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“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Romans 1:24,25).

IF WE THOUGHT THAT “THEOLOGY” WAS AN INTELLECTUAL PURSUIT WITH NO PRACTICAL CONSEQUENCE, WE WOULD BE WRONG. Our theology is our view of God (His existence, His nature, His purposes, His will), and our ideas about God, whether true or false, are more powerful than any of our other ideas. What we think of our Creator is the main determinant of our character and our conduct.

We don’t use the word “idolatry” much anymore, but it is still a concept that needs to be considered. To worship an idol is to worship a god that does not exist. If a person bowed down before a physical object (perhaps one that he himself had made) and called it God, he would be engaging in idolatry. But if we conceive of God in ways that are false, even if it’s only in our minds, we are worshiping not God but an idol, created by our imagination. And that kind of idolatry is still very much a problem in the world.

In the text above, Paul spoke of certain ones who “exchanged the truth about God for a lie.” Tragically, our ignorance of God is often this very kind of willful ignorance, as the apostle indicated a few verses later when he said that “since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (v.28). In the final analysis, the person may not have been wrong who said that sin consists of having a wrong idea about God and deliberately acting as if that idea were true.

So out of all the subjects we think about, we should be the most careful when we are thinking about God. False notions about God will derail even the best of our thinking on other subjects, including morality and our treatment of other human beings. And most important of all, if we view God wrongly, we are going to have wrong beliefs about the reality of sin and the question of our fellowship with God. The gospel will mean little to us if our beliefs about God are such that we see no need for what Christ made possible at the cross. We need to be careful about our “theology.”

“The wrong concept of God leads to the wrong concept of sin, self, and salvation” (Richard Owen Roberts).

Gary Henry — +

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