Saturday, January 1, 2011

Peter Rock of the Church, Vicar of Christ

IN JANUARY 1995, Pope John Paul II, the 265th successor to St. Peter, came to Manila in the Philippines to bring the message of peace and unity to all Filipinos, the youth best of all. His coming, however, heightened a controversy that has hounded Christians for generations on the issue of his mandate. From where lies the Pope's authority to lead the world's one-billion Roman Catholics?

From Peter

Theologians give a simple answer: The mandate of John Paul II was given nearly 2,000 years ago by our Lord Jesus Christ. This mandate was bestowed upon St. Peter and has been passed on to all the popes up to John Paul II.

The Roman Catholic Church traces the beginnings of the papacy to Jesus' appointment of Peter as the head of the Church as recorded in Matthew 16:17-19 and John 21:15-17.

In the Gospel according to Matthew, Peter, who was previously named Simon, receives his name from Jesus. Here, he is commissioned by Jesus to be the rock of the Church. The text reads:
"Blessed are you Simon of Jonah--And I say to you, you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loosen on earth shall be loosened in heaven."



The Rock

In the Bible, a person is given a new name to signify a major development in his life. It could be a new responsibility, role or identity in the light of God's plan.Examples of this are the changing of the names of Abram, who became Abraham (Genesis 17:5), and Saul, who was called Paul after his conversion (Acts 13:9). Abraham became the Father of all Nations, while Paul became the Apostle to the Gentiles. The most important name change in the Bible is that of Jesus himself. When the people saw in him the Messiah--God's anointed one--they began calling him the Christ. For Peter, it was his appointment by Jesus as the rock on which the Lord would build his Church.

Jesus also gave Peter the "keys to the kingdom of heaven" and the authority that whatever he loosened on earth shall be loosened in heaven. This authority follows the Jewish understanding of one having the power to declare something permissible or prohibited. It includes the power to impose or dispense one from an obligation in relation to his or her membership in the Church. The use of Jesus of keys--which are symbols of authority in biblical literature--stresses Peter's mandate.

A misinterpretation?

Some non-Catholics, however, dismiss this as a misinterpretation of the original Greek text of Matthew's Gospel. They contend that in the original text "Peter" is written as Petros, which may mean a "chip of a rock," rather than petras, the Greek for rock.They argue that this discrepancy negates the Roman Catholic belief of Peter's commissioning by Jesus as the rock-foundation of the Christian church.

The "discrepancy," however, is nothing but gender difference in the Greek language, where nouns are either masculine or feminine. Petras is feminine. It would have been awkward for Matthew to have used a feminine name for the leader of the Apostles, so he used the masculine form Petros.

Peter and Cephas

Besides, Petros is only a translation of the original Aramaic name of Peter, which is Kephas (Cephas in its English form). It should be understood that although the New Testament was almost entirely written in Greek, Jesus and the Apostles spoke Aramaic, the Hebrew dialect. In Aramaic, the word for rock is kephas, which unlike its translation in Greek, is free from any gender influence. Thus, the Lord's statement in Mt 16:17 is more accurately rendered as: "You are Kephas and upon this kephas I will build my Church." The Bible, quoting the Lord Jesus, states this clearly in John 1:42. The verse reads: "Jesus looked at him [Peter] and said, 'You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas (which is translated as Peter).'' "St. Paul also called Peter by his Aramaic name in 1Corinthians 1:12 and Galatians 1:18.

In John 21, Jesus appointed Peter as his vicar or deputy in the Church. From Jn 10 we read that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who gathered his sheep into one flock, one fold--the Church. However, in obedience to the will of the Father, Jesus knew that he would have to be going back to Heaven, so he appointed someone to take his place ahead of the flock. In Jn 21:15-17, Jesus had just been raised from the dead and was preparing to return to the Father when he appeared to Peter and told him to "feed" and "tend" to his sheep. The Good Shepherd left his flock to the care of Peter. Later, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit--the Paraclete--to guide and preserve the church: its leaders and members.

Peter's leadership

The leadership of Peter among the Apostles and the early Christian church is indisputable. The four gospels say that Peter was the spokesperson of the Apostles, especially during climactic moments such as when he declared Jesus as the Messiah (Mt 16:16).

