Busy Making Gods (Or The Idol Business)

   In Tell it Slant, Eugene Peterson has a great section on how we are prone to idolatry (from pages 150-151).

“We don’t come to God; God comes to us.  … But we don’t want God.  The well-documented evidence is that we want to be our own gods.  The evidence piles up from every continent and civilization, every century and every religion.  It is irrefutable.  The evidence is thoroughly and convincingly confirmed in our Scriptures and documented in each and every one of our lives.  God is a rival, not an ally, in the god-business.  We want to be our own gods.  The Snake promised us we could do it – ‘you will be like God’ (Gen 3.5) – and we have been at it ever since.  As it turns out, we are very good at it.”

Peterson then talks about how Israel turned from God soon after they saw his awesome works in Egypt and through the Red Sea.  Here he highlights the Israelites’ idolatry in the golden calf episode.

“They got tired of waiting.  Their associate pastor, Aaron, provided them a gold calf-god that they could handle and use, a god without mystery, a god who was there when they needed it.  They loved it.  They worshiped, ate and drank, and had a grand party.  They made a god, and then they became like the god they made.  The Snake’s promise turned out to be a lie.  They became ‘like god’ all right, but the god they became ‘like’ was dead.” …

“And we keep doing it over and over again.  Baal and Asherah and Moloch….  The gods of Russia and China. … The gods of England and Australia.  And the gods of America.  America leads the world at present in golden-calf production.”

And more:

“Given the extensive coverage in our Scriptures to the Snake’s success in diverting God’s people from the living God, the naiveté that assumes that if we just make Jesus more attractive men and women will flock in great numbers to follow him is astonishing.  The widespread American assumption is that if we can just get the gospel message out loud and clear men and women will sign up on the spot is an illusion of the Snake.”

There’s a bit more to this that is every bit as penetrating (you’ll have to read it for yourself someday!) .  Tell it Slant isn’t my favorite book by Peterson, but it is worth reading, and I’m enjoying it.

shane lems

4 thoughts on “Busy Making Gods (Or The Idol Business)”

    1. Bruce:
      Right now my favorite is “A Long Obedience.” I also enjoyed “Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places” but (in my opinion) “The Contemplative Pastor” and “Tell it Slant” are good, but not great. Those are the only 4 I’ve read so far.

      I would recommend “A Long Obedience” to a lot of people. In fact, one parishioner in the church I pastor (formerly Roman Catholic) said “A Long Obedience” was very influential in her early Christian walk. She said it made her realize Christianity was a life-long blessed struggle ahead.



  1. I love this post. We all want to build these little gods who aren’t genuine, capable, or even real. In fact, they try to embody all of the elements of God our flesh desires… and negate the characteristics we don’t want to own up to. What kind of a relationship is that?

    Good writing!


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