Many people are familiar with the story of the Golden Calf formed by the Israelites in the book of Exodus while Moses was atop the mountain receiving the 10 Commandments from God. The irony has never been lost on me that while they were melting all of their gold and jewels to form an idol, God was instructing Moses that his people should have no other gods before Him and should not make “graven images”. Astonishingly, these are the first two commandments and they are the ones that the people led by Moses’ brother Aaron were breaking while Moses was in the actual presence of God. Further irony is that Aaron was a priest which meant his responsibility was to mediate God and his people. His job was to point them to the true living God and the manner in which He should be worshiped, yet here he was making a golden calf as a poor substitution. Reformer John Calvin wrote in his Christian Institutes that “the human heart is a perpetual idol factory”. Aaron seems to say the same thing when confronted by Moses, “you know how prone these people are to evil.” It is true today that we are naturally a faith-less people when we lose patience with God and become anxious, worried, or bored. We believe God dwells in some type of abstract transcendentalism and that he will not fulfill the promises he made in scripture. So our broken rebellious hearts resort to manufacturing idols. We reason within ourselves that we must have something visible and tangible to fill us.

From a view high above, our idols are easy to spot. Food, drink, pleasure, money, career, family etc, but let us consider from the ground view what that looks like. Idols are intentional misrepresentations of God, so keep in mind, Aaron and the Israelites were not necessarily trying to replace the God of Moses. In reality, they were trying to represent him since they were growing worried and impatient with how long Moses had been away. To misrepresent God is to attribute good things to creation instead of the Creator. When it gets down to it, we believe ourselves to be the determining source of our own joy and fulfillment. To be more specific, if we seek acceptance from anyone other than God, we might craft a social media image we want others to see and affirm. If we seek love from someone other than God, we might flirt with someone other than our spouse to elicit a response we wish our spouse would give us. If we seek our own power instead of the power of God, we might pursue a career that provides a large financial portfolio and material possessions so that we can put forth an image of intellect, charisma, and strength. If we seek our own glory, we might elevate our children as representatives of our greatness even it it means crushing them under the weight of selfish expectations. (There are countless other examples we could mention here.)

Exodus 32:19 “When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20 And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire”
The end result of Aaron’s golden calf was that it was destroyed. Not only did this act of Moses put God’s anger on display, it was a tangible demonstration of the temporal nature of man’s created idols. In the end, the calf couldn’t bear the weight of the Israelites’ expectations and neither can the “golden calves” we’ve created to fill the emptiness of our souls.


Recently, comedian Norm MacDonald of SNL fame died after a lengthy, undisclosed illness. In the days that followed, I jumped down the YouTube rabbit hole of his comedy sketches, standup, and interviews. MacDonald was a weird comic often more content with the jokes that bombed in his dry delivery than ones that were more sure to bring the laughs. It’s as if he preferred inside jokes among a few friends than the adulation of a mainstream audience. Norm was a man who thought deeply and beyond comedy. In a way, I believe all comics are a philosopher of sorts who think deeper than given credit for, but Norm was on another level. He talked about his belief in God even as his dialogue was punctuated with vile humor and F-bombs. I really don’t know if his “beliefs” were devout or mere philosophical, but in one particular interview ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ou3-zq-qHJo&t=632s ) he made this statement.. “every person that has ever lived” intuits the God hypothesis, whether they admit it or not.
I’m fascinated with his insight because it’s quite biblical whether he read it there or not. In Romans 1, Paul writes of God’s judgement towards those who “suppress the truth”. He supports this claim with statements like “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

This is why Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3 why the world was “condemned already”. Whether we ever hear the news of Jesus Christ and his life, death, and resurrection, we are condemned as unrighteous and worthy of God’s wrath. God has revealed enough in his creation to show he exists and is the author of great beauty that a person would/should spend his whole life trying to find him. Not only the external creation is evidence of God, but so are we. The fact that we have bodies, intellect and reason reveals that someone infinitely greater must possess these qualities in order to create humanity. Norm MacDonald is absolutely right. We have this “intuition” that God exists and when we don’t follow it to see where it leads, we end up suppressing the truth like Paul wrote.

Everyone is quick to point to the neo-atheism of our day as evidence of truth suppressors. But that’s an easy diagnosis as the atheist is forthright about their lack of belief and difficulty in assigning meaning and purpose to a god-less existence. If society were to completely follow the atheistic philosophy to its natural conclusion, then society would cease to exist as it imploded on itself.

But the rest of us who are not as transparent still suppress the truth about God. Worse, those of us whose beliefs have moved beyond natural revelation to specific revelation find ourselves in the daily struggle to reveal the truth we naturally want to keep hidden. While the atheist heralds to the world, “I am accountable to no one and will live my like as I choose”, there are other truth-suppressors that are worse in a way. They herald “Jesus is Lord!” while living out the atheist’s herald. It’s what is called Functional Atheism. You proclaim the truth of God with your lips, but live as He doesn’t exist.