Peter is almost always mentioned first when the Apostles are referred to. At times, they are referred to only as "Peter and his companions" as in Luke 9:32.

With the death of Peter, the Holy Spirit guided the Church in choosing a successor to take his place. Under the leading and the protection of the Holy Spirit, this succession continued in an unbroken line through the centuries. The Church has an ancient list of popes starting from Peter up to John Paul II. Peter's immediate successor, Linus, in mentioned in 2Timothy 4:21, while the name of Linus' successor, Clement, is found in Philippians 4.

The term Pope, which came from the Latin papa and Greek pappas (father), was previously attached to the bishops or elders of the Church. It was later exclusively given to Peter's successors in recognition of their unique role.

Visible head

The Bible says Jesus established only one everlasting church that is spread all over the world, or his universal (katholicos in Greek). Mt 28:18-20 shows Jesus telling the Apostles and the disciples to "Go and make disciples of all nations" and assuring them that He will be with them "until the end of the age."

The Pope is the sign of the oneness and the unity of the universal Church. The visible head representing Jesus to all believers. He is among the greatest legacies given by Jesus to all Christians united to the Church.

However, non-Catholics dispute Peter's leadership and his being the rock-foundation of the Church despite the declaration of Jesus and the testimony of the Bible. Anti-popes quote 1Corinthians 3:11; 1Peter 2:6-8, and Ephesians 2:20 to try to disprove Jesus' pronouncements in Mt 16:17-19. But can the Bible actually contradict itself in such a very important subject? 1Cor 3:11 reads: "No one can lay a foundation other than the one that is already laid, namely, Jesus Christ." Non-Catholics use this verse to try to prove that Jesus, and not Peter, is the Church's rock-foundation. Indeed, if the verse is taken alone and out of context, it talks about Jesus being a foundation. But of what?

Reading the entire chapter will reveal that Paul is not referring here to Jesus as the foundation of the Church but that of the Christian faith. It is important to make a distinction between the Christian church and the Christian faith. When we talk about the Church, we speak more of the structure and make-up of the body of Christ. On the other hand, faith is the "spirit" underlying the Church.

Faith is a requisite to become a member of the Church. It is not the Church. When Paul spoke to the Corinthians about Jesus as a foundation, it is clear from the entire text that he meant Jesus as the foundation of the faith. It can be said that one can accept Jesus in faith but still be apart from the church that he founded.

Other sheep

The Lord alluded to Christians not part of the Church in Jn 10:16, where he said: "I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These I must also lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd."Although Jesus acknowledged "other sheep" outside his fold, or outside the Church, he stressed the need for these to also be part of his "one flock," obviously referring to the one church he founded in Mt 16:17-19.

Going back to 1Cor 13, Paul is concerned that the faith in Jesus that he instilled (or founded) in the hearts of the Corinthians was imperiled by "jealousy and rivalry" among the faithful (verse 4). This division is caused by loyalties to certain church elders. He noted in verse 4 the claims of some already disputing Corinthian-Christians who were saying: "I belong to Paul" or "I belong to Apollos."

Paul tried to resolve the conflict by stressing that all the ministers of the church were "equal" (verse 8) and were all "God's co-workers" (verse 9). He cited the various respective works done by each individual church worker but stressed that Jesus was still the central figure of the faith.

In verses 10 to 11, he said: "I as a good architect, according to the capacity given to me, I laid the foundation and another is to build upon it. But each one must be careful how he builds upon it, for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is already laid, namely, Jesus Christ." Again, what is pointed out here by Paul is the effect of each individual church minister's work on the faith-foundation of the members of the Church--not the church structure or make-up. To follow the claim of the anti-popes that Jesus is the foundation of the Church would be to commit a grave error.

Grave error

This would be so because if we take verse 11 to mean that Jesus is the foundation of the church structure, then we would be making Paul the one who laid the church's foundation. We should keep in mind that he said in verse 10: "I laid the foundation." Now, how could Paul have laid the foundation of the church he himself was already in or was already a part of? More importantly, such an interpretation of verse 11 would run in direct contrast to Jesus' founding of the Church in Mt 16:17-19, which is the only biblical text that clearly deals on the subject.

