Monday, 4 April 2011


I apologise if this makes no sense but I am aware of this problem in myself and feel like I should try to articulate it!

So idolatry is a bad thing. Well at least according to the Bible it is. Idolatry is in essence allowing something else to take things which only God deserves.
So when we love something instead of God then that thing has become an idol.
Idols are rarely bad things but normally good things which we allow to become too important to us.
So a high view of family is a good thing but when I love my family so much that I allow it to dictate my actions, thoughts, attitudes more than God then it has become an idol.
Football is a good thing but when I love that more than I love God then it has become an idol.

However, this is quite a narrow view of idolatry. In the Old Testament when God's people turned away to idols they rarely gave up entirely with God. No rather they worshipped God along with other gods. This was called syncretism. Trying to worship two things at the same time. God may even still have been number 1 but they wanted another god as well.

I do wonder whether today syncretism is more of a danger than straight out idolatry. It's not that I want rid of God I just want success as well. It's not that I want God out of the picture entirely I just want to be rich as well. The problem is that syncretism is more difficult to spot. You see idolatry is in some ways easy - Do I love this more than God? If I do it's an idol if not then it's not.
But syncretism is harder. Syncretism is harder to spot because in order for something to be an idol now it doesn't have to be more important than God it simply has to take something belonging to God.

Let me explain...
Say if you were a person who likes to do things well and be successful. There are 3 things which could be going on here.
1. You could just like being successful. You like doing things well but it's not a problem you still love and follow God and your desire to be a success has no impact on this. Your success is nothing more than a means by which you serve, enjoy and glorify God.
2. You could be an idolater. By this I mean you could actually love being successful more than you love God. You therefore choose success over God and thus show that success is your real God.
3. You could be a syncretist. You love God and want to follow him but you have allowed success to take some of the things God deserves. So some of your significance is found in being successful and so you have allowed success to be part of what identifies you as well as God. But your identity should come from God so by doing this you have allowed success to provide something only God should provide. So you are a syncretist. You want God and like being identified by him but you have allowed something else to provide your worth which should only belong to God. You have allowed something else to take your energy and steal your affection apart from God.

Now this becomes more complicated to identify because enjoying and loving God through success is a good thing. It is when these things become disconnected from God that we have a problem. However, for people within church it is more likely that you are a syncretist than simply an idolater. It is much more likely that you have allowed other things to give or take things which only God should than that you have allowed yourself to love something more than God. However, syncretism is still idolatry so we need to be serious about identifying it and rooting it out because God is the one worth being loved with heart, soul, mind and strength.