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Do Catholics Worship Statues?
Tim Staples' Blog ^ | November 30, 2013 | Tim Staples

Posted on 12/10/2013 8:16:59 AM PST by GonzoII

Do Catholics Worship Statues?


The first commandment says: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them” (Ex. 20:2–5).

Well-meaning Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, armed with the above text, often try to use it against Catholics: “How can God make it any clearer than this? We are not to have ‘graven images,’ or statues, yet what do you see in almost every Catholic Church around the world? Statues! This is the definition of idolatry. And please, do not give me any of this nonsense about equating the statues in your churches to carrying a photograph of a loved one in your wallet. In Exodus 20, as well as in Deuteronomy 5:7–8, God specifically says we are not to make statues in the shape of anything in the sky above, the earth below or the waters beneath the earth.”

How are we to respond?

Clarifications

The Catholic Church does not believe any statue or image has any power in and of itself. The beauty of statues and icons move us to the contemplation of the Word of God as he is himself or as he works in his saints. And, according to Scripture, as well as the testimony of the centuries, God even uses them at times to impart blessings (e.g., healings) according to his providential plan.

While it can certainly be understood how a superficial reading of the first commandment could lead one to believe we Catholics are in grave error with regard to our use of statues and icons, the key to a proper understanding of the first commandment is found at the very end of that same commandment, in verse 5 of Exodus 20: “You shall not bow down to them or serve [adore] them.”

The Lord did not prohibit statues; he prohibited the adoration of them. If God truly meant that we were not to possess any statues at all, then he would later contradict himself. Just five chapters after this commandment in Exodus 20, God commanded Moses to build the ark of the Covenant, which would contain the presence of God and was to be venerated as the holiest place in all of Israel. Here is what God commanded Moses concerning the statues on it:

And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end; of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends (Ex. 25:18–19).

In Numbers 21:8–9, not only did our Lord order Moses to make another statue in the form of a bronze serpent, he commanded the children of Israel to look to it in order to be healed. The context of the passage is one where Israel had rebelled against God, and a plague of deadly snakes was sent as a just punishment. This statue of a snake had no power of itself—we know from John 3:14 it was merely a type of Christ—but God used this image of a snake as an instrument to effect healing in his people.

Further, in 1 Kings 6, Solomon built a temple for the glory of God, described as follows:

In the inner sanctuary he made two cherubim of olivewood, each ten cubits high. . . . He put the cherubim in the innermost part of the house. . . . He carved all the walls of the house round about with carved figures of cherubim and palm trees, and open flowers, in the inner and outer rooms. . . . For the entrance to the inner sanctuary he made doors of olivewood. . . . He covered the two doors of olivewood with carvings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers; he overlaid them with gold (1 Kgs. 6:23, 27, 29, 31, 32).

King Solomon ordered the construction of multiple images of things both “in heaven above” (angels) and “in the earth beneath” (palm trees and open flowers). After the completion of the temple, God declared he was pleased with its construction (1 Kgs. 9:3).

It becomes apparent, given the above evidence, that a strictly literal interpretation of Exodus 20:2–5 is erroneous. Otherwise, we would have to conclude that God prohibits something in Exodus 20 that he commands elsewhere.

Guiding Us Home

Why would God use these images of serpents, angels, palm trees, and open flowers? Why didn’t he heal the people directly rather than use a “graven image”? Why didn’t he command Moses and Solomon to build an ark and a temple void of any images at all?

First, God knows what his own commandments mean. He never condemned the use of statues absolutely. Second, God created man as a being who is essentially spiritual and physical. In order to draw us to himself, God uses both spiritual and physical means. He will use statues, the temple, or even creation itself to guide us to our heavenly home.

Psalm 19:1 tells us: “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.” Romans 1:20 says: “Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made.” Gazing at a sunset—or a great painting of a sunset—and contemplating the greatness of God through the beauty of his creation is not idolatry. Nor is it idolatrous to look at statues of great saints of old and honor them for the great things God has done through them. It is no more idolatrous for us to desire to imitate their holy lives and honor them than it was for Paul to exhort the Corinthians to imitate his own holy life (1 Cor. 4:16) and to “esteem very highly” those who were “over [the Thessalonians] in the Lord and admonish [them]” (1 Thess. 5:12–13).

