Monday, March 03, 2008

Book Recommendation -- American Idols by Bob Hostetler


Over the last several months it has come to my attention that I have neglected one of the early practices of this blog—book reviews. I have been reading but I have failed to continue to write about books that I have gleaned something from.

If you are an avid reader, I am certain that at some points that you have talked back to the books that you read. I figure that if I buy a book, it is my property and I can treat it as such. Therefore, if I want to mark it up, write in the margins, or talk to it, I can have such liberties because it is my property.

Ever since our little Dave Ramsey journey through Financial Peace University, my book purchases have had to be much more judicious. The bad thing about this is that I have been unable to purchase books at a “beyond my ability to read them rate.” The good thing is that I have picked up some older books that have been in my personal library for quite some time and either I have not finished them or had not read them. Because of the Dave Ramsey effect, I now have to wait out my book purchases and instead of impulsively buying them, I can now only get them on a really “need” them level.

Such is the book that I mention now by Bob Hostetler. I went to Lifeway over a period of about two months before I finally pulled the trigger and bought this one. I must admit that I had read large portions of it before I purchased it. Finally I got tired of shifting from one foot to another and reading it in the isle as people busily walked around me.

The whole premise of the book is that America is filled with idols. Hostetler works up a good Bible study beginning on page 9 as he walks through the process in Exodus 32:1-7 that led the children of Israel to build their golden calf. He entitles it “The Alchemy of Idolatry.” I will list the following steps that he brings out that led to their graven image:

  • Impatience -- They got tired of waiting for Moses on the mountain. While Moses was receiving the most powerful of revelations for their wilderness passage, they could not wait long enough for God’s timing to develop. “We seek for satisfaction from illegitimate sources because we don’t want to wait for our legitimate Source.”
  • Unbelief -- They allowed the impatience of the day to put unbelief into their heart about Moses’ whereabouts. They said “we wot not what has become of him.” This KJVese could be translated, “we don’t even know what has happened to him.” This incited their lurch toward idolatry. We don’t know about tomorrow. Or our prayers. Or our troubles. Or what is awaiting us around the corner. Suddenly the God who had gotten them out had them boxed in.
  • Pragmatism -- They desired for someone to make them a god that will lead them on. It did not really matter if the god had life. Aaron, just build us something we can see. It is quite ironic that Moses was getting the instructions for the Tabernacle that would house the most sacred things of Israel while they were clamoring for another god. The demand for a god to make them more comfortable was the thing they wanted. Give us a god we can use. Easy. User-friendly. A serviceable idol.
  • Ingratitude -- Another contributing factor to their idolatry was their quick ability to forget where God had brought them from. Romans chapter 1 mentions the wrath of God’s abandonment. One of the characteristics of the godless is that they are “unthankful.” When our prayers lose their gratitude and thankfulness, trouble is brewing. Ingratitude leads on toward a sense of entitlement.
  • Regression -- Their spiritual impatience led to a spiritual regression. Aaron’s choice of a golden calf was not a mistake. He was taking one of the most important of the Egyptian gods, Apis, the bull god of Memphis, who was associated with Ptah, the creator of the universe. Anytime our spiritual aspirations sink, we will serve a lesser, earthly, worldly god.
  • Compromise -- Notice in Exodus 32:4-5 that Aaron called this golden bull the Lord. In effect he was saying, “Ok, if you must have an idol, let’s at least call it the Lord. Let’s not abandon the first commandment, even if you insist on breaking the second.”
  • Corruption -- When the idol set in on them, it devoured them. Their worship became corrupted. The things they once offered the Lord were now placed at the hooves of a surrogate god. It turned into a drunken and debauched deal. “Corrupted worship of the one, true God is not worship of him at all. You cannot mix Living Water and sewage into a potable blend. You cannot make dance partners of holiness and idolatry.”

This book is literally loaded with examples of how that our culture is serving up very weak surrogates for God. This book is worth the time and money. I promise you that your highlighter and red pen will make many marks in the margins.

For the sake of your curiosity I list the chapter titles:

  • The eBay Attitude (Consumerism)
  • The Darwinian Conjecture (Naturalism)
  • The Cowboy Ethic (Individualism)
  • The Rock Star Syndrome (Celebrity)
  • The Microwave Mentality (Instant Gratification)
  • The Superman Myth (Humanism)
  • The Cult of Personal Experience (Experience)
  • The Lexus Nexus (Success)
  • The Eros Ethos (Sensuality, Sexual Freedom)
  • The Burger King Way (Choice)
  • The Passion for Fashion (Appearance)
  • The La-Z-Boy Life (Comfort)
  • The Modern Baal (Money)
  • The Martha Malady (Busyness)

The Appendix mentions some characteristics of a good church which serves as some extra food for thought.

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