How are blessed items not "idols"


#1

Ok, maybe the question came out wrong, but I am wondering how blessed items, be them crucifixes, statues of Mary or the Saints, etc. not be considered “idols”. It is tough to get past the idea that people are praying “to” the item. It seems as this would be in direct violation of the commandments.
And on that note, what about santuaries (actually, that is not the word I am looking for, but it is late and I am foggy). I mean places people go to honor and revere a saint. I know we pray to the Saints for intercession, but do you think God will see the direct reverence of such a place as a sin?

I think this is one of the big questions I have with the RCC. If the post came out totally wrong, I will try to rephrase in the morning.
Thanks!!


#2

Of course we don’t pray TO the actual crucifix or any other such item, blessed or not. They are simply images - like we have photographs of our families to remind us of them, we have these images of Christ and the saints to remind us of them. When we pray in front of a crucifix we’re praying TO Christ who is represented in that image, not to the image itself.

Think of it this way. Some people actually do kiss or talk to photographs of their loved ones. This happens with both living and deceased members of their families. This may be slightly unusual behaviour to see but certainly no-one thinks of it as being idol-worship in any way. We do the same with the Saints because they are also members of our spiritual family.


#3

A blessed item is an ‘item’ that has been blessed. Blessed in the name of God. Blessings are given for people and things throughout the Bible. We have ‘blessings’ over our food, (Jesus did this, remember?) we ‘bless’ each other when we sneeze, etc. (there are many blessings for people, Aaron’s blessing --The Lord bless you and keep you, etc.) but nobody thinks we worship our food or each other, though, right?

Conversely, an idol is something that is specificially **worshiped as a god. ** That is considered to be, all by itself, a material object, yet a god. We do not approach a crucifix and think that the **crucifix ** is God, anymore than we approach a painting of Christ in a museum and think that it is Christ Himself in, and only in, that painting.

You might make a better case for idolatry for many people of their TVs, cars, money, entertainers etc.! There are more people who are so focused on the latest media celebs, trying to look like them, act like them, eager for every detail of their life–elevating the celebs above God insofar as they are thinking and acting for the celebs instead of God! Far more than those who admire the saints (who after all are examples of fine virtuous Christian living) and ask the saints’ helpby prayer to help them to be closer to God.


#4

ever talked to a loved one who has passed away when you are looking at an old picture of them?

Are you tlaking to the paper and ink in the picture, or does the picture represent a greater reality (the dearly departed person)?

The same thing goes for blessed objects, icons, etc.
These physical things point us to greater spiritual realities.
When we kiss a crucifix, venerate an icon, or bow before a statue of the blessed virgin, we are not paying honor to the object itself. Our honor is directed toward what the symbol represents.
That is the distinction between veneration and idolatry.

The golden calf was worshipped as the end in itself. The worship of the Hebrews was toward the calf. By contrast, with a blessed object, the veneration is directed “through” the object and “to” God.


#5

An Idol is some material thing that you worship. Catholics should not act in any way that would even hint at worship of the object. I will admit that some do, and the Church strongly says that this is wrong. A shrine is a place set apart from the world. A place where Christians can come and spend some time in prayer to GOD and get away from the world for a little while.


#6

It is impossible to worship anything if you don’t believe that it is God, no matter what your actions look like. In pagan religions where they have genuine textbook idolatry, the faith that the object itself IS divine is their doctrine. I don’t know any catholics that actually believe statues ARE God.

Conversely, some Christians “pray” directly to God, yet in tehir hearts do not believe in Him. They are not worshipping God either, sine they have no faith.

To Bless means to commend a thing to the good and faithful worship or service of God. It’s value is relative to the holiness of the giver. I think this is a traditional practice going back to the OT.


#7

The Bible and the Catholic Church make a distinction between a religious statue and an idol and you should too.

Religious statues are good things, as they remind us of God or His friends, the angels and saints in heaven.

