Thursday, October 18, 2007

Idols of the Heart and "Vanity Fair"

At last, David Powlison's masterful article, Idols of the Heart and "Vanity Fair" (PDF), is online! This is one of his works to which I frequently return and which I've long wished was available on the net so others could readily access it. It's a profound, practical look at the relevance of the recurring biblical theme of idolatry for understanding motivation. Here's Powlison's introduction:
One of the great questions facing Christians in the social sciences and helping professions is this one: How do we legitimately and meaningfully connect the conceptual stock of the Bible and Christian tradition with the technical terminologies and observational riches of the behavioral sciences? Within this perennial question, two particular sub-questions have long intrigued and perplexed me.

One sort of question is a Bible relevancy question. Why is idolatry so important in the Bible? Idolatry is by far the most frequently discussed problem in the Scriptures. So what? Is the problem of idolatry even relevant today, except on certain mission fields where worshipers still bow to images?

The second kind of question is a counseling question, a “psychology” question. How do we make sense of the myriad significant factors that shape and determine human behavior? In particular, can we ever make satisfying sense of the fact that people are simultaneously inner-directed and socially-shaped?
Reading this article will help you understand why C. J. Mahaney credits Powlison with being the "living guy" from whom he's learned the most about sanctification and Elyse Fitzpatrick, in Idols of the Heart, thanks him for reconfiguring her thinking about idolatry. (HT:

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