The Sham Gods Of Orthotalksy
By Allan Turner
No, it's not misspelled. “Orthotalksy” is a made-up word. It describes that which takes place when our concepts about God are wrong, but we continue to give lip-service to the “traditional,” “correct,” “accepted,” or “orthodox” ways of talking about Him. For example, even though a brother erroneously comes to the conclusion that God is no longer actively involved in His creation, he will still give lip-service to being a firm believer in God's providence. Another brother, although he has concluded there are some things God simply cannot know, will, at the same time, continue to pay homage to the “all-knowingness” of God. Yet another, while claiming to believe in the omnipotence of God, may teach that God's plan to redeem man through His Son, Jesus, could have failed. The immediate advantage of orthotalksy is that it permits one to remain in the comfortable surroundings of “brotherhood soundness” while, at the same time, advocating new and radically false ideas about God.
According to The American Heritage Dictionary, “sham” means: “1. Something false or empty that is purported to be genuine; a spurious imitation. 2. The quality of deceitfulness; empty pretense. 3. One who assumes a false character; an impostor.” Therefore, a sham god is not God at all. All sham gods are idols, and those who construct them are, quite simply, idolaters. This is true whether one is a pagan idolater involved in the construction of pagan images or a brother involved in advancing the theological and philosophical concepts of modern-day theology.
The reality of this surfaced in a written debate between two Christians over the foreknowledge of God. One argued there are some things an “all-knowing” God cannot know—specifically, the future, contingent, free will choices of men and women. When the other participant countered that this brother's position was not only wrong, but idolatrous, he responded that such a charge was absolutely preposterous and completely unbefitting a debate between two brothers in Christ. Apparently, this brother thought he was being called a pagan idolater. This was not the case. The point was that there are other kinds of idolatry than those associated with the worship of pagan gods. For example, a child of God who allows himself to get caught up in covetousness or greed is, according to the Bible, an idolater (Colossians 3:5). Further, in the first chapter of Romans, the apostle Paul makes it absolutely clear that changing “the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man” is idolatry. This is true whether it be an actual graven image or a theological construct.
This means that any one of us can be guilty of idolatry, and this is especially true of preachers. When one preaches, teaches, and writes about God and His Word, he must be willing to have what he says subjected to honest and fair criticism. Only a false teacher would object to this process. Of course, the standard for such criticism is not what I or anyone else might think. The spiritual benchmark for everything we believe and teach is the Bible—it alone is the objective standard.
A religious discussion (debate) should not be some frivolous academic exercise designed to give an audience something to do. Nor is it designed to take up space in some religious publication. It is, instead, a very serious undertaking designed to defend God and His word. Therefore, a debate, contrary to what some seem to think, is not a vehicle to showcase one's debating skills. The thing to be displayed in a religious debate should be either the truth or error of a particular position. If this is not the motive, then any such exercise would not be worth the time it takes to conduct it, or in the case of a written debate, the paper it is written on.
When one undertakes to expound the attributes and characteristics of Almighty God, he is treading on hallowed ground. We must approach any such undertaking with extreme reverence for the One we seek to clarify. Like Moses, we must take off our shoes, realizing we are standing on holy ground. A debate of God's word is the weightiest of matters.
To further impress us with the seriousness of these matters, the Bible makes it clear that a teacher of the Scriptures operates under a stricter than normal judgment (James 3:1). Therefore, when we preach, teach, and write about God, let us do so carefully and reverently.
I am convinced that there is nothing more important than knowing the one true God! In truth, one's eternal destiny depends upon it (John 17:3). Therefore, teachers of the Word are involved in a most sobering endeavor. The task is to accurately communicate God and His Word. If, for whatever reason, we impose limits on the infinite God, we are engaged in idolatry. When we begin to think of God as a man, albeit a man of larger proportions, there ought to be no doubt that we are engaged in idolatry.
The God who has revealed Himself both in nature and the Scriptures is not a creature; He is not a man (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29). He is not limited, as are His creatures, by anything outside of Himself. Consequently, He is nothing like the sham gods of paganism, nor the gelded God of modern theology.
In the study that follows, your attention will be directed to “The God Who Doesn't Do Anything,”“The God Who Doesn't Know Anything,” “The God Who Can Fail,” and “The God Who Can Quit Being God.” My intent is to expose these sham gods and the orthotalksy associated with them. In doing so, I will do my best to carefully, reverently, and honorably defend the ontological integrity of Almighty God. Realizing, as I do, that I am limited in my understanding of God's Word, and realizing that I probably always will be, I invite, and expect, criticism. I assure you that all serious criticism will be taken to heart. If anyone can show from the Scriptures that I am wrong, I would want my correction to be as public as my teaching. With this in mind, it is my prayer that God will bless us all as we reverently study His Word.