By Mike Gendron
Many Roman Catholic traditions find their origin in paganism, but none as obvious as the use of statues, icons, relics, and images in worship. Historians report that statues of the Egyptian goddess Isis, with her child Horus, were renamed Mary and Jesus by pagan Rome. Today, shrines of the Black Madonna and Child are the holiest shrines in Catholic Europe. It should not surprise us that some of the titles and honor given to Mary by the Vatican such as: “Our Lady”, “Eternal Virgin” and “Madonna”, were the same titles attributed to Isis. Whether the idolatry is pagan or religious, the principle is the same. The worship and honor that is due to God alone is turned away from Him, and given to that which is not God.On a missionary trip to Mexico several years ago, I went into the Cathedral of Acapulco to share the Gospel with Catholics. The idolatry I witnessed there was so nauseating that it has grieved me to this day. In a transparent glass coffin there was a statue of Jesus lying face up with wads of pesos in his hands. In front of the coffin was an offering box with the words in Spanish: “For the holy burial of Jesus.” I wept as I watched poor Mexican peasants kneel down and offer what little money they had so that Jesus could be buried (again).
The first two commandments of God clearly forbid two things: 1) Creating and worshipping an image of the true God and 2) worshipping anyone other than God (Exodus 20:1-5). In other words, our worship must be directed only to the true God and not through any object. Thus to worship, venerate, kiss, adore, lift up, pray to, speak to, or make religious use of man-made images of God and saints is a sin of the most serious kind. God could not have made this any clearer when He commanded: “You shall not make for yourself an 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” (Exodus 20:4-5). Yet the Roman Catholic Church has laid aside this commandment of God, teaching instead the traditions of men (Mark 7:8). This is a most deliberate and willful defiance of God’s holy law. The one who refuses to listen to the law must know this: “Even his prayer is an abomination” (Proverb 28:9). God has made it clear that those who continue in the sin of idolatry will not inherit His kingdom(1 Cor. 6:9-10). “Their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8). Â Â Â Almighty God is never to be worshipped using man-made images because it Is impossible for images to capture or display His divine attributes. How could man ever create an image that displays God’s transcendence, holiness, majesty, eternality, sovereignty and His glory, which fills the earth? To portray God in the form of an idol crafted by man reduces the Creator to the substance of creation. No wonder the infinitely glorious, all-powerful and omnipresent God of heaven and earth, hates being approached by worshippers who distort His character with flawed images crafted by mortal men. Â
True and False Worship
Jesus said, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in âspirit and truth” (John 4:24). One does not have to formally deny the Triune God in order to be an idolater. Reverence for the God of the Bible and the ungodly sin of idolatry are commonplace. The Israelites never renounced God when they fashioned a golden calf. Instead they said, “This is your god, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” Afterwards Aaron built an altar in front of the idol and proclaimed: “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord” (Exodus 32:4, 5). The Lord, who is a consuming fire and a jealous God, did not let this wicked sin of idolatry go unpunished. He ordered those who helped create this god of gold, and who did not repent, be put to death(Exodus 32:26-28). About three thousand idolaters were slain. Â
Lessons From History
You would think the Roman Catholic Church would learn from biblical History and flee from idolatry, but instead Rome creates a god of flour and water to be worshipped as the resurrected and glorified Son of God. It is idolatry to call what man’s hands have made “God”, and then worship it as deity. Like the Israelites, Catholics also build altars to celebrate (Eucharistic) feasts to the Lord. Can Catholics not see that there is little difference between worshipping a golden calf as the true God and worshipping the Eucharist as the Son of God? Both religions appear to have had the same objectives in creating their idols. It is the desire to give worshippers a sense of the physical presence of God in order to make use of His power and blessings. Both religions are guilty of the sin of idolatry, which will bring down the most severe judgments of God. Â
The Cause of Idolatry
The cause of all idolatry is the corruption of man’s heart and his need for some kind of a religion. The evidence of this is seen in the many false views of God and false ways of worship throughout the world. Ignorance of God, including a diminished understanding of His attributes and commands, characterize the religion of natural man. Man is eager to bring God down to his level, which leads him to create an image of God he can see, feel, and touch. Man desires to worship in the flesh with all of his senses instead of with a humble and contrite spirit (Isaiah 66:2). Â
Unbelievers Must See to Believe
Unbelievers, who are blinded by their religion, say you must see to believe. Their eyes cannot see the glory of Christ because they are blinded by the prince of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). The unbelieving Jews, not seeing Jesusâ glory, mocked Him with: “Let this Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!” (Mark 15:32). Earlier Jesus had told them: “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe” (John 4:48).
