Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Debunking the False Notion of Idolatry in the Catholic Church

This would be the fourth installment of our Q&A series to prove the catholicity of the Sacred Scripture by examining the purported anti-catholic passages on it.

The question now is about the sacred images used by Catholics on our church buildings as well as in our homes, offices, etc.
If the Bible is a Catholic book...  
Why does it condemn the making and adoration of images? (Ex. 20:4-5).
MY REPLY: Again, to set facts straight, we do not adore images. Adoration is for God, the most holy Trinity, alone. Please watch carefully on the terms you are using.

Going back to the topic, as usual, anti-Catholics are fond of accusing us of idolatry using these verses:
Exodus 20:4-5 NRSVCE 
You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me,
By distorting these passages as well as other Old Testament accounts detailing idols (Deut. 5:7-9; Lev. 19:4; Is. 44:9-11 among others), they do not hesitate to conclude that Catholics who have statues of the Lord, his Saints and Angels, are guilty of idolatry. "All images are idols" becomes their general proposition. Much more than that, they proudly proclaim that mere possession of images is a perfect sign of disobedience to God's commandment against idols.

For the record, the Church condemns any form of Idolatry...

There are a great many kinds of sins. Scripture provides several lists of them. The Letter to the Galatians contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit: "Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, IDOLATRY, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God." 
The divine injunction included the prohibition of every representation of God by the hand of man. Deuteronomy explains: "Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a graven image for yourselves, in the form of any figure. . . . " It is the absolutely transcendent God who revealed himself to Israel. "He is the all," but at the same time "he is greater than all his works." He is "the author of beauty."
CCC #1852, 2129 (emphasis added)
Anti-catholics fail to understand God's position regarding images on the entirety of the Holy Bible because they often read God's "commandment not to make" but not His "commandment to make"

Kindly compare these passages (I'll use their favorite bible version; KJV):

*God's commandment not to make...
Exodus 20:4 KJV 
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
*God's commandment to make...
Numbers 21:8-9 KJV 
And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.
Take a second closer look... God commanded not to make ANY graven images but he also ordered Moses to make an image of a serpent.

Common anti-catholic propaganda against sacred images

Now, is it a contradiction? Certainly NOT! If we were to believe that all images are prohibited by God, we would definitely face a serious dichotomy here--a quagmire which would nullify the attribute of God being the ultimate source of truth. But we all know that He will never fool his people nor lie to them. It's just that we need to consider a bigger picture of the events so as to comprehend the idea behind.

God himself ordered his people to put sacred images...

...on His temple / sanctuary
1 Kings 6:23-28 NRSVCE 
In the inner sanctuary he made two cherubim of olivewood, each ten cubits high. Five cubits was the length of one wing of the cherub, and five cubits the length of the other wing of the cherub; it was ten cubits from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other. The other cherub also measured ten cubits; both cherubim had the same measure and the same form. The height of one cherub was ten cubits, and so was that of the other cherub. He put the cherubim in the innermost part of the house; the wings of the cherubim were spread out so that a wing of one was touching the one wall, and a wing of the other cherub was touching the other wall; their other wings toward the center of the house were touching wing to wing. He also overlaid the cherubim with gold. 
2 Chronicles 3:10-13 NRSVCE 
In the most holy place he made two carved cherubim and overlaid them with gold. The wings of the cherubim together extended twenty cubits: one wing of the one, five cubits long, touched the wall of the house, and its other wing, five cubits long, touched the wing of the other cherub; and of this cherub, one wing, five cubits long, touched the wall of the house, and the other wing, also five cubits long, was joined to the wing of the first cherub. The wings of these cherubim extended twenty cubits; the cherubim stood on their feet, facing the nave. 
Exodus 26:1 NRSVCE 
Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains of fine twisted linen, and blue, purple, and crimson yarns; you shall make them with cherubim skillfully worked into them. 
Exodus 26:31 NRSVCE 
You shall make a curtain of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, and of fine twisted linen; it shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it.
Exodus 25:33-36 NRSVCE 
three cups shaped like almond blossoms, each with calyx and petals, on one branch, and three cups shaped like almond blossoms, each with calyx and petals, on the other branch—so for the six branches going out of the lampstand. On the lampstand itself there shall be four cups shaped like almond blossoms, each with its calyxes and petals. There shall be a calyx of one piece with it under the first pair of branches, a calyx of one piece with it under the next pair of branches, and a calyx of one piece with it under the last pair of branches—so for the six branches that go out of the lampstand. Their calyxes and their branches shall be of one piece with it, the whole of it one hammered piece of pure gold. 
Exodus 39:14 NRSVCE 
There were twelve stones with names corresponding to the names of the sons of Israel; they were like signets, each engraved with its name, for the twelve tribes. 
1 Kings 6:18 NRSVCE 
The cedar within the house had carvings of gourds and open flowers; all was cedar, no stone was seen. 
1 Kings 6:29 NRSVCE 
He carved the walls of the house all around about with carved engravings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers, in the inner and outer rooms. 
1 Kings 6:32 NRSVCE

He covered the two doors of olivewood with carvings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers; he overlaid them with gold, and spread gold on the cherubim and on the palm trees. 
1 Kings 7:18-20 NRSVCE

He made the columns with two rows around each latticework to cover the capitals that were above the pomegranates; he did the same with the other capital. Now the capitals that were on the tops of the pillars in the vestibule were of lily-work, four cubits high. The capitals were on the two pillars and also above the rounded projection that was beside the latticework; there were two hundred pomegranates in rows all around; and so with the other capital. 
1 Kings 7:22 NRSVCE 
On the tops of the pillars was lily-work. Thus the work of the pillars was finished. 
1 Kings 7:25 NRSVCE 
It stood on twelve oxen, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south, and three facing east; the sea was set on them. The hindquarters of each were toward the inside. 
1 Kings 7:26 NRSVCE

