No one purposefully chooses to become an idolater. No one consciously abandons the living God to fall prey to a pantheon of earthly gods. Yet idolatry has a way of subtly seeping into the cracks of human life.
In Idolatry, Stephen E. Fowl explores how believers lapse into idolatry, a process he insists is much different from the decision of those who have rejected belief in God. He asserts that the Old Testament’s account of Israel’s idolatry as dramatic folly and betrayal describes the after effects of idolatry, not the process of how believers lapse into idolatry. Idolatry is a process of slowly diverting love and attention away from the one true God and toward false gods.
Fowl identifies the various habits, practices, and dispositions that can lead to this process, using Scripture to demonstrate different ways believers become inclined to idolatry. He first turns to Deuteronomy to show how to combat idolatry by remembering the grace of God. He then examines Ephesians and Colossians to demonstrate how the suggested practices of thanksgiving and gratitude can serve as the antidotes to idolatrous greed. He looks to 1 John to find the love that casts out the fear and insecurity that the books of Kings, Isaiah, and Luke name as the forerunners of idolatry. Finally, he examines curiosity, traditionally considered a vice, and how it turns believers toward idols unless it is countered by an undistracted focus on Jesus.
Idolatry looms over believers in a world overflowing with false gods, but Fowl offers hope. By diagnosing and defining the root causes of idolatry before these initial temptations become precipitated actions, Christians learn to navigate a world littered with false idols to live abundantly with the one true God.
1. Thinking about Idolatry
2. Forgetting and Attending
3. Bounded and Unbounded Desire
4. Insecurity, Love, and Mission
5. The Community of the Curious
Long known for his commitment to the theological interpretation of Scripture, in this book Professor Fowl considers the question of idolatry through a deft engagement with the Bible and the church’s traditions. Fowl shows that God’s people do not often become idolaters overnight; instead, our idolatry tends to infect us over time, as our dispositions, habits, and practices slowly incline us to direct our love and attention away from God and toward other things. Yet like any good physician, Fowl not only advances a penetrating diagnosis of the problem of idolatry; he also draws deeply upon Scripture in order to identify formative practices that might help remedy our idolatrous ways.~David J. Downs, Associate Dean for the Center for Advanced Theological Studies and Associate Professor of New Testament Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary
With meticulous attention to Scripture, careful argumentation, and keen psychological insight, Stephen Fowl exposes the process of idolatry - the tiny decisions, the prudent compromises, the desires, loves, and fears, the formation of habits that turn us away from God. His book is more than an admirable contribution to the theological interpretation of Scripture. Reading it is a sobering spiritual exercise, a guide to deep self-examination and a prophetic summons to purge our own idols.~Peter Leithart, President, Theopolis Institute
Whereas many biblical scholars avoid the timeless questions posed by scripture, Stephen Fowl heads straight to them. In this work, Fowl delights (and provokes!) his readers as he unfolds what worshiping the one, true God might look like.~Gary A. Anderson, Hesburgh Professor of Catholic Thought, University of Notre Dame