Protestant frequently accuse Catholics worshiping the images of saints inside our Chuch. Their only basis for such an accusation is their subjective personal observation of Catholics beliefs and practices. For example, whenever a Protestant sees a Catholics kneeling in front of a statue they are going to immediately accuse the Catholic of worshiping the statue. By doing this they did not realize that they are guilty of “bearing false witness against their neighbor”, a very serious sin against charity. The accusation of Protestants against Catholics stems from their aversion for anything that can lead us back to God.
Catholics do not worship the statues and images of saints and Mary, in fact the Catholic Church strictly prohibits the worship of any other gods other than the Holy Trinity. Therefore, the accusation of Protestants that Catholics worships statues is nothing but a malicious attempt to malign the Church.
The root of their false accusation against the Catholic Church boils down to the questions whether God allowed the creation of images or not. Generally, most Protestants believes that God prohibited the creation of images as written in Exodus 20:3-5.
In order to understand this passage one has to know the background of the book of Exodus. The book of Exodus was written at the time when the people of God sojourns in the desert and their neighboring countries are all practicing pagan. Paganism have so many gods and goddesses, god of sky, god of earth, god of water, god of the underworld and so on. This is what Exodus chapter 20 prohibited, the creation of images of gods and goddesses of pagan nations. The prohibition in the creation of carved images was only limited to pagan dieties, God did not prohibit the creation of images of angels in fact he ordered it.
God Ordered The Creation of Carved Images
Most Protestants are caught unprepared when Catholics can quote from the Bible that God himself ordered the carving of images. The reason for this is that they are only taught that God prohibited the creation of images but was not informed that God also allowed the creation of other images that do not depict pagan deities. In the book of Exodus God ordered the carving of images of Cherubims and have it placed on top of the Ark of the Covenant.
You shall make two cherubim of gold