Brad Bigney writes a book in the area of practical theology examining idolatry in the Christian life and its relationship to the gospel. He argues that idolatry is the root issue, which causes Christians to apostatize from the gospel.
Part One unpacks the description of idolatry, namely, all the issues and consequences that accompany it. The author explains that Paul understood idolatry to be a great exchange. The creator God made the universe and all of humanity. In addition, he revealed his invisible attributes to his creation for the purpose of worship (Romans 1:18-25). However, humanity rebelled against his revealed will by exchanging his glory and majesty for worship of the creature. Thus, the idolatry may be described as the pursuit of anything or anyone in deviation from God and his glory. Even good objects may become idols if they are given preeminent location in one’s life. Finally, idolatry proceeds from within the heart of man. Blame cannot be attributed to the devil and his minions.
Bigney asserts that idolatry fundamentally disobeys the first and greatest commandment. The greatest danger is inappropriately confining idolatry to purely pre-scientific, pre-modern cultures. The Western Christian church continually breaks the first commandment with its 21st century idols. These are not composed of wood or gold but are established in entertainment, transportation, luxury items and sporting events. These idols damage and affect proximate relationships. The greatest danger is the reality that idolatry shifts ones identity in Christ to identity in self.
Part Two maneuvers through all the difficulties that accompany idolatry as it progresses towards a concrete solution. This solution is found solely through repentance and the daily declaration of the gospel in one’s own life. The fundamental problem is the heart. The heart is the location of the idols. It is the individual that has positioned it there. Sin is only the outward manifestation. A person’s affections are a good indicator for their idols. Often time, money, and effort will be contributed to objects and persons that consume a person’s life. Anger is often a negative reaction when a person’s idol is threatened. Worldly wisdom suggests that the heart is the final advisor to be followed in the course of one’s life. However, wisdom from above warns against any trust of one’s heart. Trustworthiness can only be found in the revealed word.
Part Three describes the Christian life, which is growing in sanctification, embracing the gospel and maintaining an idol free life. The book is both precise and comprehensive. The empty pursuit of idolatry betrays the gospel and all its benefits that are provided in Christ.
There is much commendation for Brad Bigney’s work. First, he rightly identifies idolatry as a fundamental motif in Biblical Theology. Moreover, he demonstrates that idolatry is the definitive struggle of the human race. He promotes such an interpretation based upon solid exegesis. He also correctly contrasts idolatry and its dependence with the gospel and reliance upon Jesus Christ. Throughout out his book he suggests that the reader turn to the gospel. He repeatedly calls for repentance and faith in Jesus Christ to those readers who are struggling with idolatry.
In the area of content his illustrations are very vivid. They are helpful in applying the theological conclusions to real life. He is very personable and identifies himself firmly in the struggle with the reader. Yet, he strikes a fair balance with discretion when providing some of his more personal illustrations.
While there is much good to attribute to Bigney’s work there are also some minor points of critique. First, the author might have provided a more detailed definition and defense of the gospel. Second, the author surveyed a very broad spectrum of texts that addressed the issue of idolatry; he might better have chosen a more concise method that unpacks the texts from a historical redemptive framework.
At the popular level this book will directly impact hearts and open eyes to the dangers and the reality of personal participation in idolatry. Bigney accurately addresses the true source of the majority of sin issues in the believer’s life. He continues to remind readers of their major fundamental issue throughout the book – pursuit of self and self’s desires. In light of this reality he rightly repetitively calls for repentance and dependence upon Jesus Christ. It is a much-needed correction to the self-help, self-determination books of mainstream evangelicalism. It is also an excellent resource for all young Christians as they grow in the discipleship process.
Tim Spears is a student at Westminster Theological Seminary
See our interview with Brad Bigney here.
Buy the books
Gospel Treason: Betraying The Gospel With Hidden Idols