Chocolate Factory Theology


Is there a God or not?

People have asked that question for millennia. Some choose to believe; others deny. Assuming there actually is a God, what difference should that make in how I live my life?

The answer, in a word, is everything!

If an all-seeing, all-wise, all-powerful, personal God truly exists, then everything I do will be—or should be—influenced by that fact. It becomes the central truth in all of life. The converse, however, is also true. If there is no God, then we are free to do as we please, creating our own perspective of what is truth, what is good, and what is evil.

In fact, how can we assume that anything is inherently evil if we have evolved from lower life forms? But if we have been created, the Creator must have had a purpose for creating us. It would seem rational to believe that we have been called to live on a higher level.

That is why I have written the book, God in His Own Image: loving God for who He is not who we would like Him to be.

If you have followed my blogs, you already know my convictions: I believe that God not only exists, but has revealed Himself to us and has a purpose for our existence. The challenge then, is to understand how we should live. To whom shall we give thanks for this wonderful gift called life?

I believe there is an innate hunger in the human heart to know God. Lacking clear revelation about Him, we try to imagine what God (or the gods) would be like. We are small children lying on our backs in the green grass on a warm, summer day with marshmallow clouds floating on a sky-blue ocean imagining what a particular cloud may resemble. “There’s an elephant! Oh, look, a bird over there! See that dog?”

Perhaps you remember playing the cloud game with your children. It was fun, wasn’t it? But one thing was certain: the imaginary dog never wagged his tail or barked. Soon the cloud morphed into something shapeless, and floated off toward the horizon.

Sometimes our imaginary description of a cloud was downright cute. However, playing the cloud game to describe what God may be like is never cute. I call it “Chocolate Factory Theology.”


Just like the lyrics from the song “Pure Imagination” in the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, attempting to adapt God to fit our cultural desires is simply “pure imagination.” Willy asks, “Do you want to change the world?” The assumption is, just imagine and you can. Trying to create our own more contemporary version of God is both insulting and dangerous. And according to Romans 1:18-32, it’s actually a matter of life and death.

In last week’s blog post I mentioned the television series, God Friended Me. The issue of God’s existence, or lack thereof, was handled fairly well. However, the God in God Friended Me, became more and more culturally acceptable and politically correct in final episodes of the season. To one character God was Allah, to another a Confucian Buddha. Jewish people celebrated their view of the God of the Old Testament at a young girl’s Bat Mitzvah. Then there was the Episcopal priest representing Christianity’s version of God. The not-so-subtle message seemed to affirm that there are many ways to worship and perceive of God, with each being legitimate.

In other words, discover your own truth and you’ll be just fine.

That’s the big lie of the era in which we live.

I wasn’t surprised that a network TV series would suggest this approach. I am very concerned, however, about a similar movement among professing Evangelical Christians. Biblical Christianity is not politically correct. It is not inclusive. It is not tolerant of errors and distortions, and never has been.

The claims of Jesus Christ were and are very exclusive. Jesus claimed that He, and He alone, is the only pathway to God. He hasn’t just discovered truth, He is truth. He doesn’t just know truth, He embodies truth. Truth is Who He is. Jesus also affirmed that to know Him is to know the Father—the one and only true God.

I assume none of us really believe we can create or recreate God. None of us would offer food sacrifices to the more than 25,000 sacred black rats at the Karni Mata Hindu temple in India, would we? But aren’t we doing essentially the same thing in a more subtle manner (stay with me here) by simply ignoring or diminishing some of God’s revealed attributes? Isn’t that what we are doing when we pick our favorite attributes of God, such as love, grace or mercy, and ignore the rest?

Yes, God is love. But God is more than love. He is also holy, just and, yes, even severe. We have been commanded to respect and even fear God, but also to love Him by obeying His commands.

I am convinced that trying to imagine God is not pure imagination; it is impure imagination at its core. Wasn’t that the serpent’s spiel in the garden?

Perhaps you have witnessed examples of this attempt to make God more “safe and gentle” at the expense of His holiness. I am encouraging you to help maintain the fences of truth about who God really is. I suggest a few tools to help understand and defend the truth about God.

First, read the Bible as it was meant to be read: as God’s revelation of Himself. Accept Him as He presents Himself in His Word, in His Own Image.

Read a good theology book by a conservative scholar such as Wayne Grudem to help you understand the terms we use to describe the indescribable God.

Listen to Chris Tomlin’s song, “Indescribable.” (I share a link to the song below.) Meditate on the adjectives Tomlin uses to describe God, words such as incomparable, untamable, undeniable and uncontainable.

All of these words beginning with the prefix “un” tell the story of a God beyond limits, a Father, Creator, Savior, and Counselor far greater and more wonderful than human minds or words can describe.

