Patriotic Church Services?

christian-1281948_640

A big Baptist church in Texas held a special “Freedom Sunday” service, featuring patriotic music, flag ceremonies, military presentations, a sermon celebrating America, and other nationalistic celebrations.  The sort other congregations, I dare say, have planned for the 4th of July weekend.

Several observers are condemning the Baptist service for being “idolatrous.”

Conservative Methodist Mark Tooley describes the service, expresses some reservations, but defends the congregation against the charge of idolatry.   He doesn’t approve of non-traditional worship in general, but he says that there is nothing wrong with churches being part of the local culture and thanking God for their country.  This is his conclusion:  “Nonsacred music and other non-Gospel focused celebrations by churches are best hosted outside of worship.”

I think the main problem with this sort of thing is the same problem with other kinds of “contemporary worship” that says little about Christ or the reception of His gifts.  I hasten to say that not all contemporary worship does that, but this often happens when the impulse to appeal to the culture and thus sacralize it takes priority over Word and Sacrament.

Read the excerpt from Mark Tooley after the jump, along with his linked article.  Do you think this service constitutes idolatry?  Or are such patriotic observances fine outside the church, but not in the context of a worship service?  Or would that still constitute a non-Christian “civil religion”?  How could we apply the doctrine of the Two Kingdoms–which teaches that God reigns over both the spiritual and the temporal realms, but in different ways–to this issue? [Read more…]

Reaching today’s idolaters of the self

How do you proclaim the forgiveness of sins to someone who doesn’t think he has done anything wrong?  How can you apply the Law to someone who feels no guilt and the Gospel to someone who feels no need for Christ?  Trying to evangelize today’s relativists seems like a futile project.  How can we get through to them?

The Australian pastor and theologian Michael Lockwood has just published a stimulating, paradigm-shifting book entitled The Unholy Trinity:  Martin Luther against the Idol of Me, Myself, and I.

On one level, it is a study of Luther’s view of idolatry.  For Luther, idolatry is not just worshipping graven images, as with Christians who think tangible objects used in worship, such as crucifixes, are idols.  Rather, idolatry is worshipping false gods created by the self.  In his explanation of the First Commandment in the the Large Catechism, Luther asks, “what is it to have a God?”  His answer:  What do you put put your faith in?  That’s your God.  Ultimately, idolatry is the opposite of saving faith in Christ.  It means putting your faith in yourself.

Dr. Lockwood then applies the insights from Luther to today’s spiritual landscape, from “Moralistic-therapeutic-Deism,” through the whole array of false spiritualities, to the pure secularism that sees no need for God at all.  All of these, at their root, are idolaters of the self.  But the self will let you down every time.

Drawing on his experience as a missionary, Dr. Lockwood says that non-believers first need to be “disenchanted” with their idols. He shows how the Law brings a message not only of guilt but of disenchantment.  In times of suffering, failure, and the prospect of death, even the idolaters of the self can find redemption in Christ.

This is a ground-breaking book that brings a distinctly Lutheran perspective on the task of apologetics, evangelism, and pastoral care.  But all Christians will benefit from its fresh approach to cultural criticism and from learning from Dr. Lockwood the art of “spiritual diagnosis.”

Read my review after the jump.  Then buy this book.

[Read more…]

Covetousness and idolatry

In our Bible class last Sunday, in which we are studying the hymns of Martin Franzmann, this Scriptural text came up:

“For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.” (Ephesians 5:5).

The question arose, in what sense is someone who is covetous also an idolater?  Think about that.  After the jump, I’ll tell you the quite illuminating explanation given by my son-in-law, Rev. Ned Moerbe.

[Read more…]

Pornography, Idolatry, and the manipulable image

Dr. Jack Kilcrease has a rather brilliant post at Theologia Crucis on the connection between pornography and idolatry.  Both fixate on images that can be manipulated according to our desires, as opposed to the “real presence” of an actual human spouse or of the true God.

A bonus in that post is a discussion of how the Reformed view religious images vs. how Lutherans view them. [Read more…]

The Satanic monument for the public square

This is the monument that the Satanists are trying to erect next to that of the Ten Commandments at the Oklahoma state capitol.

It’s an idol of Baphomet.   Note the effort to be child friendly.  It really does allude to the Old Testament conflicts with Canaanite idolatry.   Details after the jump. [Read more…]