Monday, April 18, 2005

FIVE DISTORTED IMAGES OF GOD. I initiated a preaching/teaching series on Sunday called "The Image of God." The images of God we carry in our mind's eye are far more potent for shaping our spirituality than the beliefs or creeds to which we give assent. With the help of J. B. Phillips and Juanita Ryan's work, I described five distorted images of God:

1. Resident policeman. “God’s gonna get you if you don’t watch out." This god is ready to arrest you if you step out of line. This god may be seen as unsympathetic, emotionally distant, cold, and interested only in facts or performance. This god can also be the “bad cop”…a bully, an intimidator, an abuser. The main response to this distorted image of God: fear and guilt.

2. Busy and aloof manager of the universe. Some say: “God’s busy somewhere…but he’s too busy for little ol’ me and my concerns.” In this common image, God is too busy with important things to care about or to listen to me. God’s doing something somewhere…but he’s just not there for me. This god is unreliable, or a god who abandons me. The main response to this distorted image of God: loneliness.

3. Uncle Sam god. This is “God-on-our-side.” This image of God makes our might right. This is the war god, who blesses men’s wars, who condones mass violence in the name of national pride, who justifies whatever is said to be in the nation’s best interest. This is the god of civil religion. No matter what the God of the Bible declares and calls for, if this god is conjured up, many people yield to the Uncle Sam god. The main response to this distorted image of God: smugness and self-righteousness.

4. God-in-a-box. Confined to the shelf or in a limited space for limited purposes, you take him out when you need him. This is the consumer god, who stays in his place in our compartmentalized lives. Sunday god. Pet god. Like a troll doll; rub his tummy when you really need him. God-in-a-box helps you get what you want without crossing boundaries that you have set for him. The main response to this distorted image of God: self-absorbed.

5. Offended, unpleasable tyrant. Some people imagine God as a person with impossibly demanding expectations. You’re trying hard to please this god…but you can’t quite measure up. The standards are high…just out of your reach. You get the feeling this god is offended and you want to please him but you’re not sure how. You’re really not sure what this god expects…like a moving target. The main response to this distorted image of God: tired (from trying hard to please).

Do any of these describe the image of God in your own head and heart?

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