Monday, September 14, 2009

J.C. Ryle on the Idolatry of the Golden Calves

J.C. Ryle in his comments on idolatry, provided the following discussion relevant to my recent posts about the golden calves:
It is not necessary for a man to formally deny God and Christ, in order to be an idolater. Far from it. Professed reverence for the God of the Bible, and actual idolatry, are perfectly compatible. They have often gone side by side, and they still do so. The children of Israel never thought of renouncing God when they persuaded Aaron to make the golden calf. "These by thy gods," they said (thy Elohim), "which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." And the feast in honour of the calf was kept as a "feast unto the Lord" (Jehovah) (Exodus 32:4-5). Jeroboam, again, never pretended to ask the ten tribes to cast off their allegiance to the God of David and Solomon. When he set up the calves of gold in Dan and Bethel, he only said, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel (thy Elohim), which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt" (1 Kings 12:28). In both instances, we should observe, the idol was not set up as a rival to God, but under the pretense of being a help—a steppingstone to His service. But, in both instances, a great sin was committed. The honor due to God was given to a visible representation of Him. The majesty of Jehovah was offended. The second commandment was broken. There was, in the eyes of God, a flagrant act of idolatry. Let us mark this well.
- J.C. Ryle, Knots Untied: Being Plain Statements on Disputed Points in Religion, pp. 401-02 (see a modernized version of this specific essay)



Anonymous said...

Yes indeed, marked!

Coram Deo said...

Methinks many professing believers are guilty of engaging in idolatry with the church herself.

Committing spiritual adultery with the Bride of Christ seems a most heinous sin indeed.

In Him,

Turretinfan said...

Yes, perhaps, though of course that is idolatry in the secondary sense (unless they make graven images of the church etc.)


Coram Deo said...


Your response to my comment has left me scratching my head a bit.

Are you asserting that idolatry in the "primary sense" must necessarily consist of a graven image before which man bows the knee in worship and anything short of this is idolatry in the "secondary sense"?


Turretinfan said...

Idolatry in the primary or proper sense is a violation of the second commandment via worship by images.

Idolatry in the secondary sense is a violation of the first commandment via worship of something other than God (whether or not it involves worshiping a representational likeness).

Thus, Romanists and Hindus are idolaters in the primary sense, whereas Muslims are idolaters only in the secondary sense.