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We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry [Paperback]

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Item Specifications...

Pages   341
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.8" Width: 5.9" Height: 1.2"
Weight:   1.26 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 1, 2008
Publisher   IVP Academic
ISBN  083082877X  
EAN  9780830828777  

Availability  110 units.
Availability accurate as of Jan 16, 2018 08:58.
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Item Description...
The heart of the Biblical understanding of idolatry, argues Gregory Beale, is that we become like what we worship. Employing Isaiah 6 as his interpretive lens, Beale demonstrates that this understanding of idolatry permeates the whole canon, from Genesis to Revelation.

Publishers Description
The heart of the biblical understanding of idolatry, argues Gregory Beale, is that we take on the characteristics of what we worship. Employing Isaiah 6 as his interpretive lens, Beale demonstrates that this understanding of idolatry permeates the whole canon, from Genesis to Revelation. Beale concludes with an application of the biblical notion of idolatry to the challenges of contemporary life.

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More About G. K. Beale

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! G. K. Beale (PhD, University of Cambridge) is visiting professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He is the author of five books, including commentaries on Revelation and 1 and 2 Thessalonians, and The Temple and the Church's Mission.

G. K. Beale was born in 1949.

G. K. Beale has published or released items in the following series...
  1. New International Greek Testament Com (Eerdmans)
  2. New Studies in Biblical Theology

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Bible & Other Sacred Texts   [1730  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Bible Study > General   [2774  similar products]

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Made me sleepy  Nov 20, 2009
I am sorry but I could not get through the sample. This book might be great but took too long and was too detailed in talking about what was going to be covered and how it was. To be honest I may try again one day when I am more energetic but now I must find reading that is more inclined to keep me awake. Sorry once again.
Awful to read, awesome to think about  Apr 20, 2009
G.K. Beale has written a book on one of the most fascinating subjects to be found in biblical studies. The title of his latest exegetical treatise is We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry, and it is one of the most interesting-and poorly written-books I have ever read.

I am not going to mince words. This book was in no way a pleasure to read. Turgid and scholastic from its beginning it drags on for 310 pages containing some of the most tortured and inaccessible prose one will ever encounter. How on earth the publisher allowed the author to compose this overly-technical piece of scholarship is beyond me. True, it is produced by the academic division of IVP, but I fail to see why or how a book like this is required to meet such rigorous standards. Obviously, Beale is an academic who unfortunately does not seem to publish much for the benefit of the popular reader. After reading this book, I am not even sure if he even tried to conceive of a popular reader (can he?) who would otherwise be very interested in the subject matter at hand.

With that out of the way, I only have good things to say about this book! One of the most powerful themes in Scripture is one of the least understood. In the words of Beale, "We resemble what we revere for our ruin or restoration." This is the thesis of not only Beale, but, as he shows with great meticulous detail, also Isaiah as well. Isaiah's vision of God presents the framework from which Beale constructs his case. In chapter 6, particularly verses 9-13, Isaiah testifies to his mission that he is to go preach a message of judgment to idolatrous Israel and make the hearts of people calloused, their ears dull and their eyes closed, so they will not turn and repent (this following centuries of pleading for repentance).

This may seem like a strange place to start, but it is a text that is quoted in the Gospels, Acts, and Romans. Both Psalm 115 and 135 summarize its teaching. The message is clear: God judges those that run after other gods by making them resemble what they run after.

The tapestry this religious anthropology begins in Genesis 1 where it is said that humanity is made in the image of God. It is we, not what we make, that is made to bear a holy image. The travesty of idolatry lies in an unholy reversal that makes us the maker and the Maker the made. Idolatry refers to things both broad and specific. It can be thought of in the usual ancient Near Eastern way of bowing down to statues of metal and wood as well as the metaphorical way that sees ultimate security resting in created things (like wealth, power, sex) rather than the Creator. In general the Old Testament deals with ancient Near Eastern idolatry and the New Testament confronts it in metaphorical ways (though not always).

