What is the Definition of Idolatry?

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by InTheLight, Mar 29, 2011.

  1. InTheLight

    InTheLight
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    Interested to hear how people define idolatry. I've heard some loose definitions in my time. I'm deliberately not going to expound or give examples because I want the question to be as open ended as possible.

    What is idolatry?
     
  2. Scarlett O.

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    Well, let's just start with the basics. How many times is the word, idolatry, in the Bible and where?


    It's found five times in the King James version. Once in the Old Testament and four times in the New Testament. Of course the words idol, idols, and idolater are found more than 100 times, but you asked about the definition of idolatry. The noun based on the act.

    Strong's (and I know that Strong's is not the be-all, end-all of information) says that the Hebrew word in the 1 Samuel passage [1.] is: תְּרָפִים (tĕraphiym) - meaning " (1) idolatry, idols, image(s), teraphim, family idol; (a) a kind of idol used in household shrine or worship.


    The Acts passage [2.] contains the Greek word: κατείδωλος (kateidōlos) - meaning "(1) full of idols".


    And in the three letters from Paul using the word, idolatry, the Greek word he uses is the word: εἰδωλολατρία (eidōlolatria) - meaning "(1) the worship of false gods, idolatry [of the formal sacrificial feats held in honour of false gods; and (2) of avarice, as the worship of Mammon [ in the plural, the vices springing from idolatry and peculiar to it.]"


    So what is idolatry? Well, here's my definition based on what I just read and the context of the passages where the word is found.

    Idolatry is when you worship (live under the control of and serve in obedience) someone or something other than Almighty God. You are placing your hopes, trust, faith, and obedience in this thing or person or false god. You love it more than you love God. You trust it more. You believe that he or she or it can DO more for you than God can and you make the person, object, or mindset an idol in your life.

    It could be Allah, Buddha, Mammon, self, you bank account, your children (trust me, I've seen people worship their children), inappropriate sex, substance-abuse, or as Paul say just out-right coveting what is not yours.

    Idolatry is a grievous sin and actually hurts God. Ezekiel 6:9 says "And they that escape of you shall remember me among the nations whither they shall be carried captives, because I am broken with their whorish heart, which hath departed from me, and with their eyes, which go a whoring after their idols: and they shall lothe themselves for the evils which they have committed in all their abominations."

    I believe with all my heart that many Christians, if not all, have committed this act of idolatry to some degree or another. You don't have to be bowing down to a graven image made of wood, stone, or clay to be an idolater.
     
  3. InTheLight

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    You make some good points, especially when you mention faith, hope, and trust. However, I have to disagree with this part:

    It could be [..] your bank account, your children (trust me, I've seen people worship their children), inappropriate sex, substance-abuse, or as Paul say just out-right coveting what is not yours.

    This is where the loose definitions I mentioned in my original post come into play.

    How can someone "place their hopes, trust, faith, and obedience in this thing or person"? Meaning in children, substance abuse, sex, covetousness. How can those things, "do more for you than God can?"

    I've heard many preachers say that following a sports team is idolatry. Or others say that watching American Idol is idolatry (seriously!). Even others have said anything that takes you away from church on Sunday is idolatry. (Which means those two NFL games I go to every year because my family has season tickets makes me an idolater, I guess.) People that have favorite musical bands or movie stars are often accused of idolatry. A person that restores a vintage automobile is accused of idolatry because of the time, effort and devotion put into it.

    I'm pretty sure that these things are not idolatry.

    Personally, I think idolatry must involve worship of some sort. Worship and adulation that supersedes your worship of God. Worship or devotion of a deity or object that you rely on or have an expectation of a spiritual or physical benefit.
     
    #3 InTheLight, Mar 29, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 29, 2011
  4. glfredrick

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    Lots of good points raised already in this discussion!

    I'm thinking of the University of Kentucky, along with their final 4 berth in basketball, right now.

    I've SEEN people who idolize that team, the sport of basketball, and UK.

