who is your God?

To address this question today, I’d like to link to two quite widely divergent internet resources. One is a local paper from the interior of BC and the other is my online friend, Scott Aniol.

First, consider this lifestyles article from the lakecountrycalendar.com, Keepers of the sacred. The article discusses the decline in Canadian church attendance, among other things. The article comes to no real conclusion, certainly to no conclusion satisfying to me, but it does contain a telling observation concerning the focus of affection in Canadian hearts:

In Canada, the fastest growing religion is “none.” Fifty years ago, less than two per cent of census returns indicated “no religion.” Today, 17 per cent do nationally; in B.C., 35 per cent.

A quotation often attributed to British author G. K. Chesterton says “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing – they’ll believe in anything.”

So other things become “sacred.”

Lottery sales suggest that many transfer their faith to the almighty dollar. The volume and content of spam e-mail suggests that vast numbers now worship at the altar of sex. A significant number have raised nature to the status of god.

Meanwhile, church membership has plunged.

The exchange of the truth about God for the lie of the lottery, sex, or any number of other demi-gods is well established in secular society. I was thinking of this the other day and realized that the reason society has so many different gods is that no one of them can satisfy like the One True God. Instead, men and women pursue the little satisfactions that can be hand from the hand of many little gods like lottery and sex as mentioned here, but also including things like glamour, status, worldly prestige, sports (it’s Stanley Cup time here, and the hockey god provides much short-term satisfaction … to a point). The list of little gods is endless.

Scott Aniol addresses the notion of idolatry a little differently, instead of making observations about a secular culture, he makes a comparison of religious cultures in a piece called Leading Music at the Conference on the Church for God’s Glory. Some will no doubt be quite critical of Scott’s analysis, but rather than self-righteous self-justification, critics would probably be better to echo the disciples at the last supper and their anguished questions, “Is it I?”

Scott makes this observation near the end of his piece:

The saddest moment for me at that conference was when a good friend of mine, who grew up in conservative churches, told me that he loves the more contemporary style because he’s never worshiped better. We conservatives often get charged with idolizing certain styles of music, but I would suggest that comments like this reveal the real idolizing – people can’t experience what they believe to be worship without that kind of music.

Christians have idols too, you know.

How do you know whether you are idolizing something? When you demand certain feelings instead of walking by faith. When people enter a small Bible-preaching church, for example, they can’t expect the inspiring sound of a swelling choir. But by faith they can worship God in the small Bible-preaching church just as well as they can in the large Bible-preaching church. Why? Because we walk by faith, not by sight. Right? Right???

It seems to me that the animus behind charismatism is a kind of sanitized and Christianized idolatry – I want my feeling so that I can feel I have worshipped God. This desire for feeling infects all kinds of churches, from the charismatic movement to the most right wing fundamentalist independent Baptist with, say, stirring-emotion-manipulating evangelists and story-telling preachers and so on.

Please don’t misunderstand: I am not advocating boring for boring’s sake, but we have to get beyond the need to ‘feel like I’ve worshipped’. We need to worship God in spirit and in truth. This involves faith.

Scott concludes with this line:

The fact of the matter is that the only certain evidence of true affection is holy living. The external feelings may or may not accompany affection, and the feelings can be stimulated apart from affection. Feelings are not certain evidence that affection is present. So the only way to know for sure that someone is rightly responding to truth is by their life, not by the external “enthusiasm.”

I think Scott is right on on these points. You would do well to make his blog a regular stop on your internet pathway.

don_sig2

Comments

  1. Aaron says:

    I have two thoughts to share. First, as a charismatic, I don’t think I was drawn to the charismatic movement by a desire for feelings…I was drawn because I read in the Bible that we should “Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts…” and since I believed the Bible to be the Word of God I responded in faith. Voila, a new charismatic. And I’ll add that for me at least speaking in tongues is not so much an emotional event as a venture in faith…often the main “feeling” I have is something like, “Hmm, this is odd…I wouldn’t be doing this if the Bible didn’t encourage it”. But of course, whenever I respond to the Word in faith I meet God.

    Second, more pointedly about idolatry. I’ve discovered in myself that one of the greatest idols is the near-pathological desire to be right. It’s not enough to be saved by grace and walk in faith…I want to be RIGHT – about EVERYTHING. God have mercy on me.

  2. Aaron

    Thank you for commenting. Obviously we will disagree on some of the things you believe.

    I am working on more material on the charismatic errors specifically. It is much too much to deal with in the comments section. However, let me say this: I agree that the Bible exhorts us to pursue spiritual gifts, but we must pursue them as God ordained them, not as we wish them to be. I have yet to see any charismatic who is willing to really let the Bible speak on this issue.

    I am sorry that I can’t deal with this comprehensively at this point. More will come, I appreciate your reading, and I hope that before not too long a time I’ll have something more substantive for you.

    Maranatha!
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  3. Aaron says:

    I agree with you entirely that we must pursue the spiritual gifts as God ordained them, not as we wish them to be. So I am curious to see exactly what it is we disagree on.

    For starters I’ll freely admit that charismatics have abused spiritual gifts at times, and just let you know I’m not in the “any spirit-filled believer can speak in tongues” camp. I think 1 Cor. 12:29-30 dispells that notion, although I admit the counter-argument of 14:5 is pretty strong.

    So as you prepare your anti-charismatic material I hope you address 1 Cor. 14:39-40, and would like you to address the questions “Is the forbidding of the gifts any less of an error than their mis-use? If so, why didn’t God – through Paul – simply forbid them in his letter to the Corinthians?”
    Thanks!