Idolatry (An article in Christianity Today)

A couple of years ago, Jason Hood wrote an article in Christianity Today entitled, Idolatry, the Gospel, and the Imitation of God: Why evangelicals have taken such an interest in idols. (Click here to view the whole article.)

With the help of the insights from Christopher J. H. Wright, Tim Keller, Brian Rosner and Greg Beale, Hood came up with some good stuff in his article. Here are some excerpts.

Idolatry is dangerous because it almost always involves the offer of good things as substitutes for God. Wright highlights three pairs of idols: power and pride, success and popularity, and wealth and greed. Keller similarly highlights money, sex, and power, noting that even churches and efforts in ministry can become idols.

Closer to home geographically, ideologically, and temporally, we find the same effect. The most famous statue in the United States is the Statue of Liberty. Many Americans are unaware that the image atop the base is the Roman goddess Libertas. Now we may not worship this goddess in the traditional manner. But it is not too much to say that our radical allegiance to self and independence is idolatrous worship… And if we worship freedom, we may become the personification of Libertas, unable to experience healthy dependence on God and others, even as others find they cannot depend on us. Freedom can ironically enslave us, crippling our service to God and others.

We begin to destroy the power of idols by believing the good news of all that God offers his broken human images in the person and work of his Son. In Christ we receive a new adopted identity as God’s beloved children who are assured of acceptance, forgiveness, resurrection life, and a global inheritance. This identity is available apart from success, popularity, creativity, and wealth. God gives redemption despite our failure, poverty, and spiritual barrenness. He holds out proof of his love in the bloody death of Jesus for sinners, in his life-giving resurrection, and in the empowering gift of the Spirit of adoption.

Beale’s thesis notes the possibility of “becoming what we worship” for ill and for good. “All of us are imitators and there is no neutrality,” says Beale. “We are either being conformed to an idol of the world or to God.” In the final chapters of his book, Beale begins to explore this neglected strand of biblical teaching: those who worship the God of Israel become like him, increasingly fulfilling their destiny as they conform to the righteousness and holiness of God and the Son who is his perfect image (Matt. 5:48; Rom. 8:29; Eph. 4:23–24; 4:32–5:2; Col. 3:5–10).

Repenting of idolatry involves actual turning, a change of one’s mind and service away from idols and toward the worship and imitation of the Father and Son.Wright summarized the task in his reflections on Lausanne 2010: “Few things can be more important for the mission of the Church of Jesus Christ than that those who claim his name should be like him, by taking up their cross, denying themselves, and following him in the paths of humility, love, integrity, generosity, and servanthood.”

Let us take up the cross and follow Christ!

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