Do You Dread a False Deity?

Samuel Bourn:

All true fear of the Supreme Being can only spring from a right knowledge of him. And it consists, first and fundamentally, in conceiving and believing him to be what he is, most powerful indeed, but at the same time, most wise, just, and benevolent. . . .

The character and title most certainly ascribed by our Savior and his Apostles to the Supreme being is The Father: the appellation [or name] by which we are taught to address him, [is] Our Father in heaven. . . . But if we impute to him qualities inconsistent with the parental character, and represent him to ourselves, as seeking and delighting, not in the happiness, but the misery and ruin of his creatures; we dethrone as it were, the Father, and set up in his stead a tyrant. . . .

And the dread of such a false deity is widely different from the fear of God . . . producing timidity, distrust, dejection, horror and despair and leading to all the . . . corrupt methods, by which, men, deceiving themselves, may hope to appease his wrath and gain his favor.

"On Religious Fear," Discourses on Various Subjects of Natural Religion and the Christian Revelation, vol. 2 (London: R. Griffiths, 1760), 356–57, quoted in Lou Priolo, Fear: Breaking Its Grip, (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2009), 8–9.

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Jonathan Parnell (@jonathanparnell) is a writer and content strategist at Desiring God. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Melissa, and their four children, and is the co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary .