“There is not any thing in this world, perhaps, that is more talked of, and less understood, than the business of a happy life. It is every person’s wish and design; and yet not one in a thousand . . . knows wherein that happiness consists. We live, however, in a blind and eager pursuit of it; and the more haste we make in a wrong way, the further we are from our journey’s end.”
Category Archives: Idolatry
“At the heart of Christian belief lies a suffering, crucified God. Yet in recent years some have argued that Christian emphasis upon a suffering Jesus is dangerous, that it gives rise to an ideology that encourages those who suffer oppression simply to accept suffering. There are more things wrong with this argument than I can take up here, but it is not surprising that such arguments should arise in a culture devoted to self-realization. In such a setting, the cross must always be countercultural.
Suffering is not a good thing, not something one ought to seek for oneself or for others. But it is an evil out of which the God revealed in the crucified and risen Jesus can bring good. We must therefore always be of two minds about suffering. We should try to care for those who suffer, but we should not imagine that suffering can be eliminated from human life or that it can have no point or purpose in our lives. Nor should we suppose that suffering must be eliminated by any means available to us, for a good end does not justify any and all means.
Unless we are thus of two minds, understanding suffering as an evil that can nonetheless have meaning and purpose, medicine is likely to go awry. It seeks health — but not Health. The doctor is a caregiver, but not, we must remind ourselves, a savior. Ultimately, all of medicine is no more than an attempt to provide care for suffering human beings. That care, however, cannot by itself offer the Health and Wholeness we ultimately need and desire. If we respect the moral limits that ought to bind us, we will not always be able to give people what they desire. We may not be able to give the infertile couple a child, the elderly man an old age free of dependence, the young woman freedom from the child she has conceived, parents the healthy and ‘normal’ child they had wanted, the terminally ill patient a painless death. But we can and should assure them that the story of Jesus is true — that the negative and destructive powers of the universe are not the ultimate powers we worship.
Part of the pain of human life is that we sometimes cannot and at other times ought not do for others what they fervently desire. Believing in the incarnation, that in Jesus God has stood with us as one of us, Christians must try to learn to stand with and beside those who suffer physically and emotionally. But that same understanding of incarnation also teaches us that to make elimination of suffering our highest priority would be to conclude mistakenly that it can have no point or purpose in our lives. We should not act as if we believe that the negative, destructive powers of the universe are finally victorious. Those who worship a crucified and risen Lord cannot give themselves over to such a vision of life.”
~ Gilbert Meilander, Bioethics: A Primer for Christians (Grand Rapids, Mi.; Eerdmans, 1996), 7-8.
“If we try to make something finite fill the place that only God can fill, we will try to extract an unrealistic level of meaning from that idol. When it does not work, it invites us only to try harder. It should not surprise us in a deeply idolatrous society that books on codependency and addiction form a growth industry. People feel enslaved to substances, to unwanted behavior, and to each other. These idols have promised life, but are death-dealing, anti-human, and constricting. It seems to be exactly this role-reversal that the Psalmist has in mind when in discussing idolatry he writes, ‘Those who make them will be like them and so will all who trust in them’ (Psalm 115:8). The idol begins as a means to power, enabling us to control, but then overpowers, controlling us.”
~Richard Keyes, “The Idol Factory” in No God But God: Breaking with the Idols of Our Age, Os Guiness & John Seel, eds. (Chicago, Ill.: Moody Press, 1992), 45.
“What people revere, they resemble, either for ruin or restoration.”
~ G. K. Beale, We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry (Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic, 2008), 16.
“The modern secular world—the world which tries to remove God from his all-creating, all-sustaining, all-defining, all-governing place—has no choice but to make itself god and to create its own morality. In other words, when man abandons God and his self-revelation as the source of what is objectively true and right and beautiful, the next highest court of appeal is man himself.
If God is not the measure of what is true and right and beautiful, then I am and you are. And since we—the god called ‘you,’ and the god called ‘me’—may not agree, the result will be: Might makes right. And everything in education, and media, and politics in this God-evicting world becomes a battle for power. Not a quest for objective truth and right and beauty, since there isn’t any, but a power-struggle. Because the one who has the power, in a world without God, defines reality. Defines what is true. Defines what is right. Defines what is beautiful. And there is no court of appeal in heaven for the weak. Man is god. And the powerful man is god-Almighty—the maker of the truth, the inventor of what is right, and the definer of what is beautiful. And the bloodiest century in the history of the world—the twentieth century with its Stalin and Hitler and Mussolini and Milosevic and Pot and Amin and Mao and Sung and Hussein and the abortion industry—prove it with horrifying evidence.”
~ John Piper, “Abortion and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil“
“The essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man. Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be. Man claims prerogatives which belong to God alone; God accepts penalties whcih belong to man alone.”
~ John Stott, The Cross of Christ (Downers Grove, Ill., InterVarsity Press, 1986), 160.
“The essence of the fall of Eve and Adam—and all of us in Adam—is the supreme pleasure we have in being independent, and deciding for ourselves what is true and right and beautiful, rather than finding supreme pleasure in God as the fountain of all that is true and right and beautiful. The essence of the fall is preferring to be god rather than enjoy God.
So the modern secular world is very old. It puts on new clothes from century to century, and we call it by different names. Recently: modernism, existentialism, secular humanism, postmodernism. But there is a common root they all share: God is dethroned, and the next highest court of appeal for truth and right and beauty is man—little, finite, fallible, mortal man.”
~ John Piper, “Abortion and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil“