We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer
Therefore let God-inspired Scripture decide between us; and on whichever side be found doctrines in harmony with the word of God, in favor of that side will be cast the vote of truth. --Basil of Caesarea
Once you learn to discern, there's no going back. You will begin to spot the lie everywhere it appears.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service. 1 Timothy 1:12

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Idols And Demon-Possessed Objects

Some teachers say that the possession of idols in one's home can cause evil influences. The teaching is also that any item may be demon-possessed, which can also cause evil influences in the home. Examples of this teaching are as follows:

1. Bill Gothard, of the Institute for Basic Life Principles, states that items such as Cabbage Patch Dolls and troll dolls inhibit the birth of children. Midwives have had to cleanse all such "evil influences" from a house in order for a delivery to take place. Gothard states that Cabbage Patch Dolls have caused strange and destructive behavior in children, behavior which ceased once the dolls were removed or destroyed. He has stated that Cabbage Patch Dolls "are a violation of the First Commandment." [This is false because the 1st Commandment prohibits the making of idols, which Cabbage Patch Dolls aren't.] Gothard also states that "there are demons attached to the idols" in 1 Cor. 10:19-20.

2. John Kilpatrick of the Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida, writes about the problem in his book When the Heavens Are Brass. He writes the following on pp. 102-103:

Many Christian homes, due to ignorance, have become houses of worship for demon gods. God has provided the sacrifice of Jesus Christ to atone for our sins, and His blood cleanses and protects all who accept Him as Savior, but He will not live in our homes if He must share them with demon gods.

Many Christians, due to ignorance, expect Him to do just that. They have given room to other gods without intending to do so and now suffer the effects of this contamination. This often happens as Christians return from travels around the world, or from shopping at various international import stores, carrying demons in their shopping bags.

Call me a narrow-minded, superstitious preacher if you want to, but God's Word clearly states that He will not share a house or a room with your household gods. You are flirting with fire when you decorate your home with any number of foreign gods, including but not limited to the following:

1. Voodoo dolls and amulets from the Caribbean;
2. Scarabs, figurines, Hindu idols, charms, and Chinese joss from the Middle and Far East;
3. Fetishes, talismans, ritual drums, witch doctor charms, and medicine dolls from Africa;
4. Hawaiian "tiki" gods, kachina dolls (from ancient Hopi/Pueblo Indians), potlatch figurines, good luck charms, and even divining rods of witch hazel from the United States;
5. Animist figures and art from the shamanists of Mexico.

These things were created and named for the worship and veneration of evil spirits, not God. Even if you say, "Well, I certainly don't worship them," you still owe God an explanation of why you openly display them in the rooms of your house. That was the custom of Canaan, a practice that still dominates many religions around the world. I'm telling you, God will not play house with devils or the stuff of devils. Neither will He continue to grace your home if you refuse to clean out the rest of the filth that contaminates it.

3. Albert James Dager, in the Media Spotlight special report on the deliverance ministry, also claims that "Some objects used in the ceremonies of pagan worship are fetishes to which demonic spirits are attached." While he says nothing in that article about other objects or idols being "possessed," this particular statement harms his credibility.

The question becomes, what does the Bible say about idols, other than they are not to be worshiped (Ex.20:4-5, Deut. 5:8-9)? The following passages are those that I found which tell what an idol is (other than a false god):

1. 1 Sam. 12:21 Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless.

2. Ps. 115:4-7 But their idols are silver and gold, made by the hands of men. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but they cannot see; they have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but they cannot smell; they have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but they cannot walk; nor can they utter a sound with their throats.

3. Is. 44:8-20 You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one. All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. ... Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit him nothing? He and his kind will be put to shame; craftsmen are nothing but men. ... The blacksmith takes a tool and works with it in the coals; he shapes an idol with hammers, he forges it with the might of his arm. ... The carpenter measures with a line and makes an outline with a marker; he roughs it out with chisels and marks it with compasses. He shapes it in the form of man, of man in all his glory, that it may dwell in a shrine. He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow. It is man's fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it. Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares a meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, "Ah! I am warm; I see the fire." From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, "Save me; you are my god." ... No one stops to think, no one has the knowledge or understanding to say, "Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?" He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, "Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?"

