Archive for the ‘Idolatry’ Category

Trust Jesus More than Francis Trusts Joseph!

February 9, 2017

It is reported that Jorge Bergoglio aka Pope Francis explained that he deals with stresses (for example, “There is corruption in the Vatican.”) by writing letters to Joseph and entrusting them to him. According to the article, “The 80-year-old says his secret for dealing with stress is to write down all his problems in letters to Saint Joseph.” In fairness, the alleged supreme pontiff does not attribute this entirely to Joseph:

“And now he is sleeping on a mattress of letters! That’s why I sleep well: it is the grace of God. I always sleep six hours. And I pray,” Francis said.

The obvious polemical point is that the pope is engaging in 1st commandment idolatry here, by trusting in Joseph and worshiping him, rather than only praying to God.

But the practical note is this: do you trust in God as much as this alleged vicar of Christ trusts in Joseph? I think that’s a high bar. It’s easy to let our troubles stress us. We must instead be, as Peter tells us, “Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Similarly:

Psalm 11:1 In the Lord put I my trust: how say ye to my soul, Flee as a bird to your mountain?

Psalm 20:7 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.

Psalm 32:10 Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about.

Psalm 37:5 Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.

Psalm 91:2 I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

Psalm 112:7 He shall not be afraid of evil tidings: his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.

And so on. There are many more such verses.

Early Father Worshiping with Icons?

December 3, 2015

I was listening to a recent panel discussion with William Albrecht and David Withun and a caller called in and asked if they could name any father before the 300s that used images in the church. Albrecht pointed to Tertullian, in his work on Modesty. In that work he makes reference to the image of a shepherd on a chalice. Even this reference (which is the best they could muster) falls short.

Tertullian’s reference to an image on a chalice is part of a very flowery discusssion, not of his own practices, but of those of a different sect (one that, according to him, tolerated adultery). His words: “to which, perchance, that Shepherd, will play the patron whom you depict upon your (sacramental) chalice” (note the “your”).

By “Shepherd,” there, Tertullian is referring to the Shepherd in the book called the Shepherd of Hermas, a non-canonical early writing.

Contrasting with that, Tertullian describes himself by saying: “I, however, imbibe the Scriptures of that Shepherd who cannot be broken.”

You can break a cup, but you can’t break the Scriptures.

(Augustine was mentioned in the talk, but he was against the practice that was budding in his day.)

Irony of Idolatry in Francis of Rome’s Remarks and the Split Tenth Commandment

June 13, 2013

Francis of Rome recently was reported as saying (VIS, 9 June 2013): “We shouldn’t see the Ten Commandments as restriction upon our freedom; no, not that way. We should see them as signs for our freedom. … They teach us how to avoid the slavery to which the many idols that we ourselves build reduce us.” (ellipsis was in VIS report)

Francis is right that the commandments ought not to be viewed positively and not exclusively negatively.  They are, of course, both restrictions and duties.  Thus, we really ought to ask both “what is commanded” and “what is forbidden” by each of the commandments, as the Westminster standards helpfully analyze them.

The irony of Francis’ statement is that Rome is full of idols (representations of God).  Rome actually misnumbers the commandments to avoid having to get rid of her idols. Specifically, she bundles the second into the first, as though we were only forbidden to make idols of false gods and not also of the true God. To maintain the number ten, she splits the tenth into two commandments.

This misnumbering can easily be seen to be wrong. The first giving of the commandments does phrase the tenth this way:

Exodus 20:17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

לֹ֥א תַחְמֹ֖ד בֵּ֣ית רֵעֶ֑ךָ לֹֽא־תַחְמֹ֞ד אֵ֣שֶׁת רֵעֶ֗ךָ וְעַבְדֹּ֤ו וַאֲמָתֹו֙ וְשֹׁורֹ֣ו וַחֲמֹרֹ֔ו וְכֹ֖ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר לְרֵעֶֽךָ׃ פ

Thus, there are two “thou shalt not” phrases, but they are both on the same topic of coveting. Moreover, it is strange that the house should get special separate treatment, while the wife should get bundled in with the slaves, cattle and miscellaneous other possessions.

