This is a topic that relates to the nature of God (specifically the father), and something I've been pondering over for months. I thought it would be nice to get insight from others. I don't want to get so much into the realm of the morality of the topic, but rather to explore what it means to have an idol of God or an image of God. When I say image, I don't mean a picture or a drawing on paper or a statue. Not a visual image, but a conceptual image. Naturally, we must have some concept of something to have any understanding of it at all or to be able to talk about it. But I'm wondering what is the line at which our conceptual image of God becomes an idol that pulls us away from who/what God really is? We can go by the Bible, but even if we can agree on the attributes of God - he is Just, he is merciful, he is love, he is Good - how does our understanding of justice, mercy, love, or good limit our understanding of God if we are too firm in conflating God with our limited understanding of what these attributes are?
I'll start with the idea of an idol in the form of the golden bull created by the Hebrews while Moses was on the mountain with God since we are all probably fairly familiar with that story. I wonder what was the nature of the worship of that idol, and how the Israelites conceptualized it. Surely they weren't worshipping the atomic element of gold or the shape of a bull, but worshipping what the figure represented to them. I don't know if there are any contextual clues as to what the bull did represent - whether it was some made-up god they came up with on the spot, or if they were using it as a proxy for YHWH because they felt disconnected from him when Moses was away. Or perhaps some third possibility.
Then I wonder about the connection between what they were doing there and how the spirit of the commandment to have no idols is paralleled with the other sins of thought that Jesus spoke about. For example, that lusting after a woman in your heart is as sinful as actually sleeping with her, or wishing to murder someone is as sinful as actually murdering them. It makes sense to me that the same line of teaching - of keeping to the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law like the Pharisees - would apply to conceptual idolatry. Which brings me to the question of what conceptual idolatry would look like. And there are multiple things I think are worth considering regarding the question. Like I said before, you do need to have some conception of a thing in order to think or talk about it, and surely we do want to think and talk about God. Also, I consider that I don't really understand how important, or even how possible, it is to understand what God is because he is necessarily so much more than a human can imagine. One of the things that most people can agree on about God is that he is infinitely [insert any aspect of God here]. A phrase I find usefully encompassing is that God is "the which than which there can be no whicher." So he would be the love than which there could be no more loving, perfection than which there can be no more perfect, and so on. If that is the case, then anything we put in our minds about god will necessarily not even be the first step toward how much of that characteristic he actually embodies if he is infinitely great.
Again, I don't want to get into the morality of it, because I don't think it's my place nor my concern, but I do think about what might be the harm in having an "image" or an "idol" of God, just in a practical sense. Take just a denominational difference in the conception of God. Of course, not all Christians subscribe exactly to the teachings of the denomination they feel most connected to, and even if they do, they probably don't share the exact same understanding of God in all his attributes, but most people do have something in the way of an anthropomorphized version of God in their heads. We talk about God as a father, which involves his metaphorical relationship to us as well as a gendered concept. These concepts are useful, in that it is probably best to regard our relationship with God as like a parent and child if we are to treat it like anything we know, and we see God as masculine rather than feminine because God represents order, structure, and authority, among other things, which are all things we associate with masculinity rather than femininity, and we gender things that are not living because male and female is one of the oldest dichotomies we have ever known, existing at least as long as humans have, and unless you are opposed to a scientific view, for billions of years longer than that. But of course we understand that God is not biologically a father, nor does he have a sex/gender, as he is immaterial and has no body.
I feel like if one gets too attached to the metaphorical images we use to think about god, however useful they are, we run the risk of missing out on a better understanding of who God really is. Perhaps that's the only risk, but I feel it's significant, especially if you see God as the ultimate judge against which you compare yourself and others. What you see as the ultimate good and the ultimate being is how you set your aim, and if you limit your conception of God to an idol restrained by human categories, you limit the good you can aim at. One of the catalysts that started me thinking about this was learning about "negative theology", which is the practice that attempts to more closely approach God by defining him, not by what God is, but by eliminating what a Perfect God cannot be, and its counterpart of "cataphatic theology", which attempts to reach God through the positive affirmations about his nature (like God is Good, God is Love). The two together form Apophatic theology, which often results in seemingly paradoxical understandings, but which may be the most accurate, least constricted way of understanding something beyond our understanding. For example, God is knowable, yet God is unknowable, and both can be and are true at the same time. This is in line with "apophatic" imagery in the Bible, such as "the silence of the perpetual choir in Heaven," as you cannot literally be both silent and perpetually singing at the same time. Perhaps the best way to approximate a closer understanding of God is through seemingly paradoxical understandings, because if we can understand how both can be true at once, we can begin to understand how our common sense understanding of the world limits our understanding of a God who is so far above and beyond what we would ever conceive as "common."
