Book review: The Idolatry of God

by Peter Rollins


Have we turned God into an idol? In this thought-provoking book, you’ll learn to think about God, life, and love differently.

The idea of God as the fulfillment of our desires is so all-pervasive today that most of us take it for granted. But is this not the very definition of an idol? That which we focus on as the solution to our unfulfillment, in hopes of attaining happiness?

Next time you attend church, listen closely to the worship hymns. Each one promises to provide something which will fill the emptiness we feel by nature … a nature that began with birth, and our severing from the universe to create a separate being. In this way, the church takes it place beside every other industry that is in the business of selling satisfaction. Religious hymns become little more than advertising jingles, and the clergy come to resemble slick salespeople presenting their god-product to the potential consumer. If idolatry is the artificial search for ultimate satisfaction, then the church today does not offer an alternative to the idolatry that weighs us down, but instead blesses it and gives it divine justification.

What can we do about it? Rollins encourages us to be part of the problem, not the solution, and he closes the book with several intriguing group exercises to help us think outside the box, recognizing and embracing life for its uncertainty and unattainable satisfaction. Remember when Jesus died, and the curtain in the temple was torn from top to bottom? The Holy of Holies lay exposed, and the separation between man and God finally came down. So what did temple visitors find there, beyond the curtain of separation?

That’s right: nothing. There was nothing behind the curtain. That is not to say that Christianity is a lie, or that the scriptures are wrong. The reality is more interesting than this.

Like every other idol, God proves to be meaningful only while unattainable. Once obtained … once lived … the meaning dies, but is reborn, as it shifts from idolatry to experience. An experience which cannot be ours until we lay down our certainties and our doomed quest for ultimate understanding and satisfaction.

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