Have you ever had one of those weeks? You know, when everything seems to go wrong and the further you go the behinder you get! Well, I have had two. Have you seen the commercial with the fellow typing at the computer? The one where he is trying to input data and he keeps getting an ERROR message. Then he takes his computer and throws it out the window. The punch line is an ad for Chevy cars. Well, that is what I experienced this week. In the last two weeks my computer CRASHED three times. Each time it took hours to re‐install all my programs and get the data recovered. All this happened among a dozen other obligations. As a person of detail, I wanted to know WHY my system was always crashing? I have the latest virus software and program updates. To make a long story short, I found out that it was my RAM memory. I had added some standard EDO memory to the EDO memory that came on the computer. After trial and error and the process of elimination I concluded that with the original memory installed my computer would not accept the new memory. So out with the old and in with the new! Now after two weeks of frustration I have a computer that operates just fine. Sometimes people are like my computer. Mixing old memory with new memory and getting nothing accomplished. It is important to remember the old things and times. Remember our roots and the suffering of those gone before. But build new memories each new day. To repeat the old, the old sufferings and all, is not accomplishing anything but frustration. My Irish ancestors left a land of suffering and came to America, a land of hope and a future with promise. It is my memory of them that gives me strength. It is my journey of hope, not repeating the past that honors their sacrifices. This week in America we remember the workers and their labor of the season. Labor Day to some is another holiday, the end of summer, or just some free time. I like to think of it as a time to remember the struggles of the past in a hope for the future. The harvest is here and the winter is coming. The rewards of a season are upon us. Remember, but look forward. Look forward to a new season and the rewards it promises. If we build on the foundation today, there is hope for the future. EEHealy Original Article from September 2000 Abiding Word The Abiding Word www.TheAbidingWord.com
"THE EPISTLE TO TITUS" Those Who Resist Authority (1:10-16)
INTRODUCTION 1. In his epistle to Titus, Paul's first order of business was to... a. Remind Titus why he was left on the island of Crete - Tit 1:5 b. Provide the qualifications needed for the appointment of elders - Tit 1:6-9 2. The need for such elders is described in the rest of the first chapter... a. Because of those described as insubordinate - Tit 1:10 b. Who were negatively impacting the churches on Crete - Tit 1:11 3. What does it mean to be an insubordinate...? a. Insubordinate: one who does not submit to authority, mutinous b. Insubordination is therefore disobedience and resistance to authority 4. In the setting of our text, that would mean the authority of the apostles of Christ... b. In whose teachings the early church continued steadfastly - e.g.,Ac 2:42 c. Whose teachings were to be considered on par with the Lord's - cf. 1Co 14:37; 1Th 2:13 [Insubordination can be a problem in churches today, so we do well to carefully consider text of our study (Tit 1:10-16). First, notice what is revealed concerning...] I. THE CHARACTER OF INSUBORDINATES A. IN THE CHURCHES OF CRETE... 1. They were idle talkers and deceivers - Tit 1:10 a. "More given to talk than practical religion" - Barnes b. Not honest, seeking to deceive others c. Such conduct had permeated the character of those living on Crete - Tit 1:12-13a d. It was also true of those among the circumcision (Judaizers who sought to bind the Law on Gentiles - cf. Ac 15:1) 2. Their minds and consciences were defiled - Tit 1:15 a. A natural consequence of deceiving others b. Their minds and consciences have become corrupted c. Notice Paul's description of such people in 1Ti 6:3-5 3. They had become abominable and disobedient - Tit 1:16 a. Abominable: detestable to God b. Disobedient: unwilling to be persuaded and obey c. Guilty of six things that are an abomination to God - cf.Pr 6:16-19 4. They were disqualified for every good work - Tit 1:16 a. Disqualified: literally, reprobate, worthless b. Of no real value to God, who has created us to walk in good works - cf. Ep 2:10 B. IN CHURCHES TODAY... 1. Those who resist the authority of the Word are more likely to be given to talk than doing 2. We should beware of those prone to be talkers and not doers 3. They not only deceive others, but themselves as well - cf. Ja 1:22-26 4. Following them will make our religion useless - ibid. [Resisting the authority of God's Word is a serious offense. It is also has the potential of great harm...] II. THE HARM OF INSUBORDINATES A. IN THE CHURCHES OF CRETE... 1. They were subverting whole households - Tit 1:11 a. Turning them away from the faith b. Not just one member, but entire families! 2. They were teaching things they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain - Tit 1:11 a. Motivated more by popularity and monetary gain b. Willing therefore to teach things that were not true B. IN CHURCHES TODAY... 1. Insubordinates are also motivated by such things as popularity and monetary gain 2. Who will teach what others want to hear, rather than the Word of God 3. Whose influence will not stop with just one or two, but impact entire families! [Where insubordinates exist, how should they be treated...?] III. THE TREATMENT OF INSUBORDINATES A. IN THE CHURCHES OF CRETE... 1. Their mouths were to be stopped - Tit 1:11 a. It means, properly, to check, or curb, as with a bridle; to restrain, or bridle in; and then, to put to silence - Barnes b. It is, of course, implied here that this was to be done in a proper way, and in accordance with the spirit of the gospel - ibid. 2. They were to be rebuked sharply - Tit 1:13 a. The reproof should be such as would be understood, and would show them plainly the wickedness of such traits of character - Barnes b. He was not to be mealy-mouthed, but he was to call things by their right names, and not to spare their faults - ibid. 3. With the goal of helping them to be sound in the faith - Tit 1:13 a. Confronting error has the objective of saving the one in error b. Not just stopping the spread of error - cf. 2Ti 2:24-25 4. This was the duty, not just of Titus, but of the elders - cf. Tit 1:9 B. IN CHURCHES TODAY... 1. We must take insubordination seriously 2. We must stop the spread of false teaching by addressing it plainly 3. We must have in view the salvation of those guilty of insubordination and error 4. This is the duty of both evangelists and elders 5. If the insubordinate fails to repent, then withdrawal is the final option a. As Paul commanded the church in Rome - Ro 16:17-18 b. As he commanded the church in Thessalonica - cf. 2Th 3:6, 14-15 CONCLUSION 1. We have seen that those who resist the authority of God's Word... a. Hurt themselves by corrupting their minds and consciences b. Harm those whom they influence through their teaching 2. Insubordinates must be stopped... a. By rebuking them sharply, hoping they will become sound in the faith b. If they do not repent, then we must withdraw ourselves from them Elders and evangelists are especially charged with the responsibility of dealing with insubordinates. But every Christian should be on guard against the harmful influence of those who are disobedient and resistant to the authority of God's Word...
