Four Books About Idolatry

There are many useful books about idolatry, but in this blog I recommend four for your consideration. Each of these books describe the misdriection of mental capacity to unworthy objects and causes.

First, you should begin with Greg Beale’s We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry. The book is an examination of the Old and New Testaments concerning what, how, and why idol worship occurs, as well as its impact. Though the title might sound academic, the text is quite readable and interesting. Beale writes:

What do you and I reflect? . . . God has made humans to reflect him, but if they do not commit themselves to him, they will not reflect him but something else in creation. . . . What people revere, they resemble either for ruin or restoration.

Second, read Jacques Ellul’s The New Demons. The chapter titles tell you what the book is about: Post-Christian Era and Secularization, The Sacred Today, Modern Myths, Secular Religions: Current Religious Attitudes, Secular Religions: Political Religion, and Coda for Christians. His analysis of secular religions and political religion is profound and prophetic. He described two mistakes the church has made:

1) Constantinism: an orientation toward wanting to win over to Christianity the rich, the powerful, the control centers . . . . 2) The cultural mistake: the incorporation into Christianity of all the cultural values. Christianity becomes the receptible for all the civilizations of the past, the establisher of culture and a synthesis of the philosophies.

Third, read Tim Keller’s popular-level book Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, Power, and the Only Hope that Matters. The book is a pastoral discourse on the many idols that define popular culture in the West. Keller writes:

An idol is something we cannot live without. We must have it, and therefore it drives us break rules we once honored, to harm others and even ourselves in order to get it. Idols are spiritual addictions that lead to terrible evil.

Lastly, read Christopher Wright’s “Here Are Your Gods”: Faithful Discipleship in Idolatrous Times. The book begins with description of idolatry in the Bible (like Beale, but simpler). The second section is especially relevant: Political Idolatry Then and Now. The third section is God’s People in an Idolatrous World. Wright says, “idolatry is a very important topic in the Bible — much neglected by contemporary evangelical Christians, partly because we ourselves are unconsciously involved with and sometimes dominated by the false gods of the people around us.” He also asks:

Can there be a sustainable future for a civilization and culture that is built on historic violence and bloodshed, that systemically increases poverty and inequality, that sets nation against nation, that corrodes the foundations of marriage and family, that desecrates God’s creation, and that devalues to the point of meaningless the very concept of public truth?

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