Finally, I humbly suggest you read the book, God in His Own Image. I have chosen to write to and for the average Christian or church attendee, not the theologian. I have tried to put truth on the lower shelf so anybody can understand. I would be pleased if the book can provide just a little more light to help point readers in the right direction.

As I write this morning, I just received word that the first copies of the book have been shipped to our home. We can hardly wait for the FedEx package to be delivered to our front porch.

Meanwhile, the book will be officially released for sale on May 6th. Why not pre-order, so you can start the journey of discovering more about our Great God?

You can pre-order the book at these addresses: ($10.95); ($11.12); ($11.12). Check your local bookstores as well.

Thank you for your support.

Enjoy Chris Tomlin’s praise of our indescribable God by clicking below:

Chris Tomlin Indescribable




Kissing My Cosmic Cop Goodbye

In our attempts to understand or explain God, we naturally tend to re-create Him into something familiar. He becomes like us.

A God like me? I don’t know about you, but that prospect doesn’t appeal to me at all. A God created in my image is only semi-competent in some things, and highly incompetent in many other things. A-God-like-me will have changing moods; some days He might be loving and kind, but on other days…not so much.

In my soon to be released book, God in His Own Image, I share about the false image of God I feared and dreaded as a youth. I describe Him as the Cosmic Cop. Being a PK (pastor’s kid) in a very strict church, I heard lots of sermons about God’s severe wrath. God was both the Law-giver and the chief Law-enforcer. I knew about Law Enforcement Officers, since Dad was bi-vocational: he wore a police badge at night and a preacher’s tie on Sundays.

As a result, every police officer in Cheyenne County knew me. If I burnt rubber in my Dad’s 60-Ford Starliner while dragging Main Street, it seemed like every cop on the force would see it, and tell my father the next morning. On the plus side, I never received a traffic violation or warning. They must have figured my dad would set me straight. (Perhaps there was an advantage to being the son of a cop.)

My relationship with my Cosmic Cop, if you could call it a relationship, was a love/hate affair. When I was in danger, perhaps facing the final exam in Algebra, I wanted Him close enough to provide the correct answers. I also wanted Him to hear my Sunday prayers, especially when I recited the same list of sins each week.

But when I wanted to prove I was just a normal teen-ager and not a PK, I didn’t want the Cosmic Cop messing with my plans. In my book, I share a humorous story about the first time I took my date to a drive-in-theater. Movies were forbidden fruit in those days, and I couldn’t wait to taste the apple. But sure enough, the Cosmic Cop caught me red-handed. He always did. Lying in bed at night I often had my own personal (Protestant) confessional booth. Just in case Jesus might return before sunrise, I wanted to be certain I wouldn’t be left behind, so I apologized for everything I might have done wrong that day. It was tough—no, make that impossible—to keep the record straight.

My perverted view of the Cosmic-Cop-kind-of-God prevented me from knowing and enjoying the true and living God. I would try to manipulate Him, but I could never experience His grace and mercy. I could read about God loving the world in John 3:16, even inserting my name in place of “whosoever believes,” but somehow, I never felt that love. Since my God was a cop, I wanted Him to come on the run when I dialed His number, but I kept Him at arms-length the rest of the time.

My story may be yours. Perhaps at one time, even today, you struggle with loving or feeling loved by God. Perhaps your “God” is that cop who seems to be bent on denying you any pleasure.

Perhaps you struggle even believing there is a God.

Whatever it be, anything and anyone less than the God who has revealed Himself in Scripture, will never satisfy our hunger.

Today, I have experienced and worship the God who has revealed Himself as both holy and severe as well as kind, loving and full of grace. Over and over again, even when facing some very difficult challenges, I have felt God’s presence and seen Him provide in inexplicable, clearly-supernatural ways. A few of these incidents are shared in the book to be released May 7th.

I have tasted and discovered God is good. He alone can satisfy the hunger in my soul.

He can do the same for you.


If you have struggled with a similar corrupted view of God, why not reply by sharing your experience?

I am still reading The Storm Tossed Family. 

What is Our Problem?

For all its beauty and wonders and opportunities, life is filled with problems. Some seem so trivial they’re hardly worth mentioning.

But I’m going to mention one, anyway.

Recently I had a problem with our local newspaper. Some days it never arrives at all. As I wrote these words, it had been three days without a paper laying in my driveway.

Okay, so it’s not an earthshaking dilemma. But I am of that generation that enjoys opening a (real) paper to the sports pages to catch up on the Blazers and Seahawks and our local high school teams.

But that’s not really a problem compared to the greatest of all challenges in life. How are we to have a relationship with a mysterious, invisible, all-powerful Creator? That is why I wrote God in His Own Image.