If God forbade religious statues altogether, then why did He command Moses to make two small cherubim statues of beaten gold and fasten them to the lid of the Ark of the Covenant? (Exodus 25:17-22) Why did He command Moses to make a bronze statue of a serpent, place it on a pole, and command the people to look upon it, if they wanted to be healed? (Numbers 21:8-9) Why did He fill the Solomon’s Temple with His glory when there were two giant cherubim statues, each about fifteen feet tall, placed on either side of the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, along with the other countless carved figures of cherubim covering the interior walls and doors of the Temple? (1 Kings 6:23-35; 8:11)

If you had had the chance to see the inside of Solomon’s Temple with all its religious statues, I dare say it would have reminded you more of a Catholic church than any non-Catholic Christian church.

So, a religious statue is a good thing but, like all good things, a religious statue can be abused and turned into an idol, if it is treated as a god, and this is exactly what happened in the case of Moses’ serpent statue. In the days of King Hezekiah, the Jews fell into idolatry and began treating Moses’ serpent statue as if it were a god, offering it sacrifices of incense. King Hezekiah destroyed Moses’ serpent statue because the Jews had turned the religious statue (a good thing) into an idol (a bad thing) by treating it as if it were a god. (2 Kings 18:4)

The Jews angered God for treating the golden calf statue they had made in the desert as a god and thus making it into an idol (Exodus 32:1-10), but God was pleased with the twelve bronze oxen statues that supported the large bronze sea that stood just outside Solomon’s Temple. (1 Kings 7:23-39; 2 Chronicles 4:2-18) The only significant difference between the calf statue in the desert and the oxen statues outside Solomon’s Temple was the way they were treated by the Jews, the one became an idol (a bad thing) when it was treated as a god and the others were simply religious statues (good things).

Catholic statues are simply religious statues and the Catholic Church condemns as idolatrous anyone who turns a religious statue into an idol by treating it as a god.


#8

Top o’ th’ Mornin’ to ya! :smiley:

My dear Irish sister in Christ,

Please don’t be buyin’ into all the propaganda from folks who carry Bibles and offer you alternatives to our most holy faith. Look what happened to me.

As to this misbegotten Iconoclasm that you are considerin’. Let me show you where I dealt with this in a much earlier thread here at CAF. Dave’s Allegation That Catholics Are Idolaters.

If you would like to talk to someone who has already made the journey you might be thinking of please PM or e-mail me through this site. I believe that we make a huge mistake when we leave the Catholic faith.
The peace of the Lord be always with you.


#9

The difference is that it was by God’s command that they put the cherubim over the “mercy seat.” The cherubim in the O.T. are always portrayed as the protectors of God’s holiness. It was God Himself who told the Israelites to place the bronze serpent on the standard so that when they looked to it they were healed when bitten. It was a “type” of Christ (Jn. 3:14), as was the “mercy seat” over the ark.

The difference is GOD told them to make these items for HIS purpose. God did not tell the Israelites to make the golden calf - nor does He tell us to make religious images to bow and pray before and to kiss.


#10

Did God tell us to hang pictures of loved ones on the wall to remember them?


#11

I agree that is A difference, but I still say the ESSENTIAL difference is that the golden calf was itself believed to be a deity, whereas the cherubim were not, as are not any of the statues in my church.

Further, Jesus meant for us to follow the authentic teaching an example of His Church, which speaks for Him. So in that sense, He has ordered statues and paintings vicariously.

Maybe another tack would be to follow the examples of saints whom we know are in Heaven. I cannot name any saints who are known for smashing statues or burning paintings, even criticizing them. They all seem pretty much on the same page with this, meaning that it’s all good.


#12

Remember, in the OT they were not only told not to make graven images, they were told not to make any likeness of anything in heaven, on earth, under the earth or in the sea. In other words, a statue is no “worse” than a picture or a painting or a movie or a video. Now did God really mean that we cannot have any images in our lives? Hardly. He just doesn’t want us to treat them like God.

And on this subject, is it really likely that the entire Church got it wrong? For not only the Catholics but also the Orthodox use images for sacred purposes. How is it that nobody, but nobody, figured that this was a problem until the Reformation, when untold amounts of sacred art (and music) were destroyedd by the “reformers”?


