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Admiration Is Not Idolatry

I have been a Billy Joel fan since I was young, probably fifth grade since that coincides with the release of An Innocent Man. The first album I bought was The Bridge. If memory my serves me correctly, $9.99 at Record Bar at Honey Creek Square in Terre Haute, IN. It might have been Disk Jockey, but I recall they wanted $10.49. Hey, I could buy a couple of Blow Pops at West Vigo Middle School for that 50 cents.

Earlier this month, I flew from Arizona to Indiana to see Billy Joel in concert, something that’s been on my Bucket List since 1989 and Stormfront. I waited nearly 30 years and was not disappointed. The concert was amazing! I saw it with my parents; my sister and brother-in-law went too but didn’t sit with us. We all agreed it was phenomenal. He sold out Banker’s Life Field House and put on a concert with as much energy as someone half his age. Not to mention the piano playing. He had other musicians too. I’d love for my pianist daughter and saxophone playing son to see him if he ever tours near us.

Of course, there’s always that legalistic person who has to criticize. And that happened. Normally, I wouldn’t have cared because the person is one of those “chain rattler” types and not someone I know well. I would have ignored it except the thought “am I being an idolater?” passed through my mind. My answer was an emphatic “no”. To me an idol is someone or something you worship or seek out for spiritual guidance, comfort, or “luck” (blessing, favor, grace, etc.). Here’s where I sit – I love Billy Joel’s music and think he’s extremely talented. He is not someone I put on the same level as an author from the Bible or even a theologian. I worship God alone!

I attended the concert about the same time I was reading the chapter in my systematic theology book on “common grace.” That put my idolatry question into the proper perspective. Billy Joel is a perfect example of someone God has granted with great talent irrespective of faith; Billy Joel comes from a Jewish background. Another example is Brandon Sanderson, who is a Mormon.

Sanderson is also an extremely talented author, and someone else I’d be (falsely) accused of idolizing. The release of Oathbringer was the cherry on top of maybe the best month of my life. I purchased this weighty tome in two formats, audiobook (love you Audible credits!) and hardback. I have to admit I love the Cosmere but do not look to it for spiritual enlightenment.

I have a hard time translating Old Testament idolatry to modern day “idols” (athletes, artists, etc.). To me there’s a huge difference between going to a concert and worshiping a graven image. I didn’t even buy a t-shirt, so there’s that.

Are there any artists, athletes, etc. whom you greatly admire for their talent?

About Gretchen E K Engel

Chemical engineer by day, spec fiction writer by night

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