Meaning of Idolatry

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by John of Japan, Jan 26, 2006.

  1. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Some have talked about idolatry in the "Babylon" thread, saying that America is full of idolatry in the sense of greed for money, etc.

    I strongly disagree. As a missionary to an idolatrous country, I see people worshipping actual idols made of wood, stone or metal (even gold) all the time. The meaning of the original language words are clear: an idol is a object to be worshipped, and worship is bowing down before something or someone. (I can't take the time right now to give definitions from my lexicons.)

    So, if you believe the love of money is idolatry, or anything Americans do other than actually bowing down to literal idols is idolatry, please use the Word of God and prove it to me. I'll be waiting with baited breath. (I ate some sushi. ;) )
     
  2. exscentric

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    Col. 3.5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry :
     
  3. Helen

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    While I understand where you are coming from, John, there is a verb in the English language: to idolize. It means 'to make an idol or an object of worship out of'.

    To worship means not just ceremonies and prayers, but the attitude of adoration.

    Believe me, there are a lot of people who idolize and adore money. There are people who idolize and adore other people, or motorcycles, or their pet dogs -- the list is almost endless.

    Making a formal idol is the easiest form of idolatry to see. I don't mind if you don't want to call this attitude many have towards those sorts of things idolatry, but I would ask, then, what would you call it?
     
  4. Scarlett O.

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    Colossians 3:5
    "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry."

    Ezekiel 14:4
    "Therefore speak to them and tell them, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: When any Israelite set ups idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face and then goes to a prophet, I the LORD will answer him myself in keeping with his great idolatry.'"

    I have always believed that idolatry is anything that you place in a higher importance in your heart than God. It could be manifested in a carving or not.
     
  5. Craigbythesea

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    No, the attitude of adoration does NOT constitute worship!

    The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary gives us the following:

    transitive senses
    1 : to honor or reverence as a divine being or supernatural power
    2 : to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion
    intransitive senses : to perform or take part in worship or an act of worship
    synonym see REVERE

    synonyms REVERE, REVERENCE, VENERATE, WORSHIP, ADORE mean to honor and admire profoundly and respectfully. REVERE stresses deference and tenderness of feeling &lt;a professor revered by generations of students&gt;. REVERENCE presupposes an intrinsic merit and inviolability in the one honored and a corresponding depth of feeling in the one honoring &lt;reverenced the academy's code of honor&gt;. VENERATE implies a holding as holy or sacrosanct because of character, association, or age &lt;heroes still venerated&gt;. WORSHIP implies homage usually expressed in words or ceremony &lt;worships their memory&gt;. ADORE implies love and stresses the notion of an individual and personal attachment &lt;a doctor adored by her patients&gt;.

    I find that there is much confusion today among Baptists regarding the word “worship” and that many Baptists use the word very carelessly and inaccurately. We find a good example of this in Helen’s post.

    Note: The UBB Code for underlined text does not function on this board. I included the code, however, in order to as accurately as possible quote my source.

    [​IMG]
     
  6. Craigbythesea

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    I believe that many Westerners downplay the seriousness of coveting what they do not have. It is very easy to watch pagans on television and say that I am not like that! And true enough, we are not like that—not exactly—but our sin is no less a sin than theirs. Colossians 3:5 expressly says that covetousness is idolatry, and I for one will take Paul’s word for it. After all, he traveled a great deal and personally witnessed the behavior of many barbarous pagans worshiping idols and he still believed that covetousness on the part of a Jew or a Christian, no matter how educated and refined the man may be, is still idolatry.

    [​IMG]
     
  7. John of Japan

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    Ezekiel 14:4 does not convince me at all. In chapter 6 Ezekiel is clearly talking about "images." So why would he mean something else all of a sudden in chapter 14?

    However, Colossians 3:5 is working hard at convincing me. But that is just one verse. As we all know, you shouldn't build a doctrine from just one verse. Can't you give me any more than this?

