Saturday, June 02, 2012

Paraphrasing Calvin's 'idol-factory' quote for a sermon

In regard to the origin of idols, the statement contained in the Book of Wisdom has been received with almost universal consent, viz., that they originated with those who bestowed this honour on the dead, from a superstitious regard to their memory. I admit that this perverse practice is of very high antiquity, and I deny not that it was a kind of torch by which the infatuated proneness of mankind to idolatry was kindled into a greater blaze. I do not, however, admit that it was the first origin of the practice. That idols were in use before the prevalence of that ambitious consecration of the images of the dead, frequently adverted to by profane writers, is evident from the words of Moses, (Gen. 31: 19.) When he relates that Rachel stole her father's images, he speaks of the use of idols as a common vice. Hence we may infer, that the human mind is, so to speak, a perpetual forge of idols.
(Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book One, Chapter 11.8 in John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge [USA: Hendrickson, revised edition, 2008], p.54-55. Emphasis added.)
I wanted to quote the above highlighted portion in a sermon that I'm preparing for a youth congregation. The most common paraphrase that has been floating around is this: "The human heart is a factory of idols."

This sounds good but when it is read on its own without the context it could mean that the human heart is a factory owned by idols. So I have to drop this since I will quote only this sentence alone. I want it to be least ambiguous.

Timothy Keller paraphrased it as: "The human heart is an idol-factory."

This too is good but I find it lacks the forcefulness of the original phrase. Keller's is too casual for the purpose for my sermon.

So after thinking for a while, I have come up with this paraphrase: 


Alex Tang said...

the human mind is the ground from which idolatry arises

Sze Zeng said...

That works too. Thanks Alex! :)

Michelle said...

What idle mind is the enemy's workshop?

Sze Zeng said...

Thank you Michelle. :)