Western Idols that Shape US

Dr. Michael Goheen (dual US/Canadian citizen) who lives in Canada spoke about Western Idols (I forgot who he was quoting).  It made me think about (and reflect on his comments) regarding how this effects the church.

The 4 Western Ideological Idols and how do they effect the Church

1. Rationalism – An appeal to reason to determine knowledge.  One, this lead to the reason/faith divide that has caused the truth claims of Jesus to be relegated to preferences.  The new filter for all knowledge is now based on 'science' and empiricism.  These tools are taken de facto for all truth interpretation.  Christians have obliged society and now are afraid to speak about Jesus as 'the only way'.  We so value the idol of rationalism, Christians have been tamed to a small insignificant corner of the conversation.

2. Individualism – The stressing of the individual person above the community. We have a 'cross for me mentality' where we are only concerned about our privatized faith.  Instead of seeing the 'temple of the Holy Spirit' being all Christians, we see only our self in this manner.  Our concern for social justice is diminished and on social issues where we should stand up (immigration, others) we are confused because of the rugged individualism we have been taught.  Christianity in our culture is seen as possible to do on your own or with a consumer Christianity.

3. Dualism – The view that there is a sacredness to the spiritual and that the body is wicked.  There has been great damage in seeing 'all of life' as a Christian.  We now are confused on the cultural mandate given in the garden.  This has led to all sorts of challenges, for example, we don't see the very simple act of work as a spiritual matter, we struggle with seeing sex and pleasure as from God.

4. Spiritualism – A higher value to the spiritual world is emphasized.  This leaves Christians with a 'the earth will burn, I can't wait to get out of here' mentality.  Again, the cultural mandate is destroyed as we are more concerned with left behind theology of escapism. We no longer are required to be an alternative city and foretaste of the Kingdom because we don't see what God has created as good.  We can now destroy our environment without consequence.  

5 Comments
  • sacred vapor

    April 3, 2007, 8:19 pm

    I would add a fifth, that being ‘consumerism’ but that might fall in more of a sociological rather than ideological list

  • D. Goodmanson

    April 3, 2007, 9:13 pm

    I agree, I believe consumerism was reflected as part of the individualism.

  • Jamie

    April 5, 2007, 6:24 am

    What about, in Brueggemann style, therapeutic? In that there is ” the assumption that there is a product or a treatment or a process to counteract every ache and pain and discomfort and trouble, so that life may be lived without inconvenience.” Don’t you think that this shapes us in the church?

  • Jon from In The Pursuit of God

    April 5, 2007, 12:32 pm

    Good observations, of what is effecting the church the question remains, how can we change what is clearly hurting the church

    The part that that is clearly evident is

    ” Our concern for social justice is diminished and on social issues where we should stand up (immigration, others) we are confused because of the rugged individualism we have been taught. Christianity in our culture is seen as possible to do on your own or with a consumer Christianity.”

    Its very easy to just settle for our holy huddle on a sunday and go home, than encourage people to get out into their community, or even better still create programs which are not just church centered but which are community centered.

  • Michael Foster

    April 6, 2007, 10:53 am

    Great stuff. I was reading Goheen’s The Drama of the Scripture this morning and could see him echoing these thoughts throughout the book.