It is said that if God did not exist, it would be necessary to create him. This speaks to the need or desire for something greater than ourselves. It is the reason agnostics and atheists give for dismissing the idea of God. After all, if we can create God, then God is a myth. But it is a telling statement. What kind of god would a world create? A god in its own image That’s the material we have to work with – ourselves. But that brings up another problem. We see the image of the world every day in the news and it’s not good. It’s not something we aspire to. We want something more and better that what we are capable of. What does this tell us? We must look for a god who is not the image of the world or he would not be a god worth having. Why? Are we all powerful or at the very least powerful enough or good enough to make the world become what it should be? Uh. No. Then a god worth following must be a god in his own image – separate and distinct from our image. Comparing him to us must show a sharp contrast, not a blurry familiarity.
The problem is that the polytheistic religions we see in the world show us gods that have a blurry familiarity. Some of them were just badly behaved. Zeus was a serial adulterer. Sekhmet was a mass murderess who had to be tricked into drinking beer dyed red which she thought was blood. She got dead drunk and passed out and that’s how the Egyptians ended her killing spree. Turn on the news. It looks unfortunately familiar. The Chinese often simply took humans and turned them into gods. Again, blurry familiarity. Most of these polytheistic gods only differed from humans in that they were immortal. So if you’re looking for an example to aspire to, polytheistic religions may not be the best choice.
Those who study such things tell us that most polytheistic religions begin their creation stories with a single creator god who sets everything in motion. G.K. Chesterton in The Everlasting Man says that we should view polytheistic religions not as the original religion from which the idea of a single God evolved but instead view the religion of the single all-powerful God as the original religion from which polytheism evolved. He felt that God was so overwhelming that mankind looked for gods who were more familiar, more comfortable. Since we look at creation myths and see in many of them a beginning with a single all-powerful creator god who then created or gave birth to the other gods of the polytheistic religion, I believe he has a point.
So if we look at what God says about the origins of the world and mankind, what do we see? We know that God created angels who were his servants. We read this in Colossians 1:16 which says, “For everything was created by Him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through Him and for Him.” They were not equal to God but were created to serve and worship him. See Psalm 103:20 which says “Praise the Lord, all His angels of great strength, who do His word, obedient to His command.” If you read the book of Revelation, you find them surrounding God’s throne. We also know that some of them rebelled against God as we read in Isaiah 14. This passage is held to be a description of the fall of Satan.
Shining morning star,how you have fallen from the heavens! You destroyer of nations, you have been cut down to the ground. You said to yourself: “I will ascend to the heavens; I will set up my throne above the stars of God. I will sit on the mount of the gods’ assembly, in the remotest parts of the North. I will ascend above the highest clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” But you will be brought down to Sheol into the deepest regions of the Pit.
Satan and his followers were banished to Hell as we read in II Peter 2:4 which says “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment.” Note that although the war in Heaven continues to this day and we are caught up in it, God banished them. They are already defeated but God is using them for his purposes and will ultimately stop them at the end of time.
Here is where the polytheistic religions begin. Yes, there was one creator God in the beginning. Yes, he created the angels. Many remained loyal to him but many did not. Satan swooped in on God’s new creation and convinced man to join the rebellion. Many men chose not to follow God. But the majority of mankind, in its creation stories, remembered the original God. It was the choice they made about God that decided who they worshipped.
Sin created a void between God and man. And what came in to fill the void? Fallen gods for fallen men. The angels who rebelled and fell were just the ticket for men who rebelled and fell. A frightful similarity between the demons posing as gods and the men who worship them because the men who worship them wanted to set themselves above God just like the demons already had done. We know what these imitation gods are by the lack of separation between them and us. We recognize them as fellow rebels because we are not separated from them. Two sets of rebels agreeing in the dark.
They recruit us and we recruit them. Both agreeing on one thing – rebellion. An army set against the one true God.
Our separation from God suggests the nature of the relationship between the imitation gods and ourselves and between the real God and ourselves. Our need for gods tells us that there is a God in the same way that sleep tells us we need rest. But there is a separation and so we created gods in our image to fill the gap. Gods in need of food. Gods who marry and murder and are promiscuous. It is the fact of our separation that tells us one of the most important things about what a real God must be like; he is NOT like us. If he were like us, there would be no separation. The separation exists to bring him into focus. We cannot see him unless we see the separation. Seeing the separation, we must look at ourselves and ask why. Then we must be honest about ourselves to answer the question and that’s where we lose people. Sin is not a welcome concept. Not when you can dictate what god is and thus be greater than the god you create. Not when the imitation gods will tell you that you are just fine the way you are. That’s news we want to hear.