In my previous post, I warned against dogmatism as a counterfeit faith. In this post, I want to warn about falling into the opposite extreme. This post was actually published in The Banner (April 2014 print edition) as “The Idolatry of Experience“.
In addition to simply giving equal time, I also think this post helps to avoid some misunderstandings from my previous post and also to clarify some concepts. I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not against theology or dogma or doctrines. I love theology. I think it is important. Neither am I suggesting that we get rid or do without theology or dogma. A previous post suggests that theology matters deeply. I was merely warning us from turning good, necessary and important things like beliefs, doctrines and theology into an idol.
Theology is an aid that helps us to love God. In fact, it is a necessary aid, without which we cannot know God. Everybody has a theology, which can be as simple as a rudimentary form of knowing what one believes to the more sophisticated academic style theology that you find in systematic theology textbooks, or even to more articulated ones like we find in church confessions and creeds. But precisely because it is so good and necessary and so helpful that we can be tempted to trust it or to love it more than we ought.
Hence, this article on the idolatry of experience also nicely illuminates how idolatry works – how we can be tempted to turn something good and necessary, even a gift from God, into an idol. And also explains why idolatry is bad for us. Although applied to experience, you can also see how to apply it back to dogma/theology/intellectual ideas.