Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Icons and Idols

Just thinking about how much of life can be seen as a choice between and icon and an idol. Take anything at all. Say the sun. Either you see it as an icon for God. A reminder of the way God gives us energy and light. The way God can be too much to look straight at but without him we would see nothing at all. If we don't see the sun that way we make it an idol. It sounds hard but we start to appreciate the sun as a thing without acknowledging God as the creator of that thing. It becomes sun worship. Talk about the weather with enough people and you will run into sun worship.

But the principle has many examples. Lust is nothing more than seeing sex as a thing rather than as an icon for God. Greed is nothing more than seeing material wealth as a thing rather than as an icon for God. Pride is really seeing ourselves as something to focus on rather than something that points to God as our creator. We can see so much of life as a choice between seeing God or just seeing the thing as a thing. Either seeing an icon or seeing an idol.

This thought makes the protestant notion of icons leading to idolatry quite strange. The truth is they are the only antidote to idolatry. Statues and relics teach us how to see the spiritual significance in objects. They are the low hanging fruit that we can start out with. The concept is to learn to see God in everything and everyone. But if we can't get the easy ones right what chance do we have?

As a protestant it was OK for us to have posters of sports heroes or music stars. It was not OK to have a poster of the Virgin Mary. Which is more likely to be an idol? Which is more likely to teach a teen to see God in their hero? You can insist on Christian heroes but that is not really right either. The point is not the stars personal relationship with Jesus or lack thereof. The point is the music is not the end. The sport is not the end. It is all there and desirable because it is an icon for God. If said celebrity leads people in the sinners prayer that is great. It just does not address the deeper question of what does love of sport or love of music or love of movies tell us about God? Every desire in our heart is really a desire for God in disguise. True worship is seeing through the disguise. It is not avoiding the desire.

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