A Vending-Machine God?

27 Jun

“God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.”

This is the fourth point of the creed of Moralistic, Therapeutic (MTD), and it begs the question: Do we really need God?

For centuries, one of the most common criticisms of religion in general, and Christianity in particular, has been that they merely serve a therapeutic resource for the weak and naive.  This perspective is make resoundingly clear in the quips of many, from Robert Heinlein’s “religion is a crutch for those who are not strong enough to stand up to the unknown without help,” to Karl Marx’s famous line, “It [Religion] is the opium of the people.”

And while I would radically disagree with them, I would say that many professing Christians help perpetuate this myth by making it a reality. Many people call on God when they face a crisis, or are in a helpless state.  And oftentimes, when we (by we, I am referring to those who claim to follow Jesus Christ) pray, all do is ask for things, as though God is the almighty vending machine who dispenses the things of our wildest dreams. In our discussion of Point 1 of the MTD creed (as we’ve been calling it), we saw how God is made to look distant and detached from His creation, which is something we see here as well. However,  Point 4 makes several other claims:

2. Man is capable of taking care of himself
3. God is only necessary when we have a problem we cannot handle

So are the atheists right?  Is God a crutch for people who don’t have the courage to face life alone and without help? I don’t think so. Instead, I believe God is the one who not only created all things, but also sustains and orders all things at all times to accomplish His plans.

More Than A Vending Machine

Let’s look at a portion of Paul’s great speech to the Greeks at the Areopagus to see both God’s role in the lives of people and our need for Him:

“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 her served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.  And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God…he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. (Acts 17:24-27, 30-31)”

From these words, we see that God did not merely create all things, set a timer and walk away, like the gods of many religions claim, but rather, He made all things and continues to be involved in all aspects of His creation.  This passage from Acts points to God’s continual giving of breath, life and everything man needs and has (v. 25), as well as God’s intention that man should recognize that there is a God and their need for Him (v. 26-27).  In addition to this, God has organized all things according to His plans and purposes (v. 26).

So we see from this passage that God is far more than a vending machine.  He does not merely provide humans with emotional support in the midst of their hardships or give them the motivation to change their lives.  He is instrumental in them having life and maintaing that life through the job, money, food and other things which He graciously gives to all people out of His common grace.  Nothing comes as a result of coincidence or chance, but from God out of His grace according to His plans.

What We Need Most

However, that is not all.  Paul, as he was led and empowered by the Holy Spirit, goes on to assert our greatest need from God: faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.  We see this is verses 30 and 31, in which Paul makes known the fact that God is calling all people to turn away from their sin and disobedience to God and turn to the redemption that comes through faith in His Son’s death upon the cross.  We are sinners in need of forgiveness, reconciliation and acceptance by God.  God has set a time when He shall judge the earth and all mankind.  Yet God, in His grace, has extended a means of fulfilling our greatest need through Jesus Christ.

This emphasis on historical events and truths separates Christianity from other religions that focus on our  need to alter our behaviors, mindsets and/or energies.  Many Christians fall into such thinking when they equate Christianity and following Christ with keeping rules and changing behavior to meet God’s requirements.  This places Christianity on the same level and presents a low view of God and the Gospel.

Praise God that in His special grace He has provided a way to life, and an abundant life at that, in His son Jesus Christ! Oh! that many would recognize this and raise their view of God and the Gospel to the lofty heights of which it deserves.




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