Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Impotent Idols, Final

This series posits a notion that in the modern experience of life, the idea of personal self has become the chief idol of the masses.

Even a professing Christian may fail to recognize how the sense of living one’s life is placed ahead of living unto Him. There are many reasons for this I suppose. I believe it is something folks need to think about, if they honestly want to walk in the spirit and not simply adhere to religious doctrine.

In the Old Testament, there are a number of false gods mentioned, and these are associated with literal idols. Two of the most conspicuous are Baal and Molech. Temples to Baal were, in effect, houses of prostitution; and the worship of Baal was a celebration of licentiousness. Molech was a god of violence, and live babies were sacrificed to literal fire built inside the belly of the image. It doesn’t require much imagination to identify human sexual lust and its cousin, blood lust as being driving forces that shaped these pagan religions. Nor does it require much insight to recognize modern society, particularly our US expression, is highly motivated by these same mental- emotional forces.

The pursuit and development of knowledge has turned the study of human behavior, individually and collectively, into sciences. Prominent among these are psychology, sociology and anthropology. As an education major and teaching professional, I have had a smattering of classes in all three. With little creativity, I have understood that the Christian religion and these sciences were talking about the inner-man and the larger societal implications of living outwardly from inward places. The longer I have read and thought within these disciplines and compared them to the Scripture, the clearer it becomes a matter of semantics that what Christians call the “soul” modern man labels the “psyche”. The conventional wisdom of man attempts to understand the inward man (and gets it wrong), while the wisdom of God has revealed who and what we are.

Modern science asks, “How is the inward man shaped?” and finds for answers only rationales forged within the limits of the humans' natural existence. The Christian must ask, “What does it mean to live in the spirit of Christ?” and in so doing seek and find the reality of drawing life from a Source who is beyond our natural world.

If one sees the issues of Christianity and the Christian life as simply a moral way to behave, there is no fundamental difference between such a perspective and the modern sciences. Man has become an object to be analyzed, understood, and educated for the achievement of a higher quality existence. Using Scripture as the major source of education doesn’t alter the weakness of this understanding regarding what is going on in the earth. Rather the Christian faith demands that we wrestle with how to connect with God beyond our rhetoric and practices, thus entering into Him being our source, all in all. If we fail such, those watching may truly assume there is no meaning to the doctrine of regeneration by the Holy Spirit.

Spiritual problems require spiritual remedies. Undoing the power of idolatry, or the spirit that fills one who is focused on self, must come as one learns a focus on Jesus resulting in His spirit as the source by which one lives. When the spirit by which a person breathes life is the True Source, the behavior of the individual will radically alter.


Craig V. said...

Well said, ded. Perhaps we could say we can't really know ourselves without first knowing God. Our idolatry creates both false gods and false selves. We can't know God apart from Christ. We can't know Christ in a scientific sense (we can't put Jesus in our boxes). We know Him as He is revealed by the Spirit.

ded said...

Amen, craig v.!

ded said...
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Ben said...

I'm a little late on the commenting for this post, but I will anyway...

This is something I've been thinking a lot about lately as well. Martin Luther talked about this in relation to the 10 commandments. He said that if you broke one of the ten commandments, it was a result of breaking the first.

In other words, if you are coveting, then you have already broken (or are in the process of breaking) the first commandment concerning idolatry. It's a worship issue. Tim Keller says that nobody changes without worship.

Luther goes on to say that idolatry is really nothing more than assigning ourselves another "functional" savior to save us from what we perceive to be our greatest needs. In other words, I feel a great need to be successful and have the respect of my peers. So, I worship my career as my savior. A savior that will supply my need for approval, respect, etc. In the process, we dethrone Jesus and replace Him with something else.

The result has a cascading effect on our life. We have opened the flood gate to begin breaking the other 10 commandments, so to speak. We loose relationship to Jesus and thus loose ourselves.

The antidote is to run to the feet of our advocate, Jesus and worship Him. When we do that, we place Jesus back into the position of glory. We throw off sin and its entanglments, and find ourselves again.

You know, I hate to over-generalize things like this, but I suspect that idolatry is at the center of most (if not all) of our personal and church-wide problems.

ded said...

Generalization or not, I have come to the same conclusion. Thanks for commenting over here, Ben!