Idolatry, Then and Now: A Follow Up

            Back on April 30th I posted a blog titled Idolatry, Then and Now in which I shared some insights regarding the subject of idolatry from Christopher J. Wright’s book The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative.  In the post I tried to avoid any mention of examples of how Christians (especially in our Western context) engage in idolatry today, asking instead for the readers wishing to make a comment to name some examples of what they believe are idols and forms of idolatry.  One thing the comments reveal is the wide array of forms which idolatry can take on which are very subtle, for we Christians would ever participate in anything that we believe to be idolatry.  Thus that which becomes an idol to us will almost always be something that appears as a good thing, perhaps even a biblical thing.

            So what are some forms of idolatry that people, even Christians, in our culture struggle with?  One of the comments in the original post provided a link to a lecture on by Tim Keller titled “The Grand Demythologizer: The Gospel and Idolatry” (click on the title to reach a link that will give you an audio or video option to listen to his lecture) based on Acts 19.21-41 which was delivered at the 2009 Gospel Coalition National Conference in which Keller seeks to help us discern and confront idolatry.  He defines idolatry as anything that takes us from the glory and grace of God.  You will appreciate the breadth, depth, and balance Keller employs when naming specific forms of idolatry and how people/Christians become enslaved to those idols.  His treatment of the topic is saturated with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Keller believes the main reason why North American Christianity is very indistinguishable from its surrounding culture is because the church has not confronted the idols people worship.

            I also want to mention one other example that my friend and colleague Wes Woodell mentioned on his blog.  This is the recent news that Thomas Nelson Publishers will be producing a New King James Version of the Bible titled The American Patriot’s Bible with both an American Flag and an American patriotic picture as the cover of the Bible.  I could easily just go off on a tangent about the problems and compromise of the gospel that occurs when honest patriotism becomes nationalism, which is taking place in the United States of America in the 21st century and allows Christians to cloak God in the ethos of the American Nation.  I would be upset to see a Bible cloaked in the ethos of any nation.  God is bigger than all nations and tribes and above all nations and tribes.  All nations and tribes, along with every other person and institution, will bow to the knees of Jesus and acknowledge that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is Lord.  This does not mean that I hate the United States of America of which I am a citizen of.  It simply means that I refuse to make an image out of God, adorning God in the ethos of patriotic culture (or any culture) as depicted by the colors of red, white, and blue.  

            So enjoy Tim Keller’s lecture.  I believe this is the most pressing issue facing Christianity in the North American and Western culture – will we remain true to our Christian confession that Jesus Christ is Lord and Messiah?  We need to keep conversations like this going, for it is the only way we can help each other discern truth from the lies.

16 responses to “Idolatry, Then and Now: A Follow Up

  1. In addition to cloaking the Bible in the ethos of Americanism, another example of the same form of nationalistic idolatry is when we see those nifty internet pictures of Jesus wearing a robe dressed in the colors of the American flag.

    Also, I cannot prove what has motivated the production of this Bible but I wonder whether it was motivated more by a love of country or because in our capitolistic free-enterprise system, a business such a publishing company saw a way to make some dollars off of the highly patriotic segment of society. The later reason certainly seems a more plausible explanation for why our Christian catalogues are not just filled with different translations of the Bible (which I happen to believe is a good thing) but with custom made versions geared to every little sub-culture of society. Have we found a great way to make an extra-buck out of God? That certainly would be a form of idolatry itself.

    Grace and peace,


  2. Good post.

    My last name is ‘Woodell’ with an ‘e’ by the way 🙂

  3. Whoop, I will update the post with the correction

  4. Are you sitting down?

    Are you sure?

    I heard someone say, out loud, on the radio today . . . [this hurts to type] . . .

    “The Declaration of Independence was a truly inspired document.”

    And yes, he meant it THAT way.


    I need to wash.

  5. I wonder if that person would claim to be a Christian too.

  6. Howard Holmes

    I’ll comment only upon the last line where you mention “discerning truth from lies.” I would suggest the opposite of truth is untruth. To use the word “lies” is to cast aspersions regarding intent. IMHO we would all get along better if we remember that when others disagree with us (or are “incorrect”) it is not from any intent to do so. The person who is incorrect is just as honest and well intended as are you. He/she loves truth just the same. If there are idolataors out there, they are good, honest well-intended folks who just happen to be mistaken about something. Aren’t we all?

  7. Howard,

    Thanks for stopping by the blog. I would generally agree with your statement. Except for the rare person who maliciously decieves in order to serve him/herself, most people have honesty and goodness in their intentions even when those intentions are wrong. Again, thanks for stopping by the blog.

    Grace and peace,


    • Howard Holmes

      I never met one of those “malicious” people you describe. Is this someone you know or is it just a fantasy? I have met people who would decieve to serve themselves. Who doesn’t? Who doesn’t hide part of his “truth” to paint a false picture of himself for others? This is not malicious. This is being human.

      Decribe for me a bit more this “malicious” person you know. Like I said, I’ve never met one.

  8. Thanks for this post. I am reading Keller’s book “The Reason for God” and am blown away by his insight. The video did not dissappoint. I would agree that our church is so intertwined with our culture, to the churches’ detriment.

  9. Pingback: Idolatry and Scientology « West Coast Witness

  10. About the patriotic Bible … I think we need to remember the angel’s response to Joshua’s question in Joshua 5:13-14.

  11. Rex,

    Sorry about the delete, I did not even see what it said. Your comments are always put directly on the site because I never worry about what you say. I get a ton of spam so I was deleting it, and accidentally deleted your post. I am sorry. It was nothing you said, it was me trying to get rid of over one hundred spam posts too quickly.

  12. K Rex:

    Glad Keller’s talk was a benefit to you. I really appreciated his take on child sacrifice in America. We do it for the idol of money and self. It was all very convicting.

    Curious: How do you take the “Green Bible?”

  13. Pingback: Missions, Evangelism, and Idolatry « Kingdom Seeking

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s