Friday, August 7, 2009

We REALLY Don't Worship Statues

At least James White has some saving graces, i.e. he's a solid convincing debater and most of his debating opponents have to work for their wins. The yawning chasm between he and the rest of his crew is given flesh by the latest article from TurretinFan entitled "We Don't Worship Statues" I can almost see White's pursed lips and raised left eyebrow as he agreed to allow this article to go live. Here are some extracts from that article with my comments following:

How many times have I heard the line, "We don't worship statues"! It seems that whenever one brings up the subject of idolatry with a Roman Catholic, they invariably think it is a defense that they are not venerating the statue itself, but the thing it represents. My intuitive response has typically been: do you think the pagans think that the statue is actually the god itself?

Just in case they think that, I happen to have found an interesting article that makes the following claim: P. Sivaraman, the chairman of the temple's board of trustees, explained to the 80 [Roman] Catholics that Hindus do not worship the images -- they are only there to help devotees focus their minds on an omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient God.

Now, where have we heard that before?

Nevertheless, despite the obvious propaganda nature of the piece, it is simply intuitive. When a Hindu looks at a statue of Brahma, or Vishnu, or Shiva, the Hindu doesn't think that the statue is the god, any more than the Greeks thought that the statue of their gods were the gods themselves. But the true and living God is not worshiped with the works of man's hands, as though he needed anything, as Scriptures teach. Therefore, whether your idolatry is Roman Catholic or Hindu, flee it. Keep yourselves from idols.

Well, TF, I think we have a pretty clear example from the Bible of what God meant by idolatry. Clearly, when Moses' followers built a golden calf with God Himself not but a few miles away up the mountain with Moses, they never intended their statue to help them focus on God. They were disappointed with God. They were in rebellion against God. And there's a big difference between that and what Catholics, or Hindus for that matter, do.

When God ordered statues of angels to be placed in the new temple and on the Ark of the Convenant, it was already established in the minds of His people that He was their God. Otherwise, why build a temple to Him and why build an ark for Him. In this context, statues of angels were never likely to serve as so much lurid temptation ready to draw the Israelites away from worship of God. On the contrary, these angels would have served as reminders of the service of God.

Idolatry, in the context of the golden calf built by the exodusing Israelites, is the worship of something that is a SUBSTITUTE for God - what God referred to when He said "Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me". That could be fast cars, women, money or, indeed, golden calves.

Should God deign to display His physical aspect to the world as a whole, certainly every religion serious about their worship would quickly fall into line. We might see Ganesh disappear instantly. On the other hand, those who never had any intention to worship God but rather, in rebellion, wished to worship a substitute, would not.

If an elephant helps Hindus envisage God in a friendly, kindly light, and their elephant was not built as a rebellious act against God, and when they worship it they truly intend to worship God, then I for one don't detect idolatry. That would be sincere worship of God. That's the beginning of holiness. God can lead them from there.

As for Catholics, if their statues of saints help them remember and seek to emulate the courage and fidelity of their predecessors in their service of God, while also being capable of interceding directly for them to God in three persons, then again, nothing to see here except sincere desire to worship and serve God.

One simply MUST be able to make these distinctions. They are not particularly difficult distinctions to make. Shame on you TurretinFan and, vicariously, Alpha Omega Ministries.

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