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A Warning Concerning Idolatry

October 8, 2000

God is our provider. He freely gives us all things through his beloved Son, Jesus Christ. In him we live and move and have our being, and we are to depend upon him alone. If we put our trust in anything or anyone else to provide our needs, we put something else in God's place. This is idolatry.

It would be easy enough to recognize our idolatry if we habitually bowed down before a statue of Baal, calling on him to provide for us. Worship of "gods" represented by statues is an ancient practice rejected by modern civilization (even outside the Church) as "primitive," and the Bible clearly denounces it. But we are blind to our own idolatry.

We have not substituted statues for God. We have done something far more deceptive. Our culture has created artificial legal "persons" -- corporations, governments and other institutions -- invested them with immortality (just like God), esteemed them as corporately more important than their individual members, employees or subjects, and relied upon them to take care of us. And Christians have joined in this corporate deception, esteeming institutions men have created as more important than their individual members for whom Christ died and trusting in them to provide for us.

However, Congress is no more able to provide our needs than is the statue of Baal. Both are the work of men's hands. The idol of ancient Israel was a sculpture in wood and stone which its worshippers believed to give power to its priests. "Congress" is an abstraction written on paper which in the eyes of the people gives power to its 535 very human members, when a majority of them agree. But as Christians we should realize that it is God who gives authority to the members of Congress, not our abstract Constitution. And it is God who provides for us.

The only corporate institution God has ordained is his Church. This is not a human, denominational organization but the whole body of believers. It truly possesses the immortality, unity and power to provide for its members which our human institutions seek to counterfeit because it is Jesus' body, bound together by his Holy Spirit. As members of his Church, we are members of God himself. None of our human institutions can make a similar claim, and we commit idolatry when we depend upon them for our provision.

God will not long overlook the idolatry of his people in this area. As long as Western governments continued to acknowledge God as their provider, at least formally and publicly, he winked to some degree at his people's idolatrous dependence on corporate institutions. But as our institutions have abandoned even any formal recognition of God, he has at times allowed them to crash. God doesn't need to hurl fire bolts of judgment to spoil the work of our hands. He simply needs to withdraw his support from our institutions and allow them to do the best they can with their own ability to provide. Since our institutions have no such ability in themselves, when God leaves, they crash. This has happened several times in comparatively small, but still devastating, ways over the course of the last century. But the worst is yet to come.

In North America, in particular, unless God's spoiled people there repent of their idolatry, an economic collapse is coming soon. It will destroy the web of economic and governmental institutions upon which the elect have heretofore falsely relied. It will be so complete that even the governments of North America will be unable, through their social programs, to begin to provide for the massive needs that will suddenly present themselves. At that time, the Church must be ready to supply these needs in Jesus' name. This will require supernatural provision on a large scale. The Church will need all of the power of God displayed and all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in full operation. It will become clear to everyone that only God is our provider.

Ian Johnson, 10/8/2000

Amplification, June 30, 2001

The collapse has not yet come, but it is certainly coming, unless the CHURCH repents. The election of a "godly" U.S. President does not fix the problem, because the problem was never political. It was a spiritual problem within the Church, and the Church is going to have to change its way to avoid it. The first tremors of the collapse have already occurred, and the government is learning that its ordinary techniques for propping up a weakened economy simply aren't going to work this time. They can delay real pain for a few months, but not prevent it. Only the Church can fix the problem.

However, there is some good news. When the collapse occurs, it will force Christians to repair some of the major problems of the visible Church. There will be no more playing "church as usual." Desperate people will desperately seek after God. Since most of us will no longer have the means of transportation to reach our denominational churches across town, on the edge of town or in the suburbs, we will be forced to cooperate with Christians in our own neighborhoods and to reach out to, and take some responsibility for, our neighbors. Because of the intense need all around us, the church will become more than a place where we go to sing a few songs, hear a sermon and have some superficial friendships. It will become a place we habitually go to find real friendship, brotherhood and help in our very real distress. It will be our common means of survival, and, because of this, great unity will develop.

We could avert the disaster by repenting and moving in this direction voluntarily. Unfortunately, I do not see this happening. We are still too wed to our church, governmental and business organizations.

Addendum, June 24, 2003

Since this warning was first written, economic "indicators" have risen and fallen repeatedly, and it has frequently been announced by government officials and the press that "recovery" has either arrived or is just around the corner. But the economic situation of most Americans (indeed, most Westerners) has simply continued to worsen. The crisis really hit home in the state and local government sector this year. Most have now played all their cute budgetary "tricks" to stay afloat and are now financially desperate. This will inevitably spread into the private markets, which are still depressed regardless of occasionally encouraging "indicators," and will reach nearly everyone.

So where is the oft-promised economic "recovery." It's still where it always was — sitting passive in church. The problem isn't federal policy, it isn't 9/11 or terrorism (though this certainly didn't help)and it isn't our wars with Saddam and Osama. The problem is the passivity of God's people, just like it always has been. The "recovery" this country needs is really a spiritual revival.

