We Become What We Worship: Review – I

Greg Beale‘s biblical-theological acumen is remarkable. Although a self-proclaimed maximalist (24), Beale leaves no stone unturned whether he is tracing an exegetical arguments or redemptive-historical themes. His latest book We Become What We Worship: a biblical theology of idolatry is no exception. The seeds of this book were sewn through several of his seminary courses, including his Use of the OT in the NT, which proved quite challenging my first year of seminary. It required a working knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, and I only had Greek at the time. I eventually dropped the 10 day course. However, I recall spending considerable time in Isaiah 6 tracing its influence on the NT and its description of “sensory organ malfunction,” the pattern of Gentiles and Jews being rendered spiritually blind, deaf, and dumb. Beale makes this text the seminal starting point for a biblical theology of idolatry in WBWWW.

In chapter one, Beale takes Martin Luther’s definition of idolatry and slightly tweaks it: “whatever your heart clings to or relies upon, that is your God; trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and idol.” Beale adds “whatever your heart clings to or relies on for ultimate security.” (6) This is an excellent definition of idolatry, both heart-focused and God-centered, perceiving idolatry to be a matter of heart not just action. The rest of the chapter outlines Beale’s hermeneutic, which is a good, concise introduction on how to do biblical theology. WIthout wading into the frey of sensus plenior debate, Beale notes his hermeneutical preferences summarizing his position as canonical, gentic-progressive, and intertextual. Typical Bealian verbosity!

Chapter Two lay the biblical-theological groundwork for his thesis: “we resemble what we revere, either for ruin or for restoration.” Isaiah 6 portrays Israel as deaf and blind, like the idols they worship. Their idolatry has rendered them idol-like, a judgment for idolatry. We become like what we worship. Beale convincingly traces this dynamic throughout the rest of Isaiah. Chapter three extends this examination to the rest of the OT, overtuning a host of exgetical gems through rigorous biblical digging. In particular, Beale notes the prominence of the Golden Calf rebellion in Deuteronomy 29 as programmatic for idolatry themes and dynamics in the rest of Scripture. Chapter four continues tracing the become what you worship dynamic through Judaism, with chapter five turning the corner into the New Testament. It is in the Gospels that we begin to see the resemble what we revere for restoration more prominently. I will pick up with the review here in the next post.

For another review, see Josh Otte’s blog.

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2 comments so far

  1. […] December 28, 2008 in biblical theology Here. […]

  2. […] of Idolatry Posted by Jonathan Dodson under Theology | Tags: biblical idolatry |   Review of Greg Beale’s We Become What We Worship: a biblical theology of idolatry […]


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