When Men Create Gods

Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man… “ Romans 1:22-23

Man is certainly stark mad; he cannot make a maggot, and yet he makes gods by the dozens. – Michel de Montaigne

The term “idol worship” oftentimes conjures up images of scantily dressed jungle dwellers with bones through their noses bowing before some crudely shaped god carved out of wood or stone. And so, frequently, the degree to which people see themselves as “civilised” happens to be the very degree to which they think they are immune to idolatry.

Nothing could be further from the truth. An idol is best defined as a “God substitute”, that is, an image that is derived from a human understanding of God instead of a divine revelation from God. Such an image may indeed be carved out of wood or stone, but mostly it is constructed in the mind.

God created human beings in his image. Idolatry takes place when human beings create a god in their image. Idolatry, therefore, is nothing but a reversal of God’s natural order of creation, as is evident from the verse above. True Christianity is when we resemble God. Idolatry is when he resembles us.

This means that all of us are candidates for idol worship. We merely need to use our human understanding as a basis for our god-ideas to qualify. We then become like the triangles who concluded that they cannot say much about God accept that he’s obviously got three sides.

There is no need for such idolatrous speculation. The lost image of God is restored through Jesus Chris. He is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15), and so we can know God through him.


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