In the second giving, the wording is slightly different:

Deuteronomy 5:21 Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour’s wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour’s house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

וְלֹ֥א תַחְמֹ֖ד אֵ֣שֶׁת רֵעֶ֑ךָ סוְלֹ֨א תִתְאַוֶּ֜ה בֵּ֣ית רֵעֶ֗ךָ שָׂדֵ֜הוּ וְעַבְדֹּ֤ו וַאֲמָתֹו֙ שֹׁורֹ֣ו וַחֲמֹרֹ֔ו וְכֹ֖ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר לְרֵעֶֽךָ׃

Here the wife (rather than the house) gets special treatment, while the house gets mixed in with the slaves, cattle, fields, and other possessions.

Moreover, that the 7th commandment already prohibits lust can be seen from Jesus admonition:

Matthew 5:28But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Likewise, speaking of coveting, the class of coveted things is generally undifferentiated.  Most tellingly, when Paul refers to the commandments he does not differentiate two types of covetousness:

Romans 13:9For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Some may object that the division between the first and the second is artificial and the two should be joined. First, the division between the first and the second is quite clear.  In the first giving, it is written (combining them, to give every benefit to our objectors):

Exodus 20:3-6
Thou shalt have no other gods before me. 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. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

In the second giving, it is written (again, combining them):

Deuteronomy 5:7-10Thou shalt have none other gods before me. Thou shalt not make 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 waters beneath the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.

While it is understandable how someone might think these are connected, the making and bowing down clearly refer to images.  By contrast, the having can refer not to images but to gods.  Thus, this situation is unlike the bizarre parsing of the 10th, where the same command is expressed of differing lists of possessions in different givings.  Rather, there are different commands regarding different objects.

That the prohibition against idols is a prohibition against images of the true God can be seen from the explanation provided in Deuteronomy 4:

Deuteronomy 4:11-19
And ye came near and stood under the mountain; and the mountain burned with fire unto the midst of heaven, with darkness, clouds, and thick darkness. And the Lord spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice.
And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone. And the Lord commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it.
Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, the likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: and lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the Lord thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.

The reference to not seeing a likeness is specifically relevant to the true God.  Indeed, the thick darkness blotted out even the sun, moon, and stars.  Thus, we ought to worship the unseen God without images of any kind.

That remained true even though God did sometimes reveal himself visually (such as when he came to Abraham, when he wrestled with Jacob, when he spoke to Moses face to face, or when he greeted Joshua, among other examples).  Thus, we should not make the error of some of the ancients who tried to justify making images of males and identifying them as Jesus on the ground that Jesus had indeed come as a man and walked among us.

-TurretinFan

Rhetorical Excess – Religious Persecution and Idolatry

April 9, 2013

Rhetorical flourishes are like any other form of emphasis.  They work well when used occasionally and accurately, and not when used constantly and diffusely.

In her book, The Myth of Persecution, Dr. Moss complains that the religious right in the U.S. is too quick to decry leftist politics as religious persecution.  Claiming that “Christianity is under attack” when Christians suffer any minor harm overshadows the very serious persecution of Christians in places like Africa (the “Voice of the Martyrs” website, which I mention for information only, not endorsement, has many details).
The same thing is true when call everything “idolatry.”  An idol is a manufactured likeness or image of something.  It can be a painted likeness, an engraved likeness, a carved likeness, a molten likeness, etc.  Worshiping even the true God using idols is strictly forbidden.  Moreover, through metonymy we refer to the worship of false gods as “idolatry,” since they are normally worshiped in this way.
But not every sin is literally “idolatry.”  The X-Box game console that your son hasn’t stopped playing for the past ten years is not literally an idol.  It’s sinful that he hasn’t bothered even to try to go get a job, and it’s wrong for him to be so obsessed with something so trivial.  The sports team that your brother can’t get enough of is not an “idol.”  American Idol features living human beings, made in the image of God, not idols.
Not every form of devotion is religious devotion.  While the American Idol contestants are honored in some sense, they are not honored religiously.  Even if someone skips church to go watch football, he is not engaging in a religious observance of football.  
His church skipping is a violation of the 4th commandment (Remember the Sabbath Day) not the 2nd commandment (Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image …).  The X-Box aficionado is probably violating the eighth commandment through indolence and sloth.  When we call a Muslim an “idolater,” we should feel how odd the claim sounds, since Islam is not closely associated with idols.
There is a place for rhetorical flourishes.  The Scriptures actually do this with idolatry in a couple of places.

