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Knowing the God of the Bible, Not the God of Our Imaginations

In his book Soul Searching, Christian Smith summarized perceptions about God that are prevalent in the church and in contemporary culture. He said that most young evangelicals believed in what could best be described as "moral, therapeutic deism" (we could also call this viewpoint "the Santa Claus god").

Moral implies that God wants us to be nice. He rewards the good and withholds from the naughty.

Therapeutic means that God just wants us to be happy.

Deism means that God is distant and not involved in our daily lives. God may get involved occasionally, but on the whole, God functions like an idea not a personal being actively present in our world.

According to Smith, this is the version of God that's prevalent in our culture and in our churches. Often without realizing it, every culture quietly molds and shapes our views of God. But we can't grow in our relationship with God when we insist on relating to God as we think he should be. It's the same way in our human relationships: if I demand that you just meet my needs and conform to my assumptions about you, you will probably feel cheapened and manipulated.

That's why our surrender to God-as-he-is, as revealed in the Bible, is so important. Otherwise, we will have a god of our own imaginations—and, embarrassingly, our American god is an obese, jolly toymaker who works one day a year.

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