worship idols

Theological illiteracy: 46% of Protestants think it’s okay to worship idols

Talk about theological illiteracy: the recent YouGov poll asking whether the 10 Commandments are still widely considered important principles to live by yielded some data of jaw-dropping incredulity. There’s no surprise at all in the widespread belief among (94% of) Christians (Protestant and Roman Catholic) that ‘Thou shalt not kill’ and ‘Thou shalt not steal’ are matters of basic courtesy to one’s neighbour. Some 93% of non-religious Britons also believe these to be foundational to the modern social contract, so we can all agree that stabbing people in the back and stealing their Volvo are a no-no.

There’s a slight divergence when it comes to adultery: 69% of the non-religious think it’s not okay, while 76% of Christians think it’s not (though one wonders how ‘adultery’ was understood by the interview sample: almost certainly not including those who are divorced and remarried while the ex still lives). Still, that’s almost three quarters of the population who rate marital fidelity highly, which is heartening.

As is the number of people who think it’s right and proper to honour your father and mother: 78% of Christians and 60% of the non-religious (69% of all Britons), so respect for elders is still cool.

All this being nice to one another helps you to understand why the Church of England continues to embody the essence of Englishness (if not quite of Britishness). It isn’t just some ecclesial aberration spawned by schism, but an authentic expression of the one holy, catholic and apostolic church in the English context. Perhaps it’s better to speak of British Anglicanism rather than the Church of England, for each corner of the United Kingdom is in communion with its own Anglican precepts, and those precepts seem to beat with the national psyche and our national life.

But the most staggering statistic in this survey relates to the worship of idols: it perhaps comes as no surprise that 84% of the non-religious believe this is no longer an important principle to live by, but 44% of Christians (46% of Protestants; 36% of Roman Catholics) also appear to have no problem with idolatry.

One wonders what sort of Protestants these are (if, indeed, they be any kind at all), for the Bible teaches that idolatry is the cause of all sin and depravity:

..For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen (Rom 1:17-25).

When people worship idols more than they worship God, He ‘(gives) them up unto vile affections‘ (v26). It is straightforward cause and effect: idolatry leads to sin. St Paul contrasts God’s righteousness with man’s unrighteousness; His faithfulness with our unfaithfulness. God is now handing people over to experience the consequences of the sin they choose, and that general (pre-)disposition is endemic and pervasive. By refusing to honour the Creator and to render Him thanks, we substitute mere created things and so turn further away. Idolatry impedes communion: worshipping idols is a barrier to the human-divine relationship. This is the universal human condition, and a basic theological truth.

How can 46% of Protestants not know that?