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by Jacob Ninan
Idol worship originated from the fear of the unknown. Now fear of the unknown causes many Christians to fear objects connected with idol worship. One of the doctrinal fads of the times is to warn people against having at home objects having any (distant) relationship with idol worship or the occult for fear that Satan and demons might gain an entry into their homes. This is irrational and unscriptural too.
The apostle Paul dealt with a similar situation in Corinth with regard to eating food offered to idols. He made it very clear, on one hand, that idols were nothing, and that there was nothing to be feared in eating food that has been offered to idols (1Cor.8:4-6). At the same time he recognised that people who attached some religious and supernatural attributes to idols might have trouble eating it (v.7). He also knew that idol worshippers were actually worshipping demons which were behind the idols (1Cor.10:20), and, of course, he did not want Christians to be mixed up with demons. Paul recommended the following guidelines in this connection. 1) Idols are nothing, and there is nothing wrong in eating food that has been offered to them. 2) However if you are not clear about it, it is better not to eat it and defile your conscience as a result. 3) Even if you have a clear conscience about eating it, refrain from eating in case someone else with a weak conscience will notice that and defile his conscience by imitating you. 4) If someone offers food to you saying that it was offered to idols, do not accept it, as a testimony to him that you do not worship idols as gods (1Cor.10:28,29).
The Issue Of ‘Prasad’
People in India are used to being offered eatables called prasad or prasadam by people who have visited temples. Many Christians are scared about eating such things because they believe that there might be some evil power associated with it, or that they might be giving recognition to idol worship by eating them. Paul’s guidelines apply here. But the ultimate truth is that the prasad in itself has no power to bless or harm us. The evil spirits behind the idols do not have power to touch us as long as we ourselves do not open the door to them. We must recognise is that as children of the Almighty God, as disciples of Jesus Christ who has conquered Satan and all his demons, stripped them of their power and now has all authority in heaven and earth, and as those who have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, we do not have to live in fear of demons at all. He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1Jn.4:4). If we hold this position and eat the prasad with thanksgiving to God, there is nothing to fear. Eating the prasad does not open the door to demons unless we eat it as a matter of worship to the idols.
Objects Related To Idol Worship
The current wave of fear is related to objects which have (or used to have) religious significance in ancient worship systems. This includes different shapes and pictures as well as items which have been used in ancient religious rituals or places. Many teachers ask people to search for all such items in the house and destroy them just as the people who got converted in Ephesus did (Acts.19:19). The Ephesians who did this were those who had been practising magic before, and they destroyed all their books and articles of magic as a part of their repentance. The point to realise is that these things have no power in themselves that we should be afraid of. If a modern day person who used to indulge in the occult with tarot cards or Ouija boards, for example, is born again, it is good to throw them out as a mark of repentance. But he does not have to worry that if he has tarot cards in his house they are going to bring in demons. What we can apply from what Paul explained to the Corinthians is that it is the use of these cards that establishes contacts with demons and not the cards themselves.
These fears go to ridiculous extents also. Just because some people use wind chimes to attract Feng Shui power and others fear that they might attract ghosts should not stop us from using them if we like their sound! Just because the ancient Egyptians had religious practices associated with pyramids we should not be scared of having pyramid shapes anywhere in our house! Just as hanging a picture of the crucifixion will not bring us spiritual blessings, having an Egyptian painting showing Pharaoh with headgear that has carvings of Egyptian gods will not bring us a curse! It is what we use these things for that decides what we connect with.
Without going into the question about whether rock music is suitable for Christian worship, let us look at an argument some people use against it. They say that some of the rhythms that are used in rock music were used by African tribes in their voodoo rituals. The relevant question is what we use this music for now. The rhythm itself has no supernatural power or occult value!
Colours And Shapes
Many people in India are going for vaasthu arrangements for their houses by choosing certain shapes for the rooms, colours for the wall, etc. Are Christians going to be afraid of staying in houses that have been done up like that? There are certain signs that Satanists use to convey certain meanings. But do we think that if someone draws such signs on our wall or sends us a letter with them it is going to bring us bad luck?
It is the fear of the unknown that makes people become uncertain about such things. But the Bible makes it clear that it is the use we make of things that make it good or evil. Power belongs to God. He has granted angels, demons and us people some limited and different amounts of power. What we see from the example of idols and food offered to idols is that material things have no power in themselves. We do not have to fear them.
-- Published in the Light of Life magazine, August 2009
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