Idolatry and Human Sacrifice

"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness" Romans 1:18

God has revealed Himself and His truth with clarity.  Even apart from the explicit revelations of the Bible beginning with the Genesis account of creation, God has made sufficiently clear some of the principle elements of spiritual truth to all people through creation and conscience (Romans 1:19-20, 2:14-16) so as to leave the entire human race without excuse.(Roman's 1:20) But from the beginning, many have refused to profit by the light they have, and love the darkness rather than the light. All who do not live up to the spiritual truth they possess, who choose to do worse than they know, hold the truth in unrighteousness. They resist and obstruct the truth, rather than let it have free scope.

In the beginning wickedness did not exist said Church Father Athanasius.  It was men who later on began to contrive it and to elaborate it to their own hurt and the hurt of others.

The truth as to evil said Athanasius,

" that it originates, and resides, in the perverted choice of the darkened soul" which, "materialized by forgetting God" and engrossed in lower things, "makes them into gods," and thereby "descends into a hopeless depth of delusion and superstition," whereby "they ceased to think that anything existed beyond what is seen, or that anything was good save things temporal and bodily; so turning away and forgetting that she was in the image of the good God, she no longer... sees God the Word after whose likeness she is made; but having departed from herself, imagines and feigns what is not (and then) advancing further in evil, they came to celebrate as gods the elements and the principles of which bodies are composed...." (Against the Heathen, New Advent)

With their understanding sundered from God they fell lower in their ideas and imaginations and "gave the honor due to God first to the heaven and the sun and moon and the stars, thinking them to be not only gods, but also the causes of the other gods lower than themselves."  Advancing still further in evil, "they came to celebrate as gods the elements and the principles of which bodies are composed..."  And then, creeping in the slime like land-snails, the most impious of mankind, "set up as gods men, and the forms of men, some still living, others even after their death (and they even) transferred the divine and supernatural name of God at last even to stones and stocks, and creeping things both of land and water, and irrational wild beasts, awarding to them every divine honor..." 

But going even further in their audacity these foolish men mixed "up the rational with the irrational, and combining things unlike in nature, they worship the result as gods, such as the dog-headed and snake-headed and ass-headed gods among the Egyptians, and the ram-headed Ammon among the Libyans." 

Still others, straining impiety to the utmost, "have deified the motive of the invention of these things and of their own wickedness, namely, pleasure and lust, and worship them, such as their Eros, and the Aphrodite at Paphos. While some of them, as if vying with them in depravation, have ventured to erect into gods their rulers or even their sons, either out of honor for their princes, or from fear of their tyranny, such as the Cretan Zeus.. and the Arcadian Hermes; and among the Indians Dionysus, among the Egyptians Isis and Osiris and Horus, and in our own time Antinous, favourite of Hadrian, Emperor of the Romans whom, although men know he was a mere man (and) full of licentiousness, yet they worship for fear of him that enjoined it. For Hadrian... ordered (Antinous) to be worshipped; being indeed himself in love with the youth even after his death, but for all that offering... a proof (of the) idolatry... of the lust of them that imagined it." 

 "According as the wisdom of God testifies beforehand when it says, 'The devising of idols was the beginning of fornication. Wisdom 14:12 .” (Against the Heathen, Athanasius, New Advent)

The Decalogue shows that the beginning of idolatry (preference for self over God) is pride, since a proud man makes an idol out of himself, thereby assuming he possesses honor and rights.  This is why idolatry leads to contempt for truth, law, wisdom, norms, authority, rules and other people in combination with any or all of the following existing within a climate of treachery, deceit and violence: lying, gluttony, greed, cheating, promiscuity, sodomy, pederasty, pedophilia, adultery, theft, and the dehumanization of other people resulting in slavery, population control schemes, abortion, brutality and murder.  

The Carthaginians for instance, worshipped Saturn, the Roman name for Cronus, the lord of the titans in Greek mythology.  The Carthaginians, Greeks and Romans had given the honor due God to Saturn, the second largest planet to which they attributed their own self-serving motives. The Syro-Palestinian archeologists Lawrence Stager and Samuel Wolff suggest that:

"Among the social elite of Punic Carthage the institution of child sacrifice may have assisted in the consolidation and maintenance of family wealth. One hardly needed several children parceling up the patrimony into smaller and smaller pieces . . . for the artisans and commoners of Carthage, ritual infanticide could provide a hedge against poverty. For all these participants in this aspect of the cult, then, child sacrifice provided special favors from the gods."  (Stager, L.E. and Wolff, S.R., op. cit., pp. 50,51 from Abortion and the Ancient Practice of Child Sacrifice, Andrew White, MD, 1/5/2012, Associates for Biblical Research)

Dr. White reports that in 1921 the largest cemetery of sacrificed infants in the ancient Near East was discovered at Carthage.  Hundreds of burial urns filled with the cremated bones of infants, mostly newborns but even some children up to age six years old, as well as animals, have been uncovered at Carthage.  All of the sacrificial victims had been burned to death on the altars of idolatrous men and women.

