When a fellow theology nerd friend read The American Religion post, he offered to let me read a book he had finished. I’m not one to usually turn down Christian nonfiction, so I gleefully accepted the book.
“Here Are Your Gods”: Faithful Discipleship in Idolatrous Times
“When the Israelites exclaimed, “Here are your gods!” at the sight of the golden calf, they were attempting to hold on to the God of their history while fashioning idols for their own purposes. In today’s Western world, plenty of shiny false gods still hold power–idols of prosperity, nationalism, and self-interest. Christians desperately need to name and expose these idols. We must retrieve the biblical emphasis on idolatry and apply it anew in our journey of following Jesus. In “Here Are Your Gods,” Old Testament scholar Christopher J. H. Wright combines a biblical study of idolatry with practical discipleship. He calls readers to consider connections between Old Testament patterns and today’s culture, especially recurring temptations to trust in political power. Now as much as ever, we need a biblically informed understanding of the many ways humans make gods for themselves, the danger of idols, and how God calls us to join him in the battle against idolatry as part of his ongoing mission to be known and worshiped by all peoples.”
When I wrote the post mentioned above, I only touched on political idols. Wright goes more in-depth and even touches on one of my sacred cows.
A lot of the following highlights I typed were Brian’s. I liked them too.
“Pride, greed, and aggression, in the forms of nationalism, consumerism, and militarism, still elevate themselves into idolatrous status in our modern western cultures. The old gods may have changed their names or lost their personal names in favor of more abstract concepts and phrases (patriotism, free market, economic growth, national security, etc.), but they can still wield enormous power in the popular mindset.”pg 22
Which sacred cow of yours did he touch on?
“Yahweh, as used by Jeroboam, became a human construct for political purposes, including (most probably) national security.
The living God, then, was being commandeered and crafted through state propaganda to serve the needs of national security-a form of idolatry that didn’t perish with Jeroboam.”pg 25
This reminds me of political parties pandering to the religious.
“”Bringing the Bible to bear on contemporary politics is usually very uncomfortable, for it exposes so much that we would prefer should stay hidden and even more that we not have seen at all-such as the idols that dominate so much of our public and political life.”pg 68
Do I really need to comment?
“That is the key lesson. All empires come to an end under the sovereign hand of God.”pg 75
History bears this out.
“The trouble is, many Christians are simply living in the world’s story and trying to make the Bible somehow relevant to that. That is, they shape all their assumptions and decisions along the same lines that the rest of the people around us in the world do-but try to add a dose of Bible gloss by “applying” Bible verses here and there.”pg 112
Like Jeremiah 29:11, which was written to Israel if they had obeyed God. It wasn’t written to the United States, or even you personally. Romans 8:28 is more like it.
“We sincerely try to apply the Bible to “my life”-which sounds fine but actually assumes that my life is the center of reality, to which the Bible has to be somehow fitted in an adjectival way. Or sometimes, worse, we use the Bible selectively to reinforce our own personal aspirations, social and political views, or delusions.”pg 112
“In other words, living as Bible people is not just a matter of applying the Bible to my life. Rather, it is the other way around. We should ask, “How can I apply my life, my little life in the here and now of this generation, into the great story of the Bible? How can I live in such a way as to fit into this story, to participate in what God is doing, and prepare for all He plans for the future.”pg 115
“Returning to our main concern-resisting the idols and living a radically God-centered life-this requires we soak ourselves in the Bible itself.”
“Resisting idolatry requires a return to serious and systematic personal Bible reading and to lively, planned, and nourishing biblical preaching.”pg 116
“”But when followers of Jesus are tempted, like the Sadducees, to praise, justify, and collude with corrupt and greedy political regimes for their own religious protection and privileges, to such an extent that they jettison the values of the kingdom of God and the teachings of his Christ, then the warning lights of insidious idolatry begin to flash.”pg 126
I had a hard time with this one, until I remembered the division in German churches during the time of Hitler. To keep the peace, some pastors preached surrounded by Nazi emblems. Others, like Bonhoeffer’s, were underground.
“But if there is no real difference…that is, if Christians are in the most practical ways no different from from the people and the culture around them, then we become nothing less than part of the problem itself-contributing to the division and degeneration of society.”pg 137
I’m closing with these strong words that I have thought myself. The book hurts, which means it’s good. It makes you examine yourself, and that’s the point.
Five stars for that.