Addendum, September 25, 2005

Today, almost five years after I first wrote regarding this subject, the economic recovery still has not arrived. I would remind those who are students of history that, on the day I first poted this message, October 8, 2000, the econom was still pretty good. It started to drop into a visible recession quite promptly AFTER the election of 2000. The cause of the recession was neither the election nor the identity of the President elected in it—indeed, it happened much too soon after the election to have been caused by anything President Bush did. Neither, for that matter, was it directly caused by anything President Clinton or the preceding Democratic administration had done. Rather, it was caused by God's withdrawal of part of His protection from a country which did not want it anymore, a country in which even the citizens who were members of His Church had come to rely on themselves, their employers and their government to protect and provide for them.

I note that, even though the statistical economic ":indicators" quoted by the government and economic pundits have gone up and down during the last 5 years, and at times have had an upward trend, the average American is now poorer (in real spending power terms), deeper in debt and much less secure than five years ago. Many well-paying jobs with benefits have been abolished and replaced with near-minimum-wage jobs without benefits. The percentage of Americans with health insurance has declined dramatically, and the cost of insurance has steadily risen for those who still have it. The percentage of Americans with meaningful pensions has steadily declined. The point of this is not that another wave of government reform is needed. The point is that, absent part of God's protection we formerly enjoyed, the people are becoming progressively worse off and less secure. We are becoming increasingly less able to depend on our government and corporate instittions to take care of us.

I also note that every time a real economic recovery tried to start, some disaster stopped it. There was 9-11. There have been two wars started because of it, which drain resources. Our foreign oil suppliers periodiclly decide to gouge us. And, most recently, there have been two major and extremely destructive hurricanes three weeks apart that seemed to be aimed at our oil industry -- the best way one could imagine to stall our oil-dependent economy. Once again, the point is that we are being warrned that we, the Church of Jesus Christ in America, must repent and put our dependence upon God once again.

The economic collapse is still coming, bit by bit, just as it was 5 years ago.

Added note: October 13, 2005

Let's review the last year of natural disasters: One very destructive tsunami. Three very destructive hurricanes, two of which seemed targeted at the U.S. oil industry, and a number of lesser storms -- enough named storms that we came one short of running out of English letters to name them with. One very destructive pacific typhoon, and an unusual number of lesser storms. Several severe earthquakes, ending with the recent earthquake that killed at least 20,000 in Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. An unusually heavy year for floods in the U.S., even if floods that resulted from hurricanes are not counted. Even public and U.N. officials saying that the world's disaster relief system has been taxed beyond its ability to respond adequately and quickly.

The moral of this story is what this web page has been saying for the last five years. God is our provider. He is also our protector. When we collectively turn our backs on Him, choosing instead to rly on ourselves and on our collective institutions' power to provide for us, we invite destruction. With sin active in the world, disasters will happen. Only God is competent to keep us.

ADDENDUM December 19, 2006

U.S. Treasury Department Now Sees it Coming!

Last Friday, the Treasury Department issued its Financial Report of the United States Government, 2006 (this is a long PDF document, but I've provided a link for those interested). In it, the Comptroller explains that the current obligations of the U.S. Treasury are $53 trillion, more than 400% of the Gross Domestic Product, and are expected to increase by $4 trillion in 2007, even if Congress doesn't authorize a single new expenditure. As explained by an economist on the Financial Sense website, this means that, already, at present, the "United States is Insolvent." With the first wave of Baby Boomers eligible for retirement in 2008 (only one year away), this means that, simply to avoid bankruptcy, the U.S. Government will either have to 1) increase taxes drastically or 2) reduce benefits drastically, or 3) print a lot of money (leading to hyperinflation), or 4) some combination of the above. Whichever way we go, the collapse I saw coming six years ago is now just around the corner—and secular economists now see it coming, too.

Moreover, while we hear a lot about the "recovery" that has happened in the economy since 2003, I still note that it was mainly a recovery for the rich. The poor, and the working middle class, have really just gotten poorer and farther in debt. It also has never brought us nationally, or even many of the wealthier people in the nation, back to where we were in 1999 or 2000. The "recovery" has really been largely a statistical illusion.

ADDENDUM: July 9, 2008: A ray of hope

I will skip all the links pointing to the truth of what I wrote eight years ago. A simple web search of terms like "recession," "food shortage," "food crisis," "water crisis," "oil crisis," etc., on any search engine will produce plenty of articles, from very reputable sources, predicting disaster within the next few years. Even secular experts are beginning to recognize now that, even in the relatively short term, there is no natural way out of the massive shortages we have created for ourselves that does not involve either massive death by starvation, thirst and exposure, or mass extermination in wars over resources, or both. It looks less like uncertain prophecy, and more like reality, now that it is actually happening around us. And the both the prophetic warning and the way of escape still stand.

Instead, I will give a link to a ray of hope. In my own hometown, Topeka, Kansas, Christian men -- under the leadership of their pastors, not me -- ARE beginning to come together, across racial and denominational lines, to pray for the city. See, Topeka Unified Prayer and Evangelism: Positive Developments. If God is doing this in little Topeka, I trust He is also doing it elsewhere. The Church coming together is the real hope of the world. Only God has the way out of our world's crisis.

Ian Johnson
Please do email me!

© 2000, 2003 Ian Johnson


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