Who Creates Who?
The 18th century French writer and philosopher, Voltaire, rather famously said, “In the beginning God created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since.”
Voltaire was no fan of Christianity, or of the Catholic Church in particular, and he was making the case that in creating the notion of God we are just looking at our own desires – a big, powerful being to give us what we want.
Alas, his critique is on target. All too often, I find that people’s idea of God (or Jesus) is formed more by what they would like to believe than by what is actually revealed to us. That is not the God of the Bible or the God of Christian faith.
On Sunday we will read the “cliff notes” version of Paul’s sermon at the Areopagus in Athens (click here to read it). He says, “Since we are God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals.” (Acts 17:29)
It is God who created us, not the other way around. We are His creation, and we need to work away from the accidental practice of creating God out of our own imaginations. We need to constantly remind ourselves of this rather obvious fact. One of the reasons it is so important for Christians to read the Bible, gather for worship (even virtually), and talk with one another about our faith is that these things remind us to look outside of ourselves for God.
The popular advice today is to look within, to trust our gut, to listen to the inner voice. As a starting point, I find this dangerous. Of course, we do believe that the Holy Spirit is within us and speaks to us in various ways, but that is a function of compete otherness. We begin by looking to God as He is revealed to us, then we may seek His voice within us.
The good news here is the God does, in fact, reveal Himself to us, in the Scripture, in the Christian community, in prayer, and even in careful reason. Our first task is to make sure that we are listening.
This column appeared in the May 17, 2020 issue of St. John’s eNews. Click here for the complete issue.
If you are reading this at a different time, you may click here for the current eNews.