Jesus Is the Reason

It is Jesus Christ himself who gives us the ultimate example of the value of statues and icons. Indeed, Christ, in his humanity, has opened up an entirely new economy of iconography and statuary. Christ becomes for us the ultimate reason for all representations of the angels and saints. Why do we say this? Colossians 1:15 tells us Christ is, “The image (Gr.-icon) of the invisible God.” Christ is the ultimate icon! And what does this icon reveal to us? He reveals God the Father. When Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father,” in John 14:9, he does not mean that he is the Father. He isn’t. He’s the Son. Hebrews 1:3 tells us Christ “reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature.” That is the essence of what statues and icons are. Just as “the word became flesh” (John 1:14) and revealed the Father to us in a manner beyond the imaginings of men before the advent of Christ, representations of God’s holy angels and saints are also icons of Christ who by their heroic virtue “reflect the glory of God” as well. Just as St. Paul told the Corinthians to hold up his own life as a paradigm when he said, “I urge you, then, be imitators of me,” the Church continues to hold up great men and women of faith as “icons” of the life of Christ lived in fallen human nature aided by grace.

Adoration is as Adoration Does

Many Protestants will claim that, while the Catholic may say he does not adore statues, his actions prove otherwise. Catholics kiss statues, bow down before them, and pray in front of them. According to these same Protestants, that represents the adoration that is due God alone. Peter, when Cornelius bowed down to adore him, ordered him to “stand up; I too am a man” (Acts 10:26). When John bowed down before an angel, the angel told him, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you” (Rev. 19:10). But Catholics have no problem bowing down before what is less—a statue of Peter or John!

Is kissing or kneeling down before a statue the same as adoring it? Not necessarily. Both Peter in Acts 10 and the angel in Revelation 19 rebuked Cornelius and John, respectively, specifically for adoring them as if each was adoring the Lord. The problem was not with the bowing; it was with the adoration. Bowing does not necessarily entail adoration. For example, Jacob bowed to the ground on his knees seven times to his elder brother Esau (Gen. 33:3), Bathsheba bowed to her husband David (1 Kgs. 1:16), and Solomon bowed to his mother Bathsheba (1 Kgs. 2:19). In fact, in Revelation 3:9, John records the words of Jesus:

Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and learn that I have loved you.

Here, John uses the same verb for “bow down” (proskuneo) that he used in Revelation 19:10 for “adoration” when he acknowledged his own error in adoring the angel. Would anyone dare say that Jesus would make someone commit idolatry?

St. Paul encourages Christians to greet one another with a holy kiss (Rom. 16:16; 1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26). The clergy in Ephesus embraced and kissed Paul after his final discourse to them in Acts 20:37. As the context of these passages make clear, these are acts of affection, not adoration.

Catholics take very seriously the biblical injunctions to praise and honor great members of God’s family (see, for example, Ps. 45:17; Luke 1:48; 1 Thess. 5:12–13; 1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Pet. 5:5–6). We also believe, as Scripture makes very clear, that death does not separate us from the love of Christ (Rom. 8:38) and from his body, which is the Church (Col. 1:24). Our “elders in heaven” (cf. Rev. 5:8) should be honored as much or even more than our greatest members on earth. So having statues honoring God or great saints brings to mind the God we adore and the saints we love and respect. For Catholics, having statues is just as natural as—you guessed it—having pictures in our wallets to remind us of the ones we love here on earth. But reminding ourselves of loved ones is a far cry from idolatry.



TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: catholic; timstaples
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"The Catholic Church does not believe any statue or
image has any power in and of itself."

1 posted on 12/10/2013 8:16:59 AM PST by GonzoII
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To: GonzoII

Meanwhile, the feet of Peter are worn off (literally) by so many faithful kissing his statue in Rome.


2 posted on 12/10/2013 8:19:00 AM PST by rwfromkansas ("Carve your name on hearts, not marble." - C.H. Spurgeon)
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To: GonzoII

No, they don’t.

Any attempt to say so is sophistry.

Now I will go and read the article...


3 posted on 12/10/2013 8:19:20 AM PST by freedumb2003 (Fight Tapinophobia in all its forms! Do not submit to arduus privilege.)
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To: rwfromkansas

>>Meanwhile, the feet of Peter are worn off (literally) by so many faithful kissing his statue in Rome.<<
Your point being...?


4 posted on 12/10/2013 8:20:07 AM PST by freedumb2003 (Fight Tapinophobia in all its forms! Do not submit to arduus privilege.)
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To: rwfromkansas
"Meanwhile, the feet of Peter are worn off (literally) by so many faithful kissing his statue in Rome."

What were you doing in there?

