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Images And Statues In The Catholic Church: Are They Biblical?

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In truth, the sacred images and statues are used in Catholic churches and home to awaken and nourish our faith in the mystery of Christ, through sacred images of the holy mother of God, of the angels and the saints.

One observes that images and Statues of Christ, the blessed Virgin Mary and saints are found in every Catholic church. This has led most non-Catholics, who do not care to understand the true meaning of what Catholics do, to accuse Catholics of idolatry.  In doing so, they make reference to the Bible passage that says; “Do not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in form of any figure, the likeness of male and female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the sky, the likeness of any creep on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water below the earth(Deuteronomy 4:16-18).

The basis for this injunction lies on the fact that no image was presented to Moses during his call. “Since you did not see ant form on the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of fire(Deuteronomy 4:15). We need to understand that during that time God had not revealed himself to mankind in any visible form, so they can not represent God whom they haven’t seen. Furthermore, this injunction was giving to prevent the Israelites from practicing idolatry. According to Deuteronomy 4:19, “And beware not to lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the hosts of heaven and be drawn away and worship them and serve, those which the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven”.

The Bible say in Deuteronomy 5 : 8-9 in a similar way “You shall not make for yourself and idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth . You shall not worship them or serve them;  for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God“. The catechism of the Catholic church clearly stated that “Idolatry is someone who transfers his indestructible notion of God to any other god” (CCC2114). It will be difficult for non-Catholics to understand the doctrine of the images in the church. Anyone that cares to know will agree that Catholics do not worship these images and statues.

The catechism of the council of Tent (1566) explained that “We commit by worshiping idols as God in heaven or believed that they possess any divinity or virtue entitling them to our worship, by praying to, or reposing confidence in them” (374). How would anyone who understands these Catholic teachings turn round to accuse Catholics of Idolatry?

Images And Statues In The Catholic Church: Are They Biblical? - The National Shrine of Mary Mother of the Church 1
The National Shrine of Mary, Mother of the Church, Laurie, Missouri. PHOTO: Lori Erickson

The problem is that most non-Catholics do not know the difference between worship and honour, even though we honour many human beings, both living and the dead. When we study the Bible carefully, we would notice that God  forbade  the worship of images but did not prohibit the use if images and  statues for religious purposes. For example in the book Exodus 25:18, “God commanded the use of the making of of golden cherubim“.  Did God not order Moses to “Make a fiery serpent and set it on standard, and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten when he looks at it, he will live?” (Number 28:8). There are many verses in the Bible that justified the use of images, how God commended his servants to build images for different reasons. God didn’t condemn the images and statues cherubim found in the temple built by Solomon; 1King 6:23, “In the sanctuary were two cherubim, each ten cubit high made, of holy wood“.

When we keep images and carving of important personalities of our society, do we treat those images as human beings? The answer is capital NO!  Rather these images only remind us of what those personalities stood for. What about the flag we keep which is just a piece of cloth. Does the flag not remind us of our unity as a nation?

If we can give honour to our national coat of arms, is it the sacred statues we will condemn?
Today non-Catholics can boldly place the images of their pastors in their homes, offices and cars and still criticize the Catholics on the use of Jesus’ image and other saints. Does it mean the protestants  who display the images of their pastors are worshiping them? I take it as a honour but will provoke God’s anger if you place such image in position of God by worshiping it, by so doing you as a protestants will be committing Idolatry.

This teaching is putting it straight that  Catholics are not doing anything that is not supported by the Bible. God didn’t condemn the use of images and statues in the church, what God forbids is the worship of such images.