What is Idolatry?



What is idolatry?  Idolatry is simply the worship or treatment of what is not divine as divine.  Anything can be an idol even a statue or even a mental picture.  If you adore your perception of God, you are not adoring God.  Even if your perception is right that is not the point.  You are still intending to honour what you think God is not what he is. The veneration of saints then must be rejected outright as blasphemous and heretical and corrupting.  It is a turning away from the true good which is God.The Bible teaches that only fools deny that there is a God and Romans 1 says all on earth have an impression that there is a God.  So the idolater worships idols before he would have it be thought that he has no God.  That is his way of dealing with his attraction towards God.  He worships God in his idols.  But that doesn’t mean that God approves of idolatry.  On the contrary he reveals that it is the greatest and most dangerous sin possible.  The sin may largely consist of a man needing God and refusing to go to him but choosing to quiet the need with a fake god. Why use pictures of holy beings or statues?  Why not get Madonna to dress up as the Virgin Mary and wine and dine her to honour Mary?  Because you know that it really is idolatry.You kiss the photo for yourself to satisfy your feeling of love not to give love.  You cannot give a person love this way.  It would be like kissing the photo of your loved one when your loved one is with you.  That would be strange.  The saint or God is with you so you don’t need images.  There is no need for images as helps to worship which proves this.  If you can’t pray without a holy picture it is a bad sign.  You should need awareness of God alone.  The image is a substitute for the love of God which is a bad habit. If you can’t pray without images, the Bible God says he understands that and takes your effort to do without statues to be first class prayer for it is the best you can do.  Thus, it is idolatry to venerate images for they are not needed.  It is a sin to use statues when they lead towards idolatry. The bible says that God is the Lord and there must be no other god worshipped besides him.  That commandment does not say there are no other gods but rather says only that no other god must be worshipped.The bible also says that the people must not bow down before any images.  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, “You shall not make images of other gods”.  God forbids any images to be used in worship of beings that exist both in Heaven  and on earth. 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 saint-worship for the gods would, like the saints, have no power of their own but just have God’s power meaning God was still in control of everything.

Israel was adoring God by using the calf to represent him the same way that idoltaerers today use statues of the Sacred Heart to adore Jesus.  God’s reaction to their calf worship proves that Roman worship is not Christian. 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: “It 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.” 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 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. 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. So in conclusion the “veneration”  of saints and statutes of Mary and Jesus is paganism condemened by the bible. ALL ROADS LEAD TO ROME, Michael de Semlyen, Dorchester House Publications, Bucks, 1993  ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS CATHOLICS ARE ASKING, Tony Coffey, Harvest House Publishers, Oregon ,2006

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