Although our title above is in error as far as the rules for capitalization are concerned, this title nevertheless is doctrinally, theologically and Scripturally correct. The rule for capitalization is that “all words in titles of books, periodicals; essays and the like, except particles of three letters or less; academic degrees and their abbreviations shall be capitalized.” And again, “Proper nouns, words used as proper nouns, and (generally) their derivatives used in the primary sense shall be capitalized.”
It is a rather tragic situation and pathetic as well that one has to be in error in order to be right. We have come to a strange situation when one must break a rule of writing in order to write correctly. This bit of contradiction and inconsistency is in the world because sin is in the world. Before the entrance of sin into the world man would never have spoken of a god or ever conceived of using the word with a lower case letter at the beginning. Adam said, “God,” and to him a god was the nonentity that it is. A god simply is nothing and does not exist, as Paul also points out in I Corinthians 8:4. Writes he, “As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.” He continues in the next verses, “For though there be that are called gods (note the lower case letter wherewith the word begins) whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of Whom are all things, and wee in Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom are all things, and we by Him.” How then can we and shall we speak of trusting in a human God? There is no such thing! And even though we do use capital letters to designate men and objects which do not exist, such as Uncle Sam and Santa Claus, Utopia and Martians, God forbid that we place a creature on the level with the Creator to call a thing God! We would rather be correct in God’s sight and render Him the honor due only to His name than to be considered learned, educated, cultured, refined, grammatically and editorially correct.
To many the idea of a human god is objectionable. Many rightly see that a human god is no greater than we and must fall short of helping poor, frail humanity. A god with human characteristics, even though they be of power far greater than ours, is still a dependent creature. Humanity is limited and never self-sufficient. We need a God who indeed is God. Men generally speak of their god as being divine, and by this very word mean to express a transcendency that lifts their god above man. But even though men generally attribute to their gods a superhuman power, wisdom and glory, there is yet so much trust in a human god—even when men claim that Jehovah is their God—that in His fear we do well to examine our own lives and thinking, lest we be found praying to and confessing a god instead of God.
All idolatry is not image worship, even though all image worship is idolatry. And image worship always manifests itself in the worship of and trust in a creaturely god. Look about you in the image worship of the Pagan world that still outwardly and openly sacrifices to idols of wood and stone! What monstrosities they make1 A fierce looking, hideous conglomeration of parts of birds and beasts and of man is the composition of their idol. To try to express the power (?) of their god, they give their image those parts of animals that symbolize power to man. Their terror before this figment of their own imagination they express in fierce, scowling lines upon the face of their idol. In one way or another and by borrowing from the creatures which they can see and of whose powers they know, the heathen make an image of what they think their god is like. It does not always turn out to be a human god but more often far more like a beast even than man. But the outcome always is, when men begin to fashion an image of their god, that we see a god that is nothing more than a combination of creatures. And it may be added that no matter how beautiful we might try to make our image, it will still be a gross insult to the living God whose place we try to take away by our idol, or whom we claim to represent by our image.
Isaiah asks not foolishly but in all seriousness, “To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto Him?” Isaiah 40:18. Compare Him to any creature, be it man in His image, or be it Gabriel and Michael the archangels, you have dragged Him down from His lofty, divine position and made Him (only in your thinking and never in actual fact) a creature-god. You have insulted, debased, ridiculed Him. No wonder He strictly forbids in the second commandment of His law that we make any graven images to worship as representing Him. Did Israel do Him justice by making a golden calf? and saying, “These be the gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” And it is not simply representing Him by a golden calf that is condemned, but all likenesses of God, and all ideas concerning Him except those which He gives of Himself in His Word.
He is the Incomparable One. There is no creature like unto Him, for He is the Creator and not a creature. And though a man may be quite satisfied and pleased when you make a likeness of him in marble or upon canvass, the living God wants no representations of Himself by the creature. Man may even be flattered by that likeness and become puffed up to see his likeness displayed before other men. God is filled with righteous wrath and indignation when the creature tries to express in the created matter the untreated God. Jesus told the woman at the well in Samaria, “God is a spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” We must know Him and derive our opinion of Him from what He says in His Word of truth, and not from some statue or picture which most assuredly will tell the lie concerning Him. For He cannot be likened unto any creature, but as the incomparable and transcendent God can be known only by what He says of Himself. He can be known only in His Word.
