There are lots of gods on offer today.
The lie that is “God.”
We all know we’re living in a post-Christian world but we also seem to be suppressing that knowledge. As a result, we actually making the situation worse since we are obstructing our opportunities to communicate the truth about the real god.
The question of God’s existence is not really like the question as to whether aliens or unicorns exist. Rather, it is a question about the existence of a specific person. Which god is God? We’d better off for the sake of accuracy, in most modern conversations, if we spelled out “god” without any capitalization.
Is the real god needy?
The Bible says that the real god–God, if you will–made everything. While some offshoots have arisen in the last couple of thousand years, originally this was a pretty powerful difference between God and other gods. The other gods made the universe from stuff they found, usually stuff they came from themselves.
The apostle Paul preached the true god by making just this point:
The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served (therapeuo) by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.
The real god does not get from us, but he constantly gives to us.
No trading possible
What this means (among other things) is that we are in no position to give this god something that obligates him to do anything for us. Everything we have is his gift and we don’t have anything to give him that he does not already own.
Everything is gift
But we don’t have any need to trade with him for that very reason. Everything we have is his gift because he is the giving god who freely grants us our lives and everything else.
The faithful giver
Furthermore, God, the true god, does not leave us wondering about the future, but puts himself under obligation by promises. He even uses these promises to improve us. His demands are not due to his need, but due to his desire to bless us. When God tells us he opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble, this is not because humility is something god needs and by which we can earn anything from god. It is because God wants us to be humble people for our own good (just like He is humble).
Man fell from grace
All of the above explains why it can be rather perverse and dangerous to describe sin as a failure to earn blessing from God. Man would never have existed if God had not blessed him with creation, and God did far more, making him a king and promising him the whole world. This was all a gift given by God. Man was never in a position to truly earn anything.
In other words, the story of Adam and Eve is not a story of an employee refusing to meet the job requirements. Rather, it is the story of an adopted child attempting to rob and usurp the place of his father, and inventing evil interpretations of all his father’s gifts to him in order to justify his patricide.
God is still gracious.
Happily, while the real god is just, He also remains gracious–and reveals even more grace now than before. For now he not only gives to people He created as perfect, but continually forgives those who are far from perfect who trust Him for his promises in Jesus. Before, he gave gratuitously but effortlessly. But now he gives at the great cost of His own Son.
So God’s grace is revealed as much greater than anything revealed in our creation. But it is still consistent. God gave before and he gives more now.
Grace and monotheism
So, to believe in a god who is truly independent of creation mandates the word, “grace.” If God was not constrained or acted upon by some outside force to create, then creation is simply an act that springs from his own character. It was pure grace.
For the finite gods of the pagans, grace is an optional characteristic, but for the real god who made everything, it is an essential necessity.
The only right human posture was as a receiver of grace.
There can be no question then of a time when any creature could relate to God on the basis of trade or earning. To claim that humanity fell from such a relationship would be like saying that at one time it was fine to believe that God was finite and man was in a position to obligate Him. It is perverse. Man was always supposed to receive all good from God as a gracious gift. The tragedy was that he refused to continue in trust and gratitude, becoming instead thankless and suspicious.