There was a time when household gods were commonplace. Household gods are personal idols, usually represented by a unique, tangible icon, that were kept in the home for protection, blessings, propitiation, worship, etc. I have yet to meet anyone with such an object about the house, but I have come across the household god's contemporary equivalentand so have you, I suspect. I encountered these recently in two different scenarios.
First scenario: I am discussing with a Christian philosopher the experience of the Holy Spirit in my life and the relevance of scriptural testimony on God's revelation, and the subject moves over into the Old Testament and how God made himself known to the Hebrews. My friend goes on to deny that God was responsible for the slaying of men, women, and children, as depicted in the Flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the deaths of Nadab and Abihu, the killing of Uzzah, the slaughter of the Canaanites, and so forth. The Old Testament record is simply wrong. Such deeds, says my friend, could not be performed by a loving God, as he is represented in the New Testament.
Second scenario: A letter writer is bothered by Quaker concerns over the issue of homosexuality, and says that he simply cannot reconcile the God of the New Testament with Old Testament material that appears to condemn homosexuality. He rejects the story of Sodom and Gomorrah as a condemnation of homosexuality and gives a competing interpretation to other scriptural references on the subject.
We could probably conjure up other scenarios such as theseor find them in similar personal encountersbut what concerns me most is that the people in my scenarios are Christians who worship household gods (or the equivalent). What has happened here is that, instead of being faithful to the biblical record of God's words, his behavior, and commands, these persons have instead replaced God with a personal surrogate of their own making. Such are household gods.
What has happened also is that they have succumbed to our modern tendency to treat God as a loving and personal friend, a pal, a good buddy. We know of God's love, his patience, his mercy, and we can speak of his loving presence in our lives. But what happens when we make God our chum (at the same time forgetting that he is our creator and Lord) is that we cease to fear him and thus cease to maintain true reverence for him. We begin to lose sight of the awesome holiness of God, and in our blindness we also lose sight of our own need to work on our own holiness. God's love for us should not distract us from the need, the urgency, to anticipate God's judgment, for God will finally judge any Christian who does not pursue holiness [Matt 7:21-23] and "It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" [Heb. 10:31].
Paul speaks of our need to work on our own perfection when he says: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to Godthis is your spiritual act of worship" [Rom. 12:1]. Through God's grace we are made righteous and set apart for his special purpose. God calls us to a life of holy living, and has sent the Holy Spirit to teach us and to assist us in the process of our transformation. When Paul says "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind," he is speaking of our need to partner with the Holy Spirit in the ongoing process of our sanctification. The result is that we "will be able to test and approve what God's will ishis good, pleasing and perfect will" [Rom. 12:2]. And we want to know God's will, because we avoid God's judgment when we do his will [Matt. 7:21].
It is therefore an error to cast aside the scriptural record as somehow misguided in the revelation of God's character. The Father Jesus prayed to was the God of the Hebrews, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God of the New Testament is the God of the Old Testament. By the same token, Quakers should never take leadings and personal experience of the Holy Spirit as the whole experience of God, for then it becomes possible to create out of that experience a being that does not in the end resemble Godthe experience becomes instead a household god, an idol of our own making. In seeking to anchor our understanding of God in Scripture, what we are doing is not engaging in a kind of Bible worship; what we are doing is accepting the testimony of Spirit-led believers within our own tradition. This testimony comes with a price, and the price is that God is holy and his spoken words are to be treated with due care and reverence. When God says "I hate divorce" [Mal. 2:16] or that to "lie with a man as one lies with a woman" is "detestable" [Lev. 18:22] or "Do not make any gods to be alongside me" [Ex. 20:23], we should not somehow interpret this to mean that God favors such behavior. To do so is to engage in a form of idolatry.