#13

I am glad Vocimike brought this up, b/c the Orthodox (greece, etc) are a good measuring stick for what is normal for Christians, since they are the ones St Paul wrote to and you figure they would know what they are doing all along.

Really any objection to sacred images is a veiled antagonism to the Church itself, not the focussed argument it pretends to be.

I seem to remember protestants gobbling up Mel Gibson’s Passion film with two spoons, which was nothing but a moving version of the very type of artwork they don’t like, and some protestant churches projected it onto movie screens, which I saw as a sort of irony or hypocrisy.


#14

Wherever did you get the idea that we pray to rosaries, crucifixes, statues, etc? Also, why do you think blessing an object makes it an idol? I’d like to understand how you acquired these notions.

Blessing an object is a tradition that comes to us from our Jewish heritage and continued in the New Testament times-- blessing objects and people consecrate them to a holy purpose. Crucifixes, rosaries, statues, churches, are all blessed because they are for a holy purpose. There is nothing idolatrous about consecrating things or people and dedicating them to God.

Perhaps you mean a shrine?

God is the author of the Communion of Saints. He created this Communion we share with the Saints in heaven. Jesus taught his Apostles the truths of the faith. So, why would God consider a sin that which he created? A doctrine of the faith cannot be false, or sinful.


#15

[quote=VociMike]Remember, in the OT they were not only told not to make graven images, they were told not to make any likeness of anything in heaven, on earth, under the earth or in the sea. In other words, a statue is no “worse” than a picture or a painting or a movie or a video. Now did God really mean that we cannot have any images in our lives? Hardly. He just doesn’t want us to treat them like God.
[/quote]

Actually, they were not to make those images into religious symbols. God Himself instructed the Israelites as to what symbols they were to use in their religious worship. They either spoke to His divine attributes or prefigured the Messiah to come. But it was God Himself who instructed them concerning these things - not the priests. Nor were those items ever bowed down to, kissed, or superstitiously “blessed” in order to give them some sort of extraordinary significance.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews begins with:God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son…"The many “portions and in many ways” include the religious objects He used to either symbolically describe Himself (His attributes) or to prefigure the coming of Messiah (His Person and work). But that was in the past, in anticipation of the One who gives them substance.

Today (this side of the cross) He speaks to us “in His Son.” As Jesus Himself said:“Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me…If you had known Me you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him and have seen Him…he who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:1-9).Those “portions and ways” belong to the past, Messiah has come, as the writer to the Hebrews says:Heb 1:3 "And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,"And he writes, speaking to those whose ancestors were given the ONLY true, sacred symbols in respect to the faith that was to come:Heb 12:2 "…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."It’s no longer about objects (actually never was), but the Son.


#16

[quote=VociMike]And on this subject, is it really likely that the entire Church got it wrong? For not only the Catholics but also the Orthodox use images for sacred purposes.
[/quote]

Not without constant controversy. In fact, there was violent controversy about images in the East for more than a century; even Eastern Emperors got involved. And the stance against what was called even called then,“image worship,” produced its own martyrs during those years.

There was an iconoclastic Council in Constantinople which condemned images, but then the practice was sanctioned again by the second Council of Nicaea and pronounced “anathema” on all who failed to participate in such exercises. But the image-war still continued after that Council.

In the West Charlemagne, with the aid of his chaplains, in book form titled “Quatuor Libri Carolini” denounced images stating that to bow or kneel, to salute or kiss, to strew incense and light candles before them was idolatrous and superstitious. It was said that it was better to search the Scriptures which knew nothing of such practices. Images were only to be used to adorn and not to be used in worship.

Agobard, archbishop of Lyons, wrote a book against images and considered its roots to be in the worship of saints.

Caudius, bishop of Turin, found the Italian churches full of pictures and picture-worshipers. He was told that the people did not mean to worship the images, but the saints. He replied that the heathen on the same ground defend the worship of their idols, and may become Christians by merely changing the name. He even attacked the superstitious use of the sign of the cross. He said if we worship the cross because Christ suffered on it, we might also worship every virgin because He was born of a virgin, every manger because He was laid in a manger, every ship because He taught from a ship, yea, every donkey because He rode on a donkey into Jerusalem. He said we should bear the cross, not adore it. He banished pictures, crosses and crucifixes from the churches as the only way to kill superstition. He also opposed pilgrimages.

