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Michael Ovey is a former lawyer who now is a theologian. In his article "Idolatry and Spiritual Parody: Counterfeit Faith" he argues that the Biblical concept of idolatry--which many would think as useful only in the age of dinosaurs--is hugely helpful as an analytical tool for those examining the culture outside of the church, and even the practices within it.

For instance, he states:

.....the analytical tool of idolatry is central for today’s church, both for examining our general culture, and also our own practices. We are strikingly prone to evaluating services on whether they make those who do not believe ‘at home’; evangelistic tools on the acceptability of content to non-believers and simple numerical ‘results’; sermons on whether people ‘felt guilty’; and pastoral work as ‘successful’ because the person counseled felt there was empathy. Such things may be highly desirable. Yet making them final criteria of judgement departs from the category of true/false on which idolatry concentrates. Whether our teaching and practice is idolatrous should be a primary question, especially since indwelling sin makes it so naturally one of the last.

Ovey suggests that the early church, which had to thrive and survive in the context of a plurality of religions, used this category to its best advantage when he remarks,

"Christians in early centuries met many religions in a world hungry for religious experience and they normally evaluated these things within the framework provided by the analytical tool of idolatry. 

The perennial lure of idolatry---and not just measured by some kind of human-fabricated actual statue made of solid materials of wood, or stone, or kryptonite, or titanium--is that they are creations of the human imagination. Thus the Bible talks about covetousness as idolatry (Colossians 3:5). In a word, Ovey summarizes the seductive appeal of idolatry as such:

Nevertheless, what idolatry offers is highly attractive. By reversing the relationship of humans in the image God confers, humans have a god of their choosing, a designer deity.

The article is chewy, but timeless, and well worth the effort to mine out its riches.

Here is the link




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