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Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Greeks Were Mixed Up

I love the Percy Jackson books.

Months ago we watched the movie Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, and my son and I liked it so much that we've been reading the book series on which the movie was based (the movie is spectacular, but the books are even better!) In the books, the gods of Olympus (from the ancient Greek myths) do human being things, like talk on cell phones and wear Hawaiian shirts and drive taxicabs. And that's actually quite true to the ancient myths, in a way; the Greek gods and goddesses were constantly getting married and getting jealous and getting angry and having sex with humans, winding up producing illegitimate children. In fact, the Greek gods and goddesses, in the final tally, are basically nothing but very powerful (and immortal) human beings. There's nothing really different or divine about them except that they can do cool tricks like throwing bolts of lightning around. The Greeks basically just looked at the world around them and created gods that resembled themselves, with all of the same flaws of character that they had.

Well, the Greeks got God all wrong; in fact, they got it almost exactly backwards. About a month ago I blogged about my belief that everything God created in the physical world was designed to express a truth in God's spiritual world. That train of thought is not something I came up all on my own, of course... Plato was talking about shadows and caves a long time before I came along. Isn't it interesting that the Greek religion taught that the Gods resemble things in their own world, while their own philosophers were figuring out the real truth: spiritual things are the "real" things, and the things we see around us are the "shadows on the wall." God is real and God's ways are the true ways: everything we see around us exists to reveal those ways, and anything that provides a wrong picture of God does so because it is part of a fallen world that has been twisted by sin.

Another interesting thing about the Greek gods and goddesses: they are all associated with something. Zeus is the god of the sky. Poseidon is the god of the sea. Hades is the god of the underworld. Ares is the god of war, and Aphrodite is the goddess of beauty. Each of them associates himself or herself with something in the physical world. Our God, though, doesn't focus on the sea, or the sky, or the sun, or even some intangible thing like beauty or war. Our God's primary focus is one thing: us. God is the god of the human race. He has focused His love on us. He has made it so that we can be His people, and He can be our God. There is a sense of belonging to and being owned by God in the Bible that you don't find in other religious traditions. God isn't the God of the ocean or the land or the sky or fire or Mount Olympus. God is the god of you.

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