A major ideological loss to the theology of the modern Church is the utter dismissal of the concept of ‘the fear of the Lord,’ which is no marginal Biblical notion. It is mentioned more often than the love of God (150 times[1]) The exact phrase occurs about 27 times, twice as often as the mention of “… the love of God” (12 times).  The expression ‘God-fearing’ is now archaic and has been expunged from popular usage. And so the pendulum swings, from extreme to extreme. The change affects our prayer life, our motivation to morality and that, the quality of our witness; our faithfulness, language and demeanor; our relationships with one another, not to mention the resultant shallow relationship with God. Moses instructs, “Show your fear of God by not taking advantage of each other …” (Lev. 25:17). Immediate natural consequences to our actions are all we seem to consider, and those we reason we can control.


The distortion is the essence of idolatry. It refashions God, and reshapes our thinking and behaving. It causes us to exploit grace, cheapen mercy, twist truth, ignore holiness, disbelieve in consequences and judgment, dismiss sin’s toxic nature, and argue that God’s power is limited to positive enhancements in our behalf. 


“The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10). That is, it is the gateway to perception. Without such reverence, we wander into confusion, venture into ignorance unaware, accept unsound insights and become fools, and our ‘heart lights’ go dark (Romans 1:21). Such people compensate by “professing themselves to be wise” (1:22), but a mere ‘profession’ does not change reality; any more than Harry Truman’s defiance, the colorful character who died at the base of Mt. St. Helens, tamed the mountain. The darkness still comes, though unperceived to those who “changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man” (Romans 1:21-23). Having lost their ‘fear’ of God, they close the gate of wisdom, and plunge headlong into folly. When we deny the existence of God or view him only as an enlargement of ourselves, and not as ‘Utterly Other,’ we forfeit an appropriate reverence for God, and also lose perspective. As a result, wisdom, sound thinking, prudent decisions, deep prayer and worship are no longer possible. The problem is summarized in Psalm 50, “You thought I was altogether like you” (v. 21).

[1] Sinclair Ferguson, Grow in Grace (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1984), 36.