Christians, I’m talking to us.
We profess belief in and worship of one God – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three persons in one essence. We study this God in the Bible. We learn about Him, talk about Him, and pray to Him. We tell others about Him. Our doctrine says there is no other God apart from Him.
But we all have a second God.
God(2) is the God we subconsciously make up. He has many of the characteristics of the one true God – so many that we often mistake God(2) for the one true God. But He(2) has additional qualities we ascribe to Him that may or may not be true about the God of the Bible.
Stick with me here.
Everything about us colors how we view God. How we were raised, our past experiences, our geographic locations, our current circumstances, what kind of churches we attend, what mood we are in, etc.
For example, when I picture Jesus, I envision white American Jesus. He has white, albeit tanned, skin, long, wavy brown hair, and a beard perpetually trimmed to 1/2″. He uses the Crest Whitening system on his teeth, which are perfectly straight, given his faithful visits to the orthodontist as a teenager in Nazareth. He dons an off-white robe, belted with a long piece of thick, braided rope. He always wears brown sandals, even in the winter.
To be sure, very little of this description is accurate of the Jesus of the Bible. I envision Jesus this way because I grew up in America, seeing Jesus depicted like this in American art. This portrayal of Jesus is not Jesus. This is Jesus(2), my second God.
How Jesus looks is a pretty trivial matter. I don’t think He gets offended when I picture Him incorrectly. But I need to be aware that my vision of Him could be (and probably is) wrong. When we boil it down, the picture I have in my head of Jesus is an opinion. Nowhere in the Bible is His dental health referenced. We are not told His hair color or His choice of footwear. I need to be cognizant, then, of the fact that my Jesus(2) is not the Jesus.
This becomes much more crucial when we start talking about theology. Because theology is the study of God, not the study of God(2). We cannot be dogmatic about what God(2) is and isn’t, does and doesn’t. On the other hand, we must be dogmatic about what the Bible says God is and isn’t, does and doesn’t.
For instance, there are people who believe God is sovereign. He is in control of everything. In addition, some of these people do not believe God(2) gives humans free will. Others believe the opposite: God(2) does give people free will. One of these positions is true. Both of these positions can be supported with biblical arguments. But we cannot know for sure which position is true. We must be aware, then, that our personal opinions on the matter are just that – opinions.
We cannot ascribe our opinions definitively to God. If we do, not only may we be incorrectly representing Him (if our opinions turn out to be wrong), but we contribute to a sense of division and disunity within the body of believers.
And so we must always remember: there is God as He is, and there is God as we think of Him. These two Gods are different, and we must only cling to and teach others about the first – the One True God.