I'm reading Miroslav Volf's FREE OF CHARGE: GIVING AND FORGIVING IN A CULTURE STRIPPED OF GRACE (Zondervan, 2005). So far so good. Here's a couple of related quotes that I think are quite profound. First: "...our images of God are rather different from God's reality... God is different from what we conceive... we unwittingly reduce God's ways to our ways and God's thoughts to our thoughts. Our hearts become factories of idols in which we fashion and refashion God to fit our needs and desires... "Slowly and imperceptibly, the one true God begins acquiring the features of the gods of this world. For instance, our God simply gratifies our desires rather than reshaping them in accordance with the beauty of God's own character" (p. 22). If I remember correctly, I think Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk, mentioned a conversation had with Abraham Heschel, the Jewish scholar. They were commenting on the first commandment, "You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20: 3). Heschel said that this was the very first commandment because this is the first step into sin, or the central sin of humanity. I think the church, as it has been through all the ages, is especially vulnerable to idol-making. We don't collect gold from our jewelry boxes, throw them into a kiln and pour the molten metal into molds to make a statue that we can bow down before and worship. I haven't lately anyway, nor do I know anyone who has. BUT! I am susceptible to the bad habit of collecting tidbits of "truth" from here and there, the little golden nuggets of my ideas, my desires, my longings and passions, even my resentments and wounds, mixing them in together to come up with some kind of an integration of thought. Then, what happens next is most interesting and dangerous: I pour this concoction into a pre-made mold, which is what I would want God to be, the shape I would most like him to take. Then, when the process is complete, I can exclaim like Aaron: "I threw it (gold) into the fire, and out came this calf!" (Ex. 32: 24), like it's a total self-revelation of God himself and not a god of my own making. How can any of us be exempt from this kind of error? It requires constant effort, brutal self-criticism, and open-minded study. Beware, because even the elect can be deceived!

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