Friday, April 18, 2014

Is "Christianizing" Pagan Altars and Practices Okay in the Sight of God?

Scripturally I have problems with construing Acts 17 so that it supports using former pagan altars or temples in the worship of God 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 someone once told me). 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 or turned away from them. Their example is totally at odds with an interpretation of Paul's action in Athens that would imply he "baptized" Athenian altars (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 their groves. You shall burn their graven images. You shall destroy their names'" (Tertullian, On Idolatry II; Scorpiace 2).

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