And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? (Luke 6:39; KJV)
He further told them a proverb: Can a blind [man] guide and direct a blind [man]? Will they not both stumble into a ditch or a hole in the ground? (Luke 6:39; Amplified Bible)
WHAT IS IDOLATRY?
The Encyclopedia Britannica defines idolatry as follows:
in Judaism and Christianity, the worship of someone or something other than God as though it were God. The first of the biblical Ten Commandments prohibits idolatry: “You shall have no other gods before me.”
Several forms of idolatry have been distinguished. Gross, or overt, idolatry consists of explicit acts of reverence addressed to a person or an object—the sun, the king, an animal, a statue. This may exist alongside the acknowledgment of a supreme being; e.g., Israel worshiped the golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai, where it had encamped to receive the Law and the covenant of the one true God.
A person becomes guilty of a more subtle idolatry, however, when, although overt acts of adoration are avoided, he attaches to a creature the confidence, loyalty, and devotion that properly belong only to the Creator. Thus, the nation is a good creature of God, but it is to be loved and served with an affection appropriate to it, not with the ultimate devotion that must be reserved for the Lord of all nations.
When Jesus warned his disciples against the dangerous leaven of the Pharisees which is hypocrisy, He said the following.
Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. (Luke 12:2-3)
I don’t think He had the internet and its vast network of technological communication and info in mind when He said this. However, just think of it for a moment; hadn’t it been for things like videos and audio podcasts we would never have been able to hear world leaders delivering their speeches and pastors delivering their sermons without having to be there in their presence at that particular moment. Nowadays, with the click of a mouse button, you can easily tune into the media library of most churches who have their own websites and in the leisure of your own home listen to the sermons pastors have delivered in the privacy of their churches. Indeed, nothing is hidden any longer. The only snag is that the emergent pastors are no longer ashamed of broadcasting their own idolatry while they boldly and paradoxically speak out against idolatry. They impudently point out the idolatrous habits of other people while the golden calf firmly rests on a pedestal smack bang in front of their pulpits. “Now you’ve gone too far” some of you may want to say to me at this stage, but hear me out before you accuse me of being too rash.
Taking a stand against Idolatry however…
In a sermon delivered on March 13 (which you can listen to here) in the Mosaïek Church in Fairland, Johannesburg, Trevor Hudson made a plea that the members of their church should “Let God be God” by taking a stand against idolatry. He took his Scripture reading from Matthew 22:34-40 where a Pharisee asked Jesus the question “which of the commandments are the greatest” to which He answered that we should love the Lord our God with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind, and that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves. His second reading came from Acts 17: 22-31 where Paul delivered his famous sermon on the Grecian Areopagus in Athens and introduced them to the unknown God for whom they erected an altar. Before I take you on a journey of discovery with me into Trevor Hudson’s sermon, I would like to draw your attention to Jesus’ words “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Mat 22:37). As you can see I have deliberately bolded “with all your mind” because I will be referring to it quite a bit later on in my comment. So please bear with me while we look at Trevor Hudson’s sermon in the light of Scripture. Let me say from the very outset: There are many things Trevor Hudson says with which I agree. His definition of idolatry when he says that all of us tend to treasure something more than anything else, all of us have something which we put first in our lives, all of us love something or someone more than anything else . . . but the greatest tragedy of human history and of our lives is that usually it is not God, is quite right. It reminded me of what the author of the two books of Samuel said to King Saul in 1 Samuel 15:23: “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” The word for “stubbornness” is “patsar” and conveys the meaning of someone whose mind is set on things contrary to the will of God. He deliberately and pigheadedly withstands and avoids God’s will in many ways. He follows his own mind which is completely at variance with God’s will that we should love Him with all our mind. This state of mind is as good as bowing down to an idol or dancing around a golden calf. There is no difference. God makes no distinction between rebellion and witchcraft and stubbornness and idolatry. Remember the wise proverb “For as he thinks within himself, so is he?”