    They wear blue colors (and if they cannot wear them outwardly because of some constraint, they'll be happy to show you their socks or other under garments to prove their loyalty). They fly blue flags. They spend their money on Big Blue in any number of ways, from tickets to memorablia, to gifts to the school (you should see the coal mine money pour in when they are Final Four winners!). They purchase items that assist in their worship, like big screen televisions, etc. And, they Abstain from any other worship, especially church, when Big Blue is playing. In Louisville, driving home during rush hour the other night, my wife and I noticed that there was a DECIDED lack of traffic. We then realized that the game was in process. To cull an entire city of rush hour traffic for a game is a bigger response than any church gets in this city by far.

    So, for me, the jury is out as to whether one can idolize something other than some form of alternative god.
     
  5. InTheLight

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    I would call the behavior that you described as infatuation or heightened interest. Wildcat fans are not relying on their team for any physical or spiritual benefit. They aren't trusting them for any advancement in their life (well, maybe bragging rights!) Now we wish that people would be that on fire for the Lord, but I wouldn't say what they are doing is idolatry.
     
  6. Iconoclast

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    Idolatry is putting any person ,place, or, thing, in the place of God,
    In our hearts minds or affections.
     
  7. Scarlett O.

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    What you have described here are loose terms for idolatry, in my opinion. I wouldn't call any of that idolatry.

    It's not that these things can do more for you than God, that's impossible. It's that people believe they can. They depend on these things to make them "feel" and to justify their existence. These things become their reason for waking up in the morning. Porn, addictions to substances, including food, and unhealthy relationship dependencies and more can choke the life even from a Christian.

    When people depend on alcohol or porn or the ungodly relationship to get them through the day and are so afraid that God will demand that they give it up that they stop talking to God and stop reading His Word just to avoid His conviction, these people are idolaters. They blindly believe that their bondage is freedom and the have been deceived into believing that these fleshly passions are sustaining them and making them happy.

    And I found another verse where Paul says that coveting and idolatry are the same thing.

    Ephesians 5:3-5 - "[3] But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; [4] Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. [5] For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God."

    So that's twice that Paul says a covetous heart is an idolater's heart.



    I think you've answered your own question here. Worship is just another word for obedience. We obey that whom we adore and love. It might be God or it might be internet porn. But it can't be both.

    We cannot serve two masters.
     
  8. Amy.G

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    Amen. :thumbs:

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

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    To me idolatry is the tendency to value something or someone in a way that hinders and/or nullifies the love and trust we owe to God. Or, that we put His creation above Him.
     
  10. InTheLight

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    That definition could cover lots of things. I contend that idolatry has to have a component of worship and an expectation of a benefit that is not attainable by oneself.

    I'm having a hard time thinking of examples outside of false gods or paganism. How about dowsing for water? The dowser is trusting in something outside of themselves to bring a benefit that they could not attain by themselves. Kind of a weak example, but I'm thinking of things along these lines.
     
    #10 InTheLight, Mar 30, 2011
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 30, 2011
  11. glfredrick

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    You need to make a trip to Kentucky...
     
  12. InTheLight

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    Yeah, no doubt. :laugh:

    However, I have been to Wisconsin and I know Packer fan's mentality.
     
  13. glfredrick

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    They are very similar, except Kentucky fans won't paint themselves and sit out in -20 degree weather for a game.

    I lived most of my life in Wisconsin... I get it. :thumbs:

    I'm also just gigging you on idolatry. I would hold it much as you have described -- some entity or item that is looked to with reverence akin to that reserved totally for God or a god. There would have to be some aspect of soteriology and eschatology involved before it might properly be seen as true idolatry. All else is yet a violation of the 1st Commandment, but not at the same level as total abject worship of another god, entity, item, etc.
     
  14. Jon-Marc

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    Idolatry is the worship of anything or anyone other than God. It also includes praying to anything or anyone other than God.
     

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