The theology of the Apostle Paul emphasizes that mankind possesses the vestiges of an instinctive awareness of God, an innate realization that humanity owes an obligation to Him; an awareness that has been incorporated within man at creation. Moreover, the Apostle writes in chapter one of his letter to the Romans, since earliest times, men were able to discern God's existence and eternal power by the things He created. Though aware of these things, they refused to retain the true knowledge of God in their minds or admit their obligation to Him, preferring instead, to invent ridicules ideas of what God was like and how they should serve Him.
Mankind deliberately refused to acknowledge God as He really is, Paul wrote. They knew the reality about Him, but refused to worship Him in truth. Because they chose to believe lies, God released them to their own corrupt devices. He permitted humanity to reap the results of its own reprobate thinking. Men created and worshiped their own gods; gods made to resemble birds, animals, snakes and humans; the things God has created. As a result, Paul stated, at the Judgment Day, when men stand before God, they will have no valid excuse for not having followed the truth, since they once knew it and deliberately chose not to follow it.
I. Men find it impossible to divest themselves of the need to worship something. The awareness of the spiritual realm is universally innate in humanity; it always has been a part of the human psyche. While some do not recognize its lesser manifestations, the need to worship is a part of us all. In his book, "Primitive Religions," published in 1891, Professor G.
T. Bettany recorded that, though some tribes may be without a higher sense of religion, few, if any, do not believe in spiritual beings of some kind.
Charles Darwin in his "Descent of Man," (vol i; p. 143) also noted this tendency in the human race. He wrote, "If . . . we include in the term 'religion' the belief in unseen or spiritual agencies . . . this belief seems to be universal with the less civilized races."
The animist's fear that spiritual beings inhabit natural objects and must be appeased, the dread that the spirits of the dead must be worshiped to prevent them from harming the living, the worship of the spirits in the powers of nature, the belief of totemism that certain animals and plants must be respected to refrain them from injuring humans, the rituals of sorcery, shamanism, witchcraft and numerous other formulas, are religious practices utilized by primitives seeking to control the gods before whom they feel a sense of guilt. These practices bear witness that even remote tribes possess vestiges of an awareness of the existence of God, and sense that mankind has offended Him; and therefore an obligation is due Him. True, this perception of a deity whom men have offended is corrupted, but it is nevertheless real.
The physician Luke dramatically illustrated the deep-rooted, intrinsic fear in the human psyche that the gods are displeased with men and must be appeased, during his travels with the Apostle Paul. While in Athens, he and the Apostle noticed idols everywhere. An altar bearing the plaintive inscription, "To the unknown god," especially caught their attention. The Athenians feared that, in their ignorance, they might have neglected to appease a god unknown to them. In an effort to diminish the risks of incurring his wrath - should such a god exist - they fashioned an altar. No doubt suitable ritual practices were concocted. It was a pathetic attempt to control the unknown god and bend him to their will, though the Athenians never could be sure they had succeeded. The account is a typical example of the insecurity felt by those who have not learned the revealed nature of the true God. It is precisely this lack of understanding that generates profound terror in them. Men do not know God, but have a deep-rooted sense of guilt toward Him, so they fear Him.
In their fear they attempt to manipulate Him.
II."A formula is something that worked once, and keeps trying to do it again." (Henry S. Haskins; "Family Word Finder," Readers Digest, page 322.)
Since the beginning of the apostasy, men have invented practices by which they endeavor to place human restrictions on God. Our society has fallen heir to this propensity in our race. As a result, the field of religion in our generation has become a hotbed of religious formulas that endeavor to shrink God to human proportions. Whole cults have proliferated around such formulas. In Christianity, denominations have split over them. In the past few generations, such tactics have devastated the American church.
Originally, with humanity's rejection of truth in the infancy of our race, the practice of mankind's need to worship took simple forms - the adoration of idols, animals, potentates, sun, moon, and planets, et cetera, endeavoring to control or manipulate these "gods," by inventing religious formulas for that purpose. Although this rudimentary idolatry is still practiced in some communities, among "civilized" peoples, the modern endeavor to control the true God manifests a more sophisticated expression. Until descending into disgrace, several televangelist pervaded the screen with their name-it-and-claim-it ballyhoos, which is nothing more than the proclamation that men can control God and bend Him to their will by simply naming their desires and claiming it already accomplished. By their doing this, God supposedly was compelled to grant these desires.
However, God is not an infinite vending machine; we cannot insert a claimed desire, say we believe it to be accomplished, and out pops that which we claimed. Neither will God consent to being controlled by men formulas not withstanding.
"Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." (Romans 5:1-2).
This is the only "formula" necessary for a right relationship with the true God.
© Josprel (Joseph Perrello)