Garden gods and the One True God

This post deserves some context. My friend, Penny, pointed out that something got under my skin and something did. The ‘blogosphere’ was lit up this week when Rob Bell’s new book was announced and a promotional video was release. The charges of ‘universalism and such were leveled and the book isn’t even released.

You can read the hullabaloo at Christianity Today, Rachel Held Evans. Justin Taylor, and a host of other places. It just got under my skin about who is right and who is wrong and I started to think about how we/I like to pronounce judgment and condemn. I’m okay with disagreement and I think we should engage in conversation. It just bothered me. It especially bothered me in light of what I wrote earlier this week.

The Creator of the universe is not your garden variety deity.The God of the Christian Bible is not easy to pin down. The God of the Christian Bible is elusive and mysterious. God is amazingly powerful, but not in the ways we would expect.

We humans are garden variety gods. In the Garden of Eden, the Serpent told Eve, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” Gen 3.5. And then the LORD God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. Gen 3.22.

We are “garden gods.” We know good and evil. We know what is wrong with the world and how to fix it. Often this has to do with power and might. It has a lot to do with getting people to do the right things. As a ‘garden god’ I determine what is good and evil.

Most of the time we think we are speaking for the One True God, when all we are doing is sort of treating God like our ventriloquist dummy. Our God says what we believe. Anne Lamott wrote, “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

As ‘garden gods’ we are quick to judge other people’s theologies and practices as wrong if we don’t agree with them. We are concerned about getting it right and being right. The problem is, the One True God doesn’t match those expectations.

1 Kings 19.11-13 The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.  Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” NIV

REV 5:5-6b Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne

Garden gods look for God in great and powerful things. The One True God is found in a whisper.

Garden gods look for lions. The One True God is found in a slaughtered lamb.

In the world in which we live, with all of its turmoil and strife, where are you looking for God? What needs to change so we don’t miss God in the here and now?

6 thoughts on “Garden gods and the One True God

  1. Matt

    Arguments of theology aside, Scripture commands Christians (especially Christian leaders) to have up-building, loving dialog in our conversations. Ephesians 4:29 tells us to not let any unwholesome talk come from our mouths but rather only talk that lifts each other up and encourages each other in the faith. If WHEN Rob’s book is released people have a legitimate theological dispute with it, they need to look to scripture as to how they should go about dealing with it. I do not agree with Mr. Bell’s theology in totality (who agrees with everything that someone else does, anyway?) but he is a brother in Christ and Scripture is very strong in regards to calling our brothers and sisters in Christ derogatory names.

    1. Thanks Matt. I cannot control how others will treat this or many other theological discussions but as for me I will be a gracious Christian. Why should I do less for anyone than what Christ did for me?

    1. Jude 1:3 Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.

      Agreed. I’m sad when we contend for our faith along theological differences like Calvinism/Arminianism.

      Thanks Rabbi!

    1. Really perceptive, actually. I am so aware of my propensity to be a ‘garden god’ and my need to surrender those tendencies to God.

      We as a Body are often unkind to each other with differences. I am bothered by my tendencies to do that, and scared about the repercussions I may face one day.

      Thanks for responding!

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