You Become Like the God You Worship

It is a law both of the intellectual and the spiritual nature that by beholding we become changed. The mind gradually adapts itself to the subjects upon which it is allowed to dwell. It becomes assimilated to that which it is accustomed to love and reverence.1

We become like the God we worship. If we worship a vengeful, vindictive God, we ourselves become vengeful. If we worship a God that hates homosexuals, we will hate homosexuals. If we worship a God that hates women, we will hate women.

This principle is borne out not only of our worship of a deity, but also what we allow ourselves to spend our time on. Research has linked the immorality that we behold on television, video games, and other media, to an increase in these immoral behaviors in the real world.2 The solution? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, we should consider the following:3

  • eliminate the use of violence in a comic or sexual context or in any other situation in which violence is amusing, titillating, or trivialized
  • eliminate gratuitous portrayals of interpersonal violence and hateful, racist, misogynistic, or homophobic language or situations unless explicitly portraying how destructive such words and actions can be.
  • If violence is used, it should be used thoughtfully as serious drama, always showing the pain and loss suffered by the victims and the perpetrators
  • not use human or other living targets or award points for killing, because this teaches children to associate pleasure and success with their ability to cause pain and suffering to others.

These findings are not new. It is a scriptural theme that is often employed in the Bible as an admonition to turn away from idolatry and towards God as the objective moral standard. See Psalm 18:35, Psalm 115:8, Psalm 119:36-37, Psalm 135:15-18, 2 Corinthians 3:18, Galatians 4:8, and Colossians 3:10.

If God programmed intelligent beings to transform themselves into the character of that which they worshipped, then God has a strong motivation to model good behavior for us, much like a parent has a motivation to model good behavior for his or her children. I think when we operate from this paradigm, it allows us to better understand why God does somethings, and doesn't do some other things. I will only investigate a few points here, but I am sure there are others:

  • Why doesn't God provide more miracles to satisfy the doubts of atheists?
    • I suppose that God could show up and do a miracle every time somebody expressed any doubt about His existence. God would then become a genie in a lamp that we could summon to do something fantastic whenever our whim desired. This sort of God then becomes the serves the creation, and not the other way around.
    • I've seen parents who satisfy the demands of their two-year-old children's tantrums, and it isn't a pretty picture for the parents or the children.
    • If God were thus, and Christians were to imitate such a God, then Christians would be some of the most manipulatable people on the planet.
  • Why didn't God destroy Lucifer the moment He rebelled?
    • God could have played policeman, and zapped out rebellion the moment it was started. But if God modeled this behavior, everyone else would start to do it too. This would justify Cain slaying Abel the moment that Abel did something that made Cain unhappy (Genesis 4:1-11).
    • If God had destroyed Lucifer the moment he rebelled, then Christians would be the most vindictive and ruthless people on the planet.
  • Why did God give His created beings the option to rebel?
    • I've seen relationships where one partner has complete control over the other person in a very nonconsensual way. There is the manipulator and the controlled, and the controlled is not allowed to express a differing opinion, act independently, or run away. Having the capacity to rebel, but being held under an incredibly short leash is a perpetual prison sentence.
    • One could argue that God could have removed any will to rebel, and that the created beings could be capable only of good and loving thoughts. This presents a God who seems somewhat self-insecure, that He can only stand to make people that will like Him and agree with Him. On Earth, we admire individuals who are able to work with individuals they disagree with, who patiently and non-coercively admonish their friends towards better behavior and ideologies, for their friend's sake, and for the sake of greater society. Why does this standard apply on Earth, but not to God?
    • The protestant notion that God permits beings to exist whilst not aligning with His universal decree of righteousness and goodness gives rise to the freedom of religion, press, and speech, which are held so dear to modern democracy.
    • If God manipulated his created beings to only have the capacity to love Him and do good things to Him, then we should expect Christians to be the most manipulating people in the world (or to be manipulated into being the most manipulating people in the world).

Many critiques about how God has been running the universe at-first seem to paint God as being short-sighted, because many problems could be so easily avoided (like doubt, sin, etc...) if God would intervene more visibly, quickly, or forcefully. But I assert that the worship of such a God causes Christians to become manipulative, manipulatable, self-insecure, ruthless, judgmental, and so forth. God desires that His creation have a sublime nobility that only comes from studying His character.

The clearest revelation of God's character was shown when God became flesh, and dwelt among us (John 1:14, Hebrews 1:1-2)

It would be well for us to spend a thoughtful hour each day in contemplation of the life of Christ. We should take it point by point, and let the imagination grasp each scene, especially the closing ones. As we thus dwell upon His great sacrifice for us, our confidence in Him will be more constant, our love will be quickened, and we shall be more deeply imbued with His spirit. If we would be saved at last, we must learn the lesson of penitence and humiliation at the foot of the cross.4