The Power of Idolatry

In light of the recent article about a pastor in South Africa who craves attention and status over the love and mercy of his creator, it got me thinking and so in order to flesh out my thoughts i decided to write a more in depth article than a comment section could provide. Please first read the article by Paul:

https://bloggingtheology.net/2016/11/24/south-african-pastor-sprays-insecticide-on-congregants-to-heal-them/

Desperation makes people do and believe believe all kinds of crazy things. The fact that such charlatans are able to gain any kind of legitimacy at all is a sign of a pragmatic faith rather than the religion of the Prophets.

This brings to mind a passage from the Pope Emeritus, in his book Jesus of Nazareth (Pt 1)

“On the contrary, the Prophet is something quite different. His task is not to report on the events of tomorrow or the next day in order to satisfy human curiosity or the human need for security. He shows us the face of God, and in so doing he shows us the path we have to take.”

and

“Prophecy in this sense is a strict corollary to Israel’s monotheism. It is the translation of this faith into the everyday life of a community before God and onthe way to him.”

In this salvation history of the Tanakh, the greatest challenge facing the people of Israel was idolatry. The nation would constantly go back and forth between the worship of the one God and returning to their idolatrous past, God would then send a Prophet to warn them of Gods judgement and implore them to return to the true path of faith. There are some notable examples of why people in the past returned to the old ways that can help us to better understand how to avoid it for ourselves and stay true to God. Take for example the downfall of the very first King of Israel, Saul.

A man who chosen by a Prophet and spent a great deal of his rule seeking to establish the law of God in the promised land, making the pagan practices illegal. However, fearing the impending battle with the Philistines he could no longer withstand the lack of security in not knowing what might happen, so he sought out a soothsayer in order to find out. In this way he betrayed his religious duty and lost salvation.

The example of Saul shows us the allure of idolatry. It appeals to our nature, a nature of constantly needing assurance, certainty, and noise. Trust, especially on what one cannot see nor control is something that is very strange to us, especially when faced with hardship. In Islam the same anxiety is expressed when Prophet Muhammad had not recevied revelation for several months after his first meeting the with angel Gabriel.

Sadly i don’t think there is any real remedy or quick fix that can be offered to alleviate this suffering other than “patience and prayer”, however as this same history has shown us time and time again, God never breaks his promises to his people. But this is the most difficult aspect of faith and because it is so troubling for us, their are many who will be more than willing to provide a golden calf for us to worship to offer us comfort.

What ever you do, don’t trust them!

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Categories: Christianity, Islam

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