Its thickness was a handbreadth; its brim was made like the brim of a cup, like the flower of a lily; it held two thousand baths. 
1 Kings 7:29 NRSVCE 
on the borders that were set in the frames were lions, oxen, and cherubim. On the frames, both above and below the lions and oxen, there were wreaths of beveled work. 
1 Kings 7:30 NRSVCE 
Each stand had four bronze wheels and axles of bronze; at the four corners were supports for a basin. The supports were cast with wreaths at the side of each. 
2 Chronicles 3:5 NRSVCE 
The nave he lined with cypress, covered it with fine gold, and made palms and chains on it. 
Ezekiel 41:18-20 NRSVCE
It was formed of cherubim and palm trees, a palm tree between cherub and cherub. Each cherub had two faces: a human face turned toward the palm tree on the one side, and the face of a young lion turned toward the palm tree on the other side. They were carved on the whole temple all around; from the floor to the area above the door, cherubim and palm trees were carved on the wall.
...on the garments of His priests
Exodus 28:33-34 NRSVCE 
On its lower hem you shall make pomegranates of blue, purple, and crimson yarns, all around the lower hem, with bells of gold between them all around—a golden bell and a pomegranate alternating all around the lower hem of the robe. 
Exodus 39: 15 NRSVCE 
They made on the breastpiece chains of pure gold, twisted like cords;
...on the Ark of the Covenant
Exodus 25:10-22 NRSVCE 
They shall make an ark of acacia wood; it shall be two and a half cubits long, a cubit and a half wide, and a cubit and a half high. You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside you shall overlay it, and you shall make a molding of gold upon it all around. You shall cast four rings of gold for it and put them on its four feet, two rings on the one side of it, and two rings on the other side. You shall make poles of acacia wood, and overlay them with gold. And you shall put the poles into the rings on the sides of the ark, by which to carry the ark. The poles shall remain in the rings of the ark; they shall not be taken from it. You shall put into the ark the covenant that I shall give you. 
Then you shall make a mercy seat of pure gold; two cubits and a half shall be its length, and a cubit and a half its width. You shall make two cherubim of gold; you shall make them of hammered work, at the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub at the one end, and one cherub at the other; of one piece with the mercy seat you shall make the cherubim at its two ends. The cherubim shall spread out their wings above, overshadowing the mercy seat with their wings. They shall face one to another; the faces of the cherubim shall be turned toward the mercy seat. You shall put the mercy seat on the top of the ark; and in the ark you shall put the covenant that I shall give you. There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the covenant, I will deliver to you all my commands for the Israelites.
...to heal the sick
Numbers 21:8-9 NRSVCE 
And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.” So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.
Clearly, the prohibition to make images is not absolute at all. It extends only to those images used as object of worship (e.g. idols) but not to those used properly in the service of the one true God. And this is also the reason why God eventually banned the said bronze serpent when Israelites worshipped it as a god (cf. 2 Kings 18:4)
1 Corinthians 8:4 RSV
Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.”
Lord Jesus, his Saints and Angels are proven to have real existence (unless you doubt it) therefore they cannot be called as idols. On the other hand, Zeus, Athena, Hermes, Vishnu, Shiva et al have no real existence at all. Besides, not all so-called idols are tangible, there are also intangible / abstract idols...
1 Samuel 15:23 NRSVCE 
For rebellion is no less a sin than divination, and stubbornness is like iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.” 
Wisdom 14:12 NRSVCE 
For the idea of making idols was the beginning of fornication, and the invention of them was the corruption of life; 
Colossians 3:5 NRSVCE 
Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).
Considering the presented passages above, the Bible clearly leans on the belief of the Church regarding the sacred and profane images. Profane images (of idols) are prohibited but not the sacred ones.

Meanwhile, the Church generally defines IDOLATRY as "a perversion of man’s innate religious sense" (CCC 2114) while "an idolater is someone who ‘transfers his indestructible notion of God to anything other than God" (Ibid.).

Finally, She gives us further understanding on the commandment against other gods...
What does God prohibit by his command, “You shall not have other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2)? 
This commandment forbids: 
Polytheism and idolatry, which divinizes creatures, power, money, or even demons. 
Superstition which is a departure from the worship due to the true God and which also expresses itself in various forms of divination, magic, sorcery and spiritism. 
Irreligion which is evidenced: in tempting God by word or deed; in sacrilege, which profanes sacred persons or sacred things, above all the Eucharist; and in simony, which involves the buying or selling of spiritual things. 
Atheism which rejects the existence of God, founded often on a false conception of human autonomy. 
Agnosticism which affirms that nothing can be known about God, and involves indifferentism and practical atheism.
#445, Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
...and the correct understanding of the issue on "graven images"
Does the commandment of God, “You shall not make for yourself a graven image” (Exodus 20:3), forbid the cult of images?

In the Old Testament this commandment forbade any representation of God who is absolutely transcendent. The Christian veneration of sacred images, however, is justified by the incarnation of the Son of God (as taught by the Second Council of Nicea in 787AD) because such veneration is founded on the mystery of the Son of God made man, in whom the transcendent God is made visible. This does not mean the adoration of an image, but rather the veneration of the one who is represented in it: for example, Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Angels and the Saints. 
#446, Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church

CONCLUSION: The Bible allows the making of images provided that they are not used as objects of worship [e.g.idolatry] as the Church teaches, ergo it is a Catholic book!  :)

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