Last week, here on the Front Porch Swing, I shared about the innate desire within every human being to know God. Having been created in God’s image to enjoy a relationship with Him, we have a deep hunger to know God. As Augustine discovered, after first running away from God and then encountering Him later in life: “You have made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”

Those are more than just poetic sounding words. I believe they reflect the heartbeat of every person who is willing to stop and reflect on who they are and why they exist. Augustine’s words are my words. Your words.

Since God has created us in His image to know Him and enjoy a relationship with Him, there is no higher calling or more important pursuit in life.

But here’s our problem: Unless God reveals Himself to us; we are left to try to “figure” Him out by ourselves. That is what many have tried to do throughout history. That is, in fact, the subtitle to my book: “Loving God for who He is not what we would like Him to be.”

Driven by our innate hunger to know if there is “anybody out there” in this vast universe, we try to fill this soul-hunger by imagining who this God might be. Here’s a spoiler alert: Finding God through the imagination is not only a foolish endeavor, it is impossible. If a creator or creators exist, we cannot see them. They are part of a unique, other-worldly realm. We are blind people trying to imagine and paint a picture of a snow-covered mountain that we have never seen and cannot see! Whatever picture I try to paint on the easel canvas will be wrong. It won’t resemble that mountain.

I can only describe what I have seen or what I have experienced. I have never seen an atom, but I have been told it consists of protons, electrons and neutrons. I answered all the questions on the science quizzes, but the atom is beyond my ability to understand. Even so, I know very well that they exist, even in my own body.

I like to imagine the apostle Paul as a physician, or perhaps a great philosopher, diagnosing our problem. It’s not that God has neglected to reveal Himself to us, but rather that we have suppressed the evidence that exists all around us. Every atom and every galaxy in our vast universe is a witness to the Creator’s wisdom, skill and power. And, might I add, His mystery?

Having rejected God’s rule over our lives, there remains a vacuum in our soul that only God can fill. There’s a hunger to know the unknowable and invisible God.

Let’s cut to the chase. God has revealed Himself in several ways or, of if you will, in different venues.

Paul wrote that there is enough evidence in Creation itself to convince any person truly seeking to know God. We call this natural or general revelation. David’s words in Psalm 19 absolutely ring with it:


         The Heavens declare the glory of God,

         and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

        Day to day pours out speech,

        and night to night reveals knowledge.

       There is no speech, nor are there words,

        whose voice is not heard.

                 (Psalm 19:1-3, esv)


Evidence for God is on display 24/7 everywhere we look.

Later in the same psalm, David shifts his focus from seeing God in creation to seeing God as He is revealed in His Word. We call this The Bible, the book that reveals who God is and what He has done to enable us to know and enjoy Him.

Finally, Jesus Christ came to reveal the Father. That is the point of Hebrews 1:1-4. The rest of the book of Hebrews displays Jesus’ superiority over every other “competitor” and over everything that exists, whether visible or invisible.

So what is our problem? If God has pealed back layers of mystery to display His glory in the creation and has revealed Himself in Scripture and through Jesus Christ, why would I write a book, God in His Own Image?  After all, don’t we have all the evidence we need?

I didn’t write the book to convince atheists, whether real or wannabees. I have written to people who attend, or at one time attended, church services. Their view of God may have been skewed as a result of life experiences or as the result of a lack of good biblical teaching.

Unless we understand and accept God as revealed in Scripture, we tend to create God in our image. Someone we can manipulate. Someone safe. Someone who adapts to the changing culture and “moves with the times.” But here’s the problem: If God resembles me, He will be capricious, unpredictable, and severely limited in power and understanding.

Sadly today, even in our churches, we find people trying to recreate God in their own image, according to their own tastes. And they may end up with an artificial deity who is so loving, kind, and careful that He would never punish anyone. He will be a God who doesn’t control the future, and has to learn as He goes along, just like we do.

But of course that is no God at all. It’s just another man-made idol.

If God has created us to know Him and to enjoy Him forever, it is imperative we understand Him as He truly is. It is not ours to reshape God into our image. In fact, it is a deadly mistake with eternal consequences.

I much prefer to know and to love God as He is: Great, powerful, just and yet, loving and full of grace.

That is reality. He is reality.

So, here on the front porch swing, I ask if you know this God that can satisfy the hunger in the human soul?

Why not purchase the book, God in His Own Image? I believe you will come to love and appreciate God through reading the book.


What am I reading?

I am finishing The Storm Tossed Family and will return to The Essential Jonathan Edwards. I think I may also read God in His Own Image when I receive my first copy in a few weeks. Recently I commented that waiting to hold the first copy in my hands is kind of like waiting for the arrival of a new baby.

Thanks for the support and encouragement I have received from several of you.