Point being, VociMike, the use of images in Christian worship always had its controversy and conflict all the way down to the Reformation period. The extreme reaction by Catholics, yes, Catholics, during the Reformation in the 1500s was proof of this. It never did set well with ALL the people all the time, either with clergy or laymen, either in the East or the West.


#17

What do you make, then, of New Testament stories of a woman being healed just by touching Christ’s robe? Of the fact that Christ himself BLESSED the bread at the Last Supper before he shared it?

Of people positioning themselves so that Peter’s shadow would fall on them, and that they were healed thereby? Of Paul ACTUALLY blessing pieces of cloth (‘napkins’ or ‘towels’) that were taken to those who were sick and used to heal them?

Of course blessed objects do have great significance.

Then again, how do you explain Paul’s line in the epistles: “Oh foolish Galatians, before whose eyes Christ was portrayed as being crucified”? Sounds more than anything like Paul and the Galatians used images of the crucified Christ in their evangelisation and worship.

Certainly there are more than enough images in the Catacombs, dating from very early in Christian history, to make this more than possible.


#18

Ok, maybe the question came out wrong, but I am wondering how blessed items, be them crucifixes, statues of Mary or the Saints, etc. not be considered “idols”. It is tough to get past the idea that people are praying “to” the item. It seems as this would be in direct violation of the commandments.

Someone answered this question (“we do not pray to [them]”), so I will simply provide a few scripture verses for thought:

Statues in the Temple (According to the Plan of God): “On the walls round about in the inner room and [on] the nave were carved likenesses of cherubim” (Ezekiel 41:18).

God Commanded Moses to make Statues: “And you shall make two cherubim of gold *; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat.” (Exodus 25:18).

As an afterthought, here are some verses about how scripture describes bowing toward sacred images as reverence:

Bowing (Toward Sacred Images): “But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple” (Psalm 5:7).

Bowing (Toward Sacred Images, Part II): “I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word” (Psalm 138:2).

And on that note, what about san[c]tuaries (actually, that is not the word I am looking for, but it is late and I am foggy). I mean places people go to honor and revere a saint.

You mean shrines. These are in the Old Testament and were built by Christians in the early centuries as well. Here are few quotations for thought:

Statues in the Temple (According to the Plan of God): “On the walls round about in the inner room and [on] the nave were carved likenesses of cherubim” (Ezekiel 41:18).

“The bones of Joseph…were buried in Shechem… This was a heritage of the descendents of Joseph” (Josh 24:32).

[FONT=Times New Roman][/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman]“So they cast the dead man into the grave of Elisha, and everyone went off. But when the man came in contanct with the bones of Elisha, he came back to life and rose to his feet” (2 Kings 13:20).

[/FONT]

I know we pray to the Saints for intercession, but do you think God will see the direct reverence of such a place as a sin?

He didn’t in Hebrews 13:7 “Remember your leaders and how their lives ended, and imitate their faith.”*


#19

Ok, maybe the question came out wrong, but I am wondering how blessed items, be them crucifixes, statues of Mary or the Saints, etc. not be considered “idols”. It is tough to get past the idea that people are praying “to” the item. It seems as this would be in direct violation of the commandments.

Someone answered this question (“we do not pray to [them]”), so I will simply provide a few scripture verses for thought:

Statues in the Temple (According to the Plan of God): “On the walls round about in the inner room and [on] the nave were carved likenesses of cherubim” (Ezekiel 41:18).

God Commanded Moses to make Statues: “And you shall make two cherubim of gold *; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat.” (Exodus 25:18).

As an afterthought, here are some verses about how scripture describes bowing toward sacred images as reverence:


Bowing (Toward Sacred Images): “But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple” (Psalm 5:7).

Bowing (Toward Sacred Images, Part II): “I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word” (Psalm 138:2).

