idolatry and cognitive dissonance in the Christian life

I'm almost done with a new anthology from RZIM, Beyond Opinion, Living the Faith we defend,
2007, edited by Ravi Zacharias. In the chapter by Danielle DuRant titled, Idolatry, Denial, and Self-deception, I was intrigued enough but her thoughts that I wanted to put them here for the viewing public's consideration.

What is idolatry? It is "treating what is not ultimate as though it were ultimate, making absolute what is only relative," says Emory professor Luke Timothy Johnson. Whenever we deem a particular relationship or goal an absolute necessity - I must have this - we are in danger of idolatry. According to Martin Luther, whatever your heart clings to and relies upon, that is your God. "An idol is something within creation that is inflated to function as a substitute for God,: suggests Dick Keyes. Since an idol is a counterfeit, it is a lie. Deception is its very identity...Tather than look to the Creator and have to deal with His lordship, we orient our lives toward the creation, where we can be more free to congtrol and shape our desired directions."
Idolatry distorts our knowledge of God, ourselves, and others. p. 279

I wrote about idolatry (a, b, c, d, e, f) in my Ten Commandment series. But I really love the collection of quotes she rounded up. Although she didn't mention it, the last statement she writes reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Jesus in John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. That simple statement is so profound, and it is what keeps us from idolatry.

It was DuRant's subsequent discussion on turning away from correct knowledge as a turning to idolatry jumped out at me.
Though our doubts and ambivalence may sometimes overwhelm us, they also help us ease our internal conflict by allowing us to avoid commitment to a particular known truth...
Social scientists label the experience of attempting to hold two opposing views ("I know this is wrong but I want it") as cognitive dissonance. One endeavors to reduce the conflict by changing the conditions ("Did God really say?"), adding new conditions ("My spouse doesn't love me anyway"), or changing one's behavior. When the individual refuses to submit to the truth, an attempt is made to reconcile the internal conflict by rationalizing the behavior ("God understands my weakness") or by refusing to acknowledge the truth (avoidance).

In this valley we attempt to internalize our dissonant voices in a way that allows us to alleviate our anxiety by avoiding commitment to a particular truth. p.286
She speaks of the valleys of doubt and distraction on our Christian journeys. Cognitive dissonance allows us to remain in a valley even though we know, or have been told, such a valley will weaken us and make it hard for us to follow our shepherd. But the Bible is full of such examples. One of the early ones is the children of Israel who after being delivered from the Egyptians, feared obeying the Lord and entering the promised land. She illustrates from Dueteronomy 1. ...
Moses reminds them, the Lord your God is compassionate, attentive, and trustworthy.
The next verse reveals, however, that the Israelites have not resolved their fear and doubts: "In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord you God, who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go" (vv.32-33: emphasis added). Bible teacher Beth Moore underscores the significance of this introductory phrase as it appears in the King James version: "Yet in this thing you did not believe the Lord your God." She proposes that we may have no trouble believing God in many areas of our lives, with the exception of "this thing." Yet leaving "this thing" unresolved will ultimately undermine our faith and trust in him because "this thing...corresponds with the deepest brokenness in your life." Thus, "deep down in our psyche, we just know God is not going to be faithful to us here" - because God was seemingly unfaithful in our place of brokenness. p. 288
I thought to myself, I know I have held onto many a "this thing." Just the other night, I woke up feeling convicted about watching a movie online that I hadn't paid for. It was a lame movie and I was bored and looking for something to do, and searched for free movies online and found one remotely interesting. But I hadn't paid for it. It was pirated. I was guilty of theft. And God convicted me of that in the middle of the night. He woke me up. And I resisted repenting. I justified myself. But I knew it would take more work to fight God, to kick against the goads, than to agree with Him. I really wanted to go back to sleep too. So I didn't fight God long. But I was holding onto something so stupid, my "right" to watch lame movies for free constantly interrupted by re-buffering.

At my Bible study at work, we share many stories of how we can relate to the characters we encounter in the passage we look at. I really admire the people who listen to God when they feel his conviction in their hearts. I want to be like them. I want to trust Jesus like they do. This chapter by Danielle DuRant makes it simple. Know God. If I know him correctly, why wouldn't I trust Him in every area he seeks to bring under submission in my own life. He is trustworthy. There is nothing to argue about and the arguing looks so much like a toddler meltdown in hindsight. A full blown meltdown only wastes time, but my toddlers always lost those battles. They still went with me where I wanted to go, just more uncomfortably. Sometimes I told them, "you can do it now, or do it after the spanking." I think God lets me know, I can trust him now, or after the period of discomfort, but He loves me enough to get me where he wants me, despite my petty objections. Because He loves me. Why do I doubt that?

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