Chinese Take-out Theology

Take-out boxRecently a Christian journal featured the work of two Christian counselors. Here’s how the reporter saw the essence of their work: “Their vision of God is not that of a vengeful force who punishes man for his sins, but rather one who loves, forgives and guides. So often, people have a distorted image of God…Therapy may help overcome that.” The phrase, “their vision of God,” puzzles me. Am I as a Christian counselor supposed to order up my own god? Is God merely a projection of my own problems and moods? Or do my clients determine the kind of god I see? Then there are the situational adjustments. Although I may tilt in favor of a loving, forgiving God, are there times when a vengeful one comes in handy? If so, when? I guess a personally customized God comforts some people, but it (he? she?) leaves me anxious and confused. People smarter than I tell me that we live in a “post-modern” world. The Enlightenment jettisoned God in the eighteenth century and replaced Him with reason. The twentieth century threw out reason and replaced it with relativism. There are no timeless truths today; everything is relative and every person decides for himself or herself what makes life worth living and who God is. (Sounds a lot like the book of Judges, doesn’t it?) This relativism I see reflected on fundamental believers bumper stickers:

“God says it, I believe it, Therefore, it’s true.”
Do you see the relativistic error? We have made God’s truth conditional on our believing it! It should read:
“God says it, Therefore, it’s true.”
And His Word remains true whether you or I believe it or not. Culture corrupts the church as much as the church changes culture, unfortunately. So we shouldn’t be surprised that modern relativism shapes the thinking of many Christian counselors and other church ministries. Systematic theology (much too rational!) has been junked; you may as well burn your Hodge and Strong. Instead, welcome to the world of Chinese take-out theology, where you can order the god who fits your taste. Are you in the mood for a stern god? Maybe your neighbor did something to offend you and he needs some punitive justice to put him in his place. Then choose from Column A. Or maybe you are in a tight spot and need some rescuing. Look to Column B. There you find the Omni-God-you know, all powerful, all-knowing, etc. Or maybe you want some warm fuzzies. Column C is loaded with them: love, mercy, compassion, patience, and all the other comforting stuff of which a victimized culture believes it has been cheated. Pay your money and take your choice, but be sure to ask yourself,
“Is this really the God that I will meet at the Judgment?”
Who is that God? He is the God of the Bible who is perfect in all of His attributes. He is both loving and jealous, merciful and angry, transcendent and imminent, vengeful and forgiving. He is all that He is, and He encounters us in the completeness of His being, not merely as our alter ego. Your ministry becomes robust and far-reaching when you embrace the fullness of God, but it becomes still and ineffective when you narrow God to those attributes that you or your parishioners find personally comfortable. Let God shape your ministry; don’t let your ministry shape your god. Encounter all that God is in Jesus Christ, “for God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him” (Col. 1:19). Follow Him in a discipling ministry that comforts, confronts, challenges, forgives, calls down judgment and offers the touch of mercy. In Him “loving kindness and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Ps. 85:10). With that kind of theology, you won’t feel hungry an hour later.]]>