1 Samuel 15:23For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.

Samuel is condemning Saul.  Saul tried to eliminate witchcraft and idolatry from the land.  Then Saul turned around and was stubborn and rebelled against God.  So, Samuel drew a comparison between rebellion and witchcraft and between stubbornness and idolatry.

The point here is to emphasize the heinousness of rebellion and stubbornness, by tying them rhetorically to the heinous and well-recognized sins of witchcraft and idolatry.

Colossians 3:4-7 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: for which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: in the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.

Here again, the point of referring to covetousness as “idolatry” is to emphasize its heinousness.  It’s not saying that the 10th commandment is the 2nd commandment (or the 1st commandment).  It’s saying that covetousness is a serious sin.

These are legitimate rhetorical uses of the term “idolatry.”  Yet we can risk watering down the word “idolatry” for using it gratuitously for every sin.  Anything that leads us into sin becomes an “idol” in this rhetorical soup, and thus every sin is “idolatry,” the serving of the thing (the “idol”) that leads one to sin.

At which point people lose sight of both the very real problem of making images supposedly of God (2nd commandment) and of the very real problem of actually worshiping false gods (1st commandment).  By constantly associating less heinous sins with the more heinous sins, we actually can lose sight of the heinousness of the heinous sins.

Christians in the U.S. are not suffering under Diocletian persecution, even if Christians lack full religious freedom, or even if they are being forced to endure laws that bear decreasing resemblance to the laws given to Old Testament Israel in terms of the ideals of Justice.

While some of Dr. Moss’ concerns are probably oversensitive, she makes a good point about the need to avoid rhetorical flourishes.  If we call everything “persecution,” what will we call it when we are forced to pay a “Christian tax” in order to be Christians?  What will we call it when our churches are required to meet secretly and in groups of 20 or fewer?

-TurretinFan

When You Ignore the Scriptures …

October 26, 2012

You get this tragic tale about a “deeply religious man” who was seriously injured by a falling crucifix (link).

Isaiah 41:7
So the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer him that smote the anvil, saying, It is ready for the sodering: and he fastened it with nails, that it should not be moved.

Jeremiah 10:4
They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.

If you are going to worship an idol (even one purporting to be of the true God), make sure you screw it down properly, or you could receive injury for your insult to the one true God.

From the article:

“David attributed the cure to his devotion to that cross,” Jimenez attorney Kevin Kitson said.

Because of that, Jimenez said, he got permission to clean the crucifix, which was long-neglected. But in doing so, the statue dislodged and toppled onto him.

“Throwing him down to the parking lot, crushing his right leg,” Kitson said.

The attorney for Jimenez, who would not allow his client to speak, said the 600-pound statue was supported by a single screw in the base.

“The screw was useless. The screw is useless. It supported no anchoring system,” Kitson said.

The statue can’t clean itself, but you think your devotion to it resulted in a cure? Surely you must see the absurdity of this.

-TurretinFan

… now and at the hour of our death.

September 7, 2012

Thanks to Steve Hays for pointing me to a recent report of man who, while trying to rescue his idol from her peril found himself her victim, as she collapsed on top of him.

It is a sad story, but illustrative of the foolishness of idolatry. The idol could not pray for the man either now or at the hour of his death. The only way she could be with him at the hour of his death was as the cause of that death. Those who venerate idols become like them (Psalm 115:8 and 135:18).

-TurretinFan

Thomas Adam on Idols and Idolatry

March 23, 2012

The following is an excerpt from a sermon by Thomas Adam:

Idols.—Idol, in Greek, signifies a resemblance or representation, and differs not from image in Latin; both at first taken in a good sense, but the corruption of times hath bred a corruption of words, and idol is now only taken for the image of a false god. Every idol is an image, but every image is not an idol; but every image made and used for religious purposes is an idol . The images of God are idols, wherewith Popery abounds. An old man, sitting in a chair, with a triple crown on his head, and pontifical robes on his back, a dove hanging at his beard, and a crucifix in his arms, is their image of the Trinity. This picture sometime serves them for a god in their churches, and sometime for a sign at their taphouses; so that it is a common saying in many of their cities, ‘ Such a gentleman lies at the Trinity, and his servants at God’s Head.’ This they seem to do as if they would in some sort requite their Maker: because God made man according to his image, therefore they, by way of recompense, will make God according to man’s image. But this certainly they durst not do, without putting the second commandment out of their catechisms, and the whole decalogue out of their consciences.

