The Idolatry of Race Part 1

Jarvis Williams

God hates idols and idolatry. His greatest desire above all is to glorify himself and to fill the entire creation with his glory and to receive from his creation the glory that he rightly deserves. God makes it abundantly clear in the bible that he wants to be worshipped exclusively by all and above all. After all, Gen. 1:1 begins with God: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” And all things that exist, exist because God created them (Genesis 1-2). The result of God’s sovereign act of creation should be that he is worshipped above all by his creation.

For example, in Ephesians 1, Paul praises God for blessing us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. In Eph. 1:4-6, Paul asserts that God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world and predestined us unto adoption “for the praise of his glory.” Again, in Eph. 1:11-12, Paul proclaims that God gave us an inheritance because he predestined us to be the first fruit of salvation “for the praise of his glory!” God is for God. And he wants his glory to be magnified, experienced, and enjoyed above all and by all.

God’s love for himself is perhaps one reason that God begins the Ten Commandments with these words: “I am the Lord, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. And you shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourselves a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” As the Westminster Catechism says, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.”

Instead of worshipping God, however, Christians often worship idols. According to God’s remarks in Exodus 20:2-6, an idol is any image humans create to compete with or to reflect God and his glory. And idolatry is the act of worshipping that image instead of or alongside of the one and true living God.

Our created idols will inevitably lead us to idolatry, not to the worship of the one and true living God. And God will judge both the idol and the idolaters unless we repent. The chief example of this is Exodus 32 where Israel, God’s people, creates and worships a golden calf. God wants to kill Israel for their idolatry. But Moses intercedes and pleads with God to show them his mercy, which he does.

An idol can also be something that is positive or good that we begin to worship instead of or along with our God. For example, money, jobs, sex, fun, rest, family, creativity, justice, and any other good thing that you think of can potentially become an idol that we worship in the place of or alongside of God or in the name of God.

Christians and Race
In the Christian community, it is the idolatry of race. We see this idolatry amongst white Christians in traditional white churches who think that white cultural expressions of the Christian faith are alone biblical and normal, instead of cultural, and that non-white or non-traditional expressions of the Christian faith are raced, or ethnic, or an aberration from the bible.

We see the idolatry of race amongst minority Christians in traditional minority churches that refuse to pursue a multi-ethnic church model, or to make the necessary multi-ethnic negotiations to reach their diverse demographic, in spite of the fact their congregations are in diverse communities.

We also see the idolatry of race when Christians from different racial postures reject what the Spirit says about walking in light of one’s transformed racial identity in Christ. They instead uncritically embrace the anti-gospel messages that come from those outside of Christ from their natural ethnic postures. Whether with the Republicans, the Democrats, Black Lives Matter, and or any other organization or movement that overtly espouses ideas that contract the gospel, Christians often side with these groups based on which group most closely aligns with the majority positions within their natural ethnic postures without carefully and critically considering the messages that these groups adopt.


Part two of The Idolatry of Race will be published tomorrow, on August 9th, 2016!

1 Comment

  1. g

    Thank you Dr. Williams. As the heat intensifies for you, please don’t shrink back from telling these truths on behalf of those of us who long for the most complete gospel as God gives it to men like you in this most wonderful purifying season of the true church. Praying for you now.

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