For those of you who were able to bear with me while I worked that out, thank you. More importantly, what do you think about this? Is there any real risk to holding to a false, or just a limited conception of God? Is there perhaps as much or more danger in letting go of the conceptions we hold to? IF either of these things were the case, would there be anything we could do about it?
Edit: It seems I'm not able to reply to this post or in this forum, so I can't address the replies I get. I appreciate them and wish I could engage with them for further discussion and understanding. If you just want to post a passage for me to read, I appreciate that as well. It would help me a lot in the way of understanding if you could also post with the verses how they relate to the post and what you think the passage means. I'm sorry if that should be obvious to me, but often times what I get from it is very different from what another person does, so the explanation helps me, even if it seems obvious to you.
Can a robot substitute for pastoral care? Can it bring a theological perspective to our prayers (relationship factor)?By Davidlyanno
Can a robot substitute for pastoral care? Can it bring a theological perspective to our prayers (relationship factor)?
Christianity is not about religious activities or mere confession; it centers on the person of Jesus Christ who is the absolute mediator between Mankind and God the father. The essence of Christianity is "Relationship." Thus, worshiping an idol is wrong; having another mediator (any human being) is idolatrous. Worst of all, a new spiritual virus, by human intelligent activity without God, is born recently. They called it Robot Priest or Pastor.
Here it is: "Robot priest unveiled in Germany to mark 500 years since Reformation"
ERROR OF TRANSUBSTANTIATION (1215 AD). Definition: The whole substance of the bread and wine is converted into the actual and real entire body and blood of Christ. Answer: Radbertus first invented this doctrine in the 9th century. Catholics support this by a literal view of Matthew 26:26-29. "Take eat; this is my body. For this is my blood of the new testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins." Consider these reasons why the bread and wine were symbols of Christ’s body and blood, to be partaken in for remembrance purposes only, and that there was no material conversion of the bread to the body, nor of the wine to the blood of Christ. 1. Jesus, after saying "this is my blood" in Matthew 26:28 also said "I will not drink henceforth of this FRUIT OF THIS VINE" in Matthew 26:29, showing that the grapejuice was STILL WINE and had not been changed to blood. 2. Jesus often referred to Himself in symbols. So why see Him as literal in a symbolic context? John 10:7 "I am the door." Did Jesus mean he was literally wooden? No. John 14:6 "I am the way." Did Jesus mean he was literally a road? No. John 15:5 "I am the vine." Did Jesus mean he was literally a tree? No. John 8:12 "I am the light." Did Jesus mean he was literally a torch or a sun? No. John 6:48 "I am the bread of life." Did Jesus mean he was literally a loaf of dough? No. John 6:63 states clearly that Jesus was speaking spiritually, not literally: "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." Luke 22:19 states clearly that the Lord's supper is for remembrance purposes: "This do in remembrance of me." This is a metaphor, where one thing is said to be another thing because of it’s similarity. A metaphor is a figurative use of terms without indicating their figurative nature, for example, “he shall eat his words”. 3. The bread and wine did not become Christ's body and blood because: a) Christ was still present with them. Christ would have had 2 bodies, one which died on the cross and one which did not. b) To drink blood was forbidden in Acts 15:20,29 "We write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from BLOOD." In Deuteronomy 12:16 "Only ye shall not eat the blood." 4. The tense of the Greek verbs "EAT" in John 6:50,51,52,53,54,56,57,58 is in the AORIST tense showing a ONCE-FOR-ALL, point action, that is NOT CONTINUAL. The Biblical Lord's supper is to be a repeated event, and therefore has no saving merit. Roman Catholics are commanded to believe in transubstantiation because it was stated at the Council of Trent (11 October 1551) that this doctrine was essential for salvation. They pronounced curses on anyone who would deny it. Paul the Apostle, in contrast, pronounced a double curse on anyone who preached a gospel different from the all sufficiency of Christ's death, burial and resurrection to save us from our sins. Galatians 1:6-9 puts a double curse on this "other gospel" of transubstantiation for salvation. 5. Before Christ ascended to heaven, He promised to come to us during the Church Age, NOT in the sacrifice of the MASS, but by the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-18 as Comforter): "He shall give you another Comforter ... even the Spirit of truth ... I will not leave you comfortless: I WILL COME TO YOU.” Note: Christ will return to earth a second time visibly in glory. This is what is meant by 1 Corinthians 11:26 "For as oftenas ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death TILL HE COME." Note: This means that Christ does not come literally and visibly as the wafer in the mass, but to the air as in 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17. 