I intend no polemical discourse of this point, by examining their arguments: that business is fitter for the school than the pulpit. And, O God ! that either school or pulpit in Christendom should be troubled about it!—that any man should dare to make that a question which the Lord hath so plainly and punctually forbidden! Beside the iniquity, how grievous is the absurdity! How is a body without a spirit like to a spirit without a body? a visible picture like an invisible nature? How would the king take it in scorn to have his picture made like a weasel or a hedge-hog! and yet the difference betwixt the greatest monarch and the least emmet is nothing to the distance betwixt a finite and an infinite. If they allege, with the Anthropomorphites, that the Scripture attributes to God hands and feet and eyes, why therefore may they not represent him in the same forma? But we say, the Scripture also speaks of his covering us with the shadow of his wings; why therefore do they not paint him like a bird with feathers? If they say that he appeared to Daniel in this form, because he is there called the ‘Ancient of days;’ we answer, that God’s commandments, and not his apparitions, be rules to us: by the former we shall be judged, and not by the latter. It is mad religion to neglect what he bids us do, and to imitate what he hath done: as if we should despise his laws, and go about to counterfeit his thunder. God is too infinite for the comprehension of our souls, why should we then labour to bring him into the narrow compass of boards and stones? Certainly, that should not be imaged which cannot be imagined. But Christ was a man, why may not his image be made? Some answer, that no man can make an image of Christ without leaving out the chief part of him, which is his divinity. It was the Godhead united to the manhood that makes him Christ: sure this cannot be painted. But why should we make Christ’s image without Christ’s warrant? The Lord hath forbidden the making of any image, whether of things in heaven, where Christ is, or of things on earth, where Christ was, to worship them. Now, till God revoke that precept, what can authorise this practice?

(Thanks to Matthew Lankford for bringing this to my attention.)

Idolatry Defined

December 23, 2011
“IDOL, ‘i-dol [1 Kings xv. 13], IDOLATRY. [Acts xvii. 16.] Whatever receives the worship which is due only to God is an idol. In a figurative sense the word denotes anything which draws the affections from God [Col. iii. 5]; and, in a restricted sense, it denotes the visible image or figure to which religious worship is paid [Deut. xxix. 17.] Idolatry consists (1) In worshipping as the true God some other person or thing besides Jehovah; and (2) Worshipping the true God under some image, as the golden calf. [Exod. xxxii. 4, 5.]
Found in Beeton’s Bible dictionary (1870). Also found in A Biblical Cyclopædia (1868), The Union Bible Dictionary (1839), Schaff’s Dictionary of the Bible (1880) and The Student’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary (1881).

Carl Trueman’s "Reasons … For Moving Romeward"

April 6, 2011

No, Carl Trueman isn’t moving Romeward, but he has post listing reasons that he thinks people give for leaving (link to post). But the reasons given for leaving was not exactly the question posed to him. The question posed to him was the reasons that people leave for Rome. Trueman listed a lot of salient items, but I think he overlooked a few, and so I offer this as a supplement to his post.

1. Love of Idolatry
Men love idols. We can see this throughout the Old Testament and New Testament. It’s especially clear in the Old Testament, in which not only are idols to be found in Lot’s possession (and stolen by Rachel)[FN1], but an idol is made by the Israelites as soon as Moses seems to have disappeared [FN2]. The Israelites are repeatedly warned against the dangers of idolatry [FN3], and yet they return to it time and time again [FN4]. This is the case even despite a number of purges of idols, such as under Asa [FN5].

The New Testament likewise describes the pagan fondness for idolatry [FN6]. John’s last words in his first catholic epistle are to warn his readers to avoid idolatry [FN7]. Likewise, arguing from the evil example of Israel, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to avoid idolatry [FN8].

It’s a huge temptation, and the religion of Rome is rife with it. For example, the bread and wine are worshiped as though they are God [FN9]. The practice of praying before images and presenting gifts during such worship is also viewed as normal [FN10]. Moreover, Rome has endorsed the so-called Seventh Ecumenical Council, which mandated the use of images of Jesus Christ, Mary, angels, and the saints in churches [FN11].

It seems reasonable to conclude that people who join Rome, join it because they love its idolatry. They are not filled with a righteous indignation at this abominable practice, but instead find it alluring.

