CREATE A GOD
If it is true that man having lost his vision of God, creates gods for himself, by projecting into immensity his own distorted being, it follows therefore that there must be reaction on the character of man himself.
In describing the idols of the nations, the Psalmist makes use of remarkable and suggestive words.
Their idols are silver and gold,
The work of men's hands,
They have mouths, but they speak not;
Eyes have they, but they see not;
They have ears, but they hear not;
Noses have they, but they smell not;
They have hands, but they handle not;
Feet have they, but they walk not;
Neither speaks them through their throat.
They that make them shall be like unto them;
Yea, every one that trusts in them." (Psa. 115:4-8)
This is the declaration of a great principle that a man is always like his God. Having created a god upon the pattern of him, man becomes governed by that idea, and so the process of deterioration goes forward.
The whole fact may be indicated by bringing together a group of Scriptures.
First, the statement of Genesis, "So He drove out the man." (Gen. 3:24) Next the statement from the prophecy of Hosea, "They . . . have made them molten images of their silver, even idols according to their own understanding." (Hosea 13:2)
Third, a declaration of the Psalmist, "they that make them shall be like unto them; Yea, every one that trusts in them." (Psa. 115:8)
Fourth, Paul's description of the condition of the people, who have become idolaters, "having no hope and without God in the world." (Eph. 2:12). Man alienated from God through sin, answered the craving of his nature for God by creating one. He became degraded by his own false conception, and the final fact is that being without God, he is also without hope, suicides amass.
The present article will be devoted to a consideration, first, of the fact that separation from God issues in unlikeness; secondly, of the unlikeness resulting from separation; concluding with a summing up of the position as indicating the call for Christ.
In the fact of his alienation from God, man has lost his own spiritual life, so as material death is the separation of the spirit from the body, so spiritual death is the separation of the spirit from God. The Scripture thought concerning the death of the spirit is nowhere that of cessation of the spirits existence for it can be made alive again, regenerated. Death means cessation of existence only with regard to that which is perishable, the body. The body is but the temporary and probationary dwelling-place of man's spirit. Death for the body means the end of its existence. The death of the spirit consists in its existence, but in separation from that Spirit of God, in fellowship with Whom it is alone equal to the fulfillment of all its essential functions on its path towards perfection (Matt. 5:48; Jude 24). Separated from God, the spirit of man retains its consciousness of great possibilities, without being able to realize and fulfill them. Eyes which do not see, ears which do not hear, the only consciousness of God is that of an intellectual conviction of His existence, and some even deny that, not that of a personal acquaintance with Him.
This statement comes as more than a declaration of a doctrine. It is the expression of an experience. Apart from the miracle of regeneration no man has a true vision of God. Sometimes in boastfulness, and in the attitude of ridicule, men will declare that they do not believe in the existence of God, because they have never seen God. (Modern scientific evolutionary thought).God is present in the orderliness of Nature (Rom. 1:20), in the magnificent and minute beauty of the infinitely great and the infinitely small. Man cannot see Him, only His power and Godhead. To those whose hearts are pure and whose eyes are open, He is to be seen in the face of a little child, and in all the movements of the times. But man, alienated from the Divine life, though dwelling in the place of vision sees nothing. The light shines, but the darkened eye perceives it not. The voice speaks, but the heavy ear hears it not. God is near to every man, but the dead spirit is unconscious of His nearness.
In that wonderful address of Paul to the men of Athens, he said, "Ye men of Athens, in all things I perceive that ye are very religious. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. What therefore ye worship in ignorance, this I set forth unto you. The God that made the work and all things therein, He, being Lord of heaven and earth, dwelled not in temples made with hands; neither is He served by men's hands, as though He needed anything, seeing He Himself giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and He made of one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed seasons, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek God, if haply they might feel after Him, and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us: for in Him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain even of your own poets have said, " For we are also His offspring." (Acts 17:22-28).
The great statement that He "is not far away from each one of us: for in Him we live, and move, and have our being " has reference not merely to the company of the saints, but to all men. Human life is sustained within the fact of the Divine and all its energy (Col. 1:20). All human force exerted is of God. The very strength in which man rebels against Him, and hinders the coming of His Kingdom, and walks along the way of his pilgrimage, is Divine strength, though prostituted to base uses by the perversion of the will of God. Thus man, walking in the midst of a great light, stumbles and falls in darkness, because he is blind. Man alienated from God is in the place of vision, but sees it not; passes along his pathway surrounded by the infinite music of the voice of God, and yet has no hearing thereof. He is spiritually dead: in the light, but sightless; spoken to, but deaf.
The result of this with regard to man's conception of God is, as has been shown, that he creates the false deities upon the basis of a magnificent but false humanity. Its result in the case of his spiritual nature is inevitably that of deterioration. Having no pattern, and therefore no true understanding of his own being as to its possibility and goal, he appropriates the very energies that were supplied for his progress in such way as to ensure his degradation. Man who does not know God, does not know himself, and is therefore not able to realize the true ideal of life. The final word in the system of Greek thought was expressed in the oft-quoted sentence, "man know thyself." That which is remarkable about the injunction is that these men had discovered the ultimate necessity. What they failed to discover was the way in which men should be able to obey their injunction, and know themselves. No man can know himself who does not know God. Just as man, having lost the vision of God, creates a false deity upon the basis of his own distorted intelligence, so thereafter, he attempts to bring himself into conformity with the false deity, and thus perpetuates the ruin, and ensures the final degradation. In the Divine economy man is a perfect union of spirit and body, which union issues in a mind or consciousness truly balanced, having comprehension of spiritual things, and therefore true understanding of things material. Through sin and the death of the spirit, there has entered into human life discord between spirit and flesh, and the mind is unbalanced in appreciation of values, and clouded in its outlook upon all facts. Discord tends to discord. The instrument created for fellowship with God, in order to the representation of God, itself being out of order, because out of communion with God, is now only capable of expressing distorted truth concerning God, which is the most terrible form of heresy.
In dwelling more particularly upon the unlikeness resulting, the two facts in human nature already referred to must be remembered. Essentially man is spirit. Apparently man is body. That is to say the unseen but essential fact in human life is that of the spirit. The body is at once a medium through which the spirit receives its impressions, and its knowledge concerning material things, and expresses to others spiritual truths. In both of these man has become unlike God. As unfallen man is like God, the essential likeness being in the fact of the spirit, but the revelation of that fact being through the medium of the body; so fallen man, distanced from God, and ignorant of God, is unlike God in the essential fact of his spiritual nature, and therefore fails to give any expression of God thru the medium of his physical being.