It is impossible to understand your heart or your culture if you do not discern the counterfeit gods that influence them. In Romans 1:21-25 St Paul shows that idolatry is not only one sin among many, but what is fundamentally wrong with the human heart:

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him … .They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator. (Romans 1:21, 25)

Paul goes on to make a long list of sins that create misery and evil in the world, but they all find their roots in this soil, the inexorable human drive for "god-making." In other words, idolatry is always the reason we ever do anything wrong. No one grasped this better than Martin Luther. In his Larger Catechism (1528) and also his Treatise on Good Works he wrote that the Ten Commandments begin with a commandment against idolatry. Why does this come first in the order? Because, he argued, the fundamental motivation behind law-breaking is idolatry. We never break the other commandments without breaking the first one. Why do we ever fail to love or keep promises or live unselfishly? Of course, the general answer is "because we are weak and sinful", but the specific answer in any actual circumstance is that there is something you feel you must have to be happy, that is more important to your heart than God himself. We would not lie unless first we had made something—human approval, reputation, power over others, financial advantage—more important and valuable to our hearts than the grace and favor of God. The secret to change is always to identify and dismantle the basic idols of the heart.

It is also impossible to understand a culture without discerning ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

May
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These Next
Current IssueWhy Don’t the Gospel Writers Tell the Same Story?
Why Don’t the Gospel Writers Tell the Same Story? Subscriber Access Only
New Testament scholar and apologist Michael Licona’s new book argues that ancient literary devices are the answer—and that’s a good thing for Christians.
RecommendedWas Easter Borrowed from a Pagan Holiday?
Was Easter Borrowed from a Pagan Holiday?
The historical evidence contradicts this popular notion.
TrendingForgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable
Forgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable
Amid ISIS attacks, faithful response inspires Egyptian society.
Editor's PickChristians, Think Twice About Eradicating Mosquitoes to Defeat Malaria
Christians, Think Twice About Eradicating Mosquitoes to Defeat Malaria
When disease vectors are also victims.
Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters
Christianity Today
How to Find Your Rival Gods
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

October 2009

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.