29 August 2009

Idols and Trust

Up till recently the main verb I associated with idolatry was worship. A better word, I'm becoming convinced, is trust.

Certainly, an idol is something we worship. As Keller puts it, a good thing that we turn into an ultimate thing. A legitimate joy or pursuit that we do not use to funnel up into the glory of God but into which we funnel the rest of our lives. Our emotional north star.

But a better way to describe these things is trust. In what do we trust? It is hard to see how I worship my reputation among academic peers; it is easy to see how I trust in my reputation. It's not intuitively obvious that I worship the idol of a swelling bank account; it's easy to see that I trust that as my deepest functional security. A stronghold of psychological refuge.

I've been helped to this by the Heidelberg Catechism, which makes this explicit. In its treatment of the 10 commandments, it explains the first commandment ('you shall have no other gods before me'--a question of worship, right?) like this:

Q 95. What is idolatry?

A. Idolatry is having or inventing something in which one trusts in place of or alongside of the only true God, who has revealed himself in his Word.

Now there's a group of people who understand the human heart. And their Bibles--I was fascinated to discover this week how Psalm 115 speaks of idolatry. After a litany of descriptors of the impotence of idols, the psalmist sings:

Those who make them become like them;
so do all who trust in them.
O Israel, trust in the LORD!
He is their help and their shield. (vv. 8-9)

Luther was right: the first commandment, the call to worship no other gods than Yahweh, is a call to justification by faith alone. Psychological security by God, rather than psychological security by _________.


Grace Junkie said...

I've just recently stumbled across your site and I'm lovin' it. I agree that "trust" is THE operative verb to go with "idolatry", instead of "worship". It reminds me of the disconnect between our understanding of "belief" versus "trust" regarding our salvation in Jesus. So many folks would vocalize a "belief" (mental assent)in Jesus, yet would stop well short of verbalizing a "trust" (costly commitment)in Him. This insight will be very helpful to the guys in our discipleship group. Thanks for pumping out all the strong, high quality posts. Keep it up!

Eric said...

Nailed it, Dane. This is all over Isaiah: who does Israel trust to save them as the Assyrians come - God or Egypt?