As to 1Pet 2:6, the verse states: "For it says in scripture: 'Behold I am laying a stone in Zion, a cornerstone, chosen and precious, and whoever believes in it shall not be put to shame.'" The verse, which is taken from Isaiah 28:16, is also echoed in Mt 21:42; Lk 20-17, and Acts 4:11. In these, Jesus is referred to as a "cornerstone," which does not offer any contradiction to the Lord's declaration of Peter as being the rock-foundation of the Church. Non-Catholics confuse the cornerstone to be the rock in Mt 16:17 and think that these are one and the same. Unfortunately, these are two different things.

Simply put, Jesus as the cornerstone is different from Peter being the rock.

During the time of Jesus, people built buildings using slabs of stone put on top of another. The most important piece of stone is the cornerstone. As its name suggests, it is the stone placed at the corner of the building and is used to join the other pieces of stone that form two walls. It is also called a keystone because it puts cohesion to the whole structure and keeps it together. Remove the cornerstone and the building collapses. In the same way, Jesus is the cornerstone, or the basis, of the Christian faith. This is a fundamental truth that the Roman Catholic Church adheres to. Remove Jesus and Christianity is no more. On the other hand, Peter is the rock, the solid base, on which Jesus builds the body of believers on. He is like the ground on which a temple or house is constructed on.

Inseparable

Instead of negating the fact of Peter being the rock on which the Christian Church is built, the verses pointing to Jesus as the cornerstone only stress the strong relationship that he has with Peter. With Peter as the rock of the Church and Jesus as its cornerstone, they are thus inseparable. This is because a cornerstone that has been laid will remain with its rock foundation as long as the building that it forms stands. And since Jesus built the Church to be eternal (Mt 16:18), he and Peter are thus eternally united.

This infinite relationship is continued in every successor of Peter. In other words, we will find Jesus where ever we find Peter, or Peter's successor.This makes the tricky job of determining the true church founded by Jesus much easier. One need only to find the church that stands on the rock laid by Jesus.

In Eph 2:20, anti-popes again take the cornerstone as the same with the rock-foundation. However, the verse itself shows otherwise. In fact, it reinforces the unique relationship of Jesus, Peter and the other Apostles in the make-up of the Church. The verse reads: "[You Ephesians are] built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus as the cornerstone."It continues: "In him [Christ being the cornerstone] the whole structure is joined together and rises to be a holy temple in the Lord."The analogy of the temple used in the verse follows that in 1Pet 2:6. Eph 2:20 points out the deep union of Jesus, the Apostles and all Christians.I t shows every Christian as a stone that forms part of the one Church founded by Jesus on the Apostles led by Peter. Thus, Jesus, the Apostles and all Christians make up the one temple of God. It goes without saying that every true believer is a part of this building and anyone who refuses to be a part of it rejects not only the Church but Christ himself.

Finally, instead of negating Peter's commissioning by Jesus as the rock-foundation of the Church, 1Cor 3:11; 1Pet 2:6-8, and Eph 2:20 only support it.These verses prove the inseparability of Jesus, Peter and the Church and point to the fact that where ever Peter, or his successor is, there will Jesus and his church be.

The true church

In these times when a multitude of people claim to belong to the true church of the Lord, it is best to look in the Bible where their claim to authority comes from. Jesus himself warned in Mt 24:23-24: "If anyone says to you 'Look here is the Christ!' or, 'There he is!' do not believe it. False christs and false prophets will arise, and they will perform signs and wonders so great as to deceive, if it were possible, even the chosen ones."

Jesus has given us an immovable sign indicating where his church is. The sign is a rock.

Catholics need not look any further. The Pope is the sign of the church of Jesus here on earth. He is the indisputable successor to Peter, the rock commissioned by the Lord to be the foundation of the church of God.