The Bible and Catholic Traditionalism
The American Heritage Dictionary offers several definitions for the word “tradition,” including the following: “The passing down of elements of a culture from generation to generation, especially by oral communication” (2000, p. 1829). Tradition is not inherently evil; in many respects, tradition has positive effects on future generations. However, in the field of Christian theology, tradition must be subjected to the “litmus test” of the inspired Word of God. If we elevate mere human tradition to the level of apostolic tradition recorded in the inspired Scriptures, we may accept any innovation as a product of divine will. Sadly, Catholicism has been at that point for centuries.
The Catechism declares that “[a]s a result the [Catholic—MP] Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, ‘does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equalsentiments of devotion and reverence’” (1994, 82, emp. added). Other Catholic authorities have declared: “It is an article of faith from a decree of the Vatican Council that Tradition is a source of theological teaching distinct from Scripture, and that it is infallible. It is therefore to be received with the same internal assent as Scripture for it is the word of God” (Attwater, 1961, p. 41, emp. added).
Placing tradition on an equal level with Scripture or making it superior to Scripture inevitably undermines of the Bible’s authority and inspiration. Over the hundreds of years of abusing and misusing God’s Word, Catholicism has adopted this deplorable practice. Catholics allege that “[w]hereas much of the teaching of Scripture could not be determined without Tradition, Tradition would suffice without Scripture; it is the safeguard of Scripture” (Attwater, p. 42, emp. added). Moreover, “Catholic theologians maintain that as a source of truth, tradition is superior to Scripture. Scripture is, after all, incomplete; it not only requires interpretation, but it required tradition in order that it might be recognized and established.... Scripture is not a textbook; in a sense, it is a dead word which must be brought to life in the living voice of tradition” (Brantl, 1961, p. 162, emp. added).
In order to prioritize human tradition above biblical revelation, someone first must discredit, undervalue, and disrespect the Bible. Calling the Scripture “a dead word” is a blatant affront to Christ, Who firmly stated that His words, which are recorded in Scripture, “are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63).
The traditions that make up the Catholic Church’s depositum fidei (deposit of faith) include the Apocrypha, the teaching of the “church fathers,” and the records of universal belief of Catholicism (Catechism..., 74-141; Brantl, p. 163). Although Catholics use these sources extensively in defending their dogmas, these writings cannot take the place of biblical inspiration.
The Catholic canon of the Old Testament has 46 books instead of 39. The Council of Trent (1546) recognized as canonical seven books that originally were rejected as part of the Old Testament. These seven, among other apocryphal books, do not bear the signs of divine inspiration, i.e., they lack prophetic authority, harmonization with revealed truth, early Christian acceptance, scriptural confirmation, and/or any direct claim of divine inspiration (see Jackson, 1999; Geisler and Nix, 1968, pp. 264-275; McDowell, 1972, pp. 33-40). As Geisler and Nix noted, “[t]he overwhelming arguments in favor of rejecting the Apocrypha as part of the canon provide convincing evidence that the books are not God-breathed” (p. 270). Therefore, these books should not be considered as the Word of God.
For centuries, the Catholic Church also has treated many of the writings of the “church fathers” as being inspired—even though the fathers never claimed their documents were inspired. Catholic apologists and leaders around the world have promoted these writings by claiming that they prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Catholic tradition is linked to apostolic doctrines. This point of view overlooks the reality of early apostasy. Only Christ’s apostles and New Testament prophets were guided into all truth (John 16:13). Although the “church fathers” made a great effort to maintain the purity of the New Testament, they were not inspired to speak and/or write infallibly. In many cases, their writings reflect ideologies completely foreign to the divine pattern. Jesus warned His disciples of the coming of ungodly men who would deceive, “if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24). Since there is a possibility that even the “church fathers” could have been deceived and believed false teachings (cf. 1 John 4:1), no Bible student should consider their writings as part of the “deposit of faith.” Although the writings of these men are valuable in studies of church history and other disciplines, one should keep in mind that the fathers were fallible men who were subject to error and apostasy (1 Timothy 4:1-3).
