Refined Idolatry

“Into the Word” for October 13 (Tabletalk Magazine) defines two kinds of idolatry:

“1. Crass Idolatry is that kind of idolatry wherein someone carves a figure of a deity out of a block of wood, piece of stone, or other type of physical material. One of the hardest things to do is to trust the God who is invisible to our five senses; thus, fallen men often create such statues and figures in order to have something they can touch and see. The problem with this, we have noted, is that visual depictions of the divine nature are absolutely prohibited. [Exodus 20:4-6]  By and large, Westerners today would probably not be guilty of this kind of idolatry.

2. Refined Idolatry, on the other hand, is rampant in even the most technologically advanced nations on the planet. Idolatry of the refined sort includes the pursuit of anything other than the glory of God as one’s central purpose for being. But refined idolatry also occurs in a more subtle manner. Anytimes we deny an attribute of the Lord revealed in Scripture or allow our own preferences to determine His character, we are guilty of refined idolatry.

Their denial of biblical authority makes it easy to accuse liberals of committing refined idolatry. The evangelical church in our day, however, can also build refined idols. Those who believe in a ‘God of love” without acknowledging His just wrath are guilty of refined idolatry. Any attempt to make God less sovereign than He really is makes us refined idolaters. Where is your belief about the Lord not in line with what He has revealed about Himself in Scripture?”

Believing in a ‘God of love’ to the exclusion of His other attributes is only one example of refined idolatry that involves emphasis on one of God’s attributes more than another. We might, for instance, choose to believe in a ‘God of mercy’ and ignore that He is also a God of justice.

Our minds are a virtual factory of refined idols. We constantly fashion a god to our liking that does not conform to the God revealed in the Bible, that contradicts the very nature of God. An example is the ‘god’ portrayed in The Shack that bears little resemblance to the God of the Bible, and in fact distorts the God revealed in the Bible.

The tendency to refined idolatry is something every Christian must guard against. One of the best safeguards against it is to thoroughly know God as He has revealed Himself in His Word. ~JB


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