Orthodox theologian Andrew Stephen Damick brilliantly and succinctly explains how idolatry is at the root of the insanity sweeping our culture ...
“There is a great cult of celebrity in our society. There are also cults of politics, food, the body, sex, and money. In all these pursuits, people are literally engaging in idolatry—they are serving fantasy. In worshiping a celebrity, we do not actually know him. But we imagine ourselves to be identified with him in some way. We may even try to look like him. In worshiping politics and ideology, we may be worshiping politicians as celebrities, but we may be worshiping ideologies, believing that we somehow become better people by being positioned within the correct political camp. In pursuing the cult of food or any other bodily aspect such as sexuality, we are following after a phantom image, in which we present a “taste” or a “look” to the world and to ourselves, hoping that those things will define us, will fill us up, perhaps even literally.
Whether we are filling up our bellies or transgressing against our flesh or attempting to possess the flesh of another through lust, we are pursuing phantoms that will never satisfy and will always demand more. The same is true of money, as well, which is getting more fantastical all the time, since our currencies are not backed by anything other than someone’s word.
It is no wonder that all these worldly pursuits are so conducive to addiction. Addiction is the increasing need for something that cannot satisfy, cannot complete the human person. And so we serve the fantasy even more.
But true worship of God has a different effect. While the addiction born out of idolatry leads to erratic, insane, destructive behaviors, proper worship of the Holy Trinity leads instead to peace, to wholeness, to sanity, to creativity.
Why is this? Why is it that when we turn our worship to created things, we do not slake the great thirst, but find ourselves even more thirsty? And why is it that when we turn our worship to the uncreated Being—that is, to God—we find that we are satisfied and whole?
In its most basic sense, it is due to the nature of the source. Created things are by nature corruptible and finite. This finiteness is worsened by the Fall of mankind, which brought all of created nature with it. But the uncreated Being is incorruptible and infinite. Therefore, when we drink from a finite source, we find that it will run out. But the infinite Source never runs out. Like when we drink from a corruptible source, we receive corruption, the tendency for everything to break down—in physics terms, this is entropy. But when we drink from the incorruptible Source, we receive incorruption, which grants healing, wholeness, and energy. In other terms, you cannot clean with dirty water, and you cannot fix with a broken tool. But when you use pure water or a working tool, you can accomplish something.
But such purely functional language regarding worship does not get at its inner reality. In worship, we become joined to the other, and in that joining, we become the other. This becoming is never a total re-identification. I cannot turn into a celebrity by worshiping him. I cannot turn into food or money by worshiping it. But I nevertheless become transformed by those images, corruptible and finite as they are, because we as changeable human persons are deeply affected by whatever and whomever we give ourselves over to. Just as hanging with the wrong crowd changes you to be like them, worshiping idols, which are delusions, makes you like them.
In worshiping God, however, to use the words of the fourth-century saint Athanasius the Great, we can “become god.” Whether you want to spell god there with a big “G” or a little “g,” Athanasius does not mean that we turn into the Almighty God, nor into petty deities such as the ancient pagans worshiped; but we are nevertheless transformed by the encounter in worship. We take on the attributes of the One we worship. We share a union without fusion, a communion in which the persons remain distinct but come to be one with each other. True worship grants an intimacy beyond emotion, beyond respect, beyond intellectual knowledge.”
Excerpt From: Damick, Andrew Stephen. “An Introduction to God.” Ancient Faith Publishing.