Finally, Catholicism alleges that the pope, the universal body of bishops, and the church possess infallibility in matters of faith and morals (see “First Dogmatic...,” 1870, 4.1-9). Therefore, any doctrines they adopt become part of the Catholic “deposit of faith.” But we have seen in another article (Pinedo, 2008) that many of the teachings of the popes, the episcopal councils, and the Catholic Church in general are far from infallible. In many cases, they are self-contradictory.
Man’s tendency to exalt his traditions above the Word of God is nothing new. Jesus Himself had to confront this irreverent spirit so prevalent among the Jewish elite of His day. He accused the Pharisees of transgressing the commandment of God to keep their own traditions (Matthew 15:3-9; Mark 7:6-13)—traditions that transgressed (Matthew 15:3), contradicted (Matthew 15:5-6; Mark 7:11-12), invalidated (Matthew 15:6; Mark 7:9,13), and profaned (Matthew 15:8-9; Mark 7:6-7) the commandments of God. Catholic traditions also transgress, contradict, invalidate, and profane the pure truth of the Word of God (cf. Matthew 15:9).
It is my desire that you, as a student of the Bible, will hear what the Bible says, study what the Bible says, believe what the Bible says, and keep yourself from believing another gospel (Galatians 1:6-10). The traditions of men should not supersede the commandments of God, for only the Word of God endures forever (1 Peter 1:25). Hearing and obeying the Word of God should be our ultimate goal. Jesus said, “[H]e who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24, emp. added). He also added, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48, emp. added).
One day, when we stand before the divine throne to be judged, a Book will be opened. This book will not be the writings of a man, it will not be the traditions of our fathers, nor will it be the book of “human conscience.” The Bible, which has been criticized, mutilated, and altered by many, will be opened. And, when the voices of many other books fall absolutely silent, we will hear the words of the Bible, and God will pronounce His final judgment. We should obey the Gospel of Christ that we may have eternal life in heaven after that judgment (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10).
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (2000), (Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin), fourth edition.
Attwater, Donald, ed. (1961), A Catholic Dictionary (New York: Macmillan).
Brantl, George, ed. (1961), Catholicism (New York: George Braziller).
Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994), (Mahwah, NY: Paulist Press).
“First Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Christ” (1870), First Vatican Council [On-line], URL:http://www.ewtn.com/library/COUNCILS/V1.HTM#6.
Geisler, Norman and William Nix (1968), A General Introduction to the Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody Press).
Jackson, Wayne (1999), “The Apocrypha: Inspired of God?,” [On-line], URL:http://www.christiancourier.com/articles/read/the_apocrypha_inspired_of_god.
McDowell, Josh (1972), Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Campus Crusade for Christ).
Pinedo, Moisés (2008), “Is the Pope ‘Infallible’?,” [On-line], URL:http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3844.
The Bible and Catholic Images [Part II]
[EDITOR'S NOTE: To read Part I of this article, click HERE]
Although the Bible clearly condemns religious iconography, some try to find any hint of biblical support for devotion to man-made images. They have twisted Bible verses to create a shield of protection against the clear teachings of the Word of God, and have formulated different arguments.
THE ALLEGED BIBLICAL BASIS FOR RELIGIOUS ICONOGRAPHY
Argument #1: God commanded images to be made for veneration.
This argument originates from God’s commandment to Moses to make two golden cherubs on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:18-21; cf. O’Brien, 1901, p. 175). The argument is faulty for the following reasons.
First, God commanded that the cherubs be made not as objects of veneration or worship. The cherubs were to sit on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant, but they were no more special than the other objects or furnishings of the tabernacle. Each object in the tabernacle (and later the temple) had special significance and purpose, but none was an object of worship.
Second, the nature and purpose of the Old Testament should be considered. The inspired writer of Hebrews tells us that the first covenant had an “earthly sanctuary” (9:1, emp. added). The tabernacle and its furnishings were models or patterns of the “greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands,” of which Christ is the High Priest (9:11, emp. added; cf. 8:5). The tabernacle and its contents were figures and shadows of heavenly things (9:23; 10:1) and of a new covenant (8:5-6). Now we, “having boldness to enter the Holiest [i.e., the Holy of Holies]” (10:19), having “a High Priest [Jesus] over the house of God” (10:21), are admonished to leave behind the “oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:6) and accept the heavenly conditions of the new covenant established by Christ (Hebrews 8:1-6; 9:11-15).
Third, we should consider the authoritative and prohibitive nature of divine commands. God commanded Moses to make the cherubs (and other objects for the tabernacle) as representations of heavenly things that would be part of the New Covenant after the sacrifice of Christ. True servants of God do not promote, authorize, or offer anything that “He [has] not commanded” (Leviticus 10:1-2). The desires of God’s servants must be subjected to divine authority and divine command. Where is the divine command which authorizes religious iconography? There is not one single biblical text that approves or allows the veneration of images.