5 posted on 12/10/2013 8:21:04 AM PST by GonzoII (Ted Cruz/Susana Martinez 2016)
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To: GonzoII

And this whole article is based on exaggeration.

No, they won’t “worship” statues.

That does not mean relying on graven images is not inappropriate.


6 posted on 12/10/2013 8:22:06 AM PST by rwfromkansas ("Carve your name on hearts, not marble." - C.H. Spurgeon)
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To: GonzoII

interesting article. You’ve just educated me on something I did not understand. Thank you for posting!


7 posted on 12/10/2013 8:22:39 AM PST by MNDude
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To: rwfromkansas

Come on.

Do you think they are showing reverence for the feet of the marble statue or the person who was St. Peter?

It isn’t the Blarney Stone they are kissing.


8 posted on 12/10/2013 8:22:45 AM PST by rlmorel ("A nation, despicable by its weakness, forfeits even the privilege of being neutral." A. Hamilton)
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To: GonzoII
"The beauty of statues and icons move us to the contemplation of the Word of God as he is himself or as he works in his saints."

Using the Cheribum of the temple is not an example of this at all as the Cheribum were not designed or intended for this purpose. In fact they were specifically hidden from everyone in Israel except one person who only saw them once a year.

9 posted on 12/10/2013 8:28:12 AM PST by circlecity
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To: GonzoII

More anti-catholic articles? Where are your jewish ones?


10 posted on 12/10/2013 8:29:01 AM PST by Blue Turtle
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To: freedumb2003

and NO we don’t. Thank you. Meaningless article that can be summed up with one word.


11 posted on 12/10/2013 8:29:47 AM PST by Wright Wing
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To: GonzoII

Do Catholics Worship Statues?

NO!


12 posted on 12/10/2013 8:31:35 AM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: GonzoII
The Lord did not prohibit statues; he prohibited the adoration of them.

Adoration of Mary

13 posted on 12/10/2013 8:33:08 AM PST by MeganC (Support Matt Bevin to oust Mitch McConnell! https://mattbevin.com/)
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To: rwfromkansas

Wouldn’t “relying on graven images” in itself be an exaggeration?

The statue might remind one of the actual saint in heaven, and then they would ask the saint in heaven to pray for them. The statue can do nothing.


14 posted on 12/10/2013 8:34:42 AM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: All

I see no need for any graven image. Certainly not in any Christian Church. No, I don’t wear wedding rings or any jewelry on my person and yes I do have photographs of my loved ones.


15 posted on 12/10/2013 8:34:58 AM PST by BipolarBob
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To: GonzoII

As a Catholic I can definitively say no, we do not worship statues.

Statuary and beautiful artwork are part of our tradition, and are meant to be powerful reminders of our God, our Savior, and the many who have worked faithfully in his service through two millennia.

Relics and bones are another matter. Sadly I do no some (mostly older) Catholics who are hung-up in something resembling worship regarding those.


16 posted on 12/10/2013 8:35:10 AM PST by Buckeye McFrog
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To: GonzoII
Well-meaning Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, armed with the above text, often try to use it against Catholics...

Try saying that with a mouthful of mackerel!

17 posted on 12/10/2013 8:35:31 AM PST by Alex Murphy ("the defacto Leader of the FR Calvinist Protestant Brigades")
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To: Blue Turtle

It’s not anti-Catholic. It’s more and answer to “Why do Catholics do that?”


18 posted on 12/10/2013 8:35:59 AM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation
Do Catholics worship statues of Jesus of Mary?

It depends on what kind of “Catholic” church one is in.

Not if they are Jesuits. A Jesuit alter doesn't have Jesus or Mary in sight. There is an IHS monogram to remind folks what this is about.

19 posted on 12/10/2013 8:41:02 AM PST by Robert357 (D.Rather "Hoist with his own petard!" www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1223916/posts)
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To: GonzoII

NO.


20 posted on 12/10/2013 8:41:50 AM PST by Smokin' Joe (How often God must weep at humans' folly. Stand fast. God knows what He is doing.)
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To: Buckeye McFrog

I agree that this is not as much of an issue with the younger Catholics I know.


21 posted on 12/10/2013 8:46:30 AM PST by rwfromkansas ("Carve your name on hearts, not marble." - C.H. Spurgeon)
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To: GonzoII

Better are those who have not seen, and yet believed.—Jesus

Why not just appreciate by faith God’s word on anything? I read that Barnabus was “a good man and full of the Holy Spirit” and there is a lift in my spirit. I want what was true of him to be true of me! This sends me to Jesus, not Barnabus. And yet there’s warm affection in my heart for Barnabus as a fellow believer. He was a man who loved!

