Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Idolatry: The Updated Kinds

The Bible consistently exposes the foolishness and evil of idolatry. Here is one example from Isaiah:

  • He [the idolater] cuts down cedars… Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!”  And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”… A deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” (Isaiah 44:14-17, 20)
Why does God ridicule the idolater? God had created him to seek God and find Him. However, the idolater rejected God in favor of a block of wood, which could neither make any moral claims or indictments. Consequently, idolatry provided moral license to commit horrible acts. It was therefore associated with the most debauched practices and God’s judgments:

  • "[Israel] do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things, for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you (Leviticus 18:24-28).
There was no excuse for this false worship. God had revealed himself very plainly (Romans 1:18-21; Psalm 1; Proverbs 1:20-32) and miraculously. God had supplied everything we needed. Therefore, rejecting God was likened to rejecting a parent or the mother of one’s children for a prostitute.

It wasn’t simply the idolatrous creations of human hands that were forbidden, but also the idolatrous worship of nature:

  • And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.  But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day. (Deut. 4:19-20)
It was not the stars or sun that had rescued Israel from Egypt or had given them the Promised Land. Instead, it was the Creator of the heavens who alone could have performed on behalf of Israel. In contrast, the sun and moon were very limited in what they could do and impersonal. There was no reason to worship them in favor of their Creator.

Today’s educated have also chosen to worship either nature or its blind forces. Meanwhile, they have convinced themselves that they have advanced far beyond other civilizations.

They are called by God, but they choose to conceive Him as something they can manage – something that will not disrupt their lifestyle or point an accusing finger. They choose to think of the Creator as an energy force, magnetism, or as nature itself – none of which can provide any explanation, direction, or meaning for our lives.

Is there any compelling reason to conceive of God in such a limited way? Can gravity create, answer prayers, or even fry up an egg? Can magnetism plant a tree, write a sonnet, or move my heart? Should we worship nature, death, and the survival-of-the-fittest? Will such worship dignify or detract? Raise up or debase?

Others have chosen self-worship. However, to worship self is necessarily to worship everything we find in the self – greed, jealousy, selfishness. Paul had warned against this religion of the last days:

  • For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. (2 Timothy 3:2-5) 
This is the religion of today. It is baseless but popular, designed for the “now,” for self-indulgence, for guiltless “choice.” Nevertheless, as with all other religions, it maintains a veneer of “godliness” and virtue. All devotees of the self are “good people,” convinced that they haven’t rejected the Creator. Instead, they have found a substitute creator – naturalism, spontaneous generation plus time, Darwinism. It doesn’t make any sense, but they assure themselves that science will eventually come up with a natural explanation for everything. Science has become their god instead of the sun, which grows their food. They conveniently forget the Creator of science - the laws and building blocks He has fine-tuned for us.

Will God hold them any less guiltless than the idolater? Is their embrace of god-substitutes innocent? Do these alternatives make any more sense than fashioning gods out of wood? Do they seek a way out of their perplexity? No! None seek! Does truth even matter? They go to great lengths to even deny that there is a truth. However, their every statement, argument, and protestation enlists truth for their own cause. Shall they be found innocent?

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