Trevor Hudson continues by drawing the attention of his audience to an overhead screen displaying four places where most people often pay a visit. Although the audio version of his sermon does not visibly lend itself to pictures, his description of the four places is so vivid that you can hardly miss out on what he was talking about, i.e. a bank, a mall or shopping center, a gym and a theatre or movies. These places, he said, can easily become places or temples of worship where the objects of worship are materialism, consumerism and pleasure. Here, I must once again agree with Trevor Hudson. Materialism, especially in the West, has become one of the strongest driving forces behind the Western Mind’s love and affection for Mammon. Like the Pharisees in the time of Jesus who were lovers of money (Luke 16:14) and believed that material affluence is a sign of God’s favor, the post modern Pharisees in the prosperity cult believe the very same thing. I’m sure you’ve heard the Pharisee, Benny Hinn, saying pharisaic things like “Poverty is from the devil and . . . God wants all Christians prosperous,” “Where in the Bible does it say I have to drive a Honda?” and “God will begin to prosper you, for money always follows righteousness.” Are the redeemed poor not righteous or do they receive another kind of righteousness when they are saved? The golden calf is no longer a golden calf but a diamond studded one with dollars sticking out of its ears, mouth and backside which is there for the taking so that you may turn your Honda in for a Rolls Royce. Be that as it may, the question I would like to ask, is: Why does Trevor Hudson draw our attention to the idolatry of materialism, consumerism and pleasure and not to the idolatry of Contemplative Spirituality? “Wow, now you’ve really gone completely bonkers,” is what some of you might want to accuse me of. “How can you say that Contemplative Spirituality is idolatry?” I dare say that I have the fullest right to call it idolatry because it bears all the characteristics, features and qualities of idolatry — the shutting off or shutting out of the conscious mind which is totally at variance with the command to love the Lord our God with all our mind (Matthew 22:34-40), and the notion that God is unknowable and incomprehensible (Acts 17:22-31).
The reason, I believe, Trevor Hudson makes such a big spiel about materialism and consumerism is because it hampers the contemplative pilgrim on his spiritual journey and in his contemplative practices. Allow me to explain. Contemplative Spirituality which has its roots in Eastern mysticism cannot grow to maturity in the lives of contemplative pilgrims when their minds are preoccupied with mundane things such as money, possessions and pleasure. For them the achievement of the higher consciousness (the “Atman”or “the true self” in Hinduism and Buddhism) rests entirely on your detachment or separation from those things. Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha’s spiritual pilgrimage is a perfect example. His father who allegedly was King Suddhodana and the leader of the Shakya clan wanted to shield his son from the religious beliefs prevalent in their time and especially the knowledge of human suffering. Despite all his efforts he could not prevent his son from an eventual encounter with both religion and suffering. When he turned 16, his father reputedly arranged his marriage to a cousin of the same age named Yaśodharā (Pāli: Yasodharā). According to the traditional account, she gave birth to a son, named Rahula. Siddhartha is then said to have spent 29 years as a prince in Kapilavastu. Although his father ensured that Siddhartha was provided with everything he could want or need, Buddhist scriptures say that the future Buddha felt that material wealth was not life’s ultimate goal. (Wikipedia).
At the age of 29, Siddhartha abandoned his palace, his wife and his son on a quest to find the truth about suffering. He later teamed up with five companions with whom he decided to live an austere life of asceticism. They believed they could reach enlightenment through deprivation of worldly goods, including food and through acts of self-mortification. Before I continue, I would like to say something about self-mortification. Self-mortification is entirely a biblical doctrine but please do take care because there are many demoniacal counterfeits in our midst. When Jesus commanded his disciples to take up their cross daily, He meant for them to die continually to their corrupt “self.” (Luke 9:23). This has nothing to do with the Buddhist concept of the false self that needs to be mortified so that you may find your true self (“Enlightenment,” “Nirvana,” “Higher Consciousness, “divinity”). It simply means that you should relinquish every vestige of the “self” to Christ’s cross so that the life of His Spirit may have full sway in your life. The un-crucified “self” quenches the Spirit of God and hampers his work of sanctification in the lives of Jesus’ followers. It is not something you can achieve through physical means such as the denial of sustenance and the practice of certain so-called spiritual disciplines such as meditation, contemplative prayer or centering prayer. It is rather silly to think that we can achieve what God alone can do. In fact, this very notion that man is able to do what God alone is capable of doing, is the very essence and core of idolatry. Indeed, Contemplative Spirituality and its various spiritual practices form the bedrock, the foundation of the Emergent Church’s idolatry.
When Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha and his companions realized that their severe deprivation of food quite naturally leads to death (the Buddha’s consumption of a leaf or a nut per day nearly caused his death), they resorted to the Buddhist Middle Way, a path that allowed them to lead a more moderate way of self-mortification. Wikipedia notes:
Following this incident, Gautama was famously seated under a pipal tree – now known as the Bodhi tree – in Bodh Gaya, India, when he vowed never to arise until he had found the truth. . .