Can’t wrap my mind around wanting to build a statue of him. Seems grotesque.


22 posted on 12/10/2013 8:48:02 AM PST by avenir (I'm pessimistic about man, but I'm optimistic about GOD!)
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To: Robert357

**A Jesuit alter **

What kind of altar is that?

Alter-ego?


23 posted on 12/10/2013 8:48:09 AM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Robert357

I’ve been in a Jesuit retreat center and there are statues in the sanctuary. What are you basing this misinformation on?


24 posted on 12/10/2013 8:49:00 AM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: GonzoII
I am not a Catholic but was married to one. I attended Catholic Church serves with her and her family every Sunday. One thing I could never understand is why they sometimes prayed to the Virgin Marry. Reverence to the Mother of Jesus is fine but when I asked them why they pray to Her, they told me that is how they were raised in the Catholic religion. So much for the First Commandment.
25 posted on 12/10/2013 8:50:34 AM PST by drypowder
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To: GonzoII
Do people continue to focus on meaningless minutiae that can only divide otherwise united patriots in times of grave danger to the Republic?

Yes.

26 posted on 12/10/2013 8:51:00 AM PST by who_would_fardels_bear
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To: rlmorel

“Do you think they are showing reverence for the feet of the marble statue or the person who was St. Peter?”

Do you think Peter would want people to show reverence to him? Especially by making a pilgrimage to kiss a hunk of rock?


27 posted on 12/10/2013 8:55:09 AM PST by Boogieman
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To: GonzoII

John of Damascus “On the Divine Images”

Nuff said.


28 posted on 12/10/2013 8:55:48 AM PST by Mad Dawg (In te, Domine, speravi: non confundar in aeternum.)
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To: Blue Turtle

There’s plenty here already. No need to encourage anyone.


29 posted on 12/10/2013 8:57:11 AM PST by Jewbacca (The residents of Iroquois territory may not determine whether Jews may live in Jerusalem.)
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To: Boogieman

That is a different question. You did not answer my question.


30 posted on 12/10/2013 9:07:56 AM PST by rlmorel ("A nation, despicable by its weakness, forfeits even the privilege of being neutral." A. Hamilton)
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To: drypowder
One thing I could never understand is why they sometimes prayed to the Virgin Marry.

We believe in the Communion of Saints. We are one Church here on Earth (the Church Militant) united with the Kingdom of Heaven (the Church Triumphant). As such, we beseech the prayers of the saints just as we ask for each other's prayers here.

Note the words of the Hail Mary prayer. After greeting Her as She was greeted by the Angel Gabriel and acknowledging Her own words in her Magnificat we ask: "... pray for us sinners now and at the hour of death."

31 posted on 12/10/2013 9:10:14 AM PST by pgyanke (Republicans get in trouble when not living up to their principles. Democrats... when they do.)
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To: freedumb2003
God was trying to prevent us from becoming a modern John Frum airplane cult.
32 posted on 12/10/2013 9:10:20 AM PST by rawcatslyentist (Jeremiah 50:32 "The arrogant one will stumble and fall ; / ?)
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To: Jewbacca; Boogieman
"...There’s plenty here already. No need to encourage anyone..."

You aren't kidding.

33 posted on 12/10/2013 9:11:26 AM PST by rlmorel ("A nation, despicable by its weakness, forfeits even the privilege of being neutral." A. Hamilton)
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To: Robert357
Our local Jesuit-staffed church is chock full of statues of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, St. Ignatius, St. Francis Xavier, and a bunch of other saints - and the local Jesuit retreat center not only has bunches of statues, they sell 'em in the gift shop.

Where did you encounter these minimalist Jesuits?

34 posted on 12/10/2013 9:14:10 AM PST by AnAmericanMother (Ecce Crucem Domini, fugite partes adversae. Vicit Leo de Tribu Iuda, Radix David, Alleluia!)
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To: MeganC

(picture)

Your point being...?


35 posted on 12/10/2013 9:15:11 AM PST by freedumb2003 (Fight Tapinophobia in all its forms! Do not submit to arduus privilege.)
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To: rawcatslyentist

>>God was trying to prevent us from becoming a modern John Frum airplane cult.<<

God understands the context within which we reside and how His Church operates.


