One of my favorite spiritual writers is A.W. Tozer. He begins his master work The Knowledge of the Holy with a chapter entitled “Why We Must Think Rightly About God.” I used the following quote in a Bible study on biblical eldership this weekend to emphasize the importance of sound theology, and thought I’d post it here for the benefit of other readers as well.
(If you’ve never read The Knowledge of the Holy, consider this your invitation to pick up a copy. It’s well worth your time and effort.)
What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.
The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God. Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.
For this reason the gravest question before the church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like. We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God. This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the church… Among the sins to which the human heart is prone, hardly any other is more hateful to God than idolatry, for idolatry is at bottom a libel on his character. The idolatrous heart assumes that God is other than He is – in itself a monstrous sin – and substitutes for the true God one made after its own likeness…
Let us beware lest we in our pride accept the erroneous notion that idolatry consists only in kneeling before visible objects of adoration, and that civilized peoples are therefore free from it. The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of him. It begins in the mind and may be present where no overt act of worship has taken place… Wrong ideas about God are not only the fountain from which the polluted waters of idolatry flow; they are themselves idolatrous. The idolater simply imagines things about God and acts as if they were true.
Before the Christian church goes into eclipse anywhere there must first be a corrupting of her simple basic theology. She simply gets a wrong answer to the question, “What is God like?” and goes on from there… The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind.