Our thoughts about God are shaped and forged throughout life. The question is what is it that is molding our perceptions of God? I imagine that most Christians would say without questions that our ideas regarding who God is and how He is to be worshipped should be shaped and guided by the scriptures. However, throughout the ages and even in our present time, there have been many who glean their views on God more from the culture and preferences rather than the Lord’s infallible breathed Word.
Believers seem quick to make a stand against blatant heresies, such as pagan rituals or the worship of false deities. But when it comes to tiny variations of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, more times than not Christians will compromise on the truth of scripture in an attempt to widen the narrow road that Jesus spoke of in Matthew’s Gospel.
Our Americanized quasi Christian culture has taken the immutable Gospel and has ever so slightly made changes in attempts to give Jesus a make over, so that He might be more attractive to the world. It seems too harsh to view Jesus as a righteous judge, so modern culture has attempted to make Him less of an authority and more of a buddy. The world doesn’t want a God who is wrathful against sin. Instead, it would rather have a God who would prefer that His children turn from sin, but merely shakes His head in a ‘boys will be boys‘ type attitude and just overlooks it.
Books fill the shelves of our so-called ‘Christian’ bookstores promoting variations of the Gospel that are in truth fabricated lies. We have hundreds of novels sold each year of people claiming to have died and gone to see Heaven, only for God to then send them back to earth to tell their story. And professing believers buy them by the dozens, proving that they get their views of the afterlife more from man than from God. Listen to what God says about such tall tales.
In the Gospel of Luke, the rich man and the poor man named Lazarus both died. The poor man went to be with Abraham in Heaven and Lazarus went to Hell. The rich man begged Abraham to allow Lazarus to cross back over from the after life and back into the world so that he could go and warn his lost brothers of the horrors of Hell. Here is Abraham’s rely to the rich man’s request that Lazarus be allowed to reach out to Hades to give him a drop of water;
“And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.” Luke 16:26.
And to answer directly the request of the rich man in allowing Lazarus to cross back over into the physical world after death in order to strengthen people’s faith, Abraham said;
“But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” Luke 16:29-31.
Keep in mind that so many professing believers today will defend these Heavenly tourism type books by claiming that there is nothing wrong with them if they strengthen people’s faith. Yet God said through Abraham that Moses and the prophets is all that we will ever need. No new revelation is needed. If we need extra biblical stories in order to strengthen our faith, then what we are saying is that the scriptures God has given us are not enough.
Also, there is a great chasm says Abraham, between the afterlife and our world. And no one is allowed to see it and return. The Apostle Paul didnt physically enter the afterlife, but was given a vision of it and told never to speak of it by the Lord. Clearly, God has given us everything we need contained in His word in order to properly know, worship, and follow Him. The scriptures need no additions and they lack nothing. God’s Word is sufficent.
Culture poses the questions, ‘What is wrong with a book or a movie is it is off a tiny bit theologically but serves as an encouragement? Are those opposed to such books just being nip pickers?’ The answer is not at all, because it skews God as He has revealed Himself throughout scripture. And if we alter the scriptures or the truths that God has revealed concerning Himself even just a little bit, it is as I mentioned in the previous blog, no Gospel at all (Galatians 1:6).
Our views of God matter, because they bleed into how we worship God. When it comes to the differing views of God inside the church, there are three doctrinal principals that are used to categorize them. The first is called the normative principal. This states that our worship of God teaches that whatever is not prohibited in scripture is permitted in worship. Basically if the scriptures don’t directly tell us not do to it, then its ok to go ahead and do it.
However there is a problem with the Normative principal as seen through scripture. In the book of Leviticus, the sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, came to the tabernacle to offer worship to God and brought with them what scripture called ‘strange fire.’ However, God had previously given instruction on how He was to be worshipped in Leviticus chapters 8-9. And this strange fire was not on the list of how God said that He was to be worshipped.
Therefore, in Leviticus 10, God killed the sons of Aaron for going beyond what God had commanded of them. Clearly going beyond the word of God is not advised. To clarify, this principal does not pertain to modern day additions such as lights for the sanctuary, or using a drop screen for hymnal words. Nor does the normative principle ban certain styles of worship. It is not a matter of style, but rather content.
The question we ask is, Does this glorify the Lord? And are we glorifying Him according to His ways? These things are not different methods of worship, but rather they help to enhance what the Lord has required. The idea behind the normative principal is the manner in which you are entering into worshipping the Lord.