Fourth, God’s commands concerning the construction and use of the tabernacle and its contents were made under the Old Testament and were exclusively for the people chosen by God at that time, i.e., the Israelites. Christians no longer follow the Old Testament methodology of worship, since it was taken away when Jesus died, and replaced with a better covenant (Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 10).
The symbols of the Old Covenant, including the cherubs on the Ark of the Covenant, were never objects of worship. Neither Exodus 25:18-21 nor any other Scripture (such as the reference to the bronze serpent in Numbers 21:9; cf. 2 Kings 18:4) authorize religious iconography.
Argument #2: Servants of God bowed before images, indicating divine acceptance of such veneration.
It has been argued that the Bible promotes the veneration of images because Joshua 7:6 says that Joshua and the elders of Israel “bowed down before the Ark, and there were the two images of the cherubs, and nothing happened to them” (Zavala, 2000). Although at first glance this passage may seem to favor religious iconography, consider the following points often overlooked.
First of all, the nature of the Old Testament should be considered again. Under the Old Covenant, God “dwelt” in a special way in the tabernacle (over the Ark), and from there He spoke to the people of Israel (Exodus 25:22; 30:36; Leviticus 16:2). However, under the New Testament, God “does not dwell in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24). If God does not dwell in temples made with human hands, would He dwell in images made with human hands?
Second, it is essential to consider the context of Joshua 7:6. Although some Catholics argue that Joshua and the elders of Israel bowed down to honor and venerate the images of the cherubs that were on the Ark, the context reveals completely different facts. Verse six informs us that Joshua “tore his clothes,” and he and the elders of the people “put dust on their heads.” Tearing one’s garments and covering one’s head with dust or ashes were signs of great sorrow, shame, or penitence (cf. Genesis 37:29,34; 2 Samuel 3:31; 13:30-31; Job 1:20; Lamentations 2:10; et al.). They never were signs of worship. It is certain that Joshua and the elders of Israel did not have the faintest intention of giving honor to or worshipping the Ark of the Covenant or the cherubs on it.
Argument #3: In Bible times, people bowed before servants of God as a sign of veneration.
Second Kings 4:27 records an event in which a woman came to Elisha, a prophet of God, and grabbed his feet. It has been said that this biblical example proves that veneration of people and, by implication, images, is authorized by God. But the truth is that this is one of the most shameful arguments used by some supporters of Catholicism. It is a deliberately dishonest use of the Word of God and a desperate attempt to excuse false doctrine.
First, a straightforward reading of the context reveals that the woman did not grab Elisha’s feet to “venerate” him. Because this woman had been very hospitable to Elisha (2 Kings 4:8-10), he promised her that God would give her a child. Her son was born within the time Elisha promised but died at a very early age (4:20). The woman went to Elisha, grabbed his feet, and demanded an explanation because her soul was “in deep distress” (4:27). Note her words: “Did I ask a son of my lord? Did I not say, ‘Do not deceive me?’” (2 Kings 4:28). If she had been “venerating” Elisha, would she have accused him of deceiving her? Of course not! The woman was grieving, her son had died, and she wanted help. At no time did this poor woman’s grief represent veneration of Elisha.
Second, if 2 Kings 4:27 authorizes the veneration of servants of God (as some Catholic apologists claim), this verse still would not authorize veneration of images. But this verse authorizes veneration of neither men nor images! The Bible clearly condemns bowing before men to venerate or worship them (cf. Acts 10:25-26).
Third, the narrative in 2 Kings 4:27 describes an incidental scene completely separate from any kind of worship. This verse does not imply or authorize—much less command—men to worship servants of God. Those who advocate such, advocate a practice that lacks biblical authority.
Argument #4: In Bible times, people carried images in processions.
It is said that 2 Samuel 6 describes a religious procession in which an icon was carried because “David gathered all the choice men of Israel” (6:1), “set the ark of God on a new cart” (6:3), and everybody “played music before the Lord” (6:5). Consider the following points.
Modern-day Catholic processions are characterized by a large number of people carrying images on a special day. Although the situation recorded in 2 Samuel 6 may seem similar, the principle is not the same. The Ark of God had been left in Kiriath-Jearim for about four decades, and David wanted to bring it to the capital city of Jerusalem. At no time was it David’s intention to “show off” the Ark of God or to encourage the multitudes to worship it, nor was that day designated as holy. In Jerusalem, the Ark would occupy a special and permanent place in the temple that Solomon (David’s son) would build.
The Ark was never to be worshipped. God never commanded that the Ark, or any other object with religious significance, be carried in religious processions like the ones Catholics perform. There are no similarities between the reasons for which the Ark of the Covenant was brought to Jerusalem and the motivations for religious processions honoring the images of Catholicism, and there is no biblical authority for such processions.
Argument #5: Jesus did not condemn images.
In Mark 12, we read that some Jews tried to trick Jesus with a question about paying taxes to Caesar. Jesus took a Roman coin and asked, “Whose image and inscription is this?” (12:16). Because of this simple question, and because Jesus did not condemn Caesar’s likeness on the coin, some Catholics argue that Jesus authorized veneration of images by indirectly promoting them.
