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IMAGE WORSHIP FORBIDDEN BY GOD IN BIBLE?

Many religions use images in worship. They say they do not pray to the images which they add neither see or hear them. They say that when you touch a sacred image as an act of veneration the veneration is not intended for the image but for the person or saint who is depicted. It is presumed that the person depicted really knows about the honour and receives it.
 
The Ten Commandments teach the evil notion that we must be motivated to help others for God's sake and not their own.
 
The first commandment says God is the Lord and there must be no other god worshipped besides him. The commandment does not say there are no other gods. It says only that no other god must be worshipped.
 
The second commandment says that the people must not bow down before images.
 
It is said that this commandment is not a ban on worshipping other gods because the first commandment already dealt with that. 
 
In fact the commandment does not mention worshipping other gods.
 
It is merely saying that images must not be used in the worship of God. It forbids the religious honouring of relics and images. The images, as understood by the commandment, are not worshipped as God but used to help people worship God. The commandment is not merely a ban on idolatry. It does ban idolatry but it also bans the non-idolatrous use of images in religious worship.
 
It is said that the pagans used images to trick their gods into giving them favours. But not all did that. The majority believed that the god freely helped anybody who used an image to worship him. There is no reason to say that the commandment only forbids the use of images when it is hoped to use them to manipulate God or supernatural beings.
 
The commandment talks about not what to worship but how to worship. It condemns the Catholic form of image veneration that honours images not as living beings but as representations of the saints and Jesus. The honour is not given to the image but to the person the image stands for.

Is the Bible against using images to help you to worship in the Catholic sense?

The Bible says that we are forbidden to bow down before images of anything in Heaven or earth or to worship them or serve them for God is jealous (Exodus 20:2-6). Anything in Heaven includes himself and the angels and the saints. He did not merely mean, ďYou shall not make images of other godsĒ. If he had, we would be finding the word god or gods in it which is vitally important for interpreting the passage right if that is what its import is. God said anything, so even images of the sun or moon were forbidden. The gods of the pagans were not very powerful. They fought with man and they fought with one another and they didn't always use their godlike powers effectively or sensibly. They were more like saints than gods. God refused to tolerate even those who said, "Such and such is a nice god. We can use her like a saint. We can use her as a way of praying to God. When we pray to a saint it is really a way of honouring the presence of God in the saint. It is a way of praying to God who wants to be honoured in his creatures." That is how the Catholic reasons and answers those who say that praying to saints takes away from praying to and honouring God. If we are Catholic and we call our saints gods does it make any difference? Its just a word. We notice too that God forbids the images to be used in worship of beings that do exist in Heaven or earth. How much more will he forbid the images of beings that do not exist! He speaks almost as if he feared the people wanted to use images of saints and angels that were in Heaven!
 
Exodus says first you shall not make the images and then that you shall not bow down before them and serve them. This is significant. The ban on making images is separate from the ban on bowing down before them and serving them. Then do not think he only bans images that are made for serving and bowing down before. He says you shall not make images of other gods. He doesnít say do not make other gods which he would have said had the Catholic interpretation been right that he didnít forbid images but only images that were treated as gods. Jews could have adopted pagan idols and images of the sun and moon but imposed a new interpretation on them. They could have used them as symbols of God. This is forbidden too as reading the commandment can show. When that is banned all images to be used in worship are banned.
 
God didnít say what he meant by bowing down so we should take him to mean just bowing down. Catholics say bowing down meant to give them the worship due only to God. Catholics believe in other types of bowing down in worship such as that before saints. They consider that acceptable. So worship and bowing down are made very vague by them. God didnít make Catholic distinctions and they should not be read back into the Bible. Bowing down meant any kind of worship or reverence whatsoever. End of.
 
Later we read that God had images of angels put on the Ark of the Covenant. God did not forbid images but only images for worship or religious images.  The images on the ark were images of angels but were not religious images. They were for decoration and not to be given any religious significance just like a picture of Jesus in a Bible printed by anti-image Protestants. And the ark was rarely seen and was kept covered which shows that God considered revealing such images to be dangerous.
 
God told us not to lift up our eyes to the sun and the moon in adoration and did not tell us not to look at them. So when these beautiful things which are treated as idols by many may be looked at it shows that he was not against all images.