36 posted on 12/10/2013 9:17:13 AM PST by freedumb2003 (Fight Tapinophobia in all its forms! Do not submit to arduus privilege.)
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To: rlmorel

Your question wasn’t directed at me. I just asked another of you that I thought was germane to the conversation.


37 posted on 12/10/2013 9:21:32 AM PST by Boogieman
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To: GonzoII

Yep, all the time. That cement Saint Francis in the flowerbed is a major sacrifice site. Neighbors are afraid to let their pets out.


38 posted on 12/10/2013 9:28:31 AM PST by Tax-chick (Well, that went badly.)
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To: freedumb2003
The Shepard knows his sheep.

It's not my place to inform him of what or whom he forgives.

39 posted on 12/10/2013 9:31:24 AM PST by rawcatslyentist (Jeremiah 50:32 "The arrogant one will stumble and fall ; / ?)
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To: GonzoII
Exodus 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

The author of the article quotes Exodus 20:4 then completely ignores the sin defined by the first four words of the verse.

40 posted on 12/10/2013 9:32:09 AM PST by c-b 1 (Reporting from behind enemy lines, in occupied AZTLAN.)
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To: rwfromkansas

41 posted on 12/10/2013 9:32:57 AM PST by Gamecock (There are not just two ways to respond to God but three: irreligion, religion, and the gospel. (TK))
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To: Boogieman

If that is the case, I would imagine St. Peter did not encourage people to kiss his feet, but I would guess that it is just as likely (knowing human nature) that he had to actively gently discourage it on a somewhat constant basis.


42 posted on 12/10/2013 9:40:15 AM PST by rlmorel ("A nation, despicable by its weakness, forfeits even the privilege of being neutral." A. Hamilton)
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To: MNDude
"Thank you for posting!"

You're welcome.

43 posted on 12/10/2013 10:01:27 AM PST by GonzoII (Ted Cruz/Susana Martinez 2016)
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To: c-b 1
The author of the article quotes Exodus 20:4 then completely ignores the sin defined by the first four words of the verse.

That's not fair! You're quoting the Bible! Which do you think they value more, their churchs traditions or the Words of God?

44 posted on 12/10/2013 10:03:24 AM PST by BipolarBob
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To: c-b 1
"Exodus 20:4 then completely ignores the sin defined by the first four words of the verse. "

You ignored the context:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them”

45 posted on 12/10/2013 10:06:40 AM PST by GonzoII (Ted Cruz/Susana Martinez 2016)
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To: pgyanke
Praying for/with your fellow Christians on earth is a good thing. Personal care and prayer is essential.

But praying to people in Heaven is not the same. What makes catholics think Mary, for example, can hear the millions of prayers that are directed toward her? There's no indication that saints in Heaven are omniscient. Omniscience is only an attribute of God.

46 posted on 12/10/2013 10:11:12 AM PST by what's up
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To: GonzoII

Yet it is from the same Evangelicals and Fundamentalists Protestants who make the Bible a subject of WORSHIP.


47 posted on 12/10/2013 10:12:53 AM PST by Biggirl (“Go, do not be afraid, and serve”-Pope Francis)
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To: rlmorel

Amazing how non-Catholics tell Catholics how they must worship. It is the same as the way Leftists try and tell me how to run my life.


48 posted on 12/10/2013 10:24:28 AM PST by mfish13 (Elections have Consequences.)
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To: mfish13

I grew up Catholic but am considering the Baptists.

That said, I don’t think it is my business to tell Catholics how to worship. It is between them and God.

One can say politely and with a real difference of religious dogma that kissing the feet of a statue is not true to the precepts of Protestant Christianity which is more bible-centric than the Catholic church is (in my experience) but that “polite telling” is not what I see here.

Just my opinion.


49 posted on 12/10/2013 10:32:03 AM PST by rlmorel ("A nation, despicable by its weakness, forfeits even the privilege of being neutral." A. Hamilton)
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To: GonzoII
Good grief, its not enough that the religion forum of FR pushes a Marxist, Liberation Theology, socialist, Jesuit Pope, his Marxism totally in opposition to the political conservatism of FR, looks like the RF is now trying to make idolators out of us!

In the coming judgments of the end time, if Romanists desire to incur God's wrath for refusing to repent of their pagan-Christian idolatry -

Rev. 9:20 And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:

- that's one thing, that's their choice, but to try to make the rest of us FReepers idolators like themselves is quite another!

50 posted on 12/10/2013 10:37:01 AM PST by sasportas
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