The Freedom Delusion

Douma Ten Commandments coverI’ve been reading through this excellent book that was recommended to me by a friend in a conversation in which I described my change of heart about the Ten Commandments. Yes, I confess, for many years I did not believe that the Ten Commandment applied to Christians since Jesus fulfilled the law. I shudder at that thought now since the Decalogue, aka the Ten Commandments,  represents God’s ethical requirements for his people. Surely God does not have a different standard in the OT than in the NT, but brought to their fullness in Christ.  Jesus demonstrated that this was summed up in the greatest command: to love the Lord with your heart, soul and mind and love neighbor as yourself.  More of that, and my conversion to see this light, in a separate post.

In The Ten Commandments: Manual for Christian Life, Jochem Douma, former professor of Christian ethics in the Netherlands, provides a very thoughtful commentary on how each commandment applies to Christian life.

I was really struck by this section on the first commandment, “You shall have no other gods beside Me.” (Exod. 20:3). Douma discusses the issue of idolarty and the freedom that Christ provides from it. But he takes it a step further to show the futility of idols.

“That leads us to this final observation. As you listen to the first commandment, you hear in it the liberation of which the prologue to the Ten Commandments bears witness. Yahweh demands the whole person, but in this total commitment of his person to the one true God, lies his greatest freedom. The one who serves Yahweh will live under His blessing, but the one who serves idols will languish in bondage.

Let us look first at ‘primitive’ idolatry. For the Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Canaanite, danger lurked on every side. A tree, an animal, a rock, a river, the sea, a thunderstorm, lightning, a hostile neighbor, and more–dangerous divine powers nested everywhere and in everything. Catastrophes could ocur at any moment.  A wall of fear surrounded a person. Specific actions, prescribed incantations, and particular  rituals were needed to neutralize the host of dangers. Magic, exorcism, and sacrifices were therefore the way to pacify the angry gods. Continue reading