The late Charles Colson once wrote: “It’s true that most Americans profess to believe in God, but this God is a far cry from the God of Scripture. More than a century of naturalism has eroded our belief that God is providential—that is, in charge of all events.”
Mr. Colson had a point. Many people profess to be Christians, but they are actually Deists. They believe God created the universe and then left it on its own. After creating the world, God apparently went on vacation and left no forwarding address.
The philosophy of naturalism, as Colson pointed out, certainly is a major reason why people think this way. When science classes and PBS documentaries constantly preach the idea that the natural world is all there is, it doesn’t leave much room for God.
Those who can’t quite swallow the notion that mankind’s creator is nothing but random chance, often settle for a happy medium: they cling to the idea that God is real, but after hitting the start button billions of years ago, this distant and uncaring God turned over the day-to-day management duties to the Laws of Physics and blind fate.
There is another, possibly more powerful, reason why modern Christians have embraced deistic beliefs: guilt. Although secular thinking proclaims that mankind is basically good at heart, most people know better. We instinctively know the biblical doctrine is true: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Most of us realize our basic urges are selfish and sneaky, while at the same time a moral compass deep in our hearts tells us we ought to be charitable and honest. This internal conflict produces guilt.
The idea of an all-knowing, all-seeing God, who observes our every action and knows our every thought, doesn’t sit very well with all that internal guilt. As a result, it doesn’t take much prodding for a person to jump on the Deism bandwagon if it means God no longer sees or cares about our behavior.
As Colson pointed out, however, this view of God is not scriptural. The God described in the Bible is not uncaring and distant. He is present; He observes everything; and most of all, He CARES.
If God were truly distant and uncaring, He never would have bothered with the defining aspect of Christianity: the Incarnation. If God were on a cosmic vacation, He never would have lowered Himself to be born in a stinky old stable. He never would have preached for three years, only to be misunderstood and mocked. And He certainly never would have offered up His life as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
If Deism were true, we would not be celebrating Christmas in about two weeks. Instead, we would be celebrating the old pagan festival of Saturnalia, marked by a lengthy period of over-indulgence and drunken revelry. Oh wait. That’s exactly how most people celebrate Christmas nowadays—or as I like to call it, the Crassmas Season.
When it comes to faith, the first and foremost question is: Is God real? Thankfully, most people answer, “Yes.” But there is a second and equally important question: What is God LIKE? What is God’s nature and personality?
The answer is not an unknowable mystery, as Deism claims. God went to a lot of trouble to reveal Himself to mankind, culminating in the awesome miracle of the Incarnation. Then, to make sure everyone throughout history could know the truth, God inspired the Holy Scriptures to be written.
The God described in Scripture is the true God. He is providential. He is in charge of all events. (Which, by the way, is not the same as CAUSING all events. God is aware of and allows bad things to happen—part of the deal when He created us with free will.)
If you want to know what God is like, pick up your Bible. It’s the best Christmas present you can give yourself.