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The All-Too-Common Montage God

How do you picture God? It’s impossible to exaggerate the importance of a believer’s mental picture of God. The intensity of your love for God will never outrun the beauty of the God you envision in your mind. So our mental picture of God completely determines the quality of our relationship with God.

In fact, there is now mounting neurological evidence that a person’s mental picture of God significantly impacts the quality of their life, for better or for worse. For example, it is a neurological fact that people who have a loving mental picture of God tend to have a greater capacity to think objectively about controversial matters and to make rational decisions than people who have a scary mental picture of God. There is a great book on this entitled The God-Shaped Brain: How Changing Your View of God Transforms Your Life by T. R. Jennings.

This can prove problematic if people adopt the common way of reading the Bible where everything in the Bible should be given equal weight. All must carry the same level of divine authority. With this “flat view of the Bible,” Jesus is more or less placed on the same level as all other portraits of God. As a result, people end up having a montage conception of God. That is, part of the God these Christians envision is Christ-like, but other parts are vengeful and jealous and capable of doing horrible things like commanding genocide and killing families by smashing together parents and children.

No wonder so many people have trouble feeling passionate love for God.

I have become convinced that this approach is fundamentally, and tragically, misguided. While I continue to affirm that the whole Bible is “God-breathed,” I am now persuaded that we should base our mental picture of God solely on Jesus Christ. Other biblical portraits of God may nuance our Christ-centered picture, but only to the degree that they cohere with what we learn about God in Christ.

I make this claim because this is exactly what the Bible claims. In Hebrews, we read:

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word (Heb 1:1-3)

The Son is the one and only exact representation of God’s very being, or essence (hypostasis). This means that Jesus is the perfect revelation of everything that makes God God. C. S. Lewis once said; “Jesus is what the Father has to say to us.” Jesus is not part of what the Father has to say or even the main thing the Father has to say. As the one and only Word of God (Jn 1:1), Jesus is the total content of the Father’s revelation to us. For this reason, Jesus must be our criterion to access the degree to which previous prophets caught genuine glimpses of truth. Only then will you overcome the debilitating montage picture that will hinder your love and passion for God, and for life.

—Adapted from Cross Vision, pages 18-21

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