Would you preach on Australian idols?

Michael Kellahan

It's that time of year again. I am trying to lock down the preaching series for 2011. And I'm feeling conflicted. Should I do a series on idolatory?

Since Tim Keller came out with Counterfeit Gods I've been thinking about doing a sermon series on Australian idols.

Keller, following Calvin, says the human heart is an 'idol factory' taking good things and making them into the things that drive us. Idolatory is not one sin among many found only among primitive people, but is instead the essence of unbelief and the root cause of all sin. Idolatory is a false faith that finds salvation in things other than God.

But Counterfeit Gods left me a little uneasy. Had Keller overplayed his hand? There would seem to be plenty of passages that speak about sin without reference to idolatory. Also key texts like Romans 1 don't set up idolatory as the pattern of all subsequent sin.

In addition to this, did seeing idols 'in the heart' fall short of the dominant biblical theme of physical idols made by human hands? Part of Paul's attack on idols in Romans 1 is the way they are created in the image of man and birds and animals and reptiles and therefore an unsuitable way to worship the unseen creator. In this he echoes Isaiah.

In most of the west we no longer live in a world of physical idols. I once wandered through the ruins of the Forum in Rome and was struck by how many idols and temples there were. Where Christianity has grown idols have died. To speak too quickly of idols in our culture might be to miss this profound shift.

Nonetheless, the Bible does speak of greed as idolatory. Here is an example of a non-literal idolatory. Could there be others? Perhaps pride? Would it be right to analyse the culture and the human heart to find other idols?

As I was thinking through this I realised I couldn't in good consicence lift a sermon series from the argument Counterfeit Gods. With suitable translation to Australian idols it would make for a neat series. But I wasn't yet convinced.

Imagine my suprise then to see the current edition of The Monthly. (september 2010) Peter Conrad's cover article Gods and Monsters tells the story of our worship of celebrity by telling the story of Kylie and Danii Minogue. He writes:

Following God is precisely what Kylie does. In place of the doddering Ancient of Days, whose death was long ago announced by Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, we now have a sky full of the twinkling airborne creatures we call celebrities - temporary deities who are up there on sufferance and can be tugged down to Earth whenever we tire of them. (p52)

Her stylist, who studied theology of the University of London describes how he dressed her to evoke iconography of the Virgin Mary and as a modern Venus. Conrad's conclusion is sobering:

"...I felt suddenly sorry for this ageing waif, and also for the rest of us, so credulously fascinated by Danii and Danyl, Jacko and Joackie O, J-Lo and SuBo, Posh and Paris. While God was alive, I certainly disliked him. Now that he has been replaced by our own inadequate inventions, I think it might be time to invite him back." (p58)

Why is it the people of the world can be so much wiser than the people of the light? There might be a sermon series here yet.

What do you think? Would you preach on Australian idols? Should I? What are our idols?