    Further question. How do I know that Paul is not speaking metaphorically or symbolically here?
     
  8. John of Japan

    John of Japan
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    Helen, the Japanese use the transliterated word "idol" ("aidoru") to mean a singing star. And of course they do give them adoration, etc. However, with Craigbythesea I do not see adoration as worship, Biblically speaking. I adore my wonderful wife but do not worship her. So, I wouldn't call it idolatry but love, as in "love not the world," or "the love of money."

    Now, if an "aidoru" fan actually puts that star on such a pedestal that their life is ruled by that person, they feel that person can do no wrong (like a Michael Jackson fan :D ) and they want to follow that person with all their heart, I would call that idolatry. They have put the singing star up in a god-like place.

    My wife once taught English in Yokohama to a lady who admired her father so much that she fashioned her own little religion around him. She called him her "god," and after he died she prayed to him. Now that is idolatry. (Confucian-based ancestor worship is the basic religion of Japan, whether it be called Buddhism or Shinto.)
     
  9. John of Japan

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    Scarlet, sorry to have to say so, but this is what I object to most. Having something more important in your life than God is indeed wrong, and disobeys the command to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. But it is not idolatry if worship is not involved, and to call it so weakens the concept of idolatry in the mind of the hearer.

    Question to you folk in the homeland: are you troubled when you see a Catholic bow down to Mary? Does it bother you when someone sees the figure of Mary in a piece of toast and the pilgrims flock to pray to it? Do you take a second look when you see someone with a St. Christopher medal hanging in their car?

    I once entered a Chinese restaurant in the States, and saw Taoist idols by the cash register. You could easily tell they were being worshipped because tea and fruit had been offered up. I was uncomfortable the whole time there. Would you have been?

    I don't know how to convey my feelings at the raw idolatry I see in Japan, but I never was moved to sorrow by it in America before becoming a missionary like I am now. To see someone actually bow down to a statue, as I do all the time, makes the Biblical accounts of idolatry, and God's anger at it, come alive.

    My wife once went to a Buddhist temple with some ladies. They had there hundreds of jizo statues (child Buddhas), each one representing aborted babies. Women actually would pray to their aborted babies at the temple, asking forgiveness, and help in their lives. Can you actually compare the horror of this to an American Christian sitting in the pew and saying, "Hmm, Pastor says it is idolatry to put something before God. I guess I did that the other day when I ..." ??
     
  10. menageriekeeper

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    Perhaps it would be better to describe idolatry as something we put between us and God that eclipes our sight of Him to the point of replacing God.

    Think of it like this. When the moon is in just the right position it blocks the sun from our view. We can't see the light. So to, a real idol blocks our view of God so completely that is it impossible to see Him from our perspective.

    Not many people love their money so much that they pray to it, make stacks of it in their homes and bow down to it or offer sacrifices to it. They may choose to ignore God, but they can still see Him.

    John, you asked about comfort levels. I am uncomfortable with most of what you describe. Mostly because I can't understand how people can be so completely blinded that they can't see or even comprehend what we know about God.

    Even during a total eclipse there is still a red rim of sun showing out from behind the moon.
     
  11. HankD

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    Yes, because the graven image is simply a physical manifestation of the breaking of the first commandment.

    In fact greed has as it's manifestation - money, which is usually covered with images engravened onto the paper or stamped imto the metal.

    HankD
     
  12. HankD

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    Exodus 20:1 And God spake all these words, saying,
    2 I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
    3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
    4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:
    5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

    Colossians 3:5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry.
     
  13. Helen

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    John, Craig, all I did was use a dictionary to check the meaning before I posted. Sorry.
     
  14. RayMarshall19

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    Scarlet, sorry to have to say so, but this is what I object to most. Having something more important in your life than God is indeed wrong, and disobeys the command to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. But it is not idolatry if worship is not involved, and to call it so weakens the concept of idolatry in the mind of the hearer.