Nearly 2,000 years of history attest to this aspect of the Roman Catholic faith. As the successor of Peter, John Paul II stood, and now Pope Benedict XVI stands, as the heir to the role bestowed by Jesus on Peter as the shepherd of his flock on earth. The Roman Catholic-Christian faith unites the faithful with the rock of the Church and assures them that they are part of the flock of Jesus. This is a privilege that all Roman Catholics only need to realize, nurture and live to the fullest.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Catholics 'worship' Mary, the saints, angels, statues

FOLLOWING is a Biblical catechism on the Catholic practice of venerating the Virgin Mary, the saints, angels and religious statues and images.


QUESTION:
Do Catholics worship Mary, the saints, angels and religious statues and images?

ANSWER:

No, Catholics DO NOT worship them as God or as gods.

Catholics DO NOT consider them as gods.

What Catholics do is that they venerate Mary, the saints and angels.

Veneration means giving them great respect, honor, devotion and praise that are worthy of being believers, followers and servants of God.

* For Mary, cf Catechism of the Catholic Church 487, 971

* For the Saints, cf Veneration of the Saints



Q: Doesn't the veneration of Mary, the saints, angels and statues amount to idolatry?
A: No.

The Bible defines "idolatry" as "having other gods" apart from God.

God says in Exodus 20:3:
"You shall not have other gods besides me." (emphasis mine)


As stated above, Mary, the saints, angels and religious images or statues, are NOT other gods, but servants of God.



Q: Exodus 20:4-5 says "You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them. For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God."

Don't the religious images of Catholics violate that prohibition?



A: No. The text specifies against the carving or having of "idols." It verses don't forbid other forms of images.

In the original Hebrew text of Ex20:4, the word used for "idol" is "pecel."

Strong's Biblical dictionary defines "pecel" as an "1) idol, image."


The Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2010 defines an idol as:

–noun
1. an image or other material object representing a deity to which religious worship is addressed.

2. Bible .
a. an image of a deity other than god.
b. the deity itself.

3. any person or thing regarded with blind admiration, adoration, or devotion: Madame Curie had been her childhood idol.

4. a mere image or semblance of something, visible but without substance, as a phantom.

5. a figment of the mind; fantasy.

6. a false conception or notion; fallacy.



Please take note of the definition used in the "Bible."

It says:
"a. an image of a deity other than god."

"b. the deity itself."




From the definition of Strong's Dictionary and that of Dictionary.com, we can see that an "idol" is an "image of another god." It is not just any form of image, and does not even include all those used in religious worship.

These definitions are consistent with the Catholic belief that what are prohibited in Ex20:3-5 are "other gods" or images of other gods, and NOT all forms of images.

As "other gods," the idols prohibited in Ex20:4-5 are the objects or focus of divine adoration.

It is to the idol that the bowing and adoration are directed at and not to God.

As such, these idols or other gods act as rivals of God. That is the reason why God says that He is a "jealous" God.



Q: What kinds of images do Catholics have?
A: Catholics have images that aim to remind people of God or His servants: Mary, the saints, angels.
For example, an image of the crucified Christ wishes to remind Catholics (and other people, as well) that God, or God the Son, became man and died on the cross to save man from sin and death.

1 Peter 2:24
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”


1 Corinthians 1:18
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."


The image of the crucified Christ is also a declaration of what Catholics believe in as 1Cor1:23 says:
"but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,"



The image of Christ on the cross cannot be considered an idol because it does not take away attention or adoration from God the Savior. On the contrary, the crucified image of Christ brings to mind the salvation given by God.


Other images of Jesus, aim to remind people of His attributes. For example:

* The Sacred Heart reminds us of Christ's burning love for us.

* The image of the Black Nazarene wishes to remind us that Jesus loved us to much that He suffered torture, humiliation and the cross for us.

* The Sto. Nino tells us that Jesus Himself, although God, showed humility by becoming a child for us, being born in a stable, lying on a manger and experiencing the love of a human mother.

* The images of the Blessed Virgin Mary aim to remind us that we have a mother in heaven who loves and cares for us.

* The Immaculate Conception tries to show how we, the Children of Mary, can overcome and defeat the snake, Satan.

And so goes for all the other statues and images of the saints and angels.



Q: Is there a basis for having images that remind people of God?
A: Yes. In fact, God Himself ordered the making of images to help people remember His presence and His saving power. His commands for the making of images as reminder are in the Bible. The making of such images are Biblical.

