AN ABUSE OF THE IMAGINATION

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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 herehere, 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 herehere, 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.                                  

John 15:12 New King James Version (NKJV)

12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you

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.

 

15 thoughts on “AN ABUSE OF THE IMAGINATION

  1. A big AMEN to what you have said Tom. How very true.

    By far, the most difficult thing about reading the Bible is coming face to face with our false beliefs, weaknesses and shortcomings, sinfulness, and most importantly our need of salvation from sin. .

    However what seems to be difficult and undesirable to us is actually the most important and valuable lessons we can learn during our life on earth. To put it bluntly, the Bible shows us our need of a Lord and Savior which can only be satisfied by Christ.

    Thanks Tom for your continuing stand for the truths of God’s Word. Lord bless!

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  2. The Bible is a difficult “book” for a lot of folks because it really isn’t a “book” in any modern sense of the term. It is, of course, many “books” (or documents) written at very different times ranging from as far back as seven or eight centuries before the birth of Christ until several decades after his death. It was written by many people and in more than one language. What we in America are presented with are multiple translations, or even translations of translations, some better than others in capturing the earliest language of which we have a record, but some of which, like the King James version, have their own power even when circumstances dictated that the translation proceeded from a limited array of earlier sources.

    However, despite all the vagaries of time, translation, and abuse and misuse by mortals, the Bible is an amazing compilation, particularly when one considers its ancient origins in another world and epoch and the simultaneous fact that virtually every household in America either has a copy (in one or another version). That it has survived and continued to command at least momentary attention from so many people is a testament to its power and the interest it asserts over men’s minds. It has infiltrated the literature of peoples far removed geographically from the culture and ethnicities of its origins. Even people non-Bible faiths (or no faith at all) can generally quote from some portion of the compilation.

    So, yes, it is a difficult read. One probably shouldn’t read it like a book, for each component has a different history, different author, different context, different theme, different point of view about the events of the day in which it was written and, to some extent, about the relationship between man and God and the nature of God Himself. But whether taken in its component parts individually, or as a whole, there really is no other “book” that comes close to universal resonance with Man.

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    1. But whether taken in its component parts individually, or as a whole, there really is no other “book” that comes close to universal resonance with Man.

      Could not agree more.

      And you are also right that we cannot read the Bible like an ordinary book. We cannot expect to understand it just by starting at the beginning and reading through to the end. It pays to have good commentaries, to have a disciplined approach, and to study as part of a small group. We must pray, and we must be prepared to read the Good Book more than once. But the reward is great. Wisdom is priceless.

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  3. An abuse of imagination— nice CT

    That got my attention, and the idea WHAT fills my mind is incriminating. We naturally think that a false god is so far removed from we as believers, but not so fast as you point out.

    STUFF-
    SELF-

    Two big ones there. But God’s anecdote is always right in front of us.

    ‘Set your affections on things above.’
    If ‘I’ would just get out of the way………..

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      1. Dang Tom,

        Yes tkx for that link, have not read BF bio, your clip of his positions is a confirming word of a good man. Truly a man of mettle.

        Good addition re. Lucifer! That rascal has claws reaching until today……

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        1. You are welcome.

          I understand that like Benjamin Franklin George Washington also made a deliberate effort to discipline himself to be virtuous. I wish more of us made that sort of effort.

          Looking back, I think I just tried stay out of trouble.

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  4. Great post. Re. your statement “Unfortunately, just worshiping one God, the Creator, is not enough.”
    I suggest it IS enough.
    [ 1 Timothy 2:5-6King James Version (KJV)
    5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
    6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.]

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    1. Interesting comment.

      We don’t disagree. I don’t disagree with 1 Timothy 2:5-6.

      Consider the context of my statement about one God. Consider that Paul puts a name to the one God He would have us worship. That God is almighty, but He is not distant. He loves us, and through His Son we become His children. There is no other being that men call god who is God.

      Consider what the Apostle Peter meant when he spoke before the Sanhedrin.

      Acts 4:5-12 English Standard Version (ESV)

      5 On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, 6 with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” 8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, 9 if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

      Some would suppose the men of the Sanhedrin and the apostles worshiped the same God, but whereas the apostles taught we must love our Lord, put our faith in Him, and obey Him in spirit; the men of the Sanhedrin spoke of a god of Law. That god does not exist. Jehovah gave Moses the Law, but the Jews never had the capacity to obey on their own. If we think we can save ourselves by obeying the Law, we also err. That’s why when God gave Moses the Law He included commands such as the following:

      Deuteronomy 6:5 English Standard Version (ESV)

      5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

      Leviticus 19:18 English Standard Version (ESV)

      18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

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      1. Excellent. Thanks for your response. In reading about Ben Franklin in you blog, you clarified a question I had long wondered about. [whether he was a deist, or a professed Christian] Sad that he doubted His deity; that he died without professing Christ as his savior.

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        1. Is Ben Franklin damned? We all doubt the deity of Jesus to some extent. Was Franklin a good man. I am not his judge, but I must admit that if I go to heaven, and I don’t find Franklin there I will be surprised. I will wonder: Franklin is not here and I am?

          As far I know Franklin tried to live by the teachings of Jesus, and he did it better than most who confidently affirm the deity of Christ. Given how Jesus was annoyed by gratuitous requests miracles, I have to wonder why the sort of faith that Franklin demonstrated would not have pleased Him. Thomas loved Jesus, but faith in His deity required cold, hard, proof.

          In some respects Franklin’s faith was weak. However, in other respects Franklin demonstrated, by living a Godly life, a great faith in God. What man besides Jesus ever demonstrated a perfect faith?

          Anyway, because we can not do the job properly, we are not suppose to judge each other, certainly not harshly. None of us is capable of peering into a man’s heart.

          God is our judge, and He is our salvation. He knows us better than we know ourselves. If we honor someone or love someone, we can take comfort in the fact that God is the perfect judge. If the honor or love we bestow is justified, is it really so hard to believe that God will find a way to save them?

          Like

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