Bob Goudzwaard, a Dutch Christian economist, wrote a brilliant, short book Idols of our Time back in the 1980s. It really is a superb resource for any thinking Christian.
He begins the book with these words:
We live in a world possessed and we know it.
When we focus upon the recent brutalities of ISIS, these words become poignant, powerful and relevant. Biblical norms of justice, love, mercy and forgiveness have been trampled upon as ISIS pursues its goals with extreme force and cruelty.
Goudzwaard argues that when humans become possessed by a goal, ideology is born. Ideology is the way that idolatry seizes the initiative and enslaves individuals, organisations, social structures, political movements and governments today. Ancient pagan people were enslaved to Molech, Baal or Sobek, the crocodile god, but today ideologies have largely replaced these crude pagan deities. In other words, Molech has had extensive plastic surgery!
Goudzwaard identifies four major goals or ends which occupy people around the world today.
- The resistance of all exploiting and oppressive powers in order to create a better society. This is the ideology of revolution.
- The survival of one’s people or nation: the preservation of one’s cultural identity. This is the ideology of nation.
- The preservation of one’s wealth and the opportunity for continued material prosperity. This is the ideology of material prosperity.
- Guaranteed security: the protection of oneself, one’s children, one’s fellow human beings against any attack from outside. This is the ideology of guaranteed security.
Turn on the TV, listen to the news and you will hear many voices that are enslaved to these four pervasive ideologies. Do we discern the idolatry at work?