worshipping a figment of our own heart

Since I read Dr. Roger Olson’s article attempting to relieve God of responsibility for the I35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis Minnesota a quote posted by Todd Bumgarner from John Calvin a couple of days prior to that has been echoing in my brain.

here it is:

Indeed, vanity joined with pride can be detected in the fact that, in seeking God, miserable men do not rise above themselves as they should, but measure him by the yardstick of their own carnal stupidity, and neglect sound investigation; thus out of curiosity they fly off into empty speculations. They therefore apprehend God as he offers himself, but imagine him as they have fashioned him in their own presumption. When this gulf opens, in whatever direction they move their feet, they cannot but plunge headlong into ruin. Indeed, whatever they afterward attempt by way of worship or service of God, they cannot bring as tribute to him, for they are worshiping not God but a figment and a dream of their own heart.
-John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.4.1

emphasis added.

then this morning, I see these quotes from Michael Horton’s Christless Christianity on Vitamin Z’s blog.

Where everything is measured by our happiness rather than by God’s holiness, the sense of our being sinners become secondary, if not offensive.”

“While the blood of martyrs is the the seed of the church, the assimilation of the church to the world silences the witness.”

There is a tendency to make God a supporting character in our own life movie rather than to be rewritten as new characters in God’s drama of redemption.”

“Far from clashing with the culture of consumerism, American religion appears to be not only at peace with our narcissism but gives it a spiritual legitimacy.”

“Like any recreational drug, Christianity Lite can make people feel better for the moment, but it does not reconcile sinners to God.”

It is not secular humanists but we ourselves who are secularizing the faith by transforming its odd message into something less jarring to the American psyche. This may mean, however, that precisely the most numerically successful versions of religion will be the least tethered to the biblical drama of redemption centering on Christ.

“‘Smooth talk and flattery’ is part of the staple diet of successful American religion today. And it is almost always advertised simply as more effetive mission and relevance.”

“I have no reason to doubt the sincere motivation to reach non-Christians with a relevant message. My concern, however, is that the way this message comes out actually trivializes the faith at its best and contradicts it at its worst.”

emphasis added.

Sounds to me like Michael Horton believes that many in the U.S. church today are worshipping a figment of their own heart rather than the God of the Bible. I am just going to have to read his book.


3 Responses

  1. They’re right that people tend to worship God based on their own musings. However, are we to praise God *for* tragedies like that? *For*, not “in.” I would thank Him that there were no more victims than there were. After all, the Bible says He takes no delight in the death of the wicked–the God of the Bible, not of my limited human mind.

  2. Melody,

    Thanks for the question. I think the proper response to physical tragedies like the bridge collapse, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, forest fires, and whatever else comes along of a similar nature is the response that Jesus gave in Luke 13:5. We must repent or we will all likewise perish.

    The people who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them were not any worse sinners than anybody else and the death they died is the death that all of us deserve. The default presumption of the gospel is that apart from God, we have all sinned and that the wages (due reward) of sin is death. Romans 3:10, 23 and 6:23. cf Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25.

    The verse you quote from Ezekiel along with II Peter 3:9 remind us that even though we are all Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (to coin a phrase http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards/sermons.sinners.html ), God is also rich in mercy and patience and love.

    Escaping death in a bridge collapse in Minneapolis Minnesota is a reminder of God’s mercy in allowing us a little bit more time for repentance.

    Cancer or other personal tragedy is a different thing. It is a personal trial. Think of Job. Look at chap. 1 verse 12. who is in charge of Job’s ordeal? look at Chapter 2 verses 4-7. Who is in charge? Now look at 1:21 and 2:10. To whom did Job attribute responsibility for his predicament?

    Then read chapters 3-37 looking at Job’s speeches in particular. Do you see the sediment of pride that God was sifting? Do you see Job’s attempts to justify himself? Then look at God’s response to Job in chapters 38-41. What is the point of what God is saying?

    Finally, look at chapter 42:2-6. What did Job understand about the lesson that this ordeal was supposed to be teaching him? Do you see that God was in charge of this situation from beginning to end? That God was using this as an opportunity to show Job that the sediment of pride remained within him and needed to be put away?

    When we have personal illnesses and trials (not big corporate calamities) come into our lives, then we should be grateful. I Thessalonians 5:18 and Ephesians 5:20. We should be grateful for the opportunity for self examination. We should also be grateful for the opportunity to be a testimony of joy in trial to the world for God’s glory.

    Do you see what I mean?


  3. Yes and I agree.

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