According to Buddhism, at the time of his awakening he realized complete insight into the cause of suffering, and the steps necessary to eliminate it. These discoveries became known as the “Four Noble Truths,” which are at the heart of Buddhist teaching. Through mastery of these truths, a state of supreme liberation, or Nirvana, is believed to be possible for any being. The Buddha described Nirvāna as the perfect peace of a mind that’s free from ignorance, greed, hatred and other afflictive states, or “defilements” (kilesas). Nirvana is also regarded as the “end of the world,” in that no personal identity or boundaries of the mind remain. In such a state, a being is said to possess the Ten Characteristics, belonging to every Buddha. ((Emphasis added).
I wouldn’t be surprised if you asked me what in the world the Buddha has to do with a sermon by Trevor Hudson. Well, if you care to follow me throughout my comment you will eventually realize that the Emergent Church and in particular the Mosaïek Church in Fairland, Johannesburg are way over their heads in idolatry despite their preaching on Jesus, his crucifixion and resurrection. In the following few paragraphs you will see why Stephan Joubert, a very good friend of Trevor Hudson and Johan Geyser at Mosaïek, has repeatedly said that truth can be found in other religions such as Buddhism, why they unashamedly display pictures of the Buddha on their overhead screen during church services and why they sound a Buddhist rin gong or the singing bowl before and after their meditation sessions. Here is an example of what the rin gong sounds like. You can find more information on the rin gong.
The Emergent Church is prone to the inauguration of the Kingdom of God on earth, here and now. How do they propose to do it? I can assure you that it is not by means of the preaching of repentance toward God and faith toward Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). It is true that they mention the need for repentance in their sermons but they have given the word a complete new meaning. Metanoia (to repent), they say, is to get a bigger mind and to go beyond your present frame of mind. The bigger mind is nothing else than their bigger picture of an inclusive spirituality where every conceivable religious persuasion may find a niche to perch their particular idol/s. To do this they must of necessity strip the word ”repent” of its connection to a desperate need for an escape from the jaws of hell. Scripture’s warning in Hebrews 2: 2 and 3 “For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation? which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard” must be taken very seriously. Negligence on the part of a lost sinner to repent and be saved is equal to negligence of the escape route from hell God has provided through his Son Jesus Christ. And yet, contrary to what the Word of God teaches, Trevor Hudson says that we’ve made the word “repent” a terrible word. Listen to the following clip from his sermon.
Well, there you have it: “Repent” has become such bad news that the emergents have deliberately stripped it of its connection to a desperate need for an escape from hell. In stead, “repent” now means that God must receive your permission to again be what He has been all along since the beginning of time and even before the foundation of the earth. “Ok God, for Your sake I will repent, not of my sins and my lost status so that I may escape your righteous judgments in hell and receive eternal life, but to let you be God again in my life and for Jesus Christ to be my Lord. I don’t care much about your doctrines but I am quite prepared for you to be God again.” Would Trevor Hudson consider Jesus’ words in John 8:24 to be the “turn and burn” rambling on of a fire and brimstone preacher in a long overcoat? Or would He rather prefer that Jesus will never say the words: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21-23). What about John 3:16? Does it not contain the elements of a message that warns people to repent (“turn” from their unbelief) lest they should perish (“burn” in hell)? “Repent” is not a threat nor is it an invitation; it is a command to be obeyed.
If a biblically founded repentance (or the bad news kind of repentance) is not the prerequisite for entering the Kingdom of God, what is? I have already posed the question “How do they propose to inaugurate the Kingdom of God on earth, here and now?” To find an answer, we briefly need to go back to the Buddha and his philosophy about materialism. You may recall that I mentioned how he lived a very austere ascetic life but due to the dangers of this kind of life decided to opt for a more moderate Middle Way as it is called in Buddhism. I have also briefly mentioned the Mosaïek Church’s preoccupation with Buddhism which seems to have a great deal of influence on their own perception of materialism and consumerism. As a matter of interest, Trevor Hudson’s affinities with Buddhism are not only evident through his association with contemplative spirituality which I will discuss with you later on, but also through his working relationship with Morton Kelsey with whom he has written a book called “Journey of the Spirit.”
Perhaps this is enough for now. I tend to write protracted comments which seems to be one of my weaknesses. Nevertheless, I think it best to end here and continue this topic in a follow-up when I will discuss with you how the Emergent Church wants to bring in the Kingdom of God here and now through the cessation of human suffering.
- Please see: —> Idolatry: Can the blind lead the blind? – Part 2
- Please see: —> Idolatry: Can the blind lead the blind? – Part 3