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April 21, 2011

The idolatry of self-fulfillment

Filed under: Uncategorized — kevinocoin @ 4:49 am
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I will do no more here than post two quotations that I came across this morning.  They don’t need any explanation from me to make their message clear.  I do not say this about The Meeting Place at this present moment (though I think there is always the very real and present danger of moving in this direction — it’s a very thin line), but I agree with the observations based on what I have seen in the Christian culture in North America.

“What is uppermost on the minds [of many Christians] is not the moral fabric of life, but how to cope with with their wayward personalities, self-doubt, the stages of life, marital stress, as well as calamities like job loss and the soaring cost of college tuition.  These  things are intensely real to them and drain their psychological energy.  However, while these are not inconsequential matters, they are not the burning moral issues with which the Bible is concerned.  What is central to the Bible is the true and the right, sin and grace, God’s wrath and Christ’s death; what is central to so many people today is merely what offer internal relief.

“Much of the Church today, especially that part of it which is evangelical, is in captivity to this idolatry of the self.  This is a form of corruption far more profound than the list of infractions that typically pop into out minds when we hear the world ‘sin.’  We are trying to hold at bay the gants of small sins while swallowing the camel of self.  It is idolatry as pervasive and as spiritually debilitating as many of the entangelements with pagan religion recounted for us in the Old Testament.  That this devotion to self seems not to be like that older devotion to a pagan god blinds the Church to its own unfaithfulness.  The end result, however, is no less devestating, because self is no less demanding.  It is as powerful an organizing centre as any god or goddess on the market.  The contemporary Church is whoring after this god as assiduously as the Israelities in their darker days.  It is baptising as faith the pride that leads us to think much of ourselves and much about ourselves” (David F. Wells, Losing Our Virtue, 203-04).

“Do we realize how exactly the Baal culture of Canaan is reproduced in American church culture?  Baal religion is about what makes you feel good.  It is a total immersion in what I can get out of it.  And, of course, it was incredibly successful.  The Baal priests could gather crowds that outnumbered the followers od Yahweh 20 to 1.  There was sex, excitement, ecstacy, music, dance.  ‘We’ve got girls over here, friends!  We’ve got statues and girls and festivals!’  This was great stuff.  And what did the Hebrews have to offer in response?  The Word.  Well, they had festivals, too, at least. 

“It’s the biggest word we have — salvation, being saved.  We are saved from a way of life in which there was no resurrection.  And we’re being saved from ourselves.  One way to define spiritual life is getting so tired and fed up with yourself that you go on to something better, which is following Jesus.

“But the minute we start advertising the faith in terms of benefits, we’ve just exacerbated the self problem.  ‘With Christ, you are better, stronger, more likeable.’  But it’s just more self.  Instead, we want to get people bored with themselves so they can start looking at Jesus.

“We’ve all met a certain type of spiritual person.  She’s a wonderful person.  She loves the Lord.  She prays and reads the Bible all the time.  But all she thinks about is herself.  She’s not a selfish person, mind you.  But she’s always at the centre of everything she’s doing.  ‘How can I witness better?  How can I do this other thing better?  How can I take care of that person’s problem better?’  It’s me, me, me disguised in a way that is difficult to see because her spiritual talk disarms us” (Eugene Peterson, “Spirituality for All the Wrong Reasons,” Christianity Today, March 2005, p. 45).

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