3 Errors of Thinking About God Today (Machen)
Machen, in his book “What is Faith,” identifies 3 errors of thinking about God which were common in his day (and happen to be in ours too):
1.God is everything (Pantheism): This view identifies God as “the totality of the world” (69). Everything is a part of God–including us. As we look at the sky we see God. As we look at the birds and the trees we see God. As we think about ourselves, we see God.
Christianity is far different: Christianity believes that God is Maker and Ruler of everything–He is everywhere and Lord of all–and that He is distinct from His Creation. He is a person outside of the universe, and we can know Him.
2. God is merely the One who can supply my needs (Worshiping the gifts instead of the Giver): Some worship God only because of the benefits they hope to receive (food, shelter, comfort, protect). The focus and joy are found in the things God gives, rather than in God Himself.
Christianity is far different: the Christian desires God for God’s sake! God is the treasure and the deepest joy of a Christian’s heart.
Machen states it best, “there is one desire that is loftier still [loftier than merely desiring God for the things He gives]. It is the desire for God Himself. That desire, too often, we forget. We value God solely for the things that He can do; we make of Him a mere means to an ulterior end. And God refuses to be treated so; such a religion always fails in the hour of need. If we have regarded religion merely as ameans of getting things–even lofty and unselfish things–then when the things that have been gotten are destroyed, our faith will fail. When loved ones are taken away, when disappointment comes and failure, when noble ambitions are set at naught, then we turn away from God; we have tried religion, we say, we have tried prayer, and it has failed. Of course it has failed! God is not content to be an instrument in our hand or a servant at our beck and call. He is not content to minister to the worldly needs of those who care not a bit for Him….Has it never dawned upon us that God is valuable for His own sake, that just as personal communion is the highest thing that we know on earth, so personal communion with God is the sublimest height of all? If we value God for His own sake, then the loss of other things will draw us all the closer to Him; we shall then have recourse to Him in time of trouble as to the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.” (73-74)
3. We ‘feel’ God rather than know Him (mysticism): In this view true objective information about God is beyond our reach, unattainable, and unnecessary. What matters most is what we ‘feel’ as we strive to consider God.
Christianity is far different: the Christian believes that our faith is based on true knowledge of who God is, and this faith is “indissolubly connected with what we think of Him” ( Machen, ‘What is Faith’ 75). Both the head and the heart are involved.