Psalm 96: Defining “God”

With special thanks to Aristotle, we all are able to categorize like-attributed things. We all basically know what chairs, tables, lamps, and couches are, not because we have seen every instance of them but because we understand the nature of each one of those things. We also know how to look beyond the many variations of each so as to not confuse a chair with a table.

But there are times when the lines between categories seem to blur. I remember walking into a rest stop late at night with my parents and saw what could only be described as a rocking chair toilet. It had the form of a rocking chair but had a toilet seat and a small tub underneath prepared to receive any sort of “offering” from the one sitting above. To this day I still don’t know whether I should call it a chair or a toilet, but regardless, I am certain of one thing: you will never find one in my house.

There are also more meaningful things we have a difficult time categorizing and we often end up lumping unlike things together such as social media life and real life or the life of a celebrity and the life we actually live. But of all the category confusions, one reigns supreme: the category we call “God.” For some reason we tend to place God and those things we wish were God into the same category but this is, I believe, a grave error. To illustrate what I mean let’s return to chairs for a moment and hopefully you will see my point.

Chairs are quite simply a separate seat for one person, typically with a back and four legs, though some have more feet and some have less. Some sit on rockers, some have a back, and some do not. Some have arms, some recline, some are short, tall, big or small. Some have straight backs and some have curvy backs. But if we used these attributes to define a chair we would end up including many things that are not chairs such as couches, giraffes, tables, dressers, outhouses, and the like. Regardless of variation, the defining attribute of a chairs is that it is quite simply a fixed seat upon which a single person sits, everything else is secondary.

It is no different with the category of “God,” if we look at the secondary attributes we can include many things that seem like God but really aren’t. As such, it’s important to find that one attribute clearly delineating God from all the posers.

If we choose the attribute of receiving worship, we might include things like cars, wealth, sports teams, good looks, and privacy, but none of these are truly God. We could define God as that to which we sacrifice time, treasure, or talents, but then we might include work, athletics, charity, and relationships, none of which, again, are truly God. Perhaps we could define God as that to which we devote religious activities, but this would include many things, people, or fabricated entities none of which are God. But if we put those categories aside for a moment and think, we will quickly see there is really only one simple defining characteristic for God: the power of creation. This very easy line to draw is really the only way to put things in their proper place.

A few questions might help to illustrate the point.

Has my car created the universe? No. Has my significant other provided life for all living beings? No. Do my material possessions predate the origin of the universe itself and will they survive its demise? No. Ask any question like this of any sort of “God” you might consider and, with the exception of God, the answer will always be a resounding “no.” Not my job, my position, Molech, Brahman, or anything else can answer this question in the affirmative and as such do not fit into the category titled “God.” They are all posers.

This seems quite simple but most of us tend to turn the simple things in life difficult. Instead of accepting the obvious, most of us want to take a secondary attribute and define it as the primary attribute so we can feel good about our worship of a false god. But, even though we have the freedom to worship futile pastimes such as Netflix, porn, the local bar, illicit relationships, or any one of a number of options, we must not deceive ourselves, none of these have the power of creation, and as a result none of them can provide that for which we are ultimately seeking: salvation.

If you think for a moment about why we are so enamored with cars, wealth, sports teams, good looks, privacy, work, athletics, possessions, relationships, jobs, position, Molech, Brahman, or anything else you will quickly realize it is because we seek some form of salvation. We want saved from this mundane life. We want saved from our shortcomings, mistakes, maladies, and other pains. We want salvation, and we find it in these other things we treat as “God” but such salvation is only short-lived. None of them can provide the sort of salvation that transcends creation and lasts forever. None of them provides that which we truly long for and that which we ultimately need. Only the true God who made the universe and who is holy and righteous can provide such a thing.

You can sit on a stone, but don’t call it a chair, for it isn’t one. You can worship providers of false salvation, but don’t call them God, for there is only one God, and only he provides what we really need.

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