First, the fact that Jesus did not condemn an image does not mean that He approved religious images or their veneration. To argue such on the basis of this incident would imply that Jesus approved veneration of immoral political leaders, not the images of “saints” or Deity (as Catholics claim). Would Jesus approve, or encourage, the veneration of images representing evil Roman emperors such as Tiberius and Nero? Obviously not! God had condemned this from ancient times (cf. Daniel 3).
Second, the context of Mark 12 should be considered. Some Catholic apologists have argued that if God really condemns religious images, this incident in the life of Christ would have been an excellent time to do it (see Gagnon, n.d.). But Jesus’ discussion with the Jews was not on the subject of idolatry. The discussion at hand was based on the question presented to Him by the Jewish religious leaders: “Is it lawful to give tribute [taxes] to Caesar, or not?” (Mark 12:14). The question was not, “Is it lawful to worship images or not?” Jesus’ reply was related directly to their question: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17). Jesus’ answer cannot be applied to a totally unrelated question.
Simply put, there is not one single text, in either the Old or New Testament, that supports (by direct command, example, or implication) the worship of images in order to draw near to God. Those who support this erroneous doctrine have become “futile in their thoughts” and have “changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man” (Romans 1:21-24).
Some Catholic apologists want us to believe that there is nothing wrong with venerating images, but what does the Bible say? Deuteronomy 4:15-19 notes the following:
Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth or the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground or the likeness of any fish that is in the water beneath the earth. And take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which the Lord your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage (emp. added).
The divine warning is very clear: veneration or worship of images is evidence of the corruption of the human heart.
In the next chapter of the same book, God warned: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (5:8). Is this commandment difficult to understand? The Bible continues: “You shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me” (5:9, emp. added). Again, the Bible is clear: the production of images or sculptures for the purpose of religious veneration is iniquity before Jehovah.
Concerning the singularity of God, the prophet Isaiah wrote: “To whom then will you liken God?Or what likeness will you compare to Him?... ‘To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal?’ says the Holy One” (40:18,25). There is no way to compare a man-made object to God, or to make an image that represents His greatness. Those who attempt to do so degrade the person of God.
Jeremiah declared: “Everyone is dull-hearted, without knowledge; every metalsmith is put to shame by the carved image; for his molded image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them” (51:17). The images of worship are simply false gods; they have no life in them. Those who worship images should be ashamed because “their molded images are wind and confusion” (Isaiah 41:29). Jeremiah added: “They [the idols] are futile, a work of errors; in the time of their punishment they shall perish” (51:18).
In an illustrative passage concerning idolatry, Hosea wrote: “Do not rejoice, O Israel, with joy like other peoples, for you have played the harlot against your God. You have made love for hire on every threshing floor” (9:1, emp. added; cf. Hosea 8). The biblical comparison is very clear: idolatry is considered to be spiritual prostitution. It is ironic that many consider physical fornication or prostitution to be detestable activities before God, but they overlook, and even defend, spiritual fornication and prostitution.
Paul declared of those who tried to make representations of God: “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:22-23, emp. added). Any defense of physical representations of Deity is evidence of man’s foolish desire to reduce spiritual things to an earthly level. Concerning these men, Paul added: “Therefore, God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts” (Romans 1:24). Ultimately, such men separate themselves from God by their sinful actions (Isaiah 59:1-2). God will not force them to change their ways, but one day will take vengeance on all those who do not obey Him (2 Thessalonians 1:8). The apostle John wrote, “but the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8, emp. added).
God will condemn those who participate in idolatry. No gods of gold, silver, wood, or stone will be able to intervene on their behalf. There is only One Who can mediate between us and God the Father—“the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). John encouraged the first-century Christians by saying: “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). Twenty-first-century Christians also must heed this warning.
Gagnon, Daniel (no date), “Idols and Images” [“Ídolos e Imágenes”], [On-line], URL:http://www.mercaba.org/Fichas/DIOS/106-3.htm.
O’Brien, Thomas, ed. (1901), An Advanced Catechism of Catholic Faith and Practice (New York: D.H. McBride & Company).
Zavala, Martín (2000), “Images and Idols” [“Imágenes e Ídolos”], [On-line], URL:http://www.defiendetufe.org/idolos.htm.
The Bible and Catholic Images [Part I]
Religious images occupy a special place in the hearts of members of the Catholic community. Images are honored, venerated, prayed to, blessed, displayed, kissed, bought, and sold by the devout. It is no secret that the majority, perhaps all, of Catholic Church buildings are full of images. Catholicism claims that “[i]t is right to show respect to the pictures and images of Christ and His saints, because they are representations and memorials of them” (O’Brien, 1901, p. 175).
Are the images of Catholicism only “inoffensive” images, like photographs of family that many of us carry in our wallets? Does the Bible authorize the Catholic use of religious images? These questions and others should be answered with an open Bible, not with subjective emotions or traditions of men.
“WE DO NOT WORSHIP, WE ONLY VENERATE!”
