Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Refuting The Use Of Objects In Worship

  • Introduction: 
          -The Roman Catholic Church (and Eastern Orthodox) use statues and icons as part of their worship. People who occupy objects for such purposes believe that they aid them in remembering God, Jesus, Mary, or other important figures in Christianity. The Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church says, "Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, “the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype,” and “whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it.” (Paragraph 2132)
          -Advocates of using images in worship regularly bow down before statues, icons, and images of Christian figures, kissing at the feet of the statues, and praying to them. Some will even be rolling in front of statues, showering flowers on them, lighting candles before them, carrying statues in procession, and changing the clothing on them daily. In Roman Catholic churches, there are several paintings of Jesus, Mary, Peter, and canonized saints. There is an abundance of religious iconography.
          -"Owing to the influence of the Old Testament prohibition of images, Christian veneration of images developed only after the victory of the Church over paganism. The Synod of Elvira (about 306) still prohibited figurative representations in the houses of God (Can. 36)." (Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, p. 320)
  • The Case Against The Use Of Statues, Images, And Relics In Worship:
          -Actions such as kneeling (in religious contexts) and prayer are defined as worship according to Scripture (Exodus 20:5; Isaiah 44:17; 45:20; Matthew 4:9-10; 6:6-14; Philippians 2:10). The apostles refused to accept honor as people knelt before them (Acts 10:25-26; 14:13-15). Even the angels who served God did not want people bowing before them in reverence (Revelation 4:10; 19:10; 22:8-9). Directing such adoration and devotion to entities other than God is idolatry. It also is noteowrthy that Roman Catholics sing worship psalms to various saints and wear amulets with pictures of Mary on them.
          -God clearly condemned making figures for the purpose of giving religious devotion or honor to beings other than Him (Exodus 20:4-5; Deuteronomy 4:15-24; 2 Chronicles 33:6-7). In fact, the Apostle Paul specifically said that God is not served with physical objects (Acts 17:23-25). God said that He would not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8). We are not to worship God like the pagans do with their gods. That kind of worship is offensive to Him.
  • A Valid Practice In The New Testament?:
          -In the New Testament, we are never given permission to use statues as an aid in worship. We have no examples of such activity being approved of by God. As noted previously, the Apostle Paul affirmed Old Testament prohibitions on using material objects in worship. Idols pose a danger to our relationship with God. There are also different forms of idolatry (Ephesians 5:5-7). The only time we see people bowing before statues in Scripture are the unfaithful and unbelieving.
  • Veneration Verses Worship:
          -When Roman Catholics are accused of worshiping Mary and the saints, they usually respond by saying that they are simply venerating (i.e. giving honor to) them. This claim is elaborated on by dividing this veneration into three distinct categories (using Latin): latria (God alone), hyperdulia (Mary alone), and dulia (saints and angels).
          -Even though this argument sounds good when written on paper, it is theoretical only. It does not work in practice. Occupying separate labels does not change the essence of what is being done. Scripture does not provide any justification for three different classes of honor to give to three different classes of beings (i.e. God, Mary, and saints). In fact, every instance of religious veneration recorded in Scripture by a faithful person is directed to God alone. That point is not without significance. We would do well to remember that God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5; Deuteronomy 4:24; Nahum 1:2). He does not take the issue of worship lightly.
  • Defining What Is Permissible:
          -We ought to give honor to the people who deserve it (Romans 13:1; Hebrews 13:7). Bowing can be a custom of respect toward authority, although God has never ordained that a person represented by a statue be the recipient of such honor. It is also not wrong to have pieces of art for decoration and pictures that we cherish. God can indeed use images to communicate divine truths. Moreover, it is even acceptable to honor Christians from the past by acknowledging their faith and following their moral example (Hebrews 11). However, building statues with the intent of bowing before them and offering prayer or adoration to entities other than God Himself transcends honor. Such behavior is idolatry.
  • Does The Creation Of The Bronze Serpent Support Bowing Before Statues In Worship (Numbers 21:6-9)?:
          -God commanded Moses to make the Bronze Serpent for a one time purpose (John 3:14-16). However, the Israelites converted it into an object of worship. It ended up getting destroyed by King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:3-4). There is no scriptural evidence that the Bronze Serpent was ever supposed to be used as an aid in worship.
  • Does The Creation Of The Two Cherubs Support Bowing Before Statues In Worship (Exodus 25:18)?:
          -God commanded the making of two golden cherubs, but the Jews were not called to bow down before them or serve them.
  • Does The Creation Of The Ark Of The Covenant Support Bowing Before Statues In Worship (Joshua 7:6-7)?:
          -God ordered the Israelites to make the ark so that He could dwell in their presence and meet with the leaders (Exodus 25:8; 22). But why does the ark have two images of angels (Exodus 25:18-21)? It has them because it is a replica of God's throne in heaven (Isaiah 6:1-2). This is further evidenced by the fact that the ark of the covenant also served as a footstool for the "feet" of the Lord (1 Chronicles 28:2). Unlike the ark, the images used in Roman Catholic veneration represent alleged saints.

1 comment:

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

The correct link for my previous comment is: