Defining Idolatry

In Scripture, the sin of idolatry is not limited to the complete displacement of the true God by false gods. It also includes the worship of false gods alongside the true God. The Jezebels who wanted Baal and Asherah instead of Yahweh were certainly idolaters, but so were the average Israelites who thought of themselves primarily as Yahweh worshipers who happened to dabble in Baalism, Asherism, and any number of other “-isms” in order to cover their bases. In other words, your heart doesn’t have to be exclusively devoted to a false god in order for the act to qualify as idolatry. In fact, rarely would it be the case that pagan worship would entail the full devotion of the heart. Pagan worship, in contrast to biblically defined worship of the one true God, could best be characterized as a kind of business transaction in which the worshiper jumps through all of the right hoops in order to placate the gods and secure favors from them. It would be very easy to be an idolater while also maintaining one’s basic identity as a worshiper of Yahweh. Continue reading

Justification and the Gospel: A Response to Peter Leithart

Peter Leithart recently published a provocative article entitled “The Ecumenical Gospel,” in which he argues that the Bible does not equate the gospel with justification by faith, and therefore Protestants ought not regard their understanding of the gospel (even if justification by faith is true biblically) as inherently distinct from that of Roman Catholics. In other words, justification by faith must not be, as Protestants have long argued, “the article by which the church stands or falls,” but is instead a small tributary that feeds into the large river of the gospel that Protestant and Catholic alike share. I encourage to you head over there and read his brief article before continuing on here. I’ll wait.

Okay, glad you’re back. Here are some major problems I see with Leithart’s argument: Continue reading

Preserving the Gospel through Culture Wars

When an essential truth of the gospel is condemned, the gospel itself is condemned with it, and without the gospel an institution is not a Christian church. This is simply another way of saying that the gospel is an essential, if not the essential, of biblical Christianity, and that it is the first mark of the church.  (R.C. Sproul, Getting the Gospel Right [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999], 22.)

We live in strange times. What God has revealed in Scripture and in nature regarding sexuality, marriage, and gender has come to be seen as oppressive and bigoted. As witnessed in recent battles over state bills designed to protect religious liberty in the light of such rapid cultural and legal changes regarding sexuality, the cultural forces of the new sexual orthodoxy do not desire merely to secure rights for LGBT people. They want to deny anyone who disagrees with their understanding of gender and sexuality the freedom to live publicly according to their own consciences. Nothing short of full-fledged public approval from all sectors of society will satisfy the left in this culture war. That means that Christians and other religious groups who hold to a traditional understanding of sexuality as a firm conviction of their worldview now have large targets on their backs. Continue reading