“But Gideon told them, ‘I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you … I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.’ … Gideon made the gold into an ephod which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshipping it there …” (Judges 8.23-24, 27 NIV)
I’ve spoken in many settings all over the world and I’m beginning to notice that certain issues being used as illustrations tend to bring inevitable offense. These are also sacrosanct topics for blogging. Here’re some of the issues I’ve encountered.
- Infallibility of one’s holy calling into full-time church service
- Infallibility of John Calvin/John Wesley/Westminster Confession/John Piper (fill in your favorite theologian) and their followers etc.
- Infallibility of one’s original faith when one’s converted
- Infallibility of mega church pastors
- Infallibility of popular evangelistic methods: mass evangelism, celebrity evangelism, personal evangelism through formulae
- Infallibility of local church growth by statistics
If I were to question any of the above, the reaction of people towards these issues often borders on fanaticism. It is as if I’m attacking the Trinity or the attributes of Jesus. Why are people so angry? Notice I just observe that people possess the same passion towards these issues as they would if someone attacks their God. The problem is simple. People worship these concepts as much as they worship the Bible or even God. It is hard for us to imagine that the gospel is offensive not only to those who do not believe, but also to those who believe for a good long while. This failure to see our problem IS our problem.
While idolatry happens literally in many parts of the world still, in the developed world, the kind of idolatry is subtler. It is easy to point fingers at unbelievers and condemn them for idolatry. It is exceptionally difficult to see that we worship idols right within the faith community. All these idols have one thing in common: they put humans and tools at the center of worship. What do we feel passionate about? Whatever we feel passionate about may just be our idol, even if that idol has religious clothing.