Politics and the Church – Building a Free Nation [Part 16]

This week we will look at the Second Commandment.  As we will see it forbids the making of idols.  This does not mean only the making of statues to bow down to, but anything that can and does distract from the Worship of God and carrying out His plan for man.  How many put their bank accounts ahead of God?  How many worship their possessions to the point that God and church is placed in a far second place?  In 1680 the New Hampshire colony enacted an idolatry law that stated: “Idolatry.  It is enacted by ye Assembly and ye authority thereof, yet if any person having had the knowledge of the true God openly and manifestly have or worship any other god but the Lord God, he shall be put to death. Ex. 22:20, Deut. 13:6 and 10”.  The 1780 Constitution of Massachusetts stated in Part I, Article II, “It is the right as well as the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons, to worship the Supreme Being, the great creator and preserver of the universe.”  How can a constitution declare that it is the duty of citizens to worship God without admitting the converse that the duty is breached when one worships idols?

     Evolution has been used as a part of several theories of how religion developed.  First people used fetishes, objects which supposedly had magic powers, such as sticks, stones, necklaces or charms.  Eventually fetishes gave way to polytheism, the belief in many gods which were more distant from the earth.  From polytheism the number of gods eventually decreased until monotheism was achieved, the belief in one supreme God as both Christianity and Judaism teach.  When humanity finally “comes of age” people realize that God is not needed, and atheism is achieved.  People become their own gods.

     The philosopher Comte had an interesting theory that fits quite well with evolutionary assumptions.  Unfortunately, it suffers from one serious flaw: no real evidence supports the theory.  In fact, atheism is described in the Old Testament, “the fool hath said in his heart, there is no God”, long before the decline of fetishism and polytheism.  Actually, all of the supposed stages continue to exist in various parts of the world, and one can make just as good an argument that monotheism came first with the other types of religion developing as a rejection of God. (Wilhelm Schmidt, The Origin and Growth of Religion).  

     Another more credible theory is that of the sociologist Emile Durkheim. (Emile Durkheim, Elementary Forms of the Religious Life).  First, certain dominant traits became prized by the tribes, usually related to the survival of the group, such as physical strength or wisdom.  Eventually these traits became associated with an animal, such as ‘strong as a bear’ or ‘wise as an owl.”  The animal described by Durkheim as a ‘totem’ and thus worshiped for the collective traits they represent.

     Anthony Campolo (Anthony Campolo, A Reasonable Faith, pp. 97-102) suggests that to a degree many Christians today are also totemistic…instead of worshiping the God of the Bible, many worship a god who is little more than the qualities we want him to be. We worship a god of our own creation.  There may be more truth to this than we would like to admit.  Sometimes we worship a god we create in our own image instead of the God who created us in His image.

     We may have reservations about accepting all of the concepts about how religion develops, since most studies use a limited sampling of people.  Indeed, the Bible records totemistic religion…idols…early in the history of mankind, but long after our first parents talked with God in the garden.

     Next, we will see the impact of the Third Commandment on law in the colonies.  It had a wide-ranging influence and may take more than one week to study.  Unfortunately, in today’s world we see it violated almost on a regular basis.  Our Founders took very seriously any violation and wrote it into many early laws.

-Bob Munsey

“Rather than looking everywhere for breathtaking moments, we should find meaning in every breath we take.”  Julie Ackerman Link

P.S. I would like to thank Drs. Ed Coleson and Don Ratcliff for some of the inspiration they provided me in writing this week’s ‘Politics and the Church’.

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