It is very important to notice that the majority of the attacks on idolatry in the Bible never speak in terms of an image taking the place of God who is shut out entirely. Most scholars agree that it is most plausible that when Israel adored the golden calf that it was regarded an image of Yahweh that represented him but was not Yahweh or indwelt by him in any significant sense. They had seen too much of their God and his power and owed him too much to dare abandon him altogether. Even Aaron had a large part to play in setting up the worship of the calf and he told them that it was the God who delivered them from Egypt meaning it was the one that did all the miracles and was meant to picture the true God. The severity with which God treated Israel for their sin shows that he regards this as an intolerable sin. If God could not stomach an image of himself then how could he stomach the image of a saint which would be worse? If they thought the calf was a god below God then God was still supreme and the ultimate focus of worship but perhaps they wanted to approach him through other gods and believe that these gods were his subjects for there is no reason to think they thought that evil gods could be worshippable so they would have considered them to be nice gods for Yahweh was good. This automatically condemns Catholic saint-worship for the gods would, like the saints, have no power of their own but just have Godís power meaning God was still in control of everything. Israel was adoring God by using the calf to represent him the same way that Catholics use statues of the Sacred Heart to adore Jesus. Godís reaction to their calf worship proves that Catholic worship is not Christian.
 
Dave Armstrong states that the Israelites asked Aaron to make them gods and they knew you cannot make a God like God. The worship of the calf was about them wanting to control what they worship and so it was not a mere representation of God. The people bowed before what they said were the gods who brought them up out of Egypt. Psalm 106:19,21 states that they forgot God at that point. But we must remember that the people were trying to turn the worship of the God who saved them from Egypt into the worship of statues and divide him up into many gods. They were not merely inventing gods but trying to use the rescue from Egypt as proof that these gods were real.

God said that no image of God should be made and explained that that was why nobody was ever shown a likeness when he appeared. This indicates that they were most likely to create idols based on him rather than actually adore other Gods.

God was supposed to be everywhere and so to honour an image that he is inside for he is there is condemned. How much worse would it be to honour a saintís image when the saint is in Heaven and not in a statue? How much worse it would be to honour an image of God as representing him ignoring the fact that he is present inside the image. The Catholic Church then practices the form of idolatry that offends the Bible God the most.

It would be worse to honour a statue of a saint which is also to honour the saint than it would be to honour a statue of God for the latter activity is closer to approaching God.

Images of God and by implication of the rest are banned in Deuteronomy 4:15, 16 by Moses Godís mouthpiece. He does not say if he forbids the notion of statues becoming God, being tabernacles of God or simply things that represent God which are used to help you worship him. This lack of specification is important for it proves that he was opposed to all three approaches. The Catholic practice is idolatry for God states that he ignores worship that is given to him through a statue. He makes it idolatry by not accepting it.

Catholics say that it is easy to forget that God was complaining about worshipping the statues as statues.

It is certain that nobody would worship an image just because it is an image so it is simplistic to think that it is this that is forbidden. The condemnation was written against real concerns.

To honour the statue believing that God is inside it would not be idolatry as long as you focused on God, who is everywhere, being within it and used the image to help you be conscious of that. (The Hebrews honoured God in nature and in themselves.) But when God rejected this worship it implies he would reject the theory: ďIt is God that is meant to be worshipped therefore he would accept it. The error is not in who the worship is given or why to but in how it is given.Ē

If the statue was thought to have become God what then? Some would say that then they would not be honouring the image but the person of God that has taken the imageís place. But if God is not the statue then you are practicing extreme idolatry unless these people think that intending the worship for God is enough for God to get it which would be tantamount to denying that idolatry is possible.

The nearest one can get to adoring the statue as a statue is by treating it as that through which the god is honoured. To teach that the statue houses the god or the god is turned into the statue is further away from worshipping the statue as a statue than the theory that it is simply a representation of the god is. Worshipping the representation is so close to worshipping nothing that it might be called worshipping the statue for it is as close as you can get to adoring a piece of metal or wood or stone. That must be what is being condemned in Deuteronomy.

But those who use images in worship believing that the worship pleases God are indeed honouring the image. They are treating it well even if it is not for its own sake. The ban on idolatry forbids the Catholic practice of venerating images.

When the Bible never authorises image worship before Isaiah 42:8 which has God saying that he will not give his glory to anybody else or his praise to graven images the verse can only be taken literally. It means that God will not allow images to be used in the worship of himself. To honour a statue of Jesus is to give it some of the glory that God gets. Take the ban literally. That is the principle of proper interpretation. These images would be used to worship God with so he is saying he will not be worshipped through them.

Idolatry would not exist if sincere worship of an image went to God because it was meant for him or would be if the person knew any better. Condemning idolatry is saying that sincerity is not enough with God. This alone condemns Catholicism for having a Word of God and a Man-God that make this mistake.
 