2. Love of Certainty
I cannot document or prove this item as thoroughly as the first. One thing that I have noticed, however, is that a number of Roman converts point to the issue of certainty. They seem to think that the only way one can have certainty about doctrine is if one has an infallible church. Their typical rationale is that there are thousands of different opinions about Scripture, and consequently they conclude that one cannot be certain about one’s conclusions from Scripture, since there are so many who disagree. Two obvious flaws in their thinking are that there is no good reason to suppose that any infallible church exists and that although there may be thousands of opinions about what Scripture teaches, remarkably none of the groups that hold to Scripture alone as their authority arrive at something approximating Roman doctrines.

3. Escondido Movement
Under the topic of flawed ecclesiologies, Trueman rightly points a finger at “Emergent Christianity” and the “Federal Vision” but Trueman omits to address the Escondido movement. This movement reacts strongly to the Emergent phenomenon and to the Federal Vision, but often on quite weak terms (such as an over-reliance on the amended Westminster Confession). It tries to set itself forth as the official voice of “Reformed” even while departing from the Reformers on a number of significant points. There needs to be a response to Rome’s flawed ecclesiology, but that response cannot take the form of trying to provide a Reformed “Rome lite” where excommunication is viewed as being an exercise of power rather than a recognition of apostasy, where our amended (!) confessions become a rule of faith, and where Scriptural exegesis in debates over issues that the confession addresses are rare or secondary to the issue.

We need to recover the grammatical-historical hermeneutic more than we need to recover the Reformed confessions. We need to understand the importance of church discipline, and make sure it is properly applied. We need to make sure that the fundamentals of the faith are defended, Scripture is explained from the pulpit, and charity is extended in as many of the non-essentials as we can.

Of course, none of the failures of the Escondido movement would justify a departure to Rome. Rome’s ecclesiological problems dwarf anything one can find in any other church. An earthly head of the church who claims to be Christ’s vicar? Come on! A church that claims to have the gift of infallibility, and yet can’t tell itself which (if either!) of Molinism or Thomism is correct. A move from an Escondido-style church to Rome is not a jump from the frying pan into the fire, it’s a move from a cat with slight halitosis to a rabid lion.

Do I echo many of Trueman’s concerns? Absolutely. I haven’t spent this post repeating his points or patting him on the back. I hope he gets plenty of that already. I’m simply writing to emphasize a few points that he may have overlooked.

-TurretinFan


Footnotes:

1) Genesis 31:19 And Laban went to shear his sheep: and Rachel had stolen the images that were her father’s.

2) Exodus 32:23-24 For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.

3) Leviticus 19:4 Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God. | Leviticus 26:1 Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God.

4) Isaiah 57:5 Enflaming yourselves with idols under every green tree, slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks?

5) 1 Kings 15:11-13 And Asa did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, as did David his father. And he took away the sodomites out of the land, and removed all the idols that his fathers had made. And also Maachah his mother, even her he removed from being queen, because she had made an idol in a grove; and Asa destroyed her idol, and burnt it by the brook Kidron.

6) Acts 17:16 Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.

7) 1 John 5:21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

8) 1 Corinthians 10:1-14
Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play [Exodus 32:6]. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear ihttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gift. Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.

9) CCC 1378 “Worship of the Eucharist. In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. ‘The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession.'”

10) “I am pleased to have the opportunity to pray before her image, brhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifought here specially from Gozo for this occasion. I am also delighted to present a Golden Rose to her, as a sign of our shared filial affection for the Mother of God.” (source)

11) “We define the rule with all accuracy and diligence, in a manner not unlike that befitting the shape of the precious and vivifying Cross, that the venerable and holy icons, painted or mosaic, or made of any other suitable material, be placed in the holy churches of God upon sacred vessels and vestments, walls and panels, houses and streets, both of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ, and of our intemerate Lady the holy Theotoke, and also of the precious Angels, and of all Saints.” (source)

Further Response to Mr. Albrecht Regarding Debate on Veneration of Images

December 24, 2010

In a new video (audio + slideshow only), Mr. Albrecht has responded to the comments in my post (link to post) regarding the debate. This is in addition to the comments he submitted to me by email, and which are already addressed in the original post via an update to that post. I’ve provided the following written response and a largely-overlapping video response (just audio), below.

