In Our Image
“We are created in the image of God. And we’ve been returning the favor every since.”
One of the most common critiques of Christianity is that we just make up a God we want to believe in because it makes us feel better. Better in the face of tragedy, or difficulties, or death.
The problem is — the critics are right. All too often our beliefs about God are shaped more by what we want to believe, by what comforts us, by what allows us to make the choices we already want to make.
This is nothing new. In Sunday’s passage from the book of Exodus (click here to read it), we find the people of Israel released from slavery in Egypt, but now hungry in the desert. With Moses gone up on the mountain, they called on Aaron to make gods for them — by which they meant idols they could worship. They wanted gods they could control, gods who would do what they wanted. So Aaron did and they had a big party to forget their troubles.
Of course, the fact that we are prone to shape God in our own image and in the way that makes us feel good does not mean that there is no real and true God. That’s where the critics have it wrong. It just means that we have to be more careful in our seeking that we are not just satisfying ourselves. That is, indeed, the work of theologians, Bible scholars and every serious Christian.
We turn to the Scripture because we believe that God speaks to us there. We read, study, pray and share with one another to seek out the God revealed in the words. We also look to the history of the church, and the community of Israel even before that. Certainly, there are plenty of episodes where people got it wrong. The people of Israel in the desert, mentioned above certainly had it wrong. The inquisitions were a shameful episode. More recently, the complicity of many in the church with slavery in the US, or the rise of Nazism in Germany are examples of where at least a significant portion of the church got it wrong. But we learn and grow and as a community, we are able to move from errors of the past to more dependable understandings of God and what it is to be disciples of Jesus.
This takes honesty, fearless self-examination, openness and work with one another. But together, we can strive to understand God in a powerful and life changing way, and we can know that even where we do not have it right, we still have God and His mercy!
This column appeared in the October 11, 2020 edition 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.