The Catholic Church reads in the Gospel of John chapter 2 how Jesus went berserk in the Temple. Jesus made a whip and put the sellers all out. He told those who were selling doves to get out for they were making a market place of his father's house. Nothing at all in the episode indicates that these people were doing anything dishonest. Jesus doesn't accuse them of that. He accuses them of making a holy place a marketplace. To me the episode proves that Catholic shrines with their bookstalls and shops full of tacky religious souvenirs and Catholic priests getting a salary out of religion, indeed any kind of paid ministry that calls itself Christian, is actually so enraging and disgusting to Jesus that it would make him resort to violence. The Church makes money out of shrines that are based around religious images such as the Turin Shroud and the Tilma of Guadalupe. If men selling in the Temple enraged Jesus so much, how much more would images enrage him? Jesus when he spoke of the Temple being God's house was referring to a room in which there was absolutely nothing. This room was believed to house the invisible God and its emptiness spoke of the inadequacy and vulgarity of religious images.
 
If there is no problem with images, why is it that the Church can't venerate statues of Jesus with an erection? Even old people with no libido wouldn't be allowed to do it. If the Church really believes sex is good and that Jesus as a man would have had involuntary erections then there should be no problem with old people venerating the statues!
 
OBJECTIONS TO CATHOLIC IDOLATRY CONSIDERED

Catholics are definitely idolaters. Catholics say that we have got them all wrong for images were venerated in the Old Testament.
 
THE FAITH OF OUR FATHERS, James Cardinal Gibbons, Forty Ninth Edition, John Murphy and Co Publishers, Baltimore, London, New York, 1897 (TAN Books keep this book in print) says something interesting. It says that Catholics are not idolaters because Catholics believe that there is no virtue or divinity in the images they venerate but that the images only picture the saints and Christ (page 235). They have the nerve to boast about that and then turn around and worship the communion wafer which they do believe there is virtue and divinity in. Moreover, they believe that because Jesus is everywhere and so is Mary they are indeed inside their images and pictures.
 
God told Moses to have statues of angels put on top of the Ark of the Covenant. Catholics say, ďThe ark was a symbol of Godís presence and the people prayed towards it and honoured it. In principle, God sees nothing wrong with the Catholic practice of honouring images. Even if there had been no statues on it their venerating the box would prove image-veneration to be lawfulĒ. But the ark was not seen by the people and may have been covered up when it was taken out of the Tabernacle. Catholics answer, ď But they knew it was there with its angels on it and venerated it. They saw it in their minds and venerated this picture. It said that the people prayed in the direction of the ark.Ē The ark was regarded like a throne of God. It was not the ark but who used it as a throne that was the focus of the devotion. The ark was not a representation of God but a throne. God was believed to be invisibly present between the angels in a special way. It was this presence that was worshipped not the ark. The ark far from detracting from the idea an invisible imageless God in fact supported it.  The focus was the invisible God and his invisibility was stressed by it.
 
To honour something that God is enthroned upon is not to say that images should be honoured as temples of God for God is enthroned everywhere and not just on the ark. The ark seems to be a reminder to the people that God though everywhere was enthroned among them. Wrong. It was the invisibility above it that was the reminder.
 
Suppose the ark really was a reminder of God in the Catholic sense that a statue would be, the ark business would be an exception to the law against images and would imply that it is not right to hold that God has made something his throne or tabernacle unless he has said so. The ark might have been an authorised idol for God explicitly commanded Moses to have it made. If it was then by what authority do Catholics worship statues of Mary and St Teresa and venerate the Turin Shroud? There is no explicit divine command to venerate these things. There is no explicit divine command to even make them never mind venerate them.
 
The notion that God forbids images as idolatrous and then allows exceptions makes God contradict himself. If idolatry is wrong it is always wrong. If you assume God is consistent, then you must assume that the ark was not honoured or an authorised idol but the presence above it was the focus which is by no means the same as adoring an idol thinking God is inside it for with the ark you had to forget about the ark and think of who was upon it. God appeared on a throne in the Bible. The ark was another of his thrones.

The Jews not being allowed to touch the ark would imply that they were not pure enough to go near God. It was God not the ark they respected.

The fact that images of angels were made despite Godís rigid ban on anything that could attract the people to idolatry shows that angels were not objects of worship. God was confident that though Israel liked the notion of honouring other gods it did not like the thought of venerating angels. There was no chance of it turning angels into Gods.
 
God refused to take the form of anything the people could make an idol of when he appeared to them on Mount Sinai. He did not even take the form of an angel which indicates that angel worship is forbidden. The veneration of angels, and therefore saints, as in the Catholic Church is condemned. Just as God said it as serious sin to adore gods who were not gods so the Church of Rome has saints that are not saints.  It has relics which are not true relics. Pius VII confirmed that the relics of St Francis were real though they were duds (page 369, Handbook to the Controversy with Rome, Vol 2)

The bit in the Bible where those who looked at a bronze serpent were cured does not establish the veneration of images as lawful for the snake was no more venerated than a sunset one looks at to lift oneís mind.