Mr. Albrecht responded to the comments on my blog by way of video. He stated that I didn’t heavily emphasize the Old Testament prohibition on the veneration of images – his justification for this claim was simply his assertion that the Old Testament doesn’t prohibit the veneration of images. This assertion is patently false. I highlighted many passages which specifically prohibit the veneration of images, such as Exodus 20:5, which states: “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.”

Or Leviticus 26:1, which states: “Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God.”

In point of fact, Mr. Albrecht barely engaged the text of Scripture. Instead he focused his time in other areas.

One of his main arguments to attempt to distinguish away the Old Testament texts was to assert that “There is, however, a clear distinction between idolatry and veneration.”

Can Mr. Albrecht show us this distinction in the Bible? No, he cannot.
Can Mr. Albrecht show us this distinction from the fathers of the first century? No, they don’t make that distinction.
What about the fathers of the second century? No, they too say nothing helpful to him.
He basically has to jump forward in time many hundreds of years to find anything like this distinction being brought out.

He refers to the latria/dulia distinction that Rome is fond of making. He and I debated that topic some time ago. He could not find the distinction in Scripture then – and he still cannot find it now. Even if he could find that distinction eventually enunciated in some father or other after some time, as we brought out in the debate the 2nd Council of Nicaea did not make the distinction that he would like to see.

Mr. Albrecht again appeals to Dura Europos. He states: “There was much stronger evidence to prove the early Christian church venerated images, statues. The Dura Europos is a clear-cut example of this.” During the debate we exposed this error. Nobody knows what sect worshiped in that church. Nobody knows how the images were used – whether just for decoration, for teaching, or for (as Mr. Albrecht claims) veneration. In fact, no one knows even whether the church was ever used.

He claims it is a Christian church from earlier than the mid-200’s. His assertion is empty and untrue.

He claims that I “have to fall back on the assertion that this church is not typical.” Listen to the debate. First he asked me whether I knew of Dura Europos, then he asked me whether it was typical. I told him it was not. That’s hardly me “falling back” on that position.

He then asks who am I to make an assertion that Dura Europos is not typical. Well, he asked me – so I told him. Why would anybody think that Dura Europos was typical? Mr. Albrecht does not give us any good reasons to think so.

He then states that he’s not aware of any scholars who say that unorthodox people worshiped there. I’m not sure what his ignorance of the subject is supposed to prove. Are there any scholars who claim orthodox Christians worship there? If so, who are these scholars? What is there basis for the claim? Mr. Albrecht can’t tell us, because Mr. Albrecht doesn’t know.

Mr. Albrecht claims that he showed that not a single father interpreted the key Biblical texts in the same way in which I interpreted them. There was not time for Mr. Albrecht to show anything remotely resembling that. All Mr. Albrecht did was assert such a thing. He did quote a small handful of fathers who neither explicitly supported nor explicitly condemned the position I took.

Then Mr. Albrecht tries to explain why his unproven assertion is true. His proposed reason why is “the fathers knew the difference between idolatry and true religious veneration.” But, of course, Scripture does not make that distinction and Mr. Albrecht cannot identify any church fathers that make that distinction. It’s another assertion on Mr. Albrecht’s part, but not one he can support with facts.

Mr. Albrecht tried to argue that Ancient Judaism is not on my side. This was another one of his blunders. He quotes Jacob Milgrim who indicates that in the mid-third century there starts to appear in Judaism a “grudging recognition of Jewish art” and that people began to paint pictures on the walls in that time. This just proves my very point. (Read the article for yourself!)

Mr. Albrecht then cites to a pseudographic Jewish Targum that specifically permits for carved stone columns as long as they are not worshiped. This Targum, however, dates to somewhere between the eighth century and the 15th century. It’s hardly representative of ancient Judaism.

And even if it were, it is simply distinguishing between having the images and venerating them.

Mr. Albrecht claims that his quotation from Basil is a “contested quotation.” That’s not true. It’s a spurious quotation. The consensus of scholarship agrees – both among Roman Catholic scholars and non-Roman Catholic scholars.

I pointed out that Mr. Albrecht was relying on a secondary source. I probably should have mentioned that his comments about Judaism were similarly drawn from a secondary source, which is probably why he didn’t realize the pseudographic Targum he quoted was so late.

