Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Systematic Theology

First Advisor

Joel Okamoto

Scripture References in this Resource

Matthew 16:25; 1 Peter 2:4-10; 1 Timothy 2:5; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 4:6; Colossians 1:15; Deuteronomy 5:6-7; Deuteronomy 8:17; Exodus 20:2-3; Hebrews 1:3; Hebrews 12:18-24; Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 9:11-10:25; Isaiah 41:7; Isaiah 46:1-7; Jeremiah 2:13; John 1:14; John 1:18; John 12:44-46; John 14:6-14; John 17:25-26; John 2:18-21; John 4:19-26; Jonah 4:8-9; Luke 15:29; Luke 16:14; Luke 5:31-32; Matthew 11:27; Matthew 6:5; 16; Philippians 2:10; Psalm 115:4-8; Psalm 135:15-18; Romans 1:21-22; Romans 1:24-31; Romans 3:11-12; Romans 3:9


Lockwood, Michael A. "Luther on Idolatry: A Lutheran Response to Contemporary False Belief." Ph.D. diss., Concordia Seminary, 2013. 303 pp.

The first step in solving any problem is to understand the problem. As Christians we know that Christ is the solution to the human plight. Yet what exactly is this plight? And why do so many people feel no need for the solution he provides? Luther's answer is that people feel no need for the true God until they are disenchanted with the false gods they have put in his place, which they think can provide all they need.

In this dissertation I examine Luther's insights into idolatry, and use them as a tool for understanding contemporary society and its resistance to the gospel. Luther's view—that anything we fear, love, or trust more than the true God is effectively our god—is widely applicable to the contemporary western world, and unmasks the religious nature of many of our ostensively secular commitments.

In particular, I argue on the basis of Luther's thought that: (1) the self-seeking and self-reliant self is always the greatest idol and the driving force behind other idols; and (2) when people refuse to fear, love, and trust the true God they are compelled to find substitutes for him and all the work he does for humankind in the economy of salvation. This means finding substitutes for the Father and his work of providence, the Son and his work of redemption, and the Holy Spirit and his work of enlightening those who believe. It also means replacing God as the goal of our life and the object of our love. Applied to contemporary society, Luther's analysis reveals things like human activism, the cult of self-esteem, human rationalism, and the pursuit of personal happiness to be key idols, as we seek to provide for ourselves, to justify ourselves, to walk in the light of our own understanding, and to make the world revolve around us and our desires. Only when the futility of these projects is exposed can the good news be heard as good news: that the true God gives us by grace all the good things we have vainly sought to provide for ourselves.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.