[This post is part of the Idolatry series]
Before going too much farther, I should take a moment to give credit where credit is due.
Most of the things I pointed out about Waking the Dead in the previous 4 part “Myth of the Good Heart,” were not necessarily my own private assessment of the book. I was merely using the tools I have been given here at Dallas Seminary, specifically the lens given to us by Dr. Bingham in his Church to the Modern Era and Church in the Modern Era classes. I took these over the course of this past school year and am indebted to his teaching in order to help me think more Christianly about the books I read, rather than be swayed by the prevailing religious notions in America today which are only superficially Christian (if even that).
I realize that this is an opportunity that not many of you, the readers of my blog may have, but although it is not quite the same, I could recommend a book entitled Christless Christianity by Michael Horton which is pretty much a 200+ page summary of the paradigm we were given to use in Dr. Bingham’s classes (minus the in-depth historical discussions since Dr. Bingham’s classes were classified as Church History classes after all).
As far the direction we are pushing forward in now, the following resources may be helpful. These are what shaped my thinking on the topic of idolatry (along with the environment I am in, here at Dallas Seminary) and could clarify further areas that I won’t be able to go into too much depth here.
- Greed as Idolatry by Brian Rosner
- God’s Unfaithful Wife: A Biblical Theology of Spiritual Adultery by Raymond C. Ortlund Jr.
- We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry by G.K. Beale
- Plowshares & Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic by Brent Sandy
- No God but God: Breaking the Idols of Our Age ed. Os Guinness and John Seel
- To Know and Love God : Method for Theology by David K. Clark
- Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul David Tripp
- Making All Things New: Restoring Pure Joy to the Sexually Broken by David Powlison in Sex and the Supremacy of Christ ed. John Piper and Justin Taylor
That being said our trajectory now needs to be defined a little more clearly. What we are doing is in fact similar to what John Eldredge had attempted rather poorly to do in Waking the Dead. Eldredge tried to illuminate an issue that he saw but felt people ignored. He then diagnosed a problem, offered a solution, and provided steps to live out that solution. His only problem, like most trained psychologists (Christian or not), he didn’t see the problem through Biblical lenses and so misdiagnosed it. With a misdiagnosis on his hands, he could only offer a faulty solution that was also generated from a lack of clear Biblical insight, though veiled in Christianese language. The result is probably one of the worst books I have read on Christian spirituality and growth. The only difference between this kind of book and say something like Your Best Life Now, is that the language misleads people into thinking it is Biblically based (whereas even the Library of Congress recognizes Your Best Life Now is a self-help book and doesn’t even classify it as Christian), and so they are sucked in more readily to the false teaching it contains.
It is as if Eldredge and those like him, wearing yellow tinted glasses, walk into the hospital room of people in various stages of recovery from sin-sickness. Upon seeing everyone so jaundiced they immediately prescribe a pervasive liver treatment, completely oblivious to the fact they are in the oncology ward full of patients with the terminal cancer of idolatry. “If the patients could only understand they now have a cure for hepatitis, everything would be alright,” or so Eldredge would have one think. Like a nurse running around a battlefield applying band aids with Bible verses on them to soldiers’ bodies riddled with bullet wounds, the cure offered is at best superficial, at worst, misleading and ultimately deadly.
To ignore the presence of indwelling sin in our hearts post conversion is to ignore the dragon in your soul.
To not realize that idolatry is the issue at work in our hearts is to miss the point of most of the Old Testament and to ignore the Prophets almost completely.
But this is what we’ve done isn’t it?
We blithely read the epistles over and over again (and the Gospels too), but how often do we really study the whole counsel of God, especially the Prophets? I am just as guilty of this as anybody, even after almost two years here at Dallas Seminary, the Prophets were still a dark corner in my understanding of the Bible. At best, at Word of Life they were presented when they had bearing on eschatology, as if prediction were the primary purpose of prophecy (which you’ll be surprised to learn it is not), but rarely were they presented in conjunction with the two-fold message which the Prophets seemed to be primarily concerned.
It is to our shame that we ignore the bulk of our Bible, and hopefully these next set of posts can help move us more in the direction of seeing the point of prophecy primarily, but also the whole context of the Bible and its bearing on idolatry that pervades us even still today, modernist or not.
So, in pushing forward here is what we will endeavor to offer here:
- A Biblical diagnosis of a pervasive problem in humanity
- A Biblical-Theological response to the problem.
- Rebuke to those who are overtly religious, yet self-righteous, elitist, and devoid of grace.
- Counsel to those who are struggling, broken, and hurting.
It is good to bear in mind that this is not a one-sided conversation, I am indicted in everything just like everyone else, which is why I included myself in the opening examples in just one way which I am an idolater just like everyone else. This is merely the outpouring of things I am learning, I will try to keep the tone from being too harsh as I realize this is something I was ignorant of even as a seminary student. This is not to say seminary students and professors have a corner on sound theological knowledge, but with a recognition of the pervasive nature of idolatry being somewhat foreign to those avidly studying the Scriptures (in seminary or out) how much more would it be ignored by those who do not devote time to growing in knowledge of God and His word?
With that in mind, this is an invitation to grow in both, and having removed the idea that since you’re a Christian you have a good heart and other such nonsense meant to tickle your ears, we are ready to make a more Biblically sound exploration into what our hearts are really like and how we are to respond accordingly.