The actual rite of child sacrifice at Carthage has been graphically described by Diodorus Siculus:

"There was in their city a bronze image of Cronus extending its hands, palms up and sloping toward the ground, so that each of the children when placed thereon rolled down and fell into a sort of gaping pit filled with fire." (ibid, Dr. White)

Plutarch, a first and second century A.D. Greek author, adds to the description that:

"...the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums so that the cries of wailing should not reach the ears of the people." (ibid)

The earliest reference to child sacrifice in the Bible is found in Leviticus where the practice is forbidden by Moses in connection with Molech, "the detestable god of the Ammonites" (I Kings 11:7):

"Do not give any of your children to be passed through (the fire) to Molech for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the Lord." (Lev. 18:21; 20:1-5)

Dr. White reveals that the Hebrew word Molech is the same Semitic root as the Punic word mulk which was found inscribed on several burial monuments at Carthage giving linguistic evidence for the continuity between the practice of child sacrifice in Canaan and at Carthage:

"But whereas at Carthage the word refers to the sacrificial offerings including human sacrifice, in Leviticus it refers to the god who demands child sacrifice. The "passing through" refers to sacrificing by burning in a fire. For this "passing through to Molech" (same Hebrew words in Leviticus and Jeremiah) took place later in Israel's history in the region of the high places of Ba'al in the Valley of Ben Hinnom in Jeremiah 32:35."

This murderous scene was described by the Lord through the mouth of Jeremiah in earlier chapters:

"For they have forsaken me and made this a place of foreign gods; they have burned sacrifices in it to gods that neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah ever knew and they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent. They have built me the high places of Ba'al to burn their sons in the fire as offerings to Ba'al -something I did not command or mention, nor did it enter my mind. So beware, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when people will no longer call this place Topheth  or the Valley of ben Hinnom, but the Valley of slaughter. (Jeremiah 19:4-6; 7:31-32)" (ibid, Dr. White)

 Moshe Weinfeld, an Old Testament scholar, connects cultic prostitution with child sacrifice in Isaiah and Ezekiel saying,

"The children born of cultic prostitution associated with Molech were presumably delivered to the idolatrous priests, even as the offspring of a regular marriage may have been handed over to Molech." (Dr. White)

Many of the children offered to Molech were conceived illegitimately either by way of adulterous affairs or prostitution, so it seems probable that sacrificing babies to Molech was a convenient way to dispose of the consequences.
By New Testament times idolatry took on a broader meaning.  Commenting on the New Testament authors' understanding of idolatry, Herbert Schlossberg notes that,

 "a man can place anyone or anything at the top of his pyramid of values, and that is ultimately what he serves. The ultimacy of that service profoundly affects the way he lives." (Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction, p. 6)

And so Church Father Tertullian sees no difference between the idolatrous Carthaginian practice of child sacrifice and the equally idolatrous Roman practice of infanticide:

"...there is no difference as to baby killing whether you do it as a sacred rite or just because you choose to do it."

 No matter how it is rationalized it is still murder, and for followers of Christ,

"murder is once for all forbidden; so even the child in the womb, while yet the mother's blood is still being drawn on to form the human being, it is not lawful to destroy. To forbid birth is only quicker murder. It makes no difference whether one take away the life once born or destroy it as it comes to birth. He is a man, who is to be a man, the fruit is always present in the seed." (Tertullian, Apologeticus IX.- 6, 8)

In Pauline theology idolatry is recognized as any worshipping or serving the creature (i.e., 'self,' nature, cosmos, elements, matter, chemicals, genetic material, or mystical concepts such as natural selection, and evolution) rather than the Creator as this is equivalent to exchanging the truth of God for a lie (Rom. 1:23,25):

"Placing anything above the Creator and His truth is idolatry, for in this idolatry the creature's erroneous value judgments are substituted for the Creator's correct ones. Sadly, people know the truth but suppress it , Rom. 1:18." (Dr. White)

In 1977 British journalist William Rees-Mogg saw that the West had lost its faith, and like a fish out of water or a drowning man was,

"...desperately thrashing around for lack of oxygen.  Since the time of Christ there has been no period in which there has been the same feeling of...spiritual impoverishment."  (from Idols for Destruction, Schlossberg,p. 2)

Thirty-six years later, but for a remnant, Christendom is dead and America's idolatrous, nihilistic post-Christian culture and narcissistic postmodern church are quickly following suit.   While there are as yet many churches, pastors, evangelists, distinguished Christian laypeople and missionaries here in America and around the world proclaiming Christ crucified for the sins of all men and fulfilling their vocations with humility and integrity, the culturally-relevant church of "what's happening now," the contemporary Church consisting of trendy, disaffected Roman and Eastern Orthodox Catholics and 'new' Protestant evangelicals practices a spirituality that is Christian in name only, a spirituality that is trivial, irreverent, self-affirming, fun-loving, irrelevant, and permissive to the point of practicing abortion:

"..the practice of abortion by Christians is spiritual prostitution to an idol, defiles God's sanctuary and profanes His holy name. God alone is the Author of life and it is not the creature's prerogative to question the Creator's wisdom in bringing to life a fellow human being at conception. Whenever men disregard their Creator's wise judgment by destroying His innocent creation, they are serving another god. They are, in fact, spiritually prostituting themselves to the idolatrous self whom they believe is wiser in its value judgments." (Andrew White)       

Consequently, our land is being filled with the blood of the innocent, spilled not on the altars of Cronos, Molech and Saturn but in charnel houses run by executioners like Kermit Gosnell.

We are an idolatrous people who hold the truth in unrighteousness, and unless we repent and are cleansed by his merciful forgiveness, the Lord will set His face against this nation. This is what the Lord says:

"Look I am preparing a disaster for you and devising a plan against you. So turn from your evil ways, each one of you, and reform your ways and your actions." (Jeremiah 18:11)

@Linda Kimball