The reason the apostle John tells the members of a faithful Christian church to “keep yourselves from idols” is that he knew that there would be times when they did not want to keep themselves from idols (1 Jn. 5:21). There would be times, he knew, when making some kind of room for an idol would seem like the most natural thing to do.
There are of course grotesque forms of idolatry, but there are also the first stirrings of idolatry that can seem quite respectable, even to Christians. In fact, it can seem disreputable not to make room for that kind of idol. These are the stirrings that Christians need to be especially wary of—because the end of that road is an accommodation with the more monstrous forms of idolatry.
I believe that Hemingway has a line somewhere about how someone went bankrupt, how it happened to him in two stages. First it was gradually, and then it was suddenly. It has been that way with evangelicals and our idolatries. First it was gradually, and then it was suddenly. We were on cruise control, here in traditional values white bread America, and all of a sudden you might lose your job because you won’t bow down to the giant phallus in the lobby at corporate. Gradually. Then suddenly.
Idols That Must Go, and Idols That Must Stay
As I recently argued in a sermon on Micah, there are two kinds of idols that we must reckon with. There is gross idolatry, where an object of man’s devising, the work of his hands, is carved, molded, or painted, and then, in a crowning act of folly, worshiped. The second kind of idolatry exists where we take a good gift from God, and give it the wrong kind of importance in our lives.
Each form of idolatry must be repudiated, of course, but these two kinds of idolatry must be dealt with differently. If you have a Baal set up in your back yard, then the only appropriate thing to do is pull it down. But if you have the god of mammon enshrined in your heart, treating that heart as mammon’s holy of holies, then you must re-prioritize everything in your heart and life—but you will still be handling money this time next week. True repentance will affect how you handle that money, not whether you do. In one instance the idol itself must go away, and in the second instance, the idol remains, but is dethroned. And when that kind of idol is dethroned—get this—it is made stronger.
Say that a man has made an idol out of the traditional family. It is some kind of fetish with him. If he gets things right with God, and dethrones that idol, his traditional family is going to have a much better chance at thriving.
But this next point is crucial. There is a vast difference between dethroning these false gods, and restoring them to health, over against toppling them all in order to make room for the savage gods. We have been exhorted to do the latter as though we were doing to the former, and we are paying for it now. This is why the cold water that Spurgeon spoke of is getting splashed in our faces now.
There is a vast difference between a Christian community where Christ is everything, and the families are consequently vibrant and strong, and a place where nobody is quite sure what a family even is exactly, so why not two lesbians and a tranny? Now if you have a case where the families are vibrant and strong, precisely because the family is not an idol, and yet there are other folks admonishing them about their idolizing of the family, then what is happening—on purpose or not—is preparation for the grotesque forms of idolatry.
If you doubt what I say, just look at what has happened to American culture over the last few decades. While monstrous idols are being erected in the public square, Christians are being told not to “idolize” their customs, nation, suburban life, family and so on. We are being told to beware the petty idols that might not even be idols, and also told to leave the monstrous idols alone because the gospel is “apolitical.” More about that in a minute.
God and the Gods
Now only the true and living God is transcendent. Only the transcendent and thrice-holy God can be worshiped without idolatry. The gulf between the Creator and the creation is an infinite one, and that means that if anything on this side of that divide is worshiped, then that act of worship is idolatry.
All idols, of necessity, because they are not the true and living God, must be on this side of the Creator/creature divide. Because they are worshiped by humans, and humans are a political animal, gathered together in societies, tribes, cities, and nations, this means that virtually all our idols are political in nature. They are the gods of the polis. The rare exception would be when Marvin the Hermit, after too many years living up in the Bitterroot Mountains, carved an image of his own devising, calling it some name he made up, like Shagrit. But virtually all other idols are group projects. Again, they are the gods of the polis because idolaters are people of a polis. And the gods of the polis are political.
So it is that the service of climate change activists is idolatry, serving the gods of nature. The service of radical political activists is idolatry, serving the gods of history, lined up as they are on “the right side” of that history. The service of secular bond traders is idolatry, serving the gods of mammon. The service of humanity is not philanthropy, but rather idolatry, serving the gods or goddesses of sex, depending on the current estrogen levels. The service of power is political idolatry, serving the gods of coercion and blood. The service of religion is idolatry, serving the gods of niceness and rainbow colored stoles for the women preachers, tepid gods resembling nothing so much as a bowl of tapioca pudding at room temperature.
But Christians worship the living God, and only the living God.
