Est. May 2008

16 June, 2013

Homemade Gods

In the Old Testament – particularly the books of Judges, Kings, and Chronicles – we read about how the ancient Israelites began combining their worship of Yahweh with the pagan, idolatrous practices of the people among whom they lived.  It wasn’t considered strange (at least by the masses of people) to do so; in fact, many who did it considered it a smart idea: after all, they were combining the ‘best’ things Yahweh did with the ‘best’ things Baal and Asherah and the Canaanite gods did, and combing the ‘best’ of both had to be a good thing.

Right?

Not according to Yahweh (we call Him God); in fact, He was pretty adamant about the religious practices of the Canaanites in that they were not to be done by the Israelites (after all, Joshua had led a war of extermination against the Canaanites precisely because of their religious practices).  In fact, God was pretty plain that He expected the Israelites to worship Him and Him alone (see Exodus 20:3), and that anything else wouldn’t fly.

So the Israelites slipped and started worshiping the best of both worlds, so to speak – their own Yahweh-worship combined with elements of pagan idolatry.  There’s a word for that: syncretism, something as popular today as it was back in the times of the Judges and kings of Israel and Judah.

But…but…but, you might be saying…are people really worshiping idols in these churches and at home?  Well, not so’s you might immediately notice – they probably don’t have little gold or silver statues sitting around, they probably aren’t genuflecting to a home altar, and they probably aren’t looking to slit the throat of a sheep and burn it in their back yards – but there’s still a lot of syncretism going on, and if you pay attention you see it.

Just take a look at reports (or take a look into your own church) of how the Church (and not just the Roman Catholic Church, but the Christian Church in general) has gone about downplaying the sinfulness of things like divorce, adultery, homosexuality, and the like.  You’re hard-pressed to hear a sermon about general sinfulness in any church these days, and as for sermons about specific sins, fuggedaboudit – after all, telling people they’re sinful and need repentance tends to upset folks and they may not come back to your church and then your offertory income goes down and that’s a bad thing according to church-growth people so you ought to avoid doing or saying anything that might offend your membership.

(inhale)

The problem with that kind of thinking is that it’s syncretism in action, folks: you’re professing to be teaching Christian doctrine while accepting doctrines which aren’t found in your source-text, the Bible.  You’re mixing together Judeo-Christianity with … what shall we call it?  Well, if idols are ‘the work of men’s hands’, we could call it self-olatry – the worship of our own ideas and decision-making.  After all, we fashion these mental idols with our own brains, don’t we?

Which leads me to an example of syncretistic Judeo-Christian self-olatry that most of us have heard about by now: Nancy Pelosi’s recent babbling about late-term abortion being ‘sacred ground’.  Nancy Pelosi, self-described practicing Roman Catholic, either doesn’t know her Catechism of the Catholic Church (and to be honest, it’s a pretty thick set of rules) or she wants to make it subservient to her own self-olatry, particularly in the case of abortion.

And when you read that link, note how irritated she becomes when she’s questioned about how she separates what Kermit Gosnell did from other late-term abortions; unsurprising, since in the book of Isaiah we read, All of them are put to shame and confounded; the makers of idols go in confusion together’ (Isaiah 45:16).  She sure sounds confused to me, and her confusion manifests itself in her snappish and dismissive attitude toward the questioner.

But that’s normal, folks; most people who engage in this form of syncretism tend to not have adequate (let alone good) answers when they’re questioned about their paradoxical support of one thing which in slightly different situations they roundly condemn.

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