You’re no doubt familiar with the scenario. A poor beggar-type finds an old lamp and decides if the thing is shined up, it might be worth keeping. As soon as he gives it the first cursory rub, there’s a cloud of smoke and a mystical not-quite-human appears, thanks the beggar-type for releasing him from the lamp, and offers to grant three wishes in return. The story, “Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp” is the best-known of The Book of One Thousand Arabian Nights.
It’s not hard to see why. It appeals to our most basic desires and our basest instincts. Who doesn’t want riches attain power without having to work to attain them? However, the subtext in the story has crept into our ideas about God.
The supernatural power exists to make our lives easier. One rub of the lamp and our world is instantly transformed into one of ease and leisure. This is completely contrary to the New Testament where we are reminded that our trials and struggles not only strengthen our faith but they help move us toward greater Christlikeness.
The supernatural power follows our agenda. The genie hears and obeys with a “Yes, master,” thrown in for good measure. In contrast, God has a divine will which He works all things in concert with.
The supernatural power provides instant gratification. Speak the wish and *poof* wish granted. God teaches us maturity through patience and self-denial. Plus seeking to gratify ourselves is contrary to the life of submission Christ calls us to.
Genie theology taps into that most original sin, the desire to be like God, effectively displacing Him from the throne. When we expect God to answer our prayers on our schedule, or when we expect Him to make our lives more comfortable, that’s genie theology creeping in. When we look for God to bless us materially while discounting the rich spiritual blessings He has bestowed (and continues to pour out) on us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3) we’re embracing genie theology.
Besides, who wants to be limited to just three requests?
Next week we’ll finish up this series with Santa Claus.