Two specific orders can be read in Exodus 25:18-22 and Numbers 21:8-9.


Exodus 25:18-22 reads (all emphasis are mine):
"MAKE two CHERUBIM of beaten gold for the two ends of the propitiatory, fastening them so that one cherub springs direct from each end.

"The cherubim shall have their wings spread out above, covering the propitiatory with them; they shall be turned toward each other, but with their faces looking toward the propitiatory.

"This propitiatory you shall then place on top of the ark. In the ark itself you are to put the commandments which I will give you.

"There I will meet you and there, from above the propitiatory, between the two cherubim on the ark of the commandments, I will tell you all the commands that I wish you to give the Israelites."



In Num 21:8-9, we can read:
"... and the LORD said to Moses, "Make a saraph and mount it on a pole, and if anyone who has been bitten looks at it, he will recover."

"Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he recovered."



Exodus 25:18 makes it very clear that God ordered the making of two images of cherubim from "beaten gold."

According to the Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2010, cherubim is the plural for cherub.

In relation to the issue of religious images, a cherub, the dictionary says, is a

1. a celestial being. Gen 3:24; Ezek 1, 10.

2. Theology . a member of the second order of angels, often represented as a beautiful rosy-cheeked child with wings.



All of us probably know what a snake is. It is a creature found "on earth."


According to these facts, God commanded Moises in Ex 25:18-22 to make images "in the shape" of creatures "in the sky above" and a creature "on the earth."

If anyone would claim that "all forms of images" are included in the prohibition in Ex20:3-5, then he would make it appear that God contradicted Himself and violated His commandment when He ordered the making of graven images in Ex 25:18-22 and Num 21:8.


Since God would never contradict Himself, Ex 25:18-22 and Num 21:8-9 only make it clear that God allows certain images to be made.

Which types of images?

Those that remind people of Him or one of His attributes.



Q: What do the images of cherubim in Ex 25:18-22 and the image of the snake in Num 21:8-9 remind people of, if any?

A: The image of the cherubim aim to remind people of God's presence among His people.
God says in Ex 25:22:
"There I will meet you and there, from above the propitiatory, between the two cherubim on the ark of the commandments, I will tell you all the commands that I wish you to give the Israelites."


Please take note that God made use of the two images of the cherubim as markers to remind people of His presence in their midst.

He said, He would give His commandments to the Israelites from "above" and "between the two cherubim," which constituted His throne. (Psalm 99:1)

Thus, from then on, the images of the two cherubim reminded the Israelites that God was with them.


For the serpent in Num 21:8-9, God intended that the image of the snake remind the Israelites of His saving power.

God says in the verse:
"if anyone who has been bitten looks at it [image of the serpent], he will recover."

Numbers 21:8 shows that God can use religious images to perform miracles. The verse
proves and confirms the experience of many Catholics who have encountered miraculous cures through religious statues.

But before some critic distorts this fact, Catholics believe that the religious images did not, and do not, perform miracles. God only uses certain religious images as tools to show His power.



Q: But some would belittle the use of the image of the serpent, saying it was ordered destroyed, as shown in 2Kings 18:4. Is this proof that God indeed disapproves of its use?

A: No. What this event does is that it clearly brings out the difference between an idol and a religious image that reminds people of God.

We have already explained how God used the image of the serpent to remind and show people of His saving might.

For us to understand why the image of the snake was destroyed, let us read 2Kings 18:4.

It reads,
"It was he who removed the high places, shattered the pillars, and cut down the sacred poles. He smashed the bronze serpent called Nehushtan which Moses had made, because up to that time the Israelites were burning incense to it."


We will notice that the bronze serpent was ordered destroyed because "Israelites were burning incense to it."

Please take note that the burning of the incense was not directed at God. It was being done towards the image.

Simply put, the Israelites have stopped seeing the image of the serpent as a reminder for God, but have begun treating is as "god" or "another god." The bronze snake had ceased being a religious image for God. It has become an idol.

We may put it this way:

BRONZE SERPENT = IMAGE REMINDER OF GOD'S POWER = OK

BRONZE SERPENT = ANOTHER GOD, AN IDOL = NOT OK



Q: But don't Catholics treat religious images as gods by bowing to them, serving them, touching them, praying to them?