The genius of Beale's interpretation of both Testaments lies in his method of "intertextuality." This is the method of reading texts and finding allusions to earlier texts by way of some literary connection (similar wording, ideas). Beginning in Exodus, after Israel worships the golden calf, YHWH judges the nation as a "stiff-necked" people. This is a wry commentary on the nature of the people in connection with the object of their worship. They are like a "stiff-necked" calf who casts of the guiding yoke of its master that must be bridled into submission. Similarly, when the people devote themselves to Baal worship, they are said to "lay down as a prostitute" under "every spreading tree." The imagery references both the love-covenant YHWH made with his people and the pagan fertility rituals where worshipers performed sex acts as offering to Baal. Israelite worshipers were not only engaging in adulterous behavior among themselves, but were being "bought-off" by the Baals, so to speak, and became what they worshiped: prostitutes.

When idolatry transcends wooden statues it often reflects our pride in things we find ultimate security in. Beale draws our attention to Ezekiel 28 and offers a very nuanced and helpful interpretation. The passage is confusing because it alludes to three different people: Satan, Adam of the Garden of Eden, and the King of Tyre. This "telescopic" vision unearths layer after layer of the "main problem" with the human psyche in historic, mythic, and cosmic demensions: we become proud on account of our beauty and abilities and exalt ourselves higher than what God intended us to be. By pride in our wisdom we become fools.

This is echoed by Paul in Romans 1:18-24, which is the NT's most extensive treatment of idolatry. After expositing the gospel Paul gives the reversal of idolatrous worship with true worship in Romans 12:1-2. Instead of offering our bodies to whatever urge we might have, we offer them unto God for his purposes and use. Instead of serving created things we commit a "spiritual act" of worship that transforms and renews our minds. Rather than being subject to futile thoughts of a depraved mind that does not even retain the knowledge of God (Romans 1:28), we are able to approve of what is good and discern the right way for our lives and ultimately be conformed the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).

Though the above passages focus our attention on sexual issues, the Gospels portray this theology in much more ironic terms. Jesus is frank in his charge against the religious establishment of his day. The Pharisees, the wise and respected Teachers of the Law, are accused with putting the traditions of men above the word of God (Mark 7:6-13). The hypocrisy of staged religion and its pious showboating bring indignant condemnations anyone familiar with Jesus' ministry will know (Matthew 23). White-washed tombs. Blind guides. Dirty dishes. They are all images of what the hearts clings to when it is zealous for religious practice that is about exalting us rather than God.

Beale concludes his long meandering study with some "final thoughts" that constitute the best part of the book. He takes time to excoriate the vacuous concepts of self-esteem, the church's pandering to people's "felt needs," the practical atheism found in the media, and vain philosophies of life that have no sense of transcendent meaning. While one may not fully agree with where Beale applies things, one cannot come away with not applying the very relevant themes of this book to an examined life. A great deal of good thought and self-reflection can reveal where our hearts rest where our spiritual compass is truly pointing in our lives.
We resemble what we revere-- either for ruin or restoration  Feb 8, 2009
Beale's thesis, that we reveal what we revere either for ruin or restoration, is shown in multiple biblical contexts in both the Old and New Testaments. I found his arguments to be very persuasive and, overall, an incredibly fair treatment of the text.

There were a few times in the book where I didn't see the connection that author was making, but, on the whole these passages were in the vast minority to sure-footed interpretive decisions. Of particular importance are his commentary on such passages as Psalm 115, Isaiah 6, and Exodus 32-34.

Overall, I found the book to be very enjoyable--thoroughly Biblical and immediately applicable.
Good, but not Great  Jan 1, 2009
The major premise of Beale's book is that we become what we worship, either for ruin or restoration. This thesis is generally solid, since Psalm 115.8 spells it out clearly. For this reason, the book is worth reading. In depth, it explores that concept elsewhere in Scripture.

