Thursday, April 28, 2011

Acceptable Idolatry

(Towards a Humble, Missional Eschatology, part 3)

The dominant theme in the book of Revelation is worship. There are only a couple of books in the entire Bible that deal with this concept more than Revelation. (Even Psalms, as a collection of poems worshiping God, does not directly discuss the concept as much.) To bow down, to humble oneself before an authority, is an important act in Revelation. Whom one worships largely determines the eternal future of a person’s soul in this eschatological vision. This symbolic act is not practiced much anymore, and in today’s society we largely dismiss this sort of symbolism as meaningless, but it speaks more to an inner attitude and that is where the problem lies.

The issue, the question is not: HOW do you worship? but WHO? If confronted with an authority that demanded worship today, how would most “Christians” respond? When traveling to North Korea, the first thing a visitor must do is bow down before a statue of Kim Il-Sung, the eternal president. Would a Christian on a mission trip (if such a thing were possible) justify such an act by saying that it was purely symbolic and they didn’t mean it?

The issue concerning readers of Revelation for nearly 2,000 years now is the way that our cultural system demands our worship. For John’s contemporaries it was the real system of emperor worship, but today we devote ourselves to so many idols without thinking about it. Perhaps we have created a false dichotomy between what we do in a church building and what we do at a stadium or in a concert. Maybe we have deluded ourselves into thinking that our other idols don’t count because we are not yet in the end times bowing before some “anti-Christ.” Either way, we have convinced ourselves that it is alright to have multiple gods.

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