Friday, July 28, 2006


While editing a section of Rebellion of Thought called "Creating God In Our Own Image," I included this quote from our interview with Bruce Ellis Benson (Associate Professor of Philosophy at Wheaton College)...

"...we affirm as Christians that God does exists, and that our conception of God is not purely a kind of idolatrous conception of God. Now of course, there it gets a little difficult, because as Christians, I assume that our conception of God is probably never completely pure, that is to say, our conception of God is never completely free from idolatry. It's very easy for the conception of "Jesus, Lord of my life," to morph into, to change into, "Jesus, who is the granter of my desires." That's not a very big step, as it turns out, and indeed I assume that many of us live, in a sort of practical way so that Jesus is the granter of our desires, first and foremost, rather than the Lord and Master of our lives."

What are your thoughts on this concept of Christian idolatry? Please share them here...


dwb said...

Basically he's saying that we worship our own broken and perverted image of Christ rather than the true Christ. I'm having trouble thinking of that as idolatry because it's still pointing to Christ... except that it makes Christ the granter of our wishes and if Christ is granting our wishes then we must be god. The idol in this situation is ourself.

There are other "Christian idols" as well. We can all too easily get caught up in following one of God's servants rather than God himself. We can busy ourselves with God's work so we don't have to hear what He has to say. We can identify ourselves with a movement or minor doctrine or political system rather than placing our identity in Christ alone. We can be proud of our humility.

It's amazing how easy it is to drift off course... we're like a car whose wheels are out of alignment. We need to keep our hands on the steering just to stay on the road.

Thank God for grace and mercy.

Terri Moore said...

In today's society, I think we have definitely tried to put God/Jesus in a box that fits what we want. I think an attitude of worship and servitude is definitely nearing extinction. To borrow a phrase from Janet Jackson, our response to Jesus and God in our worship times has become, "What have you done for me lately?" Our prayers are filled with requests rather than thanks and praise. Our worship services have become huge productions designed to draw the crowds. The Word gets lost in all the trappings we put around it to make it "more attractive" If we don't wake up and realize that God has to be first and foremost the center of our lives, I see nothing but the downward spiral continuing. You cannot change God, by his very nature, He never changes. This is one of the things that is most desirable, and one of the attributes we tout when it is useful for our needs, yet when God's constant way is inconvenient for us or makes us uncomfortable, we want to "change" him into something He is not.
The biggest danger, as Christians, in this making God/Jesus our personal "genie" so to speak, our "granter of wishes" is that we lead others astray. We misrepresent our faith to others. Churches become fill-up stations where we get our weekly fix of "warm fuzzies" and "feel good" messages. Don't get me wrong, I believe with all my heart that God loves me. I am His child, but as His child I need to respect and honor him as a Father, and let him raise me to be the child He wants me to be.

Kent C. Williamson said...

Idolatry... from Wikipedia...

Idolatry is a major sin in the Abrahamic religions regarding image. In Christianity it is defined as worship of an image, idea or object, as opposed to the worship of a supreme being. In Judaism and Islam, the creation of imagery itself as well as its worship would amount to idolatry. In religions where such activity is not considered as sin, the term "idolatry" itself is absent. Some religious authorities and groups have used the term to describe other religions apart from their own.

FriarWade said...

In Search of...
... the New Testament Church!

From time to time I hear the desire of earnest Christians longing for the intimacy, love and manifestation of the Holy Spirit as recorded in the book of Acts. "If only we could be like the New Testament Church, without all of the backbiting and politics that seem to 'get in the way' of the freedom and passion I read about in the Bible. (The problem is that the backbiting, politics and dissension existed even in with the Apostles.) If only I could find a New Testament Church." So the search is on!

How would you define a "New Testament Church?" Would it be one that is free from controversy? (There has always been controversy - matters were settled by a coundil of Bishops.)Would it be one that lived the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles? (Now that might be the real issue.) In your mind, can you envision such a thing? Or do you see yourself as a 'lone wolf' searching for others who share you passion, surrounded by religious trappings and dogmas that don't seem to 'fit in' with the call that's burning in your heart?

Do you believe the words of Jesus when He said that "the gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church?"

What if the Church that Jesus founded was still in existence today? Would you be willing to REPENT - that is, to cast aside your preconceived ideas of what the Church should be? For many, that answer is, "NO!" (This is idolatry - to elivate our opinion over the self-revelation of God to man through Jesus and the Church.) Many want to find a church that fits into their understanding of what they read in the Bible. What if that understanding is clouded by Western thought and tradition? Could we be so bold as to really humble ourselves before God and admit that our understanding is flawed?

We have been so conditioned by our culture which has touted the supremacy of the individual and our 'right' to worship the God of our understanding, that we could be totally missing the truth. Maybe we need a 'rebellion of thought,' a 'metanoia,' that will 'remove the veil' from our eyes.

Are you bold enough to join me on a 'journey quest' to discover the faith of our fathers? Are you bold enough to forge the forgotten waters of the mysteries of God?

Many have reached the summit of intellectual revelation as seen from their denominational teaching. But the heart is still longing for that "Connection with God." Is this a call to you?

Will you join me on my quest to discover the Church that our Lord founded? What really happened after the book of Acts ended until Martin Luther posted his 95 theses?

When was the last time you read about the Church during the first 1000 years? Maybe that time is now!

There's more to come!
I wish you peace!

Fr. Wade Fahnestock+

Kent C. Williamson said...

Alec Miller commented above...

"Western socities have moved from a form of community existence to individual existence. It is harder to make God an idol when it is the God of the community and not of the individual. A community will tend to serve a God while an individual will tend to ask favors."