4. Is. 45:20 Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood, who pray to gods that cannot save.

5. Is. 57:13 When you cry out for help, let your collection of idols save you! The wind will carry all of them off, a mere breath will blow them away.

6. Jer. 2:5 This is what the Lord says: "What fault did your fathers find in me, that they strayed so far from me? They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves."

7. Jer. 10:2-5, 14-15 This is what the Lord says: "Do not learn the ways of the nations or be terrified by signs in the sky, though the nations are terrified by them. For the customs of the peoples are worthless; they cut a tree out of the forest, and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel. They adorn it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so it will not totter. Like a scarecrow in a melon patch, their idols cannot speak; they must be carried because they cannot walk. Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good." ... Everyone is senseless and without knowledge; every goldsmith is shamed by his idols. His images are a fraud; they have no breath in them. They are worthless, the objects of mockery...

8. Jer. 16:19-20 Our fathers possessed nothing but false gods, worthless idols that did them no good. Do men make their own gods? Yes, but they are not gods!

9. Hos. 4:12 They consult a wooden idol and are answered by a stick of wood.

10. Hab. 2:18-19 Of what value is an idol, since a man has carved it? Or an image that teaches lies? For he who makes it trusts in his own creation; he makes idols that cannot speak. Woe to him who says to wood, "Come to life!" Or to a lifeless stone, "Wake up!" Can it give guidance? It is covered with gold and silver; there is no breath in it.

11. 1 Cor. 8:4 We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one.

12. 1 Cor. 10:19 Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No...

13. Rev. 9:20b ...they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood - idols that cannot see or hear or walk.

What can we conclude about idols from the above? They are "useless" and "worthless." They are lies and have no abilities, no attributes, and are certainly false gods. Isaiah makes a good point that people are foolish to use half of the wood for fuel and worship the other half; that it's all the same block of wood. Idols will blow away. They are frauds and objects of mockery. Paul even says they are "nothing," that they are not anything. I think the most important passage is from Jer. 10: Do not fear them; they can do no harm nor can they do any good.

God's instructions to Israel to be rid of idols is something that Christians should probably also adhere to, if they know something was indeed used as such. However, there is no Scriptural evidence that an idol itself has evil influence; an idol is nothing, can do nothing and has no character. Technically speaking, from the viewpoint of Scripture, someone could collect and display idols for educational purposes. Only Israel was given the command to destroy all idols, and that was to prevent the worship of them.

There is also no evidence from Scripture that an idol is, or can be, possessed. Gothard claims that 1 Cor. 10:19-20 says that demons are attached to idols, but let's look at what the passage actually says:

Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons too...

What I understand this to say is that, since the idols themselves are nothing, the worshiper is really offering his sacrifices to the demonic realm, which can be done with or without an idol present. The idol is merely what the worshiper focuses on, but it is not the demon itself, nor is a demon attached to it.

As an example, until I was almost 30 years old, I never knew kachina dolls were copies of what some Indians used as idols. My mother and father purchased some during trips out west and they were just displayed as curios; I always thought they were just dolls Indian kids used to play with! Since I ascribed that identity to them, were they any longer idols? Would God have been displeased with them in my house? I think the fact that Scripture says idols are just blocks of wood would rule out that God would be displeased.

Not all the items listed by Kilpatrick can be categorized as idols. Most of them are just items of superstition which aid in occult activities; the drum, especially, could be used for any music activity, not just occultic. But items are just inanimate objects and only take on the meaning given to them by the user. The various charms and dolls may be collected by someone who has no knowledge of their origin or trait assigned to them. They then become no more than a curio or toy to the person who has them. Someone could use a GI Joe doll for a voodoo doll, but that doesn't make a person who buys it used at a garage sale a partaker in evil, nor would it bring evil influence into the buyer's house.

There is no evidence in Scripture of demons attaching themselves to or inhabiting objects. All examples I found in the Bible are of people being possessed; never is there an example of an object being possessed. Animism is nowhere to found in the Bible.

