Modern Idol Worship
Those of us that grew up in the church, especially the evangelical Church, will often hear a common sermon. Preached frequently from the pulpit is the concept of idol worship and how that translates into the modern skeptical world. Almost no one here in the west will bow down to a molech or ba’al statue now, but we form our own idols in the things we obsess over and spend too much time with. At least, that is the commonly held thought. Sports, video games, TV, these things can all become idols in our lives, or can they?
Concepts like these existed in Ancient Israel, and even likely back to the beginning of time. Men would always spend too much time at work, think too much on sports, or the equivalent. Elisha, I am quite sure, spoke too often of the latest rock rolling game. Yet in Scripture, when God warns of idol worship, He is angry at the actual bowing and worship of another god, not sports, or obsessive lawn care.
So then, if modern-day idol worship isn’t obsession with worldly things, what is it? As we said earlier, we don’t bring our firstborn to molech any more, or worship images of Ba’al. What than is idol worship? Well, the obvious first answer is ACTUAL worship of false gods. This does exist, if not as commonly in the West, but takes shape in Islam, Buddhism, or Hinduism. These are actual idol worship, easily identified. What about the West then and its apparent absence of those types of eastern mysticism? Well, it may not be as obvious, but I would argue it is just as pervasive in the western church, more increasingly, we are seeing it in the form of steps taken to reject His revealed Word when it discomforts us or when another “truth” suits us better.
We discover a truth about God and we reject it. How many times have you heard someone say “I couldn’t worship a God like that” That person has ceased to pursue truth and is now pursuing comfort. We will exchange the truth for a lie because it suits us better. We then set this god up in our image (a reversal of creation in the Garden) and we bow to it. We pray to it. We go to church on Sunday and we sing praise and worship songs to it. We have actually created a real idol and just called it by the same name. This is what modern idol worship is, and it is sadly pervasive.
Well said. I can get behind your literal interpretation of worshiping false idols, but what then are the obsessions? Are they nothing / not sin? Are they pride (lawn care)? Are they taking the place of meditation and time on/with God (sports fanaticism)?
Oh definitely not, I am not saying behaviors that you obsess over are not sin, but are they idols? Are they to be treated how God wanted idols treated? In Scripture we aren’t really ever told directly “If you get too much satisfaction out of your job, that is idol worship and you are following a false god.” We are told to follow Christ is all of our being, and to make him primary above all things, and breaking that IS a sin… but is it idol worship? In this article, I am exploring the concept of our modern mind trying to find a modern counterpart to idol worship while still rejecting the concept that we might actually worship a false god here in the west.
The other reason this is important is that idol worship was one of the most offensive sins to God on a relational level, and I am not sure I want to ascribe that kind of meaning to playing video games too much… Am I worshiping video games because I play them too often? Or am I just being foolish or undisciplined? I think we might be watering down the sin of Idol Worship by tacking on all of these other ways you can have an idol, all the while ignoring or dismissing the actual idol worship going on in our church right next to us.
Exchanging truth for a lie.
Lie: Lonnie is USA!
Truth: He’s a Canadian. You can take him out of the great north, but in his heart, he longs for many trees and many rocks.
We Orthodox actually still worship idols. No one gives us credit for that.
Something that I think you overlook in your post is how informal of a culture we live in. All of those people who bowed before Ba’al and Molech also would have bowed before their king. In contrast, if any of us were to meet the President, we would expect him to offer us a handshake. This dynamic makes it more difficult to discern what we worship. Neither our earthly rulers nor our divine conceptions seem to elicit much in the way of obeisance.
I think, in our culture, to find out what you worship you have to find out what moves you or holds you, especially when things are tough. When you know what you are willing to fight to change or willing to fight to prevent change, then you’ll have some idea of what you worship.
We also have to keep in mind that, for the ancients, Ba’al and Molech were worshiped as a means to an end. The end being fertility. Generally speaking we’re so distant from our food sources that fertility doesn’t really make it onto our priority lists. So another question to ask ourselves is: what do you have to have in order to have what you really want? For Canaan (and all too often for Israel as well), it was Ba’al.
Those are good points George. You are correct in that we rarely act towards authority figures in the same manner as yesteryear. In many ancient cultures they would have bowed to the king as the king would have been seen as a deity or minor deity. I think keeping that detail in mind is important as well as understanding that for ancient Israel, bowing to the king was NEVER (supposed to be) worship. In a context like that, it would have just been pure respect and submission to the authority placed over you. This can and does apply to worshiping God as well, and I think that is important as well.
When I use the term “bow” I am definitely referring to the worship version of it.
Also, an important distinction to keep in mind is that the president is not a king. Here in the west we don’t have that position any more, and even classes are treated differently, the lowest “caste” member has the opportunity (if not always exercised) to shake Obama’s hand and consider himself in some ways, an equal. One would have never thought or done that to a king.
While we are informal in most things here in the west, even in our worship. The God and gods we “bow” to hold a unique position that hasn’t changed (or shouldn’t have changed) since the beginning, where as the person that leads our country, that position has changed quite a bit in the last several thousand years.