I have chosen this subtitle in order to address one of the most well-known, but least understood, arguments in favor of religious images. In a conversation about religious iconography, it is not surprising to hear the word “venerate” from the mouths of Catholics. The argument used is: “We don’t worship wood, relics, or images. We venerate them” (see Porvaznik, 2007, emp. added). This common assertion is a result of ignorance of the etymology and usage of the word “venerate” and of the implications of the Bible’s teaching concerning to Whom we are to give religious honor.
Once, when speaking with a very devout Catholic who used this word “venerate,” I asked her: “What do you understand the word ‘venerate’ to mean?” She could not answer the question. She had used this word frequently, even though she did not know what it meant. Consequently, the first question we should answer is: What is the meaning of the word “venerate”?
The Concise Oxford English Dictionary records the following definition of “venerate”: “[R]egard with great respect,...from Latin venerat-venerari ‘adore, revere’” (Pearsall, 2002, p. 1590, emp. added). The Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language gives the following definitions for “venerate”: to worship, reverence..., to look upon with feeling of deep respect; regard as venerable; revere” (1964, p. 1616, emp. added). The Espasa Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms lists the following synonyms (among others) for the word “venerate”: Worship, honor, reverence, idolize, exalt, etc. (1996). Finally, the Catholic Cofrade Dictionary notes the following definition for the word “venerate”: “To worship God, Saints or sacred things” (2005, emp. added).
We can see easily, by its etymology and synonymy, that a primary meaning of the word “venerate” is simply “to worship or to revere.” Additionally, note that the Catholic Cofrade Dictionary applies the word “venerate” to God and “sacred things.” Therefore, when the supporter of Catholicism insists, “We do not worship, we only venerate,” he is actually confirming that Catholics worship images like they worship God.
The truth is that the word “venerate” has been deliberately substituted for the word “worship” to excuse the polytheistic practice of Catholicism. Since the meaning of the word “venerate” is unfamiliar to many, it has become a major argument in defense of religious iconography. But if the supporter of Catholicism would only open his dictionary, and look up the meaning of the word that he uses so casually, his favorite argument would soon disappear like the morning mist on a hot summer day. In fact, the very etymology and correct usage of the word “venerate” exposes the error of iconography. We completely agree that Catholics “only venerate” (i.e., they worship).
But what about respecting images? Are the images of the so-called “saints” and of other “sacred” objects, worthy of respect? What does the Bible say? In addressing images made for religious purposes, Exodus 20:5 warns: “You shall not bow down to them nor serve them [i.e., you shall not show them any kind of respect, service, or worship]” (cf. 1 John 5:21). In spite of the divine warning, some in the Catholic community insist: “[I]f someone bows down, doing it only as an expression of respect and affection, there is nothing wrong with it” (Zavala, 2000, emp. added). It seems that some supporters of religious images read the verse in this way: “You shall not bow down to them, except in the case of giving them respect and affection.” However, such a statement is not in the Bible! Making images for the purpose of religious “veneration,” reverence, respect, or affection is condemned by God.
In the end, who should we believe? Should we believe God Who tells us, “You shall not bow down to images,” or religious people who tell us, “There is nothing wrong with it”? In the beginning, God warned man: “[F]or in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17). But the serpent said to the woman: “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). Every Bible student knows very well what happened to the first human couple who listened to the serpent’s assurance that everything was going to be fine. Many religious people today should take seriously God’s commands about Whom we worship because disobeying His commands is always wrong!
“IMAGES YES, IDOLS NO!”
On a Web site devoted to Catholic apologetics, under the title “Images Yes, Idols No,” we find the following emphatic declaration: “Catholics do not have ‘idols’ like ancient pagan people, WE ONLY HAVE IMAGES” (Rojas, 2000, capitals in original). With this declaration, two things are proposed: (1) The “veneration” of Catholic images is not idolatry; and (2) there is a difference between an idol and an image. Since we have seen that the first proposition is erroneous, i.e., the “veneration” of Catholic images really is worship, we will focus on the second proposition: Is there a difference between an idol and an image?
The Concise Oxford English Dictionary suggests, among others, the following definitions for “image”: (1) “a representation of the external form of a person or thing in art; (2) a visible impression obtained by a camera, telescope, or other device; (3) a person or thing closely resembling another; (4) likeness; or (5) an idol” (Pearsall, 2002, p. 708, emp. added). Defining the word “idol,” the same dictionary notes the following: (1) “an image or representation of a god used as an object of worship; and (2) an object of adulation” (p. 706, emp. added). There are some differences between an image and an idol. An image may be a photograph, a portrait, a comparison, a picture on the television, or a piece of art. However, it is very important to note that an image also may be an object of worship (i.e., an idol).
Some (who actually mean well) argue that “all images are idols.” But if that were the case, one could accuse virtually everyone of being an idolater, since most people have at least one photograph of someone in their wallet, purse, or on their wall. Theoretically, God could also be called “idolatrous” since He made man in His “image and likeness” (Genesis 1:26-27). But this is not a legitimate argument. In truth, some images are idols. The person who wants to please God must examine the Scriptures carefully to determine which images (idols) he should reject. Let’s look at the biblical teaching concerning idols.
An idol is any image to which religious reverence and honor is offered.