    </font>[/QUOTE]
     
  15. RayMarshall19

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    Sorry about the above. Got a call while editing.

    Scarlet, sorry to have to say so, but this is what I object to most. Having something more important in your life than God is indeed wrong, and disobeys the command to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. But it is not idolatry if worship is not involved, and to call it so weakens the concept of idolatry in the mind of the hearer.

    </font>[/QUOTE]I've had this same conversation dozens of times and I agree with you 100%, John. Using the term "idolatry" to refer to other sins does weaken it terribly. It's pretty clear to me that scripture originally referred to other sins as "idolatry" in a figurative sense.

    But, unfortunately, the English language is constantly evlolving. And because the terms "idol" and "idolatry" have been used so often and so long to describe other sins in a literal sense this usage has become an accepted part of the language English.

    (Another example. Not long ago I saw an article that said "unthaw" is now an acceptable synonym for "thaw" because it has been used that way so long by so many people.)

    The real problem is people attempting to retroactively apply the new English definition to the original. Imagine the confusion if scripture said to "thaw" the turkey and we "unthawed" it instead!!!
     
  16. Craigbythesea

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    Paul used the Greek word εἰδωλολατρεία (eidōlolatreia) from which we got the English word “idolatry” in the 13th century, and the meaning of the English word, as used in contemporary translations of the Bible is identical to its meaning in the 13th century—the meaning has NOT changed. What has changed is the attitude of some Christians regarding covetousness—the very attitude that Paul was correcting!

    [​IMG]
     
  17. Hope of Glory

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    But, can you find a verse to refute it? You should not build a doctrine upon one verse, but one verse can build up a doctrine.

    As someone else stated, the graven image is simply a physical manifestation of that which is put before God. That does not refute the idea that covetousness is idolatry. (There are manifestations of this covetousness, as well, but they are not graven images per se.)
     
  18. John of Japan

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    But, can you find a verse to refute it? You should not build a doctrine upon one verse, but one verse can build up a doctrine.

    As someone else stated, the graven image is simply a physical manifestation of that which is put before God. That does not refute the idea that covetousness is idolatry. (There are manifestations of this covetousness, as well, but they are not graven images per se.)
    </font>[/QUOTE]There has to be a doctrine in existence from other passages before a verse can be used to build it up.

    Here is the Greek for Col. 3:5--"thn pleonexian htiV estin eidwlolatreia." (Sorry, I don't know how to make a Greek font work on the BB.) Not that there is an article before "covetousness." However, the other words in the list (fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence) do not have articles, meaning there is something important about "covetousness." Note a literal translation: "the covetousness which is idolatry." In other words, there is a covetousness which is NOT idolatry. Covetousness is not, per se, idolatry, but can rise (sink!) to the level of idolatry.

    I saw this once on a Japanese documentary about a man who did seminars on how to get rich. He painted a coke can gold, put it in the middle of the floor, and crawled to it saying, "Gold. Gold! GOLD!!!" Now I'll certainly classify that as idolatry, since he was bowing down to money and making it that which ruled him. [​IMG]
     
  19. John of Japan

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    This definition of a graven image really sounds great--but where is the Biblical justification for it?

    Granted, a Japanese idolator will tell you he knows that the stone statue is not what will respond to his worship and answer his prayer. He knows it is the spirit behind the idol he is worshipping and expects to answer his prayer, whether he thinks it is his ancestor or a spirit of nature (ala Shinto belief).

    Now, behind the statue you will find not just something he is putting before God, you will find an evil spirit! Idolatry is not simply putting something before God, it is the actual worship of evil spirits. "But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils" (1 Cor. 12:20). This puts idolatry in a much worse category than simply having your priorities wrong.
     
  20. HankD

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    Isaiah 2
    7 Their land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land is also full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots:
    8 Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made:
    9 And the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself: therefore forgive them not.

    It's all related to the basic premise of the First of the Ten Commandments

    Exodus 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

    Whether worshipped or served:

    5 Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them:...

    HankD
     

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