Friday, August 06, 2010


The word "idols" sounds archaic. We tend to think of statues or gargoyles or sacrifices that are more in keeping with a pagan culture than our modern times. But N.T. Wright, in his book SURPRISED BY HOPE [HarperOne 2008] does a more than adequate job of showing the modern relevance of that word. He shows that "idol worship" is as modern as microwaves and as dangerous as radiation poisoning. In fact, to relationships, it is MORE dangerous than the afore mentioned modern items. Idolatry, according to Wright, IS a heart problem but doesn't stay there. It worms it's way into our value system [with devaluation] and carries with it consequences that infect our walk with God, our families, neighborhoods and even congregations.

N.T. Wright says it this way..."

"One of the primary laws of human life is that you become like what you worship; what’s more, you reflect what you worship not only back to the object itself but also outward to the world around. Those who worship money increasingly define themselves in terms of it and increasingly treat other people as creditors, debtors, partners, or customers rather than as human beings. Those who worship sex define themselves in terms of it (their preferences, their practices, their past histories) and increasingly treat other people as actual or potential sexual objects. Those who worship power define themselves in terms of it and treat other people as either collaborators, competitors, or pawns. These and many other forms of idolatry combine in a thousand ways, all of them damaging to the image-bearing quality of the people concerned and of those whose lives they touch." (p. 182)

Mark Driscoll says much the same thing in different words in his latest book DOCTRINE. He says it this way...

"If we idolize our gender, we must demonize the other gender. If we idolize our nation, we must demonize other nations. If we idolize our political party, we must demonize other political parties. If we idolize our socioeconomic class, we must demonize other classes. If we idolize our family, we must demonize other families. If we idolize our theological system, we must demonize other theological systems. If we idolize our church, we must demonize other churches.

This explains the great polarities and acrimonies that plague every society. If something other than God’s loving grace is the source of our identity and value, we must invariably defend our idol by treating everyone and everything who may call our idol into question as an enemy to be demonized so that we can feel superior to other people and safe with our idol." (350-351)

I do not agree with either man in all points of theology. But on this point make it a threesome. And...if this assessment is true...our generation has become as "Idolatrous" as any I've ever studied biblically or historically.

Paul B.

UPDATE___Since I'm connecting you with people who write about Idolatry better than I need to read what my blogosphere friend from "Down Under," Aussie John, said about it here.. By the way..I've yet to find anything theological that I disagree with when Aussie j writes.


Aussie John said...


"I do not agree with either man in all points of theology. But on this point make it a threesome. And...if this assessment is true...our generation has become as "Idolatrous" as any I've ever studied biblically or historically."

How right you are, and well illustrated in the current scene here in Australia, which is in the midst of, what is supposed to be, an election campaign. The idolatry is illustrated quite graphically, with much of the commentary from the press and the public revealing personal,political and idealogical idolatry with very little discussion about the issues.

Thank you for the ill deserved commendation.

Rex Ray said...

I see the point your post is making, but I don’t believe if a person idolizes one thing, he MUST demonize something else. “Demonize” is a very strong word.

If a small kid is bragging ‘My father can whip your father’, he is not demonizing the other kid’s father. If a person idolizes golf, it doesn’t mean he demonizes baseball.

I believe if people get carried away with a topic, they can go overboard.

Aussie John,
Do you know my second cousin missionary Mark Ray that’s been in Australia 20 plus years?

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

Sounds like Australia and America are much alike in political climate at the present.


Using the definition of idolatry that is almost universal in dictionaries, "To give blind, excessive devotion to"..."to be willing to blindly worship images or people," I'm not sure your illustration of the boy believing his dad can whip somone else's dad meets the definition of idolatry. Wishful thinking of a child may be more what that is IMO. ;) [Or golf either for that matter.]

"Must" may be a little strong but it is the word used in the quote and I think I'll stand by his use of it to make his point.

I'm wondering if true idolatry does not almost, in fact, create just such a driving force in people. The author of the quote thinks so obviously.

Rex Ray said...

Mark Driscoll said, “If we idolize our theological system, we must demonize other theological systems.”

Would you agree people that drank the Kool Aid met the definition of idolatry in idolizing their theology?

If so, how did they “demonize” their family’s theology?

I think the theology of Islam would be an example of Driscoll’s statement when they kill ‘infidels’.

Paul Burleson said...


I'm sorry..I'm not following. I'm sure it's my understanding abilities but what you're saying just isn't computing for me at this point.

I'm leaving momentarily for a time of praching/teaching tomorrow so I will be off the blog for a couple of days. Will respond when I return. Remember our policy of speaking with respect.

Paul Burleson said...

Whatever "praching" is!! :)

Rex Ray said...

I’m trying to say Driscoll is correct in saying, “If we idolize our theological system, we must demonize other theological systems” when it comes to the religion of Islam when they idolize their theology to the point of demonizing/killing people that disagree.

In another case, I believe he is correct when the leaders of SB “idolize” their creed (“The 2000 statement of the BFM is our doctrinal guideline”) to the point they “demonized”/fired missionaries and exclude anyone under their 'power' that won't sign. It's like Tom Eliff, told Patterson when he became President of the SBC that all barnacles and parasites had been removed from the ship of Zion.

Aussie John said...


Sorry! I don't know your cousin. The only Mark Ray I know of is a fellow who played first grade cricket and authored a book about the subject. Another is a vascular surgeon, and another, a criminal.

None of them sound like missionaries, although, one never knows these days :)

Paul Burleson said...


Gotcha. I agree on both points.

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