An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Adverts and idols

Adverts convey a message: 'buy me!' They also provide us with a message about society. Adverts shape and are shaped by our culture and society. If you want to know what a society idolises watch their adverts.

Advertising works - billions are spent on it every year.

The first advert shown on British television was this one in 1955 for Gibbs SR toothpaste.


At the time most people didn't brush their teeth. Now we seem to be obsessed with toothbrushes and toothpaste. Toothpaste has also undergone a transformation- stripes, whitening, different kinds of dispensers, etc. Brushes have undergone many changes: kinks in them, different coloured bristles, see this Mitchell and Web skit.



Look at this advert - what's the message it conveys about society?



Apart from the fact that you have to be crazy to buy this type of phone.

Christian values are undermined: impatience rather than patience is conveyed as a virtue. Faster is better, progress is good.Technology is good. Do what feels good. Forget about the consequences - it's the iGeneration, or the generation me. This advert highlights the story upon which Western culture and civilisation rests is that of progress. We are continually evolving, progressing, into something better.

However, progress is something of a double-edged sword. As Terry Pratchett's Granny Weatherwax says: 'Don't you talk to me about progress. Progress means bad things happen faster'.

Adverts convey implicit images about the society, they can reveal what society idolises. This advert absolutises progress and technology.

Idolatory is not an old problem. It is not a byproduct of a primitive worldview.
Idolatory is very subtle: it creeps up on us without us noticing. We become idolators by a process of osmosis. Idols are not things we put on the mantelpiece, contemporary idolatries tend to be ideas or concepts rather than objects. It might be economic growth (at all costs); the idea that economics is the key; material success; exam success; family; the nation; the idea that science and technology will solve all our problems; the list is almost endless.


1. Idolatry is a consequence of being a worshipper: we all have to worship something.
We are all created with a need to worship; whether it be Christian, Buddhist, spiritist, new ager, modernist, postmodernist, agnostic or atheist. We can’t escape it; it’s the way God made us. There may not always be public or ceremonial aspect to our worship, but it is worship nonetheless.

2. Idolatry is misplaced commitment
It is putting our trust in something other than the Lord.

3. Idolatry is worship of the created rather than the creator
It is elevating something in creation – no matter how good it may be - to a place it was not meant to have. Treating the good as god. A partial truth becomes the whole truth. Anything can become an idol.
4. Idolatry dehumanises Ps 115: 6,7; Ps 135:

15 The idols of the nations are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
16 They have mouths, but do not speak;
they have eyes, but do not see;
17 they have ears, but do not hear,
nor is there any breath in their mouths.
18 Those who make them become like them,
so do all who trust in them!

5. We image what we worship
Such is the nature of idolatry that it distorts us and shapes us into their image. As this headline from the Daily Mirror shows:

6. We need to recognise that we all indulge in idolatry to some extent
Worshipping God does not mean that we do not worship idols. Christians can still be emeshed by idolatry. The problem is one of syncretism (cf 2Kings 17:41: Even while they were worshipping the Lord, they were serving idols.)


It is important to identify where idolatry creeps in. How can we do it?


1. Ask God

2. Ask others - exposing idols is a communal activity: we are blinded by our own idolatry. Easier to see the splinter in another's eye than the plank in our own!

3. Read critiques of society, particularly from those from those who hold to another worldview.

4. Watch out if an area of life tries to take over others.

5. Go to other cultures and return

6. Watch adverts critically

7. Say YES to the Jealous God who demands full allegiance.

1 comment:

ordinand said...

thanks for posting this..... you may find something similar being said at St. Micks in a few weeks.....