Our Tendency Toward Idolatry

Zach Nielsen had an insightful post this morning this is worth passing on. On his blog, TakeYourVitaminZ, Zach writes:

Much could be written about yesterday’s post from JT discussing Rob Bell’s new book.  I share all the same concerns that he raises as well as those from Josh HarrisDenny BurkKevin DeYoung and more that are sure to come.

But something came to mind that I have not seen talked about much in this discussion.  It’s the fact that we are are so desperately tribal.  Now of course this can be a good thing.  None of us can escape it.  We are built for community and from the creation account in Genesis we learn that “it is not good for man to be alone.”  Community most naturally happens around shared view, interests, and beliefs.

But this fact comes into a clearer light when a high profile leader comes out with something controversial, heretical, or just plain dumb. You’ll have a certain group of people who are very quick to be defensive and you have another set of people who are very quick to rejoice and assume the worst.  We like our teams and when someone from the other team falls it can be a source of much pride.  In my heart I know I am guilty of this.

I also see the intensity of my tribal nature if I imagine John Piper saying something really stupid or having some sort of theological meltdown or moral failure.  I would be crushed.  No one single man has had more of an influence on my life and ministry than him.  I would be quick to be defensive and also eager to ask people to “just hold on a bit” and would probably fight to believe the best of the situation.  But at it’s core the comfort of my theological tribe would be crumbling and that would be quite unsettling.

It strikes me even now as I write that in the opening statement above I needed to point out that I am aligning myself with JT, Josh Harris, KD, and Denny Burk.  That was simply instinctual.  I didn’t even think about it until now.  Do I do that because I want to make sure that those guys and all the people that follow them know that I am “in” as well?  “I am on the right team!  Just wanted to make sure you guys know that!” And on and on…

All this forces me to ask, “where is my ultimate allegiance?”

These issue are not new.  Have you ever read 1 Cor. 3:1-10?

[3:1] But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. [2] I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, [3] for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? [4] For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human?

[5] What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. [6] I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. [7] So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. [8] He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. [9] For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

Aligning ourselves to men rather than God is reflective of our tendency towards idolatry, pride, and self-preservation.  Do we follow God or Rob Bell?  Do we follow God or John Piper?  Do we follow God or Tim Keller?  And the list goes on and on.

Rob Bell, love him or hate him, either way, our response to yesterday’s news should be appropriately reflective of an ultimate allegiance to God.  We shouldn’t be TOO disappointed (this demonstrates idolatry) or TOO elated (this demonstrates pride) or TOO dismissive (this demonstrates self-centeredness).

In the Twitter, FB, and blog firestorm that took place yesterday (and is sure to continue) may we be reminded that our ultimate allegiance is to the Triune God and his Word alone.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have tribes, coalitions, networks and read lots of books by really gifted people.  It just means that we need to remind ourselves where the priorities are and where the emphasis should lie.  Unless we are aware of our endless tendency to make good things God things (and any man a GodMan), we are asking for severe disappointment when our idols fail us.


One Response to “Our Tendency Toward Idolatry”

  1. david sims Says:

    well shared…

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