Roman Catholic leaders also say you must see to believe. Roman Catholicism teaches Catholics to have faith in visible things for the appropriation of spiritual power and blessings. Catholics see and worship their god in the Eucharist believing it has the power to wipe away their sins (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1394). They see and eat the Eucharist believing they have consumed the physical body and blood of Jesus (CCC, 1377). They see and confess to their priest believing he has the power to forgive sins (CCC, 1461). They see and bow down to statues believing the saints, who are represented, will intercede for them (CCC, 2683). They see and feel rosary beads believing their repetitious prayers to Mary will remit punishment for sin (CCC, 1471). These are just a few examples of how “seeing signs and wonders” is an undeniable part of the Catholic faith. Rather than worshipping by faith in things not seen, Catholics worship what they can see. They defend their practice by saying they are not worshipping Mary and the saints when they bow down and pray to them, they are merely venerating them. But according to Webster’s Dictionary, veneration is a form of worship and reverence. This practice, along with prayer, is reserved for God alone.Â
God’s Elect Must Believe to See
The Lord said you must first believe before you can see the glory of God (John 11:40). Genuine faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Cor. 4:18). Faith does not come from things that are seen (the Eucharist) but from things that are not seen (the Lord Jesus at the right hand of God). Born-again Christians walk by faith not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). This faith comes, not from seeing something, but from hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). The natural man cannot see because there is a veil that covers his heart and will remain until he turns to the Lord Jesus in faith (2 Cor. 3:16) When God removes the veil he can see Jesus in every book of the Bible.
What does the Lord say about those who make statues and idols? “They are altogether stupid and foolish in their discipline of delusion – their idol is wood! Every man is stupid, devoid of knowledge; every goldsmith is put to shame by his idols, for his molten images are deceitful, and there is no breath in them. They are worthless, a work of mockery. In the time of their punishment they will perish” (Jeremiah 10:8,14,15). “All mankind is stupid, devoid of knowledge…his molten images are deceitful, and there is no breath in them. They are worthless, a work of mockery. In the time of their punishment they will perish” (Jeremiah 51:17-18). “They have no knowledge, [those] who carry about their wooden idol, and pray to a god who cannot save” (Isaiah 45:20). The Levites, speaking for God in a loud voice, proclaimed: “Cursed is the man who makes an idol or a molten image, an abomination to the Lord” (Deut. 27:15). People who create and trust idols become like the idol they created, which cannot see, speak or hear (Psalm 135:15-18). They cannot see the glory of God nor hear His Word, nor proclaim His Gospel. What does the Word of God command? “Do not be idolaters” (1 Corinthians 10:7). “Flee from idolatry” (1 Corinthians 10:14). “Keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).
I pray Catholics will take these exhortations seriously and not participate in the sins of their church any longer. Even if, by the slimmest of chances, the Vatican were to remove all the objects of their idolatrous worship, it must still eradicate another form of idolatry. The idolatrous practice of making ordained priests mediators between men and God, which gives the priests an honor, which the Apostles flatly repudiate. Furthermore, it robs Jesus Christ of His unique office (1 Tim. 2:5). Â Â Â When the Lord Jesus Christ is clearly proclaimed, rightly known, Genuinely believed, gloriously exalted and truly loved, He will set captives free from religious bondage and the sin of idolatry!