Think about how our vision of God shapes the way we live. If our God is an activist he fills our lives with activities. Alternatively a token God is a backstop for difficult moments in life but he, she, they, or it—the best term for God isn’t a matter of consensus so I’ll stay with the traditional “he”—will stay off stage most the time. And any number of questions apply: is he good? Harsh? Inviting? Clever? His qualities make a real difference for us.
And how we view God makes a difference for him. If, for instance, his existence depends on our efforts as God-makers, then our attention, our creativity, our clarity, coherence, and energy help to sustain him. Imagining and maintaining a proper and full-orbed God is a serious project. How many Bels, Baals, and Ashteroths have evaporated in past millennia for lack of proper attention?
Persistence is a major concern: it takes a devoted community for a serious God-making project to last. Prophets, priests, and practitioners all need to work together to support a given God. Finances, temples, and creeds are crucial. Tablets or documents—hopefully with jargon or archaic language—need to be developed too. It all gives weight to the project.
As a reminder, if we—or our favorite religious community—are God-makers, then we are the true gods behind the God we visualize. Either by our own creative role in the project, or by our selection of one option over others. Our decision involves self-deification in whatever measure the God we worship is shaped by our preferences.
As a sidebar comment, many folks today believe they’ve dismissed God. These include the atheists or naturalists among us. But all they’ve done is dismiss some of the overt features of God-making. In one way or another they still promote features of meaning, morality, and some sort of hope—the functions of deity—while claiming to be devoted to a chance-based “neutral” cosmos. Their God may be called Science (often separate from actual science), Nature, Evolution, Progress, or the like. And energetic promoters serve as priests and law-givers. The product—a non-god God—offers a sense of order and direction in life without requiring any personal accountability.
There are also the Christian god-making communities. A wide variety of Christian Gods exist ranging from a health-and-wealth God for materialists; a self-absorbed God for the self-absorbed; an omni-God for the power-centered folks; a love-is-God deity for experience-mongers; and many, many more.
Now let’s look at another prospect: that God—the true God—created us and not the other way round. If he created us then the real question of life is this: who is he? And, with that, what is he like? What pleases him? What displeases him? In other words, we recognize a God-centered universe in place of a human-centered universe.
The key feature in meeting the true God is that he tells us what he’s like. Our role is to listen and to embrace what he shares.
In case it helps, here’s a key indicator of whether we’ve made up a God for ourselves, or if we’ve met the true God: our anxiety. Once we meet God we get to relax. He’s able, reliable, and caring. In fact, he’s had an eternity of caring as the triune Father-Son-and-Spirit God whose mutual bond is love.
Let me add a caveat that in the fallen world there are a variety of sources for anxiety, including our physical chemistry, recent traumas, and the like. Let’s offer compassion and comfort in those cases. What we’re noting here is different: the anxiety that comes with trying to “be like God”—to be God-makers. God worshipers, by contrast, begin to experience peace.
So how does our vision of the one true God make a difference for us? He offers us an ongoing conversation. He offers the Bible as his voice and he responds to our questions and requests, as would any caring figure.
Here’s the key insight to hold on to: he’s the Creator, not us. So look to him, abide in his words, and see how good he is. Meeting him as he really is changes everything.