Christendom’s Idolatry Foreshadowed
Christendom guilty of idolatry? In what ways?
GOD’S Word, the Bible, is clear and unequivocal on the subject of idolatry. There is no mistaking the words of Jehovah addressed to the Israelites, whom he had just brought out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slaves: “You must not have any other gods against my face. You must not make for yourself a carved image or a form like anything that is in the heavens above or that is on the earth underneath or that is in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them nor be induced to serve them.”—Ex. 20:3-5.
Christians, although “not under law but under undeserved kindness,” are, nevertheless, explicitly and emphatically likewise warned against idolatry: “Idolaters” will not “inherit God’s kingdom.” “Neither become idolaters.” “Beloved ones, flee from idolatry.” “What agreement does God’s temple have with idols?” “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, and they are . . . idolatry.” “Little children, guard yourselves from idols.” And among those barred from the holy city, those to have their destiny in the lake of fire, the second death, are idolaters.—Rom. 6:14; 1 Cor. 6:9, 10; 10:7, 14; 2 Cor. 6:16; Gal. 5:19, 20; 1 John 5:21; Rev. 21:8; 22:15.
What is idolatry? Of course, idolatry includes the worship of literal idols, images, statues, physical representations of a deity. But it is by no means limited to these. It is the worship of any one or any thing aside from the true God. As modernly defined: “The giving of absolute devotion and ultimate trust to something that is not God; immoderate attachment or veneration for something; respect or love that approaches that due a divine power.”—Webster’s Third New International Dictionary.
Christendom claims to worship the God of the Bible and it looks down upon what it terms pagan idolaters. However, the facts show that the people of Christendom themselves are guilty of idolatry, and that in ever so many ways. For example, there is the idolatry of political heroes. Today Perón of Argentina has again become an issue. Apparently many still feel as did his wife Evita, when she once exclaimed: “He is God for us, so much so that we cannot conceive heaven without Perón. . . . He is our sun, our air, our water, our life.”
There is also the idolatry of movie stars in Christendom, especially by its youth. Certainly the German teen-age girls were guilty of idolatry when they painted on the portals of the Bamberg Cathedral in Munich the words, “Elvis Presley—my God.”
Then, again, there are those who become so attached to an animal pet that they put the life of it ahead of their own. Others have lavish funeral services for their pets. All such are likewise guilty of idolatry.
A little more than a year ago twenty-five leading theologians of the United States accused or charged its people with worshiping the false gods of scientism, political demagogues, the Western way of life, sex, physical power, comfort, man’s own self, and so forth. All such worship is idolatry.
Also, there are many people who kneel and pray before carved images of Jesus or of the “saints.” While this worship is said to be only relative and actually directed to God, the facts show that much of it does go to the images themselves. Thus in backward lands devotees bestow much affection upon them, talk to them and even bring food to them. And the very fact that certain images are more highly esteemed than others, have pilgrimages made to them and otherwise have much ado made over them, shows that these images in themselves are viewed as having special merit aside from the one they represent or there would be no distinction made between them. All such is a form of idolatry. Early Christians had no images whatever in their places of worship.a
The Bible foretold these conditions. It predicted that a time would come when the love for God by the majority would grow cold, when there would be a falling away from the true faith and when men would be lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.—Matt. 24:12; 1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Tim. 3:1-5.
In addition to foretelling such conditions in so many words, the Bible gives us a detailed picture of the present-day idolatry in Christendom by means of a prophetic vision that the prophet Ezekiel received regarding conditions in his day and which find their counterpart in our day. That we should find these ancient accounts filled with meaning for us is clear from the words of the apostle Paul: “All the things that were written aforetime were written for our instruction.”—Rom. 15:4.
Ezekiel, the son of a priest, was taken captive to Babylon during the reign of King Jehoiachin. He had a vision six years before Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed, by means of which Jehovah God revealed to him the gross idolatry that was then being practiced in Jerusalem and for which Jehovah’s vengeance was coming upon the city and its people. It is recorded in Ezekiel chapter 8.
The vision consisted of four scenes, each depicting a different kind of idolatry. The first scene showed a symbol of jealousy standing in the entranceway of the temple. The second depicted seventy men offering up incense in the temple, the walls of which were covered with pictures of loathsome beasts, and so forth. The third showed women weeping for Tammuz. And in the fourth scene Ezekiel saw twenty-five men worshiping the sun. All this in violation of God’s law forbidding idolatry. No wonder Jehovah God permitted the world power of Babylon to wreak destruction upon the nation of Israel six years later! A destruction, incidentally, that Ezekiel foretold in the very next chapter of his prophecy.—Ezek. 9:1-7.
THE SYMBOL INCITING TO JEALOUSY
To what idolatry in Christendom does the first example, the symbol of jealousy inciting to jealousy, refer? God’s Word tells us that Jehovah brooks no rivalry, that he is jealous or insistent on exclusive devotion. (Ex. 20:5) Here, then, must be something that competes with God and therefore arouses him to jealousy. It was an image that stood where it had no right to stand, in the courtyard of the temple of Jehovah. It calls to mind what Jesus said in his great prophecy about “the disgusting thing that causes desolation . . . standing in a holy place,” or “standing where it ought not.” What is there in Christendom that fits this description?—Matt. 24:15, 16; Mark 13:14; Ezek. 8:3, 5, 6.