Mr. Albrecht asserted that he relied on as secondary source “just as everything else Turretinfan relies on in scholarly works on the Biblical or patristic texts are secondary sources.” I’m not sure why this is particularly relevant. There’s no scholarly source that Mr. Albrecht has turned to that says anything other than what I’ve said – his quotation from Basil is spurious.

Mr. Albrecht goes on to argue with one of the patristic scholars who notes that the term “theotokos” became popular later than Basil. Mr. Albrecht misunderstands what the scholar wrote and goes off on a diatribe about how the term theotokos was used early.

Mr. Albrecht makes a serious blunder by alleging that the term theotokos was used “close to two centuries before Basil’s time” by citing a prayer found in a papyrus that was “dated by papyrologists to the mid-200’s.” The mid-200’s would be about 100 years before Basil (330-379). And frankly, given Mr. Albrecht’s numerous mistakes about dates and so forth, I would want to see what his source was regarding this prayer as well rather than just accepting it (though it may be correct).

Mr. Albrecht points out that work was probably not written by the Greek iconoclasts. One of the works that I quoted from does say “It has been attributed to the Greek Iconoclasts,” which is clearly wrong. So, Mr. Albrecht is quite right to point out the editor’s mistake in using the word “Iconoclast” instead of “Iconodule.” I’m not sure if Mr. Albrecht read the other notes, which indicated what this quotation obviously meant, which was that the work had been created during the Iconoclastic controversy. Nevertheless, I fully agree with Mr. Albrecht that it was not the iconoclasts, but the iconodules, who forged this particular letter.

Mr. Albrecht also suggests that many more “m s s” (as he calls them) have been discovered at a later date. I don’t know of any scholarly support for Mr. Albrecht’s assertion, and he does not provide any.

Mr. Albrecht then tries to bolster his position regarding Basil by quoting Basil’s statement that the honor paid to the image passes on to the prototype. This is very interesting, of course, because Basil is talking about worship of Jesus passing on to the Father. I’m not sure if Mr. Albrecht grasps the impact of his seizing on this phrase from Basil. Is his worship of Jesus the same as his worship of images? Does he really want to compare his worship of man-made images to his worship of the true image of the Father?

Basil certainly did not make that comparison. Basil was simply pointing out that by worshiping Jesus was are not becoming tritheists – we remain monotheists, because the worship given to Jesus is not only given to Jesus but to the Father. Basil did not compare the worship of Jesus to the worship of painted boards or statues.

Mr. Albrecht speaks with great emphasis on the word “Image” but he doesn’t seem to realize that Basil is speaking of the Son of God, not some carved stone column or other lifeless idol. I will grant him this – the veneration of Jesus is perfectly acceptable. There is no problem worshiping Jesus. It is man-made images that are the problem. Remember that Scriptures “thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image or any likeness,” it does not prohibit us from worshiping the image of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

Mr. Albrecht says that in the authentic Basil quotation, the use of “icon” in its proper Christian usage is shown. I heartily agree. The one icon we can worship is Jesus himself. Not a picture of Jesus, but Jesus himself, the image of the Father. That’s the proper Christian worship of an icon – and it is the only worship of an icon supported by Basil.

Mr. Albrecht again repeats his statement that “Christianity has always been able to distinguish between proper religious veneration and idolatry.” Yet, as we’ve noted each time – Mr. Albrecht’s assertion is just not supported by any evidence.

Mr. Albrecht next turned to the issue of the Vienna Genesis. He admitted he made a mistake in saying that the Vienna Genesis was dated to the 300’s, and asserted that it was dated to the 400’s. Actually, while some people have placed it in the late 400’s, it appears that the consensus is for the early 500’s.

Mr. Albrecht then claims that he really meant to refer to the “Cotton Genesis.” But Bruce Metzger (who Mr. Albrecht cited during the debate) also tells us that the “Cotton Genesis” is from the 500’s and John Lowden tells us that some scholars (citing Weitzmann and Kessler) date this to the late 400’s (John Lowden, “The Beginnings of Biblical Illustration” in “Imaging the Early Medieval Bible,” John Williams editor), p. 15. The same work indicates the sixth century for the Vienna Genesis (p. 17).

Mr. Albrecht tries to argue that he has provided positive evidence for the veneration of images in the early church, but he has not. The most he has done is to point out that in some instances some of the ancient churches had images in the churches.


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