Solomon put images of angels in his temple but that is not to say that they were venerated. God did not say he approved of what Solomon did. He sometimes didnít bother correcting him and does he bother correcting any of us?

Catholics argue that when God became Jesus he made image worship right. Then God let people worship him in and before his body. But bowing before an image is not bowing before God but what represents him while Jesus was God according to Catholic dogma. The situations are different. Jesus had to have a physical form. Perhaps Jesus gave all who saw him the grace to focus on God and not God as represented in the body of Jesus. There is no evidence that Jesus claimed to be God so he cannot be used as an excuse for idolatry. When God would not appear in any form that could be made into an image though the form would be God he would not appear in the person of Jesus. If the New Testament says Jesus was God and agrees with the Old Testament then it follows that Jesus was symbolically God for he was so like him and was the one we have to get to know to see what God is like.
 
If Jesus was able to change the Jewish law he had to be explicit that he was doing so. Laws have to be changed by the book. He never said he allowed image worship.

The Catholic Church is a pagan religion. It worships false Gods for the Bible says that worshipping or venerating even images of the true God is to adore other Gods. God speaks of himself as being jealous and that he will punish idolatry with the most severe sentences possible. Catholicism then is a dangerous religion. There is no Bible authority at all for Catholic image veneration. The arguments here were all given to the Church leadership when it was declared by the iconoclasts in the first millennium that image worship was idolatry but because the people mostly wanted their idols and saints the Church ignored the arguments and put popularity first. Nobody argued, incidentally in those days, that since the papacy approved of images that it must be right which is interesting. It shows that the papacy today as the head of the Church and the supreme earthly teacher of the Church was a subsequent invention of the Church.
 
The Catholic Church has many allegedly miraculous images and has the Turin Shroud. Apparitions of Mary for example encourage images and want basilicas set up around images of the apparition. According to scripture these things are the work of the Devil.
 
The Church fails miserably in showing that statue or image veneration is permitted by God.
 
When Critics Ask, Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, Victor Books, Illinois ,1992 demonstrates how Catholic use of images in worship is against the Bible.
 
The book lays out a table - see page 84 and I have used the table in making the following list and have made clarifications.

FORBIDDEN Images as objects of worship are forbidden

PERMITTED Images that are not objects of worship

FORBIDDEN Images appointed and set up by man, eg images of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and statues of Mary

PERMITTED Images directly and explicitly commanded by God. Roman Catholicism has accounts of apparitions of Jesus and Mary that commanded the use of images. This is the same thing as men not God authorising the images because the Church holds that revelation ceased two thousands years ago. The apparitions only look back to that revelation and can't add to it. They are only reminders and that is why you are allowed to disbelieve all apparitions if you so choose. So the apparitions don't have any authority of their own.

FORBIDDEN Images for religious purposes for flowers to be put before them, for them to be carried in procession, for them to be bowed before. If you really honour say a saint, you will not be bowing before the image but trying to stir up a likeness to the saint in your heart. For example, instead of looking at a statue of St Zita the saint of housekeepers, try and be a Zita and honour her like that.

PERMITTED Images for the purpose of education including religious education

FORBIDDEN To represent what God is like, nothing can adequately capture God. God must be seen inside yourself and you must sense his goodness working in you rather than looking at and bowing before a representation of him. Seeing God's love and goodness working in you is the only way you should be interested in seeing God and picturing God. Even that can lead to idolatry for God is so much bigger than our ideas of goodness. But in that sense it is a necessary evil. Using images then would be an unnecessary evil - an act of disobedience to God and an act of idolatry.

PERMITTED To express the truth, no image of God was ever permitted or used with God's permission in the Bible

FORBIDDEN Used without restrictions or qualifications - eg despite the universal tendency for us to prefer to invent our own gods and have idols the Church provides holy statues for simple people and superstitious people without restriction or caution. These people will easily treat the image as if it were divine or a god or a saint. You can be an idolater without even realising it.

PERMITTED Severe restrictions in the use of images to avoid the risk of idolatry -eg how the cherubim on the ark of the covenant were rarely seen. The ark was kept out of view. The cherubim on the ark were never prayed to for the people prayed to God not angels or saints. They did not represent beings to be prayed to.

We conclude that the use of images in worship is a sin according to the Bible. The Bible wants you to look for prompts from God in your heart that invite you to and incline you to do good instead of honouring images and carrying them in procession.