As modern evangelicals, it is tempting to treat idolatry as a relic from the ancient past. Who, after all, bows down before golden calves or worships images of Nebuchadnezzar anymore? In “Here Are Your Gods”: Faithful Discipleship in Idolatrous Times, Bible scholar and Langham Partnership international director Christopher J. H. Wright stresses that idolatry is alive and well, even if it often operates outside our conscious awareness. Freelance writer and editor of The Worldview Bulletin Christopher Reese spoke with Wright about idolatry in the Old Testament and resisting its lure today.
How did the authors of Scripture understand pagan gods and idols? Did they believe other deities existed?
In one sense, the answer is clearly no. Compared with Yahweh, the only true and living God, all other so-called gods are actually “not-gods.” That is the clear teaching of Isaiah 40–55 and some psalms. And yet, for all who worshiped them (whether pagans or Israelites themselves), those other “gods” clearly affected the whole world of personal, social, economic, and political life. So yes, they exist—but not as God, only as human constructs to which people attribute power and authority.
You trace all human idolatry back to the events of Genesis 3. Can you elaborate on that connection?
Genesis 3 portrays a moment when human beings choose to distrust God’s goodness, disbelieve his warnings, and disobey his instructions, instead defining for themselves what counts as good and evil. Having dethroned God, they end up submitting to entities, either material or spiritual, within the created order—or else they assert their own moral autonomy.
And it all ends in tears, as Paul makes clear ...1
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