This is an interesting point, the lack of true community within our Western culture. I would have to say that this is probably the number one item that drove us OUT of the traditional modern church environment and into our current model. The longing for true relationship (not merely the smiling faces, handshakes and God bless you's of modern Christianity) but deep, meaningful relationship shared with others on a faith journey can only be denied for so long.

I believe this concept will continue to spread like wildfire through the lives of believers as we continue to move further into the post-modern age.

The modern age did great things for the "individual" in the West. I hope the pomo age will do even greater things for us "individuals" as we learn to rely, depend, and lean on each other in the form of community.

What I find in dialogue with many of my traditional church friends is that most claim that THEIR church offers true community... maybe it's just me and my poor church selection abilities... they all couldn't be wrong, could they?

I've also seen and experienced the correlation between the increase of church size and the direct increase of an artificial sense of community. I imagine I'm probably not alone on this...

Kent C. Williamson said...

I just came across an article in the New York Times online edition about Rev. Gregory A. Boyd called "Disowning Conservative Politics Is Costly for Evangelical Pastor"...

Here's an interesting paragraph that relates to Christian Idolatry...

Mr. Boyd said he never intended his sermons to be taken as merely a critique of the Republican Party or the religious right. He refuses to share his party affiliation, or whether he has one, for that reason. He said there were Christians on both the left and the right who had turned politics and patriotism into “idolatry.”

Anyone seen examples of that type of idolatry?

The other half of the Brothers Williamson (Brad) was/is in a church that wouldn't fly the American flag in the sanctuary... when I first learned of this (10 or 15 years ago) I was shocked... now down the road a stretch it all makes sense... it's a short jump from patriotism to idolatry...

Ron Goetz said...

Interesting posts. Eric, of all the posters, I think you are the most overtly personal, confessing your attachment to your bike.

You are absolutely correct when you write that "idolatry will reveal itself in my actions--my "treasure" will be disclosed by the choices I make in my life." Talk is cheap.

And when you write that you're "not sure that anyone, other than myself, is really concerned if my heart passionately follows after Christ, or whether I choose a cheap imitation instead," you are again dead on the money.

It is not in anyone's interest that you actually live out a life like Jesus'. In fact, if you do live like Jesus, and follow his commands, you'll only be accused of being an extremist or a kook. You'll make people who are lukewarm look bad, in particular the Scribes and Pharisees. So just be warned: Jesus, Paul, Peter--they all came to sticky ends.

In terms of your bike, maybe you should trade it in for a Moped. I just bought one used for $100.

Terri, I totally agree with you in your "criticism" that "Churches become fill-up stations where we get our weekly fix of 'warm fuzzies' and 'feel good' messages."

I think church structure is the culprit where this is the case. To be a successful pastor or priest, you have two choices. First is to preach non-controversial feel-good messages. Or, you have to stake out your claim to have THE answers, whether that theology is based on the Bible, or the Church Fathers, or someone like Luther, Calvin, Fox, or Wesley. Either make people feel good, or let them know "we're right and everyone else is wrong."

Postmodernegro, I'm sure most of posters would agree, as you say, that "we have to admit to some level of fallibility and creatureliness in the truth we confess about Christ."

I think Eric was addressing this when he wrote, "while I desire to know this being, I don't believe I will ever grasp His nature completely."

I also agree that knowing that "our theology is situated and finite can aid Western Christianity in shedding the normativity of the white aesthetic and grammar that is dominant in the West."

We are saddled with theological formulas we inherited from political and ideological debates which raged in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East as far back as 2,000 years. When I approach the Bible, I have a very different set of problems and questions.

For example, when I look at Paul, I see an example of how one Christian worked to create a new religious thought system, one more suitable for reaching people with the love of God. This to me is one of the central tasks of the Emergent Church.

Being white, I don't emphasize that element of the crime the way you do. I do, however, disagree with any group's attempt to "presume itself to be normative, universal, standard, 'human'... [the exclusive] bearers of the true true Christianity."

Wade, forgive me, but but your attempts to smuggle devotion to the early church fathers into various threads is...interesting. And your apparent belief that a single, organizational repository of Spiritual and ecclesiastical truth exists on the planet is a debatable question, to be sure.

DWB, you hit on this, I believe. "There are other 'Christian idols' as well. We can all too easily get caught up in following one of God's servants rather than God himself."
Whether the servant is named John Wesley or Irenaeus or Margery Kempe, they're only people.

Clara, your comment was perhaps the most significant. "What did Jesus say, you shall 'know' the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind? We are more capable of loving God than knowing Him, but not as willing." Talk is cheap. Talking is easier than selling your bike. (Oops! sorry . . .)

The posts talk a lot about images of Christ and concepts of God, our understanding and our theology. But Hebrews and Jeremiah tell us that God no longer reveals himself to us in mere words, but in a person whose behavior we can (could) observe and emulate.

The idol of materialism? It was never a problem until I hit my 40's, saw the prospects of institutional ministry evaporate (thank God), and my only financial arrangements were with creditors. Then it was a question of, "What good did all this devotion and zeal do me?"

"I'm not dead yet," is the only answer to that.

rajanilaba said...

Dafabet reviewto know more in regards to the platform’s legalities, options, and payment choices. You can discover our top recommended sites and everything you need to|you should|you have to} get started right here. One of the primary things we look into is the listing of accepted currencies 1xbet at our casinos. This signifies that these operators should respect dozens of truthful play and safety regulations have the ability to} defend gamers. Sometimes, they act as mediators on behalf of gamers have the ability to} remedy disputes the place player mistreatment has been suspected.