I was listening to a sermon by Ravi Zacharias in which he credited the poet Lord Byron with the following.
Three Stages in the Decline of a Religion:
1) Heresy – when true God is worshiped with false worship
2) Idolatry – false gods worshiped while we suppose them for true God
3) Witchcraft – adoration for false gods knowing them to be wicked
My friend who directed me to the sermon pointed out that this seems to loosely follow the pattern Paul lays out in Romans 1. I briefly looked but could not find any other reference to Lord Byron. [it actually comes from The Advancement of Learning by Francis Bacon]
Over a year ago I wrote about my begrudging acceptance of a sect of Christianity which I find disgusting but still within the camp of Christian orthodoxy. What I like about
Byron’s Bacon’s three stages is that it defines such believers as heretics but still worshipers of a true God.
I would place Mormonism in the classification of “idolatry” because its description of God is so wildly different than that of orthodox Christianity. In turn I think the classic Christian understanding of God is idolatrous if Mormon theology were to be the standard (and appropriately deemed “apostate” – outside the faith).
The place I probably struggle the most in
Byron’s Bacon’s paradigm is the description of “knowing the false gods to be false.” I think this might better describe an individual’s posture of religion than a religion itself. I think there are individuals who know their gods are false, but worship them anyways. But I think each religion is at least attempting to direct people toward worship of a true god.