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.