Idol Worship


Q. On my vacation in Italy, I saw Catholics worship statues with my own eyes. How can they violate Exodus 20:4-5 and still consider themselves any sort of Christian?

A. Let me explain. But first let me assure you that what you saw was not idolatry or the worship of statues. The Catholic Church condemns idolatry. What you saw in Italy you may see in any Catholic Church all over the world. We have artwork in our churches of Jesus, Mary, and Saints. Because we believe as St. Paul tells us, that all believers, on Earth or in Heaven, are a part of the body of Christ we ask our brothers and sisters in the Faith to pray for us.

For this purpose, especially in the large churches where there will be side altars lining the walls of the nave, we set up a place to kneel in prayer and light a candle before a statue or picture of Mary or another Saint. This is purely for intercessory prayer and not for worship of any kind.

The statues and artwork depicting Saints are visual reminders of our beloved brothers and sisters who lived and died victoriously in Christ. Also, because for most of the history of Christianity, most people could not read, art work of various stories in Scripture and of the lives of Saints was used as a teaching tool and an aid to Faith.

Because Protestants do not commune with their faithful who have died in Christ they are unable to correctly interpret what they are seeing when they see people kneeling down in front of a picture or statue. We all have pictures of loved ones in our homes, or in our wallets. Our Churches are our Houses of Faith and we place family pictures and statues there to help us remember them and ask them for their prayers.

Exodus 20:4-5“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,

This verse, one of the Ten Commandments, could be read as prohibiting the making of any statue or picture of anything in heaven or earth. And some Christian sects have done exactly that…no photography, no stuffed animals, etc. But Scripture does not support this interpretation.

In Exodus God directed Moses about how to build and decorate the Tabernacle of God and in the very Holy of Holies he had Moses place hammered gold angles.

Exodus 25:18-19 And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. 19 Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends.

God commanded that an image of a snake be made for healing the Israelites.

Numbers 21:8 The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.”

And Temple of God in the Old Testament made use of all kinds of carved images and artwork. (I Kings 6-7)

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