Thursday, July 05, 2007

Cult of Mary, Cult of Scripture, Cult of Self

The good is often the enemy of the best.

I grew up learning not to trust any kind of religion that prayed to Mary. But the respect for Mary started completely innocently. At the time of the Nestorian controversy, roughly AD400, the big question was over the relationship between Jesus as human and Jesus as divine. Calling Mary "theotokos" or "Mother of God" was an important way of saying that Jesus as human was the same as Jesus as divine - the two descriptions were talking about the same person. And where stuff about Mary has been helpful in history, it has been helpful because it has pointed to Jesus. As soon as Marian devotions lose their Christ-centred-ness, they end up heading rapidly towards idolatry.

It's exactly the same with some of the cult of personal experience in modern charismaticism. In Worship As You Like It?, Sotirios Christou points out the vast proportion of modern charistmatic songs that are about our experience of God rather than about God himself. One example of this would be the chorus of "There is a louder shout to come" by Matt Redman.

O what a song we'll sing and O what a tune we'll bear;
You deserve an anthem of the highest praise.
O what a joy will rise and O what a sound we'll make.
You deserve an anthem of the highest praise.

The chorus is primarily praising our future response to God rather than God himself. And there is a place for considering our own experience to point to Jesus. But as soon as our experience of God becomes central rather than God himself, then we're back into idolatry, just like with Mary.

The same is true of the way many evangelicals treat the Bible. The Bible is all about God, and about how he has revealed himself to us, supremely in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus is God's supreme revelation, not the Bible.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.
Hebrews 1:1-4, ESV

Once again, in the way that we treat the Bible, there is a danger of the focus slipping off God and onto his word. And when that happens, that's idolatry. The word exists to point us to God.

I guess what I'm saying can be summed up roughly like this:

Whenever there is something good, something worthy of respect, something God uses to point to himself, there is a danger that we take it and we worship it instead.

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