Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The “Not My God” Syndrome

I seem to hear more and more, I am sure though this is not new, statements that in essence go like this: “ “My God would not do ……….” Or “The God I worship would not………”. This usually is heard in response to conversation on issues relating to difficult issues in life. It definitely comes into play when the topic of the sovereignty of God over all things is discussed.

I realize that the people that say this may not have thought about the repercussions of such comments but nevertheless these comments say much about where many get their theology from. These statements tend to show a leaning towards feelings and opinion rather than from doctrine and scripture. I am not saying that those that speak as such do not use scripture but I have found much of the interpretation used with the given scriptures is often driven by presuppositions acquired by feelings.

Also much of this thinking often comes from misunderstanding the difference between apprehension and comprehension. We need to realize that there are many things about God we can know and apprehend but may never fully be able to comprehend. I think this is one of the errors of postmodernism concerning truth in that they often seem to express that if one cannot comprehend something as they think they should it is assumed one cannot know it for certain. This again misunderstands the difference between apprehension and comprehension; that we can know something, apprehend it, without fully understanding it, comprehension. The trinity is just such a concept as we can clearly see, or apprehend, in scripture the validity of God being one in essence and three in person even if we cannot fully understand or comprehend how it happens.

It’s not an issue of what kind of God we can or cannot worship but the real question is who the God is that’s revealed to us in scripture. When I speak of scripture I am speaking of all of scripture in both the New and Old testaments. God is not always going to be easy to comprehend as Isaiah 55:8 (“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.”) reveals but we can apprehend, understand, who He is and that is who we are required to worship. God is not occupied with putting out a resume to see if we see Him as worthy of worship but is instead worthy of worship by virtue of His being God.

As I was reading Romans 9, specifically verses 9-29, I realized this was Paul’s way of answering the unasked question of the people regarding what God can and cannot do just as God answered Job in Job 38:1 – 40:2. Paul’s answer is as simple as: God is God and we are not. In Paul’s case he is heading off the question of “that is not fair” or maybe “my God would not….” by saying God can do as He please because He is God.

So let us not fall into the Not my God Syndrome by realizing that we are to worship the God of the bible and not the god (little ‘g” on purpose) of our own understanding as Gene Robinson an openly gay bishop in the Episcopal church prayed at the Inaugural concert for our current president. God is not concerned with getting our worship by being the God we desire but instead changing our hearts so that we worship the God of scripture and the creator of all as He is. So along with Paul I have to say let us make sure we not only realize in thought but also in deed that we are to worship not the God we desire but the God that is.


Glenn Leatherman said...


How do you press the issue that the god (idol) that they worship (of their own creation) is contrary to scripture and doesn't correspond to reality of revelation or hunam experience. In other words, if the "this is not my god" syndrome is really a worldview conflict would and should we press the antithesis by asking: Which world view makes sense of any particular human experience?

Of course, Our sovereign Lord has a sovereign purpose in the existance false theology.

Tony said...

Hi Glenn:

I think the way to deal with this in our preaching, and of course teaching. I have found as I have been going through Genesis that so often we are faced with who God is and He looks nothing like the God the world desires and the God many professing Christians worship. What is so great is that Moses in writing Genesis does not ask the Hebrews, and us, who he is writing to what they think about God but simply tell them who He is and that is what’s to bring hope. Even in this week’s sermon on Genesis 17:1-27 it dealt with
Sovereignty and Responsibility
and we have to deal with this just as the Hebrews it was originally written to had to deal with it.

At the end of the day while we can show who God is and reveal Him as scripture does we may simply have to come back to Paul’s response in Romans 9 and that is God is God and we are not and He can do as most pleases Him. What we have to do is to reveal as I think Moses is doing, what scripture speaks to about God and in the course of this reveal the false worldviews and baggage we carry into our interpretations so as to combat the “not my God syndrome”.