We do not find it easy to read the Bible, not at first. It is a long book, and parts of it can seem rather dull. As we sit there reading such sections we wonder why, if this truly is God’s Word, His Word could be so dull. Yet in time, if we pray and study, and we can begin to appreciate the need even for the parts we first thought dull. Nevertheless, that is not what makes the Bible so difficult to read. What makes the Bible difficult to read is that it forces us to admit that what we imagined to be true — wanted to believe — is false.
An Abuse Of Imagination
There is only one God. He is the only one who matters, and He created us. And yet He gave us the ability to fantasize. That includes imagining other gods and imagining ourselves as greater than we are.
What if we believe in our fantasies? What if we act as if our fantasies are true? What if the gods of our own creation become more real to us than our actual Creator?
There is the view that all Peoples share essentially the same values, but that is not true. That is because we do not all share the same view of God, and our view of God shapes the way we view the world and each other. The Apostle Paul put this way.
Romans 1:21-23 Good News Translation (GNT)
21 They know God, but they do not give him the honor that belongs to him, nor do they thank him. Instead, their thoughts have become complete nonsense, and their empty minds are filled with darkness. 22 They say they are wise, but they are fools; 23 instead of worshiping the immortal God, they worship images made to look like mortals or birds or animals or reptiles.
How did the ancients worship their gods, their idols? That depended upon the character they attributed to their gods and which of the gods they chose as their patron. Evil gods demanded such things as human sacrifice, shrine prostitution, and warfare for warfare’s own sake. The “good” gods demanded more virtuous behavior. Nonetheless, even the “good” gods, because they too were gods as men would desire a god, were flawed.
Have we changed or have our idols only grown more sophisticated and deceptive? The ancients created wood, stone, and metal idols as symbols of their desires. Have we merely skipped that step? Don’t we still have things we put before God? Just as the ancients did, don’t we still give our souls over to our desires in worship?
What Have We Imagined That We Should Worship?
Because we can be so willfully ignorant, we can ignore the consequences of our choices. Because there are so many things we want, we can hide from ourselves the fact we have put a mere idol, a thing we desire, before the eternal and all-powerful God.
- The god of sex (see here, here, here, and here): For the momentary thrill of sex we risk disease, children out wedlock, the devastation of our own and our lover’s emotions, turning people into to mere objects,… Don’t we advertise using sexy half-dressed models, fund pornography, and practice various forms of fornication? Don’ the worst of us enslave women and children for sex, sometimes even in brothels? Don’t the weakest among us try to cover our sins by murdering the unborn? Because it threatens our selfish pleasure in an orgasm, have we not begun to abhor the miracle of life?
- The god of stuff (see here, here, here, and here): For the accumulation of stuff we work long hours, cheat, steal, and murder. Don’t the most clever and greediest among devise every means they can to impoverish and enslave our neighbors? Don’t we sell our votes so they can do it?
- The god of state (see here, here, here, here, and here): For the promises of a powerful state we give up our own and our neighbor’s freedom. Sometimes we sacrifice our neighbors to the system. With just the right laws we imagine we can make heaven on earth. Sometimes we worship a charismatic leader. We believe that if we put just the right man in charge he will give us what we want. We never learn. When we make government our god, tyrannical men impoverish, imprison and kill millions. Isn’t the desire for increased state power the cause of most wars?
- The god of self (see here, here, here, and here): For the sake of self, to elevate our self over others, we pull down anyone who might in some way surpass us. Isn’t the person we usually love the most our self? And if we love only our self, how can anyone else matter? So we spread falsehoods in gossip. We vandalize our neighbors. We torment the innocent. We bully the weak. We seek sophisticated rationalizations to focus on our self at the exclusion of our Creator (example and example).
Correcting An Abuse Of Imagination
Unfortunately, just worshiping one God, the Creator, is not enough. If we perceive God as distant and almighty being, even if we exist to serve Him and we codify innumerable laws, rules and regulations; we cannot do enough. We are too weak. Our code of conduct, even if it actually is “God’s Law,” even if it is what God supposedly demands of us (if we could save ourselves by obeying God’s Law), we do not have the power to perfectly obey. We cannot prove ourselves worthy. Inevitably, we twist “God’s Law.” Some how, some way “God’s Law” becomes what mere men would have it to be. In time, instead of elevating men, “God’s Law” becomes a tool of oppression for the sake of idols such as sex, stuff, state, and self.
So what should we do? Perhaps we need to reconsider how we have abused God’s gift of fantasy. Why did God give us the ability to fantasize? When we have abused every gift He has ever given us, why did God give us he ability to imagine other gods? What were we supposed to do instead? Does God want us to try imagining Him and what it would be like to spend eternity with our Creator, the One who is love? Does He want us to try imagining ourselves trying to love Him as much as He loves us? Did God give us the gift of fantasy because He understands there is only One God worth imagining?
We Are God’s Children
Try imagining what the Truth means. God loves us as His children. Because He first loved us (1 John 4:19), we can return His love.
When we pray to Him, God gives us strength to be obedient to His commands, and the burden of His commandment is one we can bear.
We are not God, and we are not gods. However, we are if we choose to be so, God’s children. He is our Father, and we are small and weak. Because He loves us, he wishes to save us from ourselves, but we must put our faith in Him as His obedient and loving children. In an otherwise vast and empty universe, that’s a God worth imagining.
Note: This post is effectively Parts 2 and 3 of WHEN DOES FANTASY BECOME INSANITY? — PART 1.