Friday, December 04, 2009

Are Idols non-entities or faces of demonic powers

It is interesting how in 1 Cor 8:4, Paul can say that idols “nothing,” but then in 1 Cor 10:19-21 he associates them with the worship of demons. Are idols nothing or are they a front for demonic powers? Perhaps it is the case that: “Idols are nonentities, but demonic powers used idols to inveigle humans into worshipping false gods” (David Garland, 1 Corinthians 372).


Chris Tilling said...

The very technical and expert work by Johannes Woyke, Götter, ´Götzen´, Götterbilder
Aspekte einer paulinischen ´Theologie der Religionen
discusses exactly this question. Ultimately he suggests what I think is an implausible solution, i.e. that demons are not ontological beings, as such. But it is a magnificent book.

Justin Dodson said...

I was in class with Lawson Younger yesterday and we discussed idols in the OT and it was enlightening. So in light of that I think it is the human attempt to manipulate a deity, and in doing so inverts the created order by making self the one who can control outcomes through magical means.

So it seems to me that idols are truly nothing in and of themselves, but when approached for sacrifices the people thought themselves to be manipulating the god. Thus, they made an offering to demons who probably then carried out the request, because it would distract them from true worship around the communion table fellowship.

I dont know what ya think, but I found the manipulation aspect to be interesting...

Joel Willitts said...

Chris Wright has a very good chapter in his book The Mission of God where he deals with the concept of idolatry from a whole Bible perspective. He points out that in the OT most of the time idols are described as non-entities whose reality is only in the world of those who claim their existence. They are real only in so far as they are believed to be real. Rarely, however idolatry in the OT is attributed to the worship of demons. This is a very rare element, but important. Paul seems to simply be in line with the OT perspectives.

Joel Willitts said...

By the way, I posted on this chapter in Wright some time ago for those interested.

Jonathan said...

Or maybe Barth (and Origen?) were right in saying that demonic powers are part of the Nothing.

John Thomson said...

Is it that we we believe we are controlled by? In this sense behind every false belief lies the power of the deceiver. The idol is nothing in itself but the belief placed in the idol and what it represents enthralls us to the demonic.

Tim said...

On the topic, I'd like to throw out the connection we see across time between idol worship and addiction. This applies to both overt (ancient) and subtle (modern) idol worship.

In overt idol worship, it seems to me that the perceived power to manipulate circumstances creates an emotional and physical attachment to whatever circumstances the person perceives to be 'favorable'. This of course denies God's power to bring spiritual enlightenment and sanctification through crisis (perceived as an 'unfavorable circumstance' to avoid rather than journey through with God).

In subtle idol worship, a worldly or fleshly habit is cultivated over time and again, creates an emotional and physical attachment to that thing which we perceive as "comfortable" or "favorable". And we guard that thing violently.

I have found this idea helpful in understanding the nature of idol worship and sin in my own life.

The connection between idol worship and addiction was proposed by some Christian writer...perhaps C.S. Lewis?

uno extranjero y peregrino said...

Check out Tim Keller's latest book: Counterfeit Gods.

He has also written some articles on idolatry.

See also G.K. Beale's book: We Become What We Worship. A Biblical Theology of Idolatry