How can you with finite, limited material make a likeness of that which is infinite and unlimited? How big will you make this likeness and show that He is bigger because He is infinite? How many eyes will you give that likeness to show that He is all-seeing and all-knowing; or will you make Him all eye? But then where is the hearing, the speaking? How will you show His holiness? By a halo of gold around His head? And this will adequately express that His whole being is holy? It will clearly each the unlearned that He is holy and not that holiness hangs over Him or is added to Him? The Son of God in our flesh had definite features—which by the way, He did not want preserved. He could have led man to invent the camera and color film twenty centuries ago, had He wished to have us know these physical features, and were they essential for our faith and salvation. His Son in our flesh also we must know by faith and as He is revealed in the Word. We need no likeness of Him who could be likened, had God chosen to preserve His features for us today. We need His life, His Spirit and His salvation, not a photograph or statue of Him. Surely we do not need a statue of Him on the dash board of bur automobiles, of Mary and any of the saints. This too is image worship and idolatry, for it puts the creature in His place to one degree or another.
So far we have not lost many readers, no doubt. To a point we always find agreement and can jointly condemn certain evil practices’ and works of unbelief. But let us look inwardly as well as outwardly. Is the God Whom we trust actually God, or is He a human god and thus not God? It is relatively simple to find another’s human god. What about ours? If, indeed, we have not already taken the position that He is dead.
Indeed, what do we say of His love, mercy and grace?
The fool says in his heart that there is no God; and the Church has every right to call those who thus speak heathens. The Modernist says that God is dead; and the Church has every right to say that those who speak that way of God are not Christians and are likewise heathens. Scripture does that! In Psalm 115:2 those who ask, “Where is now their God?”, are called heathens. Certainly they tire not disciples of Christ and worthy of the name Christians. Christ never professed that God is dead. A church member who takes that stand is dead! He evidences a dead heart, a heart as dead as stone. He reveals himself as one dead in trespasses and sins. He shows that there is not a spark of spiritual life in him. But while we can agree on the idolatry of these extremes, what about presenting the living God as having attributes that are beset by human limitations?
God is love. He is the God of all grace. And Christ is our merciful High-priest. To this all must agree, for this is the literal word of God. But the question is whether we listen to what Scripture has to say of these attributes of God. Do we begin with the love of man and explain God’s love in its light? Or do we actually see that God is love and that in man, created in His image and before the fall and only after regeneration, there is a creaturely reflection of that infinite love of God? Jesus said, “I am the true vine, ye are the branches.” And again He said, “I am the true (rather than good) shepherd.” Shall we change these and say that Christ is like the natural shepherd and like the natural vine? Scripture approaches the matter from the exactly opposite direction. The vine which we see with the natural eye, and the human shepherd who tends the literal flock of sheep are the pictures. Christ and His people are the true vine and branches and shepherd and sheep. No different is it with God’s attributes of love, mercy and grace. What we see in man of love, mercy and grace are such faint reflections of what is so infinite in God.
Arminianism of every hue and flavor presents a human god who is disappointed in love far more often than he is loved by the object upon which he sets his affection. God loves everybody, so the story goes, but he succeeds in getting so few to accept his love and to love him in return. With this, of course, goes a human power. No, to be honest we must say a subhuman power. This is even reflected in that God-dishonoring question which results from having an imaginary god, “Why not let God have His way with you and save you?” Here, indeed, is a human god, for that god turns out to be man. He has the power to frustrate the god that wants to save him. And if God’s love is a reflection of ours, this is to be understood as being the power(?) of His love. God must be disappointed in love, if His love is no more sturdy and substantial than that of the creature. Vines and shepherds die. If God as our shepherd is a reflection of the human shepherd, the Modernist has his room to say today that God is dead. At least He will come to death sooner or later. If Christ, the vine, is only a picture of what we see growing in the field, He too will die. For all these are temporary creatures that depend upon an Independent, Self-sufficient One.
Let us break down our images of Baal. Let not our children see and be tempted to bow down and to put their trust in Dagon, Ashteroth or any of the modern idols. But by all means break these mental images as well and smash them to smithereens! It is more difficult to do that. But the danger of a mental image is not less than that of an image of wood and stone. And the trust in a mental image that originates in man’s mind and is not derived from the Word of God is idolatry and image worship as surely as Israel committed these sins in worshipping the golden calf.
It may be said of and to Modernism, “Your god is too small.” But this holds for Arminianism and Pelagianism and all false doctrines as well. They always are trust in human gods, and so often in gods that have less power and wisdom even than man. A human god cannot save humanity, for it is produced by humanity and has all of its frailties and shortcomings. In His fear look up to Him Who is in the heavens and has done as He has pleased. Trust in the God of Psalm 115:3. He will not let you down.