The belief that toys can create evil influence is nothing more than superstition and animism (the belief that spirits inhabit objects and places). Both are incompatible with Christianity. Just because some culture believes four-leaf clovers bring luck, that doesn't mean someone who collects them is now under an evil influence. Belief in something does not make it true; animists also have idols, which from Scripture we learn are nothing.

If the theory that demons are able to attach themselves to items used by someone for occultic practices was true, then no one would be safe buying any used item of any sort; there would be no way of knowing if the previous owner had used it for occult purposes. If objects had the power of evil, would not God have warned us?

12 comments:

Diane Schultz said...

Some people take the Jer. 10:2-5 reference above to mean that Christmas trees are idols. I think that's a real stretch - I don't worship my Christmas tree and neither do you, I'm sure.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi Diane,

I've been told that by many legalistic Christians. One must really wrestle the context of that passage to get to a Christmas tree!

Drew said...

Pretty good analysis.

From what I've heard, Christmas trees did indeed used to be idols, and the whole holiday itself used to be pagan as well. But it's not anymore, and no one worships Christmas trees either.

Anonymous said...

Glenn thanks for another great post. You often find a way to address pertinent things that are out there and questions people have.I have several family members who, because of the old Twilight Zone shows, think that dolls and other inanimate objects can actually somehow become animated. One person in particular I have confronted about this and made them think through it all logically with me, on more than one occasion. They joke about it, but it really scares them on some level. It amazes me how many Americans are becoming animists without realizing what is happening. They don't realize that if you don't believe in God that it isn't that you believe nothing, but that you'll believe anything. I have a friend that thinks that crystals and other objects in nature have supernatural power. the media has really done a job on these folks. And Romans 1, once again is shown to be so very true about what happens when human beings refuse to acknowledge their Creator.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Drew, I don't know where you heard the Christmas tree started as an idol; evergreens - as well as other type trees - were indeed used for idol worship by various pagan societies. Supposedly the idea of a "Christmas" tree came from Martin Luther who saw beauty in the trees on a snowy evening (memories from my Lutheran days), and it became a German tradition. However, decorating a beautiful tree is a far cry from worshiping it, and the fact that pagans worshiped trees doesn't make it idolatry to use a tree for other purposes. Much about Christmas can be compared to pagan stuff, but I think people who get wrapped up in those ideas are being a bit legalistic. The idea that the whole holiday originated from pagans has merit; the church of the time used pagan celebration times and gave them new meanings. Pagan origins for ideas doesn't thereby make the ideas wrong though.

Anonymous 12/2, I've seen those old Twilight Zone shows! Yes, there are a lot of de facto animists who are superstitious about objects having some power. I often wonder how Christians can continue to be superstitious!

Anonymous said...

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God Bless You :-)

~Ron

Anonymous said...

According to the bible, God was so angry as the Israelites for making a golden calf. He not only wanted them to stop worshipping it, but had it burned and let the ashes float away in a river. In the book of first samuel, God also caused damage to the idol of the Philistines. I believe that God does want idols destroyed.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Anonymous,

I think if you read the article, you will notice that I said: God's instructions to Israel to be rid of idols is something that Christians should probably also adhere to, if they know something was indeed used as such.

And that is a problem, in that a lot of what Christians pick up may be used as idols but the Christian would have no idea - just as I noted with the Kachina doll.

But the article wasn't about whether or not real idols should be destroyed - it was about the false teachings that demons are attached to idols - or anything else the false teacher decides has demons.

Anonymous said...

How do people accept idols representing christ in churches.. infact, cross that jesus carried on his shoulders obviously a wood..
He was crucified in that piece of wood... if jesus is listening to my say... he has to change his commandments that preaches jealousy to his followers

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Anonymous,

I don't understand your comment. Could you please clarify?

Anonymous said...

The second commandment is actually two commandments;
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
(Exodus 20:4 ESV)
You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
(Exodus 20:5,6)

In summary, Do not make (or keep) graven images and Do not worship graven images.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Anonymous,

No, it is one. The second part explains the first. Don't make them for worship.

But if you really believe what you wrote, then I guess you don't take photographs, don't look at photographs or paintings, don't draw things, etc?