Exodus 20:4-5 reads: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them” (emp. added). Many times, the advocate of religious iconography argues that the images Catholicism promotes are not idols, since they do not represent pagan gods; rather they represent “holy” people, and in some cases, the true God (see Rojas, 2000). Nevertheless, the text in Exodus does not support such an argument. God condemns any image (either of a pagan god or of the incarnated Son of God) made for the purpose of worship or religious honor (cf. Acts 17:24-25,29). God protected against erroneous interpretations by saying: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image...of anything that is in heaven above...or that is in the earth beneath...or that is in the water under the earth.” The question then becomes, what image designed for the purpose of worship or religious honor would fall outside these parameters? Are the Catholic images, which are “venerated” and honored, representations of anything that is in heaven, earth, water, or under water?
An idol is any image that does not deserve the religious honor given to it.
When the devil tempted Jesus in the desert, he said to Him: “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9). To this temptation, Jesus answered: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve” (4:10). With this singular and scriptural assessment, Jesus made clear to the Christians’ enemy that only one Being deserves such regard and worship. Jesus’ point was not that the devil did not deserve worship because of what he was (i.e., an evil spirit condemned to hell), rather His point was that the devil did not deserve worship because of what he was not (i.e., the sovereign God over all creation).
Some people believe that Jesus condemns worship directed toward the devil merely because the devil is intrinsically malevolent, but that He condones worship to “benevolent” beings (whether or not they are divine). But the truth is that God alone is the Being Who deserves worship (cf. Isaiah 42:8). Are the images of Catholicism divine? Do they deserve honor and worship? Certainly not! When someone prostrates himself before these images, he voluntarily agrees to obey the tempter’s request to be worshiped.
An idol is any image which is religiously honored but cannot respond.
The book of 1 Kings records one of the most interesting stories of the Old Testament concerning idols. Here Elijah challenged the prophets of an ancient god, Baal, to give a demonstration of their god’s “power.” The challenge consisted of preparing an altar, cutting a bull in pieces, placing it on the altar, and then calling on their god to send fire from heaven to consume the offering. The challenge was accepted. Then, “they took the bull which was given them, and they prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even till noon, saying, ‘O Baal, hear us!’ But there was no voice; no one answered. Then they leaped about the altar which they had made” (1 Kings 18:26, emp. added). They certainly worshipped, but Baal could not answer, simply because he was not God. In contrast, Elijah prepared an altar and a sacrifice, soaked them completely with water, and prayed to Almighty God. God instantly sent fire from heaven, that not only consumed the altar and the offering, but also “licked up the water” around the altar (1 Kings 18:30-38).
The supporters of Catholicism argue that their images do perform miracles (see Cruz, 1993; Nickell, 1999), but where is the evidence for their “miracles”? Why do they do them “in secret” and only for those who profess Catholicism? Why do they not show their “greatness,” as the greatness of God was shown when He sent fire from heaven? If someone had asked Baal’s prophets if their god performed miracles, or could send fire from heaven, how would they have answered? They would have said, “Yes.” That was the reason they accepted and pleaded with their god and leaped about the altar. But Baal was helpless to perform a miracle. Can religious images work miracles today? They could not do it before, and the situation has not changed.
An idol is any image, religiously honored, that cannot do anything.
In one of the most illustrative biblical passages about idols, the psalmist wrote:
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but they do not speak; eyes they have, but they do not see; they have ears, but they do not hear; noses they have, but they do not smell; they have hands, but they do not handle; feet they have, but they do not walk; nor do they mutter through their throat. Those who make them are like them; so is everyone who trusts in them (115:4-8).
What else could be said? This seems to be an exact description of the images made for religious purposes today. Can the images of Catholicism achieve anything more than the images described by the psalmist? Can they repair their own broken noses after being hit by the ball of a little child? Can they clean their dust, touch up their paint, or pick up the money that is placed before them? Do not Catholics light candles to them because the images cannot do it by themselves? And do not Catholics blow out those candles because the images, although having mouths, cannot blow them out? Do not Catholics hold processions and carry them around the city because, although they have feet, they cannot walk or even take the first public bus? What difference do we find between the idols of Psalm 115 and the alleged “inoffensive images” of Catholicism?
An idol is any image, religiously honored, that degrades the concept of Deity.
Advocates of religious iconography may continue to argue that their images are not idols because they are not representations of false gods; rather they are representations of “holy” people and the true God. But we already have seen that these images also fall in the category of idols.
Another very important point must be stressed. In speaking to the Athenians, Paul exhorted them: “Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising” (Acts 17:29, emp. added). It is not God’s desire to be represented by something material or by something that is the product of man’s imagination. It is God’s desire that we, His offspring, understand this very important fact: There is nothing in this world—not gold or silver or anything else—that can be compared to God. To represent His nature in a material object is to minimize His greatness. Jesus also declared: “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18). If no one has seen Him at any time, who could make a faithful representation of Him? An imagination capable of such is possible only in pagan minds!
There are many images—expressed in photographs of loved ones, in art, on $50 or $100 bills, etc.—that God has not condemned. But there are many others that are projected to be representations “worthy” of the honor due only to God. Faithful Christians must reject idols (1 John 5:21).