A: No, Catholics DO NOT direct any such action or actions toward the image itself (as what the Israelites did when they burned incense "to" the bronze serpent).

Catholics bow or kneel IN FRONT OF religious images. They DO NOT bow or kneel TO them.

No sane Catholic would say that he or she bows or kneels TO a religious image, as if it were a god. No right-minded Catholic would even think that the religious image or statue "is God Himself."

Catholics would say that they kneel or bow IN FRONT OF an image, and their action is directed towards God in Heaven, whom they are reminded of through the religious image.

In the same way, when Catholics pray, they DO NOT pray TO the images. They pray IN FRONT OF an image, but their prayers are DIRECTED TO God in heaven.


When people say that Catholics bow or kneel or pray TO images, they are expressing a misconception. They are confused.

Sadly, such a confusion is shared by many Catholics, who find it hard explaining why they are allowed to bow or kneel in front of statues. But in their hearts they know that the images or statues are NOT the object of their adoration, but God.


The same is true when Catholics touch images. The action is not really for the image. It is an expression of affection that they want to offer God but since He has gone back to heaven, the image becomes an instrument or tool for such a show of love.



Q: When Catholics bow or kneel in front of images, aren't they violating God's commandment not to "bow down before" images?

A: No, because an action before an image that reminds people of God is different from one that is done before an idol.

Bowing or kneeling BEFORE a religious reminder of God is ultimately bowing or kneeling BEFORE GOD. The action is NOT directed at the image but towards God.

Joshua 7:6 provides us with a very good example of that.


In Joshua 7:1-5, we can read that the Israelites were defeated in a battle.

The Israelites led by Joshua felt despair and so we read in Jos 7:6-7:
"Joshua, together with the elders of Israel, rent his garments and lay prostrate before the ark of the LORD until evening; and they threw dust on their heads.

"Alas, O Lord GOD," Joshua prayed..."


Please note that Joshua and the other leaders of Israel "lay prostrate BEFORE the ark."

What were on the ark?

The two graven images of the cherubim.

In short, the Israelites lay prostrate IN FRONT OF or BEFORE the images of the cherubim.


If we are to believe critics who say that kneeling or bowing BEFORE an image is idolatrous or violates the commandment of God, then it would appear that Joshua and the Israelites violated God's order.

What's would be worse is that it would appear that Joshua prayed TO the images of the cherubim.

But they did not violate God's commandment nor did Joshua commit any sin when he uttered a prayer while lying prostrate IN FRONT OF or BEFORE the graven reminders of God's presence.

The proof is God never chastises them for their action BEFORE the statues of the cherubim.


We will read in Jos 7:10-15 God spoke to Joshua and scolded him for lying prostrate on the ground. But the Lord did not object to their actions IN FRONT OF the images.

God scolded them for another sin, which was taking goods or loot that the Lord had prohibited them from taking from their enemies. (Jos 7:11)


So, we see here that God allows His people to lay prostrate (an act of total submission) BEFORE or IN FRONT OF two religious images. How much less would God object if Catholics bowed, knelt or prayed BEFORE or IN FRONT OF religious statues that are reminders of God's presence?

Why does God allow His people to lay prostrate, kneel, bow, or pray BEFORE or IN FRONT OF images?

Because He knows the hearts of His people (Acts 15:8) and He knows that their actions are NOT for the objects but for Him.



Q: Are there any other Biblical proof that God allows the use of religious images?

A: Yes, and there is a lot.

In Israel, the center of worship was the temple. It was the House of God.

Psalm 65:4 says:
Blessed are those you choose and bring near to live in your courts! We are filled with the good things of your house, of your holy temple.


Now, if God did not approve of religious images and reminders of His presence or power or glory, He would have banned or prohibited all forms of images from His house, the temple.

God never banned nor prohibited images or statues from the temple.

On the contrary, the Lord even inspired Solomon (who built the first temple) to adorn His house with scores of images.


1 Chronicles 28:11-13 says:
"Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the portico of the temple, its buildings, its storerooms, its upper parts, its inner rooms and the place of atonement.