Beale's methodology is somewhat surprising. One would guess, knowing Beale's great emphasis on the NT interpreting the OT, he would start with a few NT texts on idolatry and use them to interpret OT ones and other NT ones as well. However, he uses Isaiah 6.9-13 as not only the source of his thesis, but also as the lens by which he interprets other OT and NT texts. This is troublesome first, because almost no scholar says Isaiah 6.9-13 has idolatry specifically in mind, much less that it shows an idolater becomes like an idol.

It is troublesome second, because he bases his thesis on the allusions to Isaiah 6 in earlier and later Scripture, using his interpretation of Isaiah 6 as the lens for other texts. This does make for some great - really great - biblical theological insights, but elsewhere the reader has to pause to wonder if the biblical author really was talking about idolatry and becoming like idols in a certain text (i.e. the seven letters in Revelation 2-3). In Beale's defense, Isaiah 6 is alluded to in earlier and later texts; the problem is with the lens and possibility of allusions.

Of course this is a methodological and hermeneutical issue; Beale does talk about this extensively in his intro. He says he is a maximalist when it comes to finding intertextual allusions. In my opinion, he is a super-confident maximalist while probably the better option is to be a cautious maximalist to prevent the interpreter from finding allusions that the author did not mean to make.

One other critique I have is that this book claims to be "a biblical theology of idolatry" (subtitle); yet I believe that is too broad a subtitle. Were it a complete biblical theology of idolatry, there would have been more discussion on the first few commandments, idolatry and spiritual prostitution, idolatry and witness (i.e. Is 44.8-9), and the biblical teaching that idols originate in the heart, etc. This would tweak the thesis of the book, to be sure. The narrow scope of the book is how Beale's thesis from Isaiah 6.9-13 is found elsewhere in Scripture; it is not a comprehensive book on the nature, origin, essence, subjects, and effects of idolatry. To be sure, he does say that he is just exploring this one aspect of idolatry, but by not discussing the other threads/meanings of idolatry in Scripture, it seems that this one dominates the others and runs roughshod over other huge idolatry themes. Beale does say that this thread of the strand is the chief thread in the OT and NT. I think this is debatable.

In summary, the book is very much worth getting for considering the topic of idolatry. Beale steeps all his arguments in Scripture; even if the reader does not agree with him at all points, it is refreshing to stay in Scripture. It is not for the average layperson, as Beale takes the reader through an exhaustive dot-to-dot of cross references and word studies. It will be a great resource to consult along side other such works and commentaries. I only hesitate to call it the definitive work on idolatry.
A Biblical Theology of Idolatry  Dec 23, 2008
In We Become What We Worship: A Biblical Theology of Idolatry (IVP Academic, 2008), author G.K. Beale teases out the implications of a truth he first discovered during an extensive study of the commissioning of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6). Beale believes that one of the central aspects of Isaiah 6 is that "what you revere you resemble, either for ruin or restoration." His book is an attempt to show how this teaching is woven into the fabric of Scripture. We Become What We Worship illuminates this teaching by presenting a biblical theology of idolatry.

We Become What We Worship relies heavily on intertextuality - a method of Bible study that combines grammatical-historical exegesis with canonical-contextual exegesis. Beale uses this methodology in order to persuasively demonstrate that the concept of idolaters becoming like their idols is one that appears throughout the Bible.

The most helpful section of this book is the chapter on Isaiah 6. Pastors and teachers will find Beale's exegetical insights to be of enormous value. Next time I preach or teach on Isaiah 6, I will definitely consult this book again! Beale masterfully showcases the biblical allusions in the text, nuances that shed light on the passage's context and meaning.

Another important insight I gleaned from Beale's work concerns the Golden Calf narrative in Exodus. Beale shows how this pivotal event in Israel's history is alluded to in many Old and New Testament passages.

Many readers may not have the stamina to persevere through the rigorous exegesis that forms the heart of this book. We Become What We Worship is definitely geared to the academy and not the layperson. But I highly recommend that pastors consult this book whenever they are preparing to preach on one of the texts that Beale exposits. We Become What We Worship is a terrific resource that shines light on many passages of Scripture.

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