The Essence of Idolatry: Worshipping the God of My Understanding

Larry King conducted a panel discussion on Tuesday that used the widely-acclaimed movie “Brokeback Mountain” as a catalyst for discussing the issue of the wider culture’s debate over the morality of homosexuality (transcript). The discussion focused on the question of homosexual rights and, in particular, the question of homosexual “marriage.”

The panel consisted of Albert Mohler (President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary), Janet Parshal (host of the radio show “Janet Parshall’s America”), Chad Allen (the openly gay actor and star of the new movie “End of the Spear”), and Guy Padgett (openly gay former mayor of Casper, Wyoming).

The panel was ostensibly set up to have two voices opposing the homosexual agenda (Parshall and Mohler) and two voice supporting it (Allen and Padgett). But this turned out not to be the case as Larry King became more and more petulant with Mohler and Parshall.

King’s aghast with Mohler and Parshall’s refusal to see the movie “Brokeback Mountain” was particularly illuminating. King clearly implied that Mohler and Parshall had no right to have an opinion because they had not seen the movie: “If you go see the movie, you might learn more than not seeing the movie, where you learn less . . . OK, Janet, let’s just stay home [insert sarcasm in the latter phrase].”

For me the most striking part of the interview was when a caller asked Chad Allen, “By whose standard do you think that it’s right to live the way you have chosen to live?”

Allen’s response to this query was breath-taking in its candor. He replied:

By the standard that I judge all of my actions. These days I judge all of my actions by my relationship with God of my understanding. It is a deep-founded, faith-based belief in God based upon the work that I’ve done growing up as a Catholic boy and then reaching out to Buddhism philosophy, to Hindu philosophy, to Native American beliefs and finally as I got through my course with addiction and alcoholism and finding a higher power that worked for me.

The key phrase here is “These days I judge all of my actions by my relationship with God of my understanding.”

Classical Christianity has insisted that The God Who Is is also The God Who Speaks. He has made himself known through Divine Revelation, and He expects for his creatures’ knowledge of Him to be determined by that revelation.

Classical idolatry has insisted not on worshipping God as He has revealed Himself, but on worshipping the “god of my understanding.” In other words, sinful humanity by default suppresses divine revelation and chooses to worship “gods” that are invented out of their own imagination (Romans 1:18-25).

This is the reason that John Calvin said that the human heart is an “idol factory.” Because of sin, we humans are predisposed to suppress the evidence of the true God and to manufacture gods that affirm us in spite of our sinful proclivities. It is our devotion to our ego-stroking idols that keep us comfortable in our sin and distracted from the One true God.

The fundamental religious question that every person has to grapple with is, “Who is God and how can I know him?” Tragically, Chad Allen has come to the wrong conclusion about how to answer it. The challenge for those of us who wish to answer people like Chad is to penetrate the post-modern haze with the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I think Dr. Mohler did just that in the Larry King interview on Tuesday. Let’s pray that the ones who saw it will have ears to hear.

[This discussion continues in the blogsphere. See Scott McKnight, Al Mohler, and many others.]

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3 thoughts on “The Essence of Idolatry: Worshipping the God of My Understanding”

  1. It is interesting how many Christians are in such strong support of End of the Spear and so few have done their research. I understand the good intentions of the movie, but going to see it would be an indirect support of the lifestyle of the actor, I feel. I think a lot of people have Allen’s same understanding… they create a God that is what THEY want HIM to be. They create a God who conforms to them, rather than conform and serve to the one, living, TRUE God.

  2. I’m curious to learn what you consider “evidence” for the existence of your god. You write that:

    “Classical Christianity has insisted that The God Who Is is also The God Who Speaks. He has made himself known through Divine Revelation, and He expects for his creatures’ knowledge of Him to be determined by that revelation.”

    This implies personal experience, which is not valid proof for the existence of god. We know that the mind is a faculty of the brain, and that variations in its tissue structure alter the way we perceive reality. An extreme example of how the brain can delude the mind would be schizophrenia; a more common example would be the feelings of religious spirituality that can be invoked through electrical stimulation of a region in the temporal lobe. These biological factors corroborate the subjectivity of individual perspectives and personal accounts, allowing us to confidently dismiss both as invalid.

    I would really appreciate a sincere and thoughtful response to this question. I have yet to understand how it is that the people of any faith, despite being the minority, can be so confident in the belief that they “know god.” To quote Stephen Roberts, “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

    Cheers!

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