"He gave him the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the LORD and all the surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the temple of God and for the treasuries for the dedicated things."


Included in the plans that the Spirit of God inspired for the temple are the making and carving of religious images and symbols.

For example, the most important part of the temple was called the Holy of Holies. It was where the Ark of the Covenant was kept (1Kings 6:19). It was the place where God's glory dwelt (Psalm 26:8).

In the Holy of Holies, two huge images of cherubim.

1Kings 6:23-28 reads:
"For the inner sanctuary he made a pair of cherubim out of olive wood, each ten cubits high.

"One wing of the first cherub was five cubits long, and the other wing five cubits—ten cubits from wing tip to wing tip.

"The second cherub also measured ten cubits, for the two cherubim were identical in size and shape.

"The height of each cherub was ten cubits.

"He placed the cherubim inside the innermost room of the temple, with their wings spread out. The wing of one cherub touched one wall, while the wing of the other touched the other wall, and their wings touched each other in the middle of the room.

"He overlaid the cherubim with gold."


It is clear from the text that God inspired and allowed Solomon to make and put two images of cherubim in the Most Holy Place of the temple.

If God had prohibited such images, why did He allow such images in His very dwelling place on earth?

It only meant that God allowed images that reminded people of His presence.



If God allowed religious images inside the holiest place in the temple, it was not surprising that He inspired Solomon to fill the entire temple with images as well.

In 1Kings 6:29, 32, 35 we can read:
"On the walls all around the temple, in both the inner and outer rooms, he carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers."

"And on the two olive-wood doors he carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers, and overlaid the cherubim and palm trees with hammered gold."

"He carved cherubim, palm trees and open flowers on them and overlaid them with gold hammered evenly over the carvings."



In 1Kings 7:18-19
"He made pomegranates [a kind of fruit] in two rows encircling each network to decorate the capitals on top of the pillars. He did the same for each capital.

"The capitals on top of the pillars in the portico were in the shape of lilies [a plant], four cubits high.



Other images and statues in the temple can be read in the following:

In 1Kings 7:23-25, Solomon made a "sea" that rested on images or statues of bulls.

In 1Kings 7:29, he ordered the making of images of lions, bulls and cherubim.

In 1Kings 7:36, images of lions, cherubim and palm trees were made.


We can see from the Biblical testimony that the temple or house of God was filled with religious images and statues.

If we try to compare the houses of worship today with the temple of God, perhaps only one would compare to the house of the Lord. And that would be a Catholic church or house of worship.

Only a Catholic church is adorned with many religious images. Unlike the houses of worship of other faiths that are often bare and do not resemble the temple of God.



There are many other Biblical proof of God ordering the making of images or reminders or memorials for Him. But the ones given above are more than enough to show that God allowed religious images as long as these were reminders of Him.




IN CONCLUSION
, the above Biblical evidence and proof texts show that not all images are prohibited by God.

God allows religious images that remind people of Him. That is why Catholics have images or statues that relate to God, His attributes, His actions and His servants.

What He prohibits are idols or objects that point to "other gods."

The Lord also allows His people to use images in worshiping Him. He allows them to lay prostrate, bow, kneel or pray IN FRONT OF or BEFORE such images or statues of remembrance.

Catholics do not commit idolatry because of their respect for Mary, the saints, angels (of which cherubim are included), and for having and using religious images or statues.

In fact, only Catholics are comparable to the Israelites in their use of religious images as reminders for God and for religious worship.



OTHER RESOURCES FOR USE OF SACRED IMAGES IN THE CATHOLIC CHURCH:

* Catholic Answers

* The Splendor of the Church

* Catholic Culture

* New Advent

* EWTN Library

* Sacred Images in Baltimore Catechism

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Catholic's Response

THE ROMAN Catholic Church and Roman Catholics have been at the receiving end of so much misinformation and black propaganda that it is probably the most maligned religious group in the world today.

It, its leaders and its members have been accused of being followers of demons or teaching the devil's ways but Catholics have largely chosen to keep their silence.

While many Catholics have begun standing up against these false accusations and claims, I believe more voices are needed to counteract the torrent of lies being driven against the Church.

This blog is only one of those voices ... and many are rising up to speak for the truth.