When I first began reading through the Bible I looked for some unifying themes. I concluded that there are many, and that if we make one theme the theme (such as “covenant” or “kingdom”), we run the danger of reductionism.
However, one of the main ways to read the Bible is as the ages-long struggle between true faith and idolatry. In the beginning, human beings were made to worship and serve God, and to rule over all created things in Godʼs name (Gen. 1:26–28). Paul understands humanityʼs original sin as an act of idolatry: “They exchanged the glory of the immortal God . . . and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:21–25). Instead of living for God, we began to live for ourselves, or for our work, or for material goods. We reversed the original intended order.
And when we began to worship and serve created things, paradoxically, the created things came to rule over us.
Instead of being Godʼs vice-regents, ruling over creation, creation now masters us. We are subject to decay and disease and disaster. The final proof of this is death itself. We live for our own glory by toiling in the dust, but eventually we return to the dust—the dust “wins” (Gen. 3:17–19). We live to make a name for ourselves, but our names are forgotten.
Here in the beginning of the Bible we learn that idolatry means slavery and death.
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