Next there is the Regulative principal, which states that our worship of God is to be guided and informed fully by the scriptures. This is the principal that I personally align with. If it is not outlined in God’s Word, then its not to be included in worship or our perceptions of the Lord. The regulative principle is related to how we view God. As seen in our modern day culture, if our world begins to add or change what God says about Himself through scripture, then it is to be viewed as heretical lies.
Regarding the Regulative principal, Derek Thomas wrote, “Where does the Bible teach this? In more places than is commonly imagined, including the constant stipulation of the book of Exodus with respect to the building of the tabernacle that everything be done “after the pattern … shown you” (Ex. 25:40); the judgment pronounced upon Cain’s offering, suggestive as it is that his offering (or his heart) was deficient according to God’s requirement (Gen. 4:3–8); the first and second commandments showing God’s particular care with regard to worship (Ex. 20:2–6); the incident of the golden calf, teaching as it does that worship cannot be offered merely in accord with our own values and tastes; the story of Nadab and Abihu and the offering of “strange fire” (Lev. 10); God’s rejection of Saul’s non-prescribed worship — God said, “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Sam. 15:22); and Jesus’ rejection of Pharisaical worship according to the “tradition of the elders” (Matt. 15:1–14). All of these indicate a rejection of worship offered according to values and directions other than those specified in Scripture.”
Also in defense of the Regulative principal, The London Baptist Confession states, “The acceptable way of worshiping the true God, is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures”
But there is a third principle that is not derived from scripture but rather from man. It is called the Affective principle. The Affective principal is probably the most popular of the principles of worship in our society today. It is not based on what is or is not mentioned in God’s Word. Rather, the Affective principal states that whatever has the greatest affect on my emotions and how I feel about God is the means of how I will worship God.
Simply put, it says that God will be worshipped in a manner based on my own preferences, with little to no regard to His Word. This is clearly seen in our churches today, particularly in more charismatic circles. Churches like Bethel in Redding California and many worship bands associated with them focus less on glorifying the Lord through their worship songs and more on creating a hypnotic state of meditation. Their songs do not focus on glorifying and exhausting Christ so much as they repeat certain words like ‘Fire’ over and over again, creating almost a paganistic trance like state.
Why do people lean towards a principal of worship like the Affective principal? For the same reason that so many heretical books and movies that claim to be Christian are so popular in the culture. Because people in our flesh tend to be more drawn towards what is emotionally pleasing rather than what is scripturally true. And thus, our culture becomes a Romans 1 culture;
“…because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” Romans 1:25.
Within the confines of the Affective principal, we worship the creature, which is ourselves according to our preferences, rather than the creator God as He has directed through His Word. Clearly this is wrong. Yet still, it is a predominant principle adopted by evangelicals today.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus warns the church that there will be many faulty version of Christ that are imposters and antichrist. And that by them many would be led astray.
“For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” Matthew 24:24.
This still rings true today. So many faulty versions of Christianity being presented to the church through the avenues of entertainment and media. And due to a lack of the knowledge of God and proper discernment, many professing believers are being led away from the faith and the orthodox teachings of Christ, proving that they never were in the truth to begin with.
“These people left our churches, but they never really belonged with us; otherwise they would have stayed with us. When they left, it proved that they did not belong with us.” 1 John 2:19.
It is crucial that we get the Gospel right. Therefore we must know God as He has revealed Himself through His Word. Although pop culture may paint versions of God through the media that strive to give us these warm and fuzzy feelings while calling itself Christian, we need to explore if what is being said is Biblical, regardless of our emotional investment.
The Apostle Paul urges us to stay grounded in the Word and not stay off into myths.
“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-2.
We need followers of Christ who will plant their feet firm in the Word of God and be unwavering in truth. The world will argue that we need to present a picture of Christ to the lost that is more appealing in order to win them. But we need ask, win them to what? Because again, if any attribute of God is raised or lowered above what the scriptures have lain before us, then it is not the Jesus of the Bible, but a golden calf made of our own imaginations. To believe or become a proponent of anything other than the truth of God’s Word is to have a belief that is in vain.
Let us be a people who heed the warning of Paul as given to young Timothy, and not be people that are given to fall for the deceptions of our world today.
“For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.” 2 Timothy 4:3.
May our views of God be as the reformers of old, shackled to the Word of God, in saying; Sola Fide, by faith alone, Sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone, Solus Christus, through Christ alone, Sola Gratia, by grace alone.
Soli Deo Gloria, glory to God alone.