Reviewed by: Cornelius Tolsma
Date posted: 06/01/2014
Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel with Hidden Idols, by Brad Bigney. P&R, 2012. Paperback, 248 pages, list price $14.99. Reviewed by OP minister Cornelius Tolsma.
Brad Bigney wants this book to "help you identify and destroy the idols that keep you enslaved to certain sins in your life, sins that keep you from experiencing gospel joy and freedom." He defines idolatry as "anything or anyone that begins to capture our hearts, minds, and affections more than God."
Analyzing the problem, he writes that idolatry removes the gospel from the center of life and dramatically affects how Christians live and glorify God. He emphasizes that relationships are disrupted, and that personal satisfaction is lost. He illustrates his points by sharing accounts of idolatry's destructive power in his own marriage and the lives of others.
For a solution, he details the character of the sinful heart and the godly measures needed to guide and guard the heart. He offers ways of identifying one's idols and encourages repentance that recognizes that sin's power and penalty have been broken while "the presence of sin still remains."
Finally, he writes of "getting excited about what will happen as a result of identifying and repenting of the idols of your heart, and what changes you can expect in your life." These changes are a new sense of freedom and gratitude, while recognizing the sin in your life and your ability to forsake it. He insists that "you'll have a lifestyle of love" with a soaring "passion and love for God."
I wish Bigney had spent more time outlining this lifestyle of love. It is the biblical alternative to self-serving idolatry, especially when finding one's joy and freedom in a life of humble obedience to the will of God.
Is Bigney justified in identifying "idols of the heart" as those things that capture hearts more than God? He refers to Ezekiel 14:3, where the prophet speaks of men setting up idols in their hearts. But Ezekiel is condemning the unregenerate heart's compulsion to make carved images and give them the worship belonging to God (cf. 16:17). Contra Bigney, Calvin too has carved images in mind when describing "man's nature" as a "perpetual factory of idols" (Institutes, I.11.8).
However, Bigney's definition rings true. Biblical descriptions of idolatry include making personal might a god (Hab. 1:11), Paul calling covetousness "idolatry" (Eph. 5:5), and Jesus' warning: "You cannot serve God and money" (Matt. 6:24). Indeed, setting something in God's place characterizes all sin.
Christians struggling with sin, especially those in troubled relationships, should find this user-friendly book helpful. Here see your sin as idolatry before God, and find encouragement to be humbled before him with true repentance, turning from idolatry to live a God-glorifying life true to the gospel of Christ's self-sacrificing love.