Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Impotent Idols Part II

Well, my wife’s critique of the last post is, “It didn’t sound like conversation by the clothesline.” Yeah, the last post didn’t make the everyday conversational cut, I know. However, as the basis for a continuing topic, it struck me as necessary. Perhaps part II resonates a bit more with practical living.

I have recognized through my experience of regeneration in the Spirit of Christ how blind I have been to my “idols” and all to the detriment of my walk with Father. Consider Isaiah 44: 9-20. The prophet describes a man who fashions an idol out of wood with half a tree and uses the other half for fuel and cooking. Certainly I have never blatantly fashioned a wooden statue and declared it to be my god. However, there are descriptions of human experience from Isaiah 44 pertinent to thinking about our modern day idols.

“He works it with planes and outlines it with a compass, and makes it like the form of a man, like the beauty of man, so that it may sit in a house.” He bows down to this object and prays, "Deliver me, for you are my god."

Consider my assertion that an idol simply reflects back to the idolater a sense of self. In this OT scripture, the power of the idol is nothing. Another verse in the selection describes the wood used to make the idol as useful for fire, alluding that the chemistry of fire from wood is only attributable to the One True God. Yet, the human who is the subject of the reference, replicates the “beauty” of man, something the human aspires to no doubt at some level of the imagination, and he then dispatches trust upon the object. My inference is self-inspired work and emotional hope concerning this person’s future destiny wrapped up in an image of... him who made the idol.

In our world, overt idolatry conferring imaginary supernatural power to objects does occur within world religions and modern paganism. (Christian relics, icons, and much hyped and marketed Christian stuff are a related discussion, no doubt.) The crystal rock is an example. This is fairly easy to recognize and identify. However, I believe the more powerful idolatry is our cultural fascination with self. Self-help books, pop-psychologies in magazine articles and respected medical journalism focused on substantive scientific research all address issues of self-image. Educational strategies focus on the development of self-esteem. Encouragements from gift shop posters to main line pulpit sermons lift up the power of having a personal dream and persevering to achieve such. The plethora of these examples is exhausting!

Let’s reduce this to “clothesline” conversation. Ever bought a car? How did it make you feel? Brand new or just used but sporty and the first little while of driving probably made you feel pretty good. (I bought a brand new Mercury Capri at age 18, and these feelings of self-worth tied to the car persisted well past the new stage!) Did it cross your mind how others perceived your purchase? Or, what if you had to purchase an old vehicle with some rust or dents? How did you feel driving that vehicle?

The levels of personal emotional response to this modern world activity are certainly diverse. Nonetheless, if not the car, then something else has perhaps evoked a strong personal awareness that the activity/object caused feelings either positive or negative associated with how you imagined others perceived you. Ever wear a new suit or dress? Is this wrong or just natural?

It is natural, and the natural man is from whom we need salvation! This is my exact point. When we live our lives making choices which spring from our natural desires for ourselves, I suggest we have made ourselves an idol.

Next up: consequences of living as our own idol even as we profess Christ.


Craig V. said...

I liked both of these posts and look forward to the next one. Then again, I'm not always clothesline accessible myself.

Idolatry is what comes naturally to us. We are usually quite blind to it, and that's a large part of the trap. Of course, we're not innocent in all this. Idolatry is our way of saying to God that we're right and He is wrong.

ded said...

Hey craig v!

Thanks for visiting and making a comment.

We are blind, no doubt.

Idolatry is our way of saying to God that we're right and He is wrong.

I completely agree.

Reed said...

Materialism is certainly rampant in our culture. Though material possessions are neutral entities. We certainly have feelings towards them (like your new car example). Having the new car is not the point, it is the feeling of identity that we get from having the new car. The real issue is our relationship to the object. So, is the question one of us having an idol... or the idol having us?

ded said...


Good to see you here and hear your thoughts. I think your question is right on both sides and illustrates aptly the discussion we had recently about two realities.

We have the car in the material world, but in drawing our identity from it as you describe, it has us spiritually. We will be on hold with growing into maturity in Christ as long as we accept our idolatry as a natural human state that does not need to be addressed.

You bring up the next logical discussion I had planned for a main blog entry. It reassures me that I am thinking about these things in a reasonable manner!