Idolatry – The Cult of the Baal of Erskine


1 Kings 18:21 – “And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinion? If the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.”

Idolatry is so easy for us. All of us are recovering idolaters who are prone to fall back into idolatry at any moment.

Put away the strange gods that are among you...

The Old Testament story of Israel is a chronicle of a people who were addicted to idolatry. Early in the story, Jacob had to instruct the members of his household to put away their idols, saying, “Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments” (Gen. 35:2). Even the story of the Exodus is stained with idolatry. God may have smitten the gods of Egypt in a spectacular deliverance of the children of Israel, but that deliverance was not enough to cause them to disabuse themselves from their addiction to idolatry. In spite of Commandments that called for devotion to and faith in God, and prohibited the making of graven images, the first public gathering of the children of Israel after the giving of the Ten Commandments is an idolatrous affair. Even after a miraculous conquest of Palestine, Joshua’s final words are pleas to the people of Israel to put away idolatry and injunctions against idolatry: “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

The people of God in the Old Testament were plagued with idolatry, were they not? Have you read of the idolatry in the time of the Judges? 2 Kings 18 reveals just how pervasive and systemic idolatry was. King Hezekiah was stunned by the level of idolatry that he found in Judah. The people had even turned the brazen serpent that Moses had made into an idol. Unbelievably, that which God had provided to heal them from snake bites was desecrated by the people of God and made an idol. Incredibly, a symbol of healing and salvation had been made into a idol by a people who were addicted to idolatry. Hezekiah did the only thing that he could: he ordered that the brazen serpent be broken into pieces. Indeed, even when it comes to good things, there is a propensity in us that draws us from the living God of the Bible to idolatry, is there not?

One would think that the situation changes in the New Testament. It does not! The New Testament is replete with warning against idols. Why? Because we have a tendency to worship something other than God! We are addicted to idolatry! We are recovering idolaters!

Consider the following injunctions. According to the Council of Jerusalem a part of the apostolic message was a ban on contact with idols (Acts 15:20). The believers in the early church were warned that those who practice idolatry would not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9). The Apostle Paul’s message was blunt: “Flee from idolatry!” (1 Cor. 10:14). Believers were warned that there is no agreement between the temple of God and idols (2 Cor. 6:16). Idolatry was a heinous sin that was included with witchcraft, enmity, strife, fits of anger, heresies, and the like (Gal. 5:20). Covetousness is equated with idolatry (Col. 3:5). The people of God are described as those who have turned from idolatry (1 Thes. 1:9). The Apostle John simply writes “Little children, flee from idols” (1 John 5:21).

The story of Elijah in 1 Kings 18 is instructive on this matter of our predisposition to idolatry: The more things change the more things stay the same.

Erskine College and Seminary were once good things. Once Erskine College and Seminary were the ARP Church in college education and seminary training. They were agencies of the ARP Church. However, good intentions were transmogrified by the idolatry nature of human hearts.

It is now obvious from the reactions of so many of the Erskine elite and alums that what has been whispered about for years in the ARP Church and what has been clearly said the last two years is true. Erskine is not an evangelical Christian institution. The extent of unbelief and denial and scorn for evangelical Christianity is epidemic and rabid. However, since religious sentiment in us is innate and expression demanding, the administration and faculty of Erskine have provided an alternative to evangelical Christian faith: THE BAAL OF ERSKINE.

What is it that the followers of the Baal of Erskine are enraged about? They are enraged that the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church is insisting that Erskine College and Seminary conform to the evangelical Christian mission of the college and seminary. This is a clash of religious faiths. The followers of the pseudo-religious and secular Baal of Erskine call the faith of the ARP Church “extremism” and “fundamentalism.” The ARP Church is a part of evangelical Christianity and we call the Baal of Erskine “idolatry” and “anti-christian.”

The responses of the followers of the Baal of Erskine looks like religious fervor, doesn’t it? The reason it does so is that it is. As in the days of Elijah, it is today: choose either the idolatry of a Baal of human making or the God of the Bible!

So, what is the point? The point is the focus of the following words of 1 Kings 18:21: “And the people answered him not a word.”

The people of the General Synod of the ARP Church are like the people who answered not a word. For the last thirty years, there were those who have cried out and warned that the college and seminary faculty of Erskine were not in accord with the evangelical Christian mission and standards of both Erskine and the ARP Church. For the last thirty years, there were those who have cried out and warned that successive Erskine administrations not only tolerated unbelief but promoted anti-Christianity. For the last thirty years, there were those who have cried out and warned that the Erskine community was moving away from the evangelical Christian faith of the ARP Church to a secularism that despised and opposed Biblical Christianity.

For the past thirty years, the response of the leadership of the ARP Church has been to say that this could not be. Our leaders said that those who were crying out were troublemakers who did not know what they were talking about. Our leaders said that they knew the Erskine leaders and they were gentlemen who would honor our faith and traditions. Our leaders said that the problems at our college and seminary were insignificant and the good people at Erskine could be trusted. And, in the face of such disinformation and subversion, we in the ARP Church were the people who said not a word. In order to avoid conflict we politely smiled and did nothing. We pretended to believe a fabrication rather than undertake the disagreeable task of addressing patent unbelief.

Because we were the people who said not a word, a new Baal has arisen in Due West: THE BAAL OF THE CULT OF ERSKINE. Not to be unexpected, in the absence of vibrant Christian faith and devotion, devotees of the cult of the Baal of Erskine have been produced. Indeed, if what we see on Facebook is representative of the alums, the followers of the Baal of Erskine are numerous.

Today, the question for the General Synod is how long will we halt between two opinions and remain the people who say not a word. Our guilty silence is deafening! We claim to be the people of the Reformation. We are the people of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Knox, Cromwell, and Ralph and Ebenezer Erskine. These men were not of the tribe of those who said not a word. These men were bold for the Gospel no matter the cost. They were not men to be silent in the face of unbelief. They were men “who through faith subdued kingdoms, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (Heb. 11:33-34).

Peace, Peace!Is it not time for the ARP Church to disenthrall itself of the illusion that nothing is amiss at Erskine? Have we not for too long anesthetized ourselves with the illusion of “Peace! Peace!” when there is no peace?

My brothers and sisters of the ARP Church who love our Lord Jesus Christ and his coming, we are soldiers of the Cross! Soldiers of the Cross do not remain silent in the face of unbelief, rebellion, dissimulation, prevarication, and contumacy. Isaac Watts puts it in this manner: “Must I be carried to the skies / on flow’ry beds of ease, /While others fought to sin the prize, / And sailed through bloody seas?”

How long will we halt between two opinions? Do we serve the God of the Bible? Do we serve the Baal of Erskine? Indeed, let us put away the Baal of Erskine and serve God alone. And, if the struggle is long and hard and costly, is that not both the price and the reward of faithfulness?

But let it not be said of us that we are the people who said not a word!

These are my thoughts,

Charles W. Wilson

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