Friday, September 25, 2009

The Visible Church and the Second Commandment

"He [i.e., God] brought me to the entrance of the court [of the Temple], and when I looked, behold, there was a hole in the wall. Then He said to me, 'Son of man, dig in the wall.' So I dug in the wall, and behold, there was an entrance. And He said to me, 'Go in, and see the vile abominations that they are committing here.' So I went in and saw. And there, engraved on the wall all around, was every form of creeping things and loathsome beasts, and all the idols of the house of Israel. And before them stood seventy men of the elders of the house of Israel, with Jaazaniah the son of Shaphan standing among them. Each had his censer in hand, and the smoke of the cloud of incense went up. Then He said to me, 'Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel are doing in the dark, each in his room of pictures? For they say, "The Lord does not see us...'"
- Ezekiel 8:7-12

Here we see God's fury at His people Israel for their worship of images, in the very Temple of Jehovah, Who had given the Second Commandment: "You shall not make for yourself a carved 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 to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God..." (Exodus 20:4-5). The reference to Jaazaniah is especially saddening, because his father Shaphan was the priest who assisted with the reforms of Josiah (II Kings 22 and II Chronicles 34).

In the continuing Reformation from Popery, the Westminster Assembly took this commandment very seriously, and incorporated it into the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church. The Confession of Faith XXI:2 says in part, "Religious worship is to be given to God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; and to Him alone; not to angels, saints, or any other creature..." The Larger Catechism, question 109, is even more explicit, including among the sins forbidden by this Commandment "the making of any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever; all worshipping of it, or God in it or by it..." The Westminster divines cited Acts 17:29 as further proof, "Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man."

Rome justifies its use of images first by collapsing the Second Commandment into the First. Then it trumpets the traditions of the Church as demonstrating the indictment of images had little significance to early Christians. And finally, it claims that some images were even given miraculously by God, supposedly demonstrating His approval. The Catholic Encyclopedia says, "If so much reverence was paid to ordinary images 'made with hands', how much more was given to the miraculous ones 'not made with hands' (eikones acheiropoietai). Of these there were many that had descended miraculously from heaven, or — like the most famous of all at Edessa — had been produced by our Lord Himself by impressing His face on a cloth. (The story of the Edessa picture is the Eastern form of our Veronica legend)." The Eastern Orthodox, on the other hand, condemn statues as "graven images," yet validate pictures, in spite of the explicit condemnation in Ezekiel of Jewish idolatry with pictures.

My suspicion is that Rome actually brought in the worship of images to ease the transition of pagans into the church. By baptizing the idol of the pagan, the challenge to his faith is removed. This is the very christo-paganism that continued in Brazil, with Candomble, and the Caribbean, bringing us Voodoo and Santeria. All are the worship of African spirits under the names of Catholic saints. As we say, the proof is in the pudding.

God speaks rightly, when He forbids images as the pathway to idolatry. Read the story of the golden calf in Exodus 32. Aaron the priest, brother of Moses, refers to the calf by the covenant name of God, Jehovah, in verse 5. Yet, God is not amused, to say the least. In the same way, the baptized idolatry of Rome is rebellion against God, and can only earn his wrath, irregardless of whatever sanctified spin the papists put on their personal golden calves.

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