Some do it more than others.
The people in the Old Testament did it a lot. Come to think of it, so did folks in the New Testament. As a matter of fact, they did it directly to Jesus after the Resurrection on the road to Emmaus. Call it a case of mistaken identity. Call it a misguided attempt to worship God without first understanding who and what God is based on knowledge of Scripture. Scripture which is God’s chosen way to reveal His attributes and character.
Mere men vainly attempting to paint God into a corner. Mere men making God something less than Scripture defines Him as, at least in their minds. Mere men…committing idolatry while simultaneously believing they are revering God.
As I said, we all do it.
We try to make God into an image that we can accept. Sometimes it is an attempt to make Him graspable in our mind. Sometimes it is just spiritual laziness. In terms of fallacies it is called a Straw Man Fallacy. A straw man is a common form of argument and is an informal fallacy based on false representation of another's argument or proposition. It is a false representation created so that the person can then tear down a weaker version of whatever it is they’re dealing with.
No one’s arguing or debating when it comes to idolatry you say? I beg to differ.
Some would say that when we make a false representation of Jesus or God in our minds we are not arguing or debating with anyone but ourselves, merely thinking critically about reality. Are we really? This is a bad inference because we most certainly are. We are creating a false image of God in defiance against God Himself. When we chose to think in a manner other than in the way Scripture has prescribed, we literally wage ware against God and His word with our minds. We are in rebellion. The Word/Scripture which is what God has revealed about Himself in Scripture. In so doing we find ourselves at odds with God. It most certainly is a straw man argument, it just happens to take place between God and ourselves, mostly through bogus mental constructs. We argue against precepts through our action and the way we live our lives in our behavior. We are commanded specifically to do just the opposite.
2 Corinthians 10:3-4 ~ “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…”
We deceive ourselves for lack of true knowledge of Scripture. In so doing we then try to bring God down to our level while lifting ourselves up to His level. Pure idolatry. Attempting to exalt something of the Creation to the level of God…even if it is only an idea.
The sad fact of the Straw man argument is that when we attack God’s Scriptural truth by replacing it with our own mental construct of God, we in our own minds believe that our argument has refuted or defeated God’s revelation of Himself. We then live as if it has. If we have not dealt with the sin we are trying to protect by reshaping God, we are accumulating wrath against ourselves from God. The only one we fool is ourselves.
In other words, we create a false caricature of God. Shape our lives around it. When confronted with our error we argue erroneously from our opinion and emotion and justify our God based on how we feel and not Scripture (usually). A straw man argument pretends that something false is true, so it is intellectually dishonest…and we do it all the time to suit our sins. Only the honest man, led by the Spirit even knows the truth. Sometimes even many of them are blinded to…yes, even the elect. Are the elect saved? Yes. Can they be deceived? Of course they can!
In creating a false image of God. We commit idolatry. Our minds are geared for doing it. I’ve heard it said our minds are idol factories and the only thing that stops them from manufacturing idols is death. We construct a false god that is more friend or buddy than a holy and just judge. I believe we do this so that the god we create will accept the sins that we are unwilling to let go of. We create a Jesus that is not in the Bible that will turn a blind eye to our favorite entrenched sin.
I'll admit outright that the imagery in this post including the picture above is twisted and off-kilter. I have done so intentionally to show just how close to the real Jesus some people can come only to be dealing with a deadly haunting caricature that isn't even Him. Those that have prosperity through sketchy means construe the Bible in such a way that they get a wink-wink and nudge-nudge from a prosperity pimping Jesus. Pray for wealth and you will receive it.
You know, the cosmic vending machine Jesus. Then we have the sexual immorality Jesus too. This is the one that unrepentant adulterers and homosexuals believe in. They therefore proclaim that they’re a gay Christians or Christian swinger. Embarrassing as the Biblical illiteracy is, they believe their own lies anyway. Why? Because their sin blinds them to their blindness. It’s the old adage: When does a fool realize they’re a fool? Answer: Never…because they’re a fool.
These aforementioned are some of the more extreme examples. The subtleties and hues of sin obviously can obviously get harder to distinguish but we all are guilty to some level. There is the legalistic straw man Jesus created in the mind of the legalist who must be scared or terrified into specific behaviors or works righteousness. It doesn’t matter if it’s The Law of the Old Testament or self-imposed rules.
It is a ScareChrist…if you will permit the analogy. A false Christ that stands on the edge of our spiritual peripheral vision haunting our walk with the One True God. Our salvation is not works based (Ephesians 2:8). If a person repents they are forgiven in Christ. These monstrosities are indeed scary in that it will not save us from God's wrath because they are not the real Christ of the Bible, only our own creation. Just like the wood and stone idols of the Old Testament.
The Bible says we are to conform to His will, He does not conform to ours. We do not treat Jesus as a bendy twisty Jesus that we can put into any position we want Him in like a bendy-twisty Easter rabbit but that does mean Jesus is required to comply.
They are Straw men arguments, one and all. People construct a version of Jesus that they want and then worship that image. I’m here to tell you it is pure spiritual adultery and idolatry. Jesus Himself even said so…
Matthew 7:21-23 ~ “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
It’s as if we have made an idol of straw…an exaggerated or puffed up false image. Stuffing an image of our own creation with straw, just like a scarecrow. Straw which can be easily burned up in the fire of our judgment.
1 Corinthians 3:10-15 ~ “But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.
We need to avoid this if only so it does not bring ill-repute on the Faith of Jesus Christ. We certainly must do it so that we are sure of our salvation. Committing to the wrong thing could cost greatly on the eternal timescale.