient Near Eastern religions - Molech, the various regional forms of Baal, Ashtoreth / Astarte, and such. When people invent their own religions, they can only create gods in their own image - or in the image of animals and people, with human (a)moral characteristics. No man-made religion was created in which its god or gods were not created in man's image, in the likeness of humans, with human limitations or human-like nature.

However, the God of the Bible is completely different. He is always shown to be a loving, holy, just, and even wrathful God, equally in both Old and New Testaments (those who claim otherwise either don't know the Bible well enough, or are reading it thru their own cultural filter). But the Bible goes much further. He is revealed from the very beginning as a God who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Furthermore, he is a God who is to be feared, because he is so holy and glorious, so other-worldly and beyond human understanding (e.g., "my ways are not your ways"). He is totally not like us, nor like anything we can imagine.

This is emphasized in different ways. As the almighty creator and Lord of everything, who made and runs everything by himself. As the God who identified himself to Moses as "I am" - which emphasizes the fact that he is eternal God, not created, but self-existing. He simply exists by himself, in eternity past and future, which we cannot fathom. He is always referred to as holy [Hebrew qadosh], which emphasizes that he is not only morally and spiritually pure and perfect beyond what we can grasp, but also that he is just different - different from us or anything we know, as well as separate and transcendent above all creation. The Hebrew word glory [kavod] is also used to describe him, which means literally "weight" - i.e., profundity, gravitas, seriousness, worthiness. The divine name 'Yahweh' [written usually in Hebrew in consonants as YHWH, hence the name tetragrammatron] was a name that captured his holy essence such that God-fearing Jews would not utter it out of fear and respect of God. Instead, they created a different pronunciation by changing the vowels for a more "pronounceable" name Yehovah, or Jehovah as transcribed in Western languages. In so many ways he is depicted as a God who is totally not like us.

Thus, this God was no invention of people, of imaginative religious Jews seeking to justify their religion or their Jewish nationalism. Humans could not have created such a God. No people, ancient or modern, could have created such a God who is beyond the universe, beyond our comprehension, beyond anything we could know, and worthy of fear. This is clearly not a God created in a human image with human characteristics, but a God who was revealed, i.e., who revealed himself to us. (If you think this is intended as an apologetic argument, you are correct.)

Jean ("John") Calvin said that the human heart is an idol factory. We create idols all the time. Desires that we elevate above our desire for God, above his will, above submission to him, are idols. These idols that our hearts create daily are made in the image of our desires and our sinfulness. Thus, the psalmists recognize this and pray, "Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name" (Psalm 86.11). And God says, "I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 11.19).


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