God’s Word shows that his kingdom is the only hope of mankind and that it will make an end of war and bring lasting peace. (Ps. 46:8-10; 72:1, 7; Matt. 6:9, 10) The clergy of Christendom, however, today look to the United Nations to accomplish this, even as yesterday they looked to its predecessor, the League of Nations.b By holding forth these man-made organizations as mankind’s hope instead of God’s kingdom, the clergy have placed them where they ought not to stand, in a holy place. Such presumptuousness is an insult to God and arouses him to jealousy, especially since these clergy claim to serve God. It is indeed a form of idolatry that is disgusting to God.
Because Jehovah God cannot deny himself he will not always tolerate this symbol that incites him to jealousy by posing as a substitute for his kingdom. At the rapidly approaching battle of Armageddon he will destroy both it and all those who have idolized it.
After boring a hole in the wall of the temple courtyard, in vision, of course, Ezekiel next saw “every representation of creeping things and loathsome beasts, and all the dungy idols of the house of Israel, the carving being upon the wall all round about. And seventy men of the elderly ones of the house of Israel . . . were standing before them, each one with his censer in his hand, and the perfume of the cloud of the incense was ascending.”—Ezek. 8:10, 11.
What could all this represent in our time? Animals in Jehovah’s house of worship may be said to find their counterpart in Christendom’s adoption of the evolution theory, which ties in all the lower animals with the “ascent” of man. The modern clergy of Christendom have substituted the principle of evolution for the Creator, the God of the Bible. The Bible says that the first man Adam was the “son of God,” but according to the evolutionistic clergy the first man was the son of some lower animal; just which one is a question upon which evolutionists cannot agree.
The evolution theory has destroyed the faith of countless millions, even as Darwin admitted that it had caused him to become an out-and-out agnostic.c By crediting evolution with the marvelous brain and organism of man and thereby robbing God of the credit, are not the clergy of Christendom guilty of idolatry? Surely!
Christendom consists primarily of two factions, the modernists and the fundamentalists. The modernists put the wisdom of this world above the wisdom of God as found in the Bible, preaching politics, social reform, higher criticism, which denies the inspiration of the Bible, and evolution. The fundamentalists profess to believe in the inspiration of the Bible, but when confronted with a conflict between their creeds and the Bible they put their creeds ahead of the Bible. They are not at all happy about the trend in Christendom toward modernism and worldliness. In particular do they mourn the decline of their institutions, if not always in numbers, then in quality and influence.
These seem well pictured by what Ezekiel next saw at the entrance of the gate of the house of Jehovah, ‘women sitting, weeping over the god Tammuz.’—Ezek. 8:14.
Women weeping for the god Tammuz was a distinctive feature of many ancient pagan religions. In the Scriptures religious organizations are repeatedly referred to as women. (2 Cor. 11:2; Gal. 4:27, Rev. 22:17) Further, it is well known that in most of the religions of Christendom the women are in the great majority; it is primarily their interest and support, financial and otherwise, that keeps these professedly Christian organizations going.
While the fundamentalists take the position that they use their religious organizations in their worship of God, yet when brought face to face with what God says in his Word, they prefer their dying organizations to God’s Word, thus convicting themselves of idolatry also.
THE SUN OF INTELLECTUALITY
In the final scene of his vision Ezekiel saw twenty-five men between the porch of the temple and the great altar, with their backs to the temple, worshiping the sun. (Ezek. 8:15, 16) What could this picture? We know the sun gives light, and light is a symbol of knowledge, because knowledge gives light to the mind even as the sun gives light to the body, the organism. The sun, however, is a creation, and in spite of its role in sustaining life upon the earth it does not deserve being worshiped, it being inanimate, merely following God’s laws.d
This worshiping of the sun therefore well represents the modern worship of knowledge, of philosophy, of psychology, of intellectuality as practiced by the clergy and their followers. It is a worship or valuing of knowledge per se. As one leading member of the Canadian Anglican Church expressed it, ‘God is being replaced by the intellect of man as the moving force shaping the world.’
This tendency has ever been a snare to the professed people of God. It ensnared the Jews just before the time of Christ and shortly thereafter. It ensnared the early Christian congregation after the apostles fell asleep in death, resulting in the great apostasy and the adopting of such teachings as the trinity and the immortality of the human soul. In modern times it also takes the form of discussions of ontology, the teaching of “being” and which is also known as the “first philosophy”; of existentialism, which is wholly man-centered wisdom, much of it even atheistic; of Zen and other current trends in religions Oriental and Occidental. All those who thus prefer the wisdom of man to the wisdom of God are showing disrespect to Jehovah God and therefore are guilty of idolatry.
Is Christendom guilty of idolatry? She truly is. In addition to the images that adorn many of her churches, her idols include the United Nations, the evolution theory, her religious institutions and intellectuality. What will Jehovah God do about this idolatry? He will wipe it out, even as he wiped out the idolatrous practices of the Israelites in the days of Ezekiel. At Armageddon Jehovah will again act in anger against all those who have offended him by worshiping idols instead of the one true God Jehovah, the only One who deserves our worship.—Ezek. 8:17, 18; Rev. 16:14, 16.
Those who are wise today will abandon all the idolatrous practices of Christendom and will ‘seek Jehovah, righteousness and meekness’ in the hope of being hidden in the day of God’s anger.—Zeph. 2:1-3.
a The History of the Christian Church, J. F. Hurst, Vol. 1, p. 508.
b See Awake!, October 8, 1962, pp. 16-24.
c Life and Letters, Darwin, Vol. 1, p. 828.