6. At the Council of Constance in 1415 it was agreed to withold the cup from the congregation lest the wine be spilt. However this contradicts 1 Corinthians 11:25-29 where ALL Corinthian believers drank of the wine: "Whosoever shall eat this bread and drink this cup unworthily." v.27. Drinking the cup is mentioned six times in five verses. Transubstantiation is not a mystery, but an absurdity; not a difficulty but a contradiction. Question: How then do we eat his flesh and drink his blood? Answer: Through the WORD OF GOD. John 6:63 "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." John 1:14 "And the Word was made flesh." John 5:24 "He that heareth my Word and believeth on him that sent me, has everlasting life." The scribes who knew Jeremiah 31:31-34, "I will put my law in their inward parts", and Jeremiah 15:16, "Thy words were found and I DID EAT THEM; and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart", understood the idea of receiving God's Word into one’s inner being. Peter got the message, while others planned to desert Jesus: "Thou hast the WORDS of eternal life." John 6:68. "Being born again ... by the WORD of God." 1 Peter 1:23-25. Peter knew that Jesus was speaking about the WORD of God, and not about literal flesh and blood. Question: If this doctrine of transubstantiation only arose in the 9th century, and if it is so necessary to Roman Catholic salvation, what happened to those who lived before the 9th century not believing this doctrine? Did they all go to hell? Question: What about the thief on the cross who repented and never took the wafer? Did he go to hell? No! Jesus said he went to paradise.
Many catholics are arrogant enough to say that THEY "gave" us the Bible.
The catholic organisation mearly defined what IT would use as the Bible, NOT what the Bible was.
Long before the council of hippo "gave us the bible", Origen, born A.D. 185 and died A.D. 254, named ALL the books of the Bible in his writings and Eusebius, 270 A.D., lists ALL of the books of the NT.
The Old Testament books were gathered into one volume and were translated from Hebrew into Greek long before Christ came to earth.
It cannot be proven that the Catholic Church is solely responsible for the gathering and selection of the New Testament books. In fact, it can be shown that the New Testament books were gathered into one volume and were in circulation long before the Catholic Church claims to have taken its action in 390 at the council of Hippo.
God did not give councils the authority to select His sacred books, nor does He expect men to receive His sacred books only because of councils or on the basis of councils. It takes no vote or sanction of a council to make the books of the Bible authoritative. Men were able to rightly discern which books were inspired before the existence of ecclesiastical councils and men can do so today. A council of men in 390 with no divine authority whatever, supposedly took upon itself the right to state which books were inspired, and Catholics argue, "We can accept the Bible only on the authority of the Catholic Church." Can we follow such reasoning?
If the Bible is a Catholic book, how can Catholics account for the passage, "A bishop then, must be blameless, married but once, reserved, prudent, of good conduct, hospitable, a teacher...He should rule well his own household, keeping his children under control and perfectly respectful. For if a man cannot rule his own household, how is he to take care of the church of God?" (1 Tim. 3:2, 4-5). The Catholic Church does not allow a bishop to marry, while the Bible says "he must be married." Furthermore, if the Bible is a Catholic book, why did they write the Bible as it is, and feel the necessity of putting footnotes at the bottom of the page in effort to keep their subject from believing what is in the text?
If the Bible is a Catholic book,
1. Why does it condemn clerical dress? (Matt. 23:5-6).
2. Why does it teach against the adoration of Mary? (Luke 11:27-28).
3. Why does it show that all Christians are priests? (1 Pet. 2:5,9).
4. Why does it condemn the observance of special days? (Gal. 4:9-11).
5. Why does it teach that all Christians are saints? (1 Cor. 1:2).
6. Why does it condemn the making and adoration of images? (Ex. 20:4-5).
7. Why does it teach that baptism is immersion instead of pouring? (Col. 2:12).
8. Why does it forbid us to address religious leaders as "father"? (Matt. 23:9).
9. Why does it teach that Christ is the only foundation and not the apostle Peter? (1 Cor. 3:11).
10. Why does it teach that there is one mediator instead of many? (1 Tim. 2:5).
11. Why does it teach that a bishop must be a married man? (1 Tim. 3:2, 4-5).
12. Why is it opposed to the primacy of Peter? (Luke 22:24-27).
13. Why does it oppose the idea of purgatory? (Luke 16:26).
14. Why is it completely silent about infant baptism, instrumental music in worship, indulgences, confession to priests, the rosary, the mass, and many other things in the Catholic Church?
Now, please my friend, when you reply to this, please stick to just a couple of points per post, then it will be easier to respond to, unless you want to make a VERY long post answering ALL these points in one post, hoping that no-one will take the trouble to address your points.