In this article, David Powlison presents a foundational question: Can we ever make satisfying sense of the fact that people are simultaneously inner-directed and socially-shaped? Powlison argues that idolatry provides a searching analytic category that is both a description of disoriented internal motivation (“idols of the heart”) and distorted socio-cultural values (“Vanity Fair”). He examines case studies of an “alcoholic-codependent” marriage, and of a man ruled by many competing idols. Powlison concludes that idolatry explains the commonalities of the human heart that underlie all the diversity of individual behavior, emotion, experience and lifestyle. An update to this article is presented in Powlison’s “Revisiting Idols of the Heart and Vanity Fair” in JBC 27:3.