When Beliefs Become Idols (Quote to Ponder: Tim Keller)





While I was working on some research for the book of Jonah, I came across a quote that is worthy of pondering.  It makes me wonder if we in the religious community, on both the right left and center are making idols out of our theological convictions?  With all of the uproar about the future of evangelicalism and the coming split between the new Calvinists and those of us who don’t fit that label, I wonder if this quote from Tim Keller applies to us?  Have we been guilty of crossing the line from passion into idolatry and not even recognized it?  What thoughts come to your mind about idols in daily life that Christians are often tempted to embrace without even recognizing it? Do you see the irony of using a Keller quote in light of the context of this conversation? (Keller = favorite Calvinist!)

“An idol is something that we look to for things that only God can give.  Idolatry functions widely inside religious communities when doctrinal truth is elevated to the position of a false god.  This occurs when people rely on the rightness of their doctrine for their standing with God rather than on God himself and his grace.  It is a subtle but deadly mistake….  Another form of idolatry within religious communities turns spiritual gifts and ministry success into a counterfeit god….  Another kind of religious idolatry has to do with moral living itself…  Though we may give lip service to Jesus as our example and inspiration, we are still looking to ourselves and own own moral striving for salvation….  Making an idol out of doctrinal accuracy, ministry success, or moral rectitude leads to constant internal conflict, arrogance and self-righteousness, and oppression of those whose views differ.”  Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods, p. 131-132

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  • Conrad

    not familiar with tim keller but that is an EXCELLENT quote!

  • Yes, Keller definitely makes the list of favorite Calvinist thinkers. I wish more of his colleagues in that tradition would follow his lead. He’s not as “passionate” from the pulpit as Piper, or as bombastic as Driscoll…he just speaks and teaches solid truth in a winsome manner consistently. Props to Keller for being a great representative of the Reformed wing of evangelicalism.

  • Yep. Don’t ever let a doctrine get in the way of what God wants to do or do with/in you. That’s been a difficult lesson for someone like me (and I imagine some of your readers) that I’m continuing to learn. It’s just a doctrine, a human interpretation. Gosh, that’s hard for me to say.

  • Isn’t this what fundamentalism is? allowing our doctrines to get between people and Christ?

    Part of me, to be honest, Kurt, is yelling, “Stop the false equivalences already! Those of us who have questions are getting bullied…”

    But the truth is that sometimes our question marks can be weapons as well. Not that that’s such a problem – it’s just that we need to be careful with them. And that’s hard to do…

  • Great quote. Reminds me of the Jewish leaders in John 9 – their confidence in their doctrine of the Sabbath caused them to be blind to the work of God right in front of them. It’s easy for me as a non-Calvinist to see how the Calvinists do this, but I’m pretty sure I do this, too. I mean, if God does a mighty work through a Calvinist can I celebrate that work as joyfully as if it happened through me? While I’d like to answer yes, I’m really not so sure.

  • Wow, that is spot-on. Thanks!