The second half of chp 5 in Chris Wright, The Mission of God, explores how God’s confrontation with idolatry shapes mission. Some very good ideas here.
How does the theme of idolatry shape mission today? Where do you see idols? How do you know an idol when you see it?
To begin with, the most crucial distinction is the one between Creator and created. Gen 1-2 is all about this. The Fall of Adam and Eve is about humans blurring the distinction and wanting to be like God. Idolatry dethrones God and enthrones creation.
Many today are discerning “idols” all about us: Ellul, JA Walter, W. Wink, Clint Arnold, etc.. Where do we find idols? Wright has these suggestions for us to discern idols today:
1. Things that entice us.
2. Things we fear.
3. Things we trust.
4. Things we need.
So what do idols accomplish?
1. They deprive God of God’s proper glory.
2. They distort the image of God in us — what do you think of this idea?
3. They are profoundly disappointing.
The battle, it must remembered, is the Lord’s: Thus we are looking at the mission of God, not our mission for God.
1. The missional love of God repels idolatry.
2. The battle and victory belong to God.
3. Our battle is fought with love, not triumphalism. I see a major, major idol among theologians today in this theme of triumphalism. How about you?
Then we are treated to a clever final section on how Paul faced idolatry:
Theologically, he exposed it (Rom 1:18-32).
Evangelistically, though, his approach was touchstone: in Acts 14:8-20, 17:16-34, and 19:23-41, Paul’s sermons highlight God’s kindness, providence and patience. There is a difference in tone and tactic in Paul and it depends on context. Again, too many today are shrill all the time. What’s the purpose?, that’s the question we are led to ask because of Paul’s own practice.
Pastorally, Paul’s approach was wise and suggestive and supportive of variation. 1 Cor 8-10.
Then Wright examines the prophetic approach, which in some senses has already been described: expose and denounce idolatry and call people to worship the one true God.