Friday, June 14, 2013

Should We "Christianize" Idols?

A Catholic gentleman once told me that the Apostle Paul "baptized" or "christianized" pagan idols for the Gospel's sake. He asked me if I would condemn St. Paul for his actions.


As regards your observation above, I have real problems with it. But then--you're not surprised by that, are you?

Scripturally I have problems with your construal of Acts 17 because of what 1 Cor. 10:14 says: "Therefore, my beloved ones, flee from idolatry." No, we are not to "Christianize" idols and baptize them (as you suggest). Stating this point even more forcefully is 1 Thess. 1:9: "you turned to God from [your] idols to slave for a living and true God."

The believers in first century Thessalonica did not baptize their idols or "Christianize" them. They abhorred, shunned, rejected, and turned away from them! Their example is totally at odds with your interpretation of Paul's action in Athens (cf. 1 John 5:21).

Commenting on Rev. 9:20, David Aune writes that "Antagonism to idolatry is also expressed in the NT (1 Cor. 14:15), and critiques of idolatry (often borrowing from Hellenistic Jewish apologetic) are also found among the early Christian apologists (Tatian Oratio 4.2; Theophilus Ad Autolycum 1.9-10; 2.2). Celsus charged that Christians cannot bear to see temples, altars, and images" (Origen Contra Cels. 7.62).

"When a Christian passes through temples, he will spit down upon the smoking altars and blow them out. As to rooting out the strange gods in every way, it has been commanded, 'you shall utterly destroy all places where the pagans sacrifice to their gods. You shall overturn their pillars and dash them to pieces. You shall cut down down their groves. You shall burn their graven images. You shall destroy their names'" (Tertullian, On Idolatry II; Scorpiace 2).

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