And on that note, what about san[c]tuaries (actually, that is not the word I am looking for, but it is late and I am foggy). I mean places people go to honor and revere a saint.

You mean shrines. These are in the Old Testament and were built by Christians in the early centuries as well. Here are few quotations for thought:

Statues in the Temple (According to the Plan of God): “On the walls round about in the inner room and [on] the nave were carved likenesses of cherubim” (Ezekiel 41:18).

“The bones of Joseph…were buried in Shechem… This was a heritage of the descendents of Joseph” (Josh 24:32).

[FONT=Times New Roman][/FONT]
[FONT=Times New Roman]“So they cast the dead man into the grave of Elisha, and everyone went off. But when the man came in contanct with the bones of Elisha, he came back to life and rose to his feet” (2 Kings 13:20).

[/FONT]

I know we pray to the Saints for intercession, but do you think God will see the direct reverence of such a place as a sin?

[quote]

He didn’t in Hebrews 13:7 “Remember your leaders and how their lives ended, and imitate their faith.”

[/quote]


#20

The constant contoversy is from fundamentalists who do not belong to the Church Jesus Christ founded. Peter and Paul both said something about people like this:

“But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand” (2 Peter 2:12b).

“Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth—men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected” (2 Tim 3:8).

Moses sounds alot like a type of pope in this passage doesn’t he? His word was law. No one could go against him.

There was an iconoclastic Council in Constantinople which condemned images, but then the practice was sanctioned again by the second Council of Nicaea and pronounced “anathema” on all who failed to participate in such exercises. But the image-war still continued after that Council.

But scripture does not say lay people (disciples) are in charge of the Church, it says the Bishops are:

“For the bishop as God’s steward” (Titus 1:7a)

“As for you younger ones, be subject to the presbyters” (1 Peter 5:5).

The Apostles and presbyters signed a letter in Acts 15 with this decree:

“It is the decision of us and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 15:28).

And finally we know who appoints the bishops:

“…the holy Spirit who has appointed you overseers” (Acts 20:28b).

Who is anyone to contradict the bishops if the Holy Spirit has appointed them?

In the West Charlemagne, with the aid of his chaplains, in book form titled “Quatuor Libri Carolini” denounced images stating that to bow or kneel, to salute or kiss, to strew incense and light candles before them was idolatrous and superstitious. It was said that it was better to search the Scriptures which knew nothing of such practices. Images were only to be used to adorn and not to be used in worship.

Charlemange is now a pope and bishop? Who ordained him btw?

**

Agobard

, archbishop of Lyons, wrote a book against images and considered its roots to be in the worship of saints.**

Minority opinion, one bishop does not a council make:

This is the letter delivered by them: "The apostles and the presbyters, your brothers, to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of Gentile origin: greetings…(Acts 15:23).

Sounds like there was not a single bishop by himself signing this letter. They did it as a council.

**

Caudius

, bishop of Turin, found the Italian churches full of pictures and picture-worshipers. He was told that the people did not mean to worship the images, but the saints. He replied that the heathen on the same ground defend the worship of their idols, and may become Christians by merely changing the name. He even attacked the superstitious use of the sign of the cross. He said if we worship the cross because Christ suffered on it, we might also worship every virgin because He was born of a virgin, every manger because He was laid in a manger, every ship because He taught from a ship, yea, every donkey because He rode on a donkey into Jerusalem. He said we should bear the cross, not adore it. He banished pictures, crosses and crucifixes from the churches as the only way to kill superstition. He also opposed pilgrimages.**

Minority opinion. One bishop does not a council make (see quotes above).

Point being, VociMike, the use of images in Christian worship always had its controversy and conflict all the way down to the Reformation period. The extreme reaction by Catholics, yes, Catholics, during the Reformation in the 1500s was proof of this. It never did set well with ALL the people all the time, either with clergy or laymen, either in the East or the West.

Wrong. Just because a few Christians don’t like it does not make them correct, unless they are the pope of course. Paul had this to say about factions:

“I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder” (2 Cor 12:20).

“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious:…dissensions, factions…” (Gal 5:19 & 20).


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