Cofrade Dictionary [Diccionario Cofrade] (2005), [On-line], URL:http://es.catholic.net/comunicadorescatolicos/530/1225/articulo.php?id=16946.
Cruz, Joan C. (1993), Miraculous Images of Our Lady: 100 Famous Catholic Status and Portraits(Rockford, IL: Tan Books).
Espasa Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms [Diccionario de Sinónimos y Antónimos Espasa] (1996), [Espasa Calpe, S.A.; Microsoft Corporation].
Nickell, Joe (1998), Looking for a Miracle: Weeping Icons, Relics, Stigmata, Visions & Healing Cures(Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books).
O’Brien, Thomas, ed. (1901), An Advanced Catechism of Catholic Faith and Practice (New York: D.H. McBride & Company).
Pearsall, Judy, ed. (2002), Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press).
Porvaznik, Phil (2007), “A Case Study in Catholic Bashing,” [On-line], URL:http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/num4.htm.
Rojas, Guido (2000), “Idols and Sacred Images” [“Ídolos e Imágenes Sagradas”], [On-line], URL:http://defiendetufe.org/imagenes_e_idolos.htm.
Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language (1964), [New York: The World Publishing Company].
Zavala, Martín (2000), “Images and Idols” [“Imágenes e Ídolos”], [On-line], URL:http://www.defiendetufe.org/idolos.htm.
The Beginning and the End
|by||Eric Lyons, M.Min.|
If God does not exist and the Bible is not His inspired Word, human life is meaningless. We are merely the result of a cosmic accident. We ultimately are nothing more than evolved matter that will merely return to dust.
In a 1994 debate at Stanford University on Darwinism, atheistic evolutionist William Provine summarized his views on modern evolutionary biology and its “loud and clear” implications. According to Dr. Provine, “There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life…” (Provine and Johnson, 1994).
Whereas atheistic evolution implies that human life is rather pointless, the biblical explanation for man’s God-given purpose is deeply rooted in his origins, as well as his afterlife. After having already acknowledged that from a purely naturalistic perspective life is meaningless (Ecclesiastes 1:2; 12:8), the wise man concluded that the ultimate purpose of human life is to “fear God and keep His commandments” (12:13). Of particular interest is the fact that this all-important conclusion is grounded in (1) where we came from and (2) where we are going (12:1,7,14).
FIRST, THE END
The inspired penman of Ecclesiastes concluded that “man’s all” is to “fear God and keep His commandments” because “God will bring every work into judgment” (12:13,14). Though most agree with the obvious truth that “it is appointed for men to die once,” many reject the fact that when this earthly life has ended judgment awaits (Hebrews 9:27). God has “appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man Whom He has ordained” (Acts 17:31)—the Son of God, to Whom the Father “has committed all judgment” (John 5:22).
One of the main themes of the New Testament is that Jesus, the Judge, will return. The first recorded message after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven was: “This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Though Jesus will “be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8), Christians can rejoice in the fact that “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven…. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).
Faithful Christians can (and should) look forward to the end of time and the promise of Jesus’ return. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). “To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:28).
The same Word of God that Christians trust regarding our bright future, is the same Divine Word that details our beautiful beginning. Peter recognized that “long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water…. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men…. Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:5,7,13, NIV, emp. added).
The same Lord Who “made the heavens…shall judgethe world” (Psalm 96:5,13, emp. added). The Christ Who created “all things…that are in heaven and that are on earth” (Colossians 1:16), is the same Jesus Who will return “in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him” (Matthew 25:31). Our beginning and ending are inextricably linked by God and His Word.
How is it that some put so much trust in what God has revealed about the end of time, yet care so little about the details He gave regarding the beginning? God certainly could have created the Universe in any way He desired, in whatever order He wanted, and in whatever time frame He chose. He could have created the world and everything in it in six seconds or six billion years. But the pertinent question is not what could God have done; it is whatHe said He did. And He said that He created everything in six days (Genesis 1). When God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments, He stated: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work…. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day” (Exodus 20:9,11).
What has the all-authoritative, eternal Creator revealed to us about His Creation in His all-authoritative Word? In contradiction to what theistic evolutionists teach about, for example, humanity finally evolving 13-14 billion years after the commencement of Creation, Jesus indicated that “from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female” (Mark 10:6).
Furthermore, “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead” (Romans 1:20, emp. added). How long has man been aware of God and His invisible attributes? “Since the creation of the world.” How, then, could man logically have been “perceiving” or “understanding” God “since the creation of the world,” if he is separated from the creation of the heavens and the earth by billions of years of evolution? Such a scenario completely contradicts Scripture.
Sadly, some individuals choose to believe in man-made, convoluted, imaginative theories, rather than fully embrace God-revealed, inerrant, biblical truth. Faithful servants of God, however, put complete confidence in the Creator’s all-authoritative Word, respectfully and consistently relying on His guidance about both the beginning and the end. “Remember now your Creator,” for “the dust will return to the earth as it was,” but “the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:1,7).
Provine, W.B. and Phillip E. Johnson (1994), “Darwinism: Science or Naturalistic Philosophy?” Origins Research, 16, Fall/Winter, www.arn.org/docs/orpages/or161/161main.htm.
*Originally published in Gospel Advocate, November 2015, 157:18-19.