There are so many ways we suppress the truth about God. When we choose careers for money and power instead of those that are missional and purpose driven. When we push our kids towards activities that put them in the impossible position of being our personal trophies. When we self-medicate with food, drink, sex, and pleasure as if these things don’t require we keep coming back to them over and over. When we treat our spouses as prostitutes that only serve our selfish needs. When we overlay our political ideology with Christian theology as if they were identical. (avoid the temptation to assume I’m talking about the side of the political fence opposite of yours).
All these things fit the criteria that Paul wrote about in Romans 1 “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.”

The misplaced idolatry of money, power, and influence played out in our families, careers, and politics are indeed the “images resembling mortal man”. Taking good things that God has given us and making them ultimate is what suppressing the truth looks like.

No one is devoid of the intuition of the hypothesis of God, but because of the mercy of God revealed to us in scripture, we are no longer devoid of the Truth. God exists. He is Lord. He is ultimate. He loves us.

The wrong battle

There is a lot of fear in our society ranging from the coronavirus to the uncertainty of our future specifically in government and politics. Social media has enabled fear-driven folks to fight battles they will never win and alienate one another into camps. It’s understandable that those who do not believe In Jesus Christ as God would be driven in such a way, but I am baffled at the rest of us who carry the name of Christ as our identity. Why are we fighting the wrong battles and why are we fighting those battles with the wrong creatures? Ephesians 6 is quite clear that the battle is for our soul, not flesh and blood. It is against the unseen evil powers of Satan and the rulers and principalities he influences. Yet, we who claim Christianity believe in bludgeoning unbelievers and believers alike with swords of morality. We use scripture, key word “use”, to swing wildly at anyone who opposes not only our claim of righteousness but even our political viewpoint. We miss out on the opportunity for scripture to be used by God as a surgeon’s scalpel (to quote Spurgeon), and instead attempt to wield it as a weapon to protect our own sense of comfort and security. When I read John’s gospel, I’m taken aback at the multitudes that follow Jesus around, but never truly follow him. They want miracles, they want bread, but they don’t want the Way, the Truth, or the Life which is Christ. If you have a hard time believing what he said about the “narrow way” to God, you only need to see it crystalized in the large crowds who gathered around Jesus in his day and the handful of people who actually sought to know him and be known by him. This seems to be where we are today as well. I hear people lament the fact that the latest generations have walked away from the church and believe it is the worst thing, but what if it is the best? What if generations are walking away from a prostitute masquerading as the church? I hear Christians lament the loss of American freedoms and believe this is the worst thing that can happen. But what if it is the best thing for the church? What if American freedom is the stumbling block to people actually believing in Christ? I’m not saying that such freedom isn’t a blessing from God. I believe all good things come from him, but I also believe in a stewardship that goes far beyond the money you tithe. God blessed this nation with freedom, but to what end? Is it really the pursuit of happiness as we know it? God doesn’t give us good gifts so that we can live happy lives to the fullest here on earth. He gifts us so that we will steward (manage) it for his Glory. But many Christians would have you believe that these freedoms are for us and our own personal comfort and security. Of course, we know that’s not true as we see the explosion of the church in China and Iran where following Christ actually gets you killed or imprisoned. Jesus challenged us not to fear what or who can kill the body…ie…covid, socialism, facism or whatever evil “ism” you can think of. He warned us to fear the one who can kill the soul.
Another thing I’m taken aback with Jesus in the gospels is how many times he looks right into the hearts of those he’s speaking to. We know in his Sermon on the Mount that the heart is where sin resides and operates before it ever becomes an outward action. But just look at how he often he reads the heart of people. The woman at the well, the Pharisees, and his own disciples are exposed time and time again. Also, the great multitudes of “followers” hearts are exposed as those who want only what blessings can be given them. Today, thanks to social media, we see the hearts of believers exposed in their posts, comments, and likes. Maybe we should fight a different battle. The one for our own souls. Don’t believe the heresy that told you if you merely repeated a prayer that your soul would escape damnation. What I mean by that is, don’t look back to that prayer as evidence of the safety of your soul, rather look to the fruit that is being produced in your soul today. Better yet, ask Godly brothers and sisters around you to identify such fruit and do the same for them. Most importantly, believe that the war has already been won and Jesus has defeated death and the grave and by the Holy Spirit, fights the battle within us until we draw our last breath. Don’t fight one another over temporal things like politics, stand alongside those as they fight their own personal battles and be prepared to lose it all to gain your own soul.