Worship is Service
Worship means service, and so it is that the worship of some idols is rather informal, and does not involve an intricate or external liturgy. Paul tells us that covetousness is idolatry (Col. 3:5), for example, but it a rare occurrence when such an idolater lights votive candles in front of his bank book, or leaves baskets of fruit in front of his investment portfolio. But service is still rendered, and that service is still idolatry. The idolater’s life is lived in the service of that god, and he does what that god demands of him.
The nature of the service can vary from idol to idol, but the fact of service is constant. One man serves the gods of history by scribbling frantically in a library, like Marx did. Another man serves the gods of sex by pursuing countless liaisons, like Hefner did. Another man, son of a rich white lady, serves the gods of the future by throwing bricks through upscale shop windows, a shop dedicated to selling $500 purses to rich white ladies. And yet another serves the gods of ecumenical group hugs by initiating yet another interfaith dialog session at some apostate seminary, hoping that the priests of Molech will be able to make it this time.
But Christians gather on the Lord’s day, to worship Him as He has instructed us to. We sing psalms to Him. We present our petitions to Him. We hear His sacred Word read aloud to us. We listen carefully as that Word is applied to us in the sermon. We break bread together, and we drink wine together, and then with the benediction of Christ resting on our shoulders, we go out to live among the idolaters for another week.
Their Genius Move
One of the tactics that is used a lot these days is the tactic of messing with all the terms, inverting them. For example, what do we now call those brownshirts fomenting violence in our cities? Why, they are antifa—short for antifascist. This would make better sense if they weren’t such fascists, but such are the times we live in.
Over the course of the last year and a half, respectable Christian leaders have repeatedly admonished us to avoid idolatry (fine, good), but they did so in a way that actually prepared the way for the onslaught of these savage gods (bad).
They define gospel issues in terms of the outline of the Apostles Creed, if that much, and anything beyond that is tagged as, you guessed it, idolatry. The whole thing is kind of a genius move, when you think about it. They have arranged things so that any potent Christian challenge to Molech, or Baal, or Mammon, or Chemosh is thought to be a form of our idolatry, because our challenge is not spelled out in the Apostles Creed. “Where does the Creed say to reject all climate change propaganda as a form of state worship, salvation through government?” But such a challenge is resident in the Creed—but only for those who actually understand what they are confessing.
We were told to remember that the gospel is apolitical, and that we should only focus on “gospel issues.” But what this means is that when these Christians exhort other Christians to not “get political,” they are in effect saying “lay off the idols.” They are saying that we must not challenge the reigning idols and, moreover, this principled decision to not challenge the idols is to be considered a “gospel issue.”
If the “idol” that might be an idol is getting in the way of the progressive jihad (America, gas grills in suburbia, traditional family, white people), it is determined to be idolatry of necessity. But if it is something that does not get in the way of our new and savage gods, then it must be accepted, and you are dismissed as a hater if you do not acquiesce.
If challenged on this point, I would simply gesture toward some drag queen reading to the kiddies over in the public library. Is that idolatry? “Well, sir, people who raise that kind of question are almost certainly haters and white nationalists, and so that actually makes them idolaters.” They should search their hearts.
So the way this works out in practice, a host of left wing issues are mysteriously considered to be the outworking of the heart of the gospel, which is justice, and is consequently greeted by the evangelical ruling class with a chef’s kiss. Right wing issues, contrariwise, also have a heart, which turns out to be black, completely filled with mendacity and greed.
But suppose a reformation that dealt with idols looked like one of the reformations we find in Scripture?
“And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made.”
1 Kings 15:12 (KJV)
We must challenge the idols that move nations—climate change would be one. Fear of a virus would be another. They are propagated by means of stampeding excitement throughout the entire polis. Everybody’s talking about it, and if you don’t go along with their frenzy you will soon find out that these idolaters practice church discipline.
And this is what is currently happening with the religion of Woke. It is a religious faith, with all the accoutrements. They have priests. They have high priests. They have catechisms. They have sacrifices. They have temples. They have an index of prohibited books. They have commandments, very strict commandments. They have holiness codes. They have forbidden foods.
In fact, they have everything but forgiveness. And that is because they don’t have Christ. How could they have Christ when they won’t turn to Him? But when God grants us a true reformation, it will happen then.
“At that day shall a man look to his Maker, and his eyes shall have respect to the Holy One of Israel. And he shall not look to the altars, the work of his hands, neither shall respect that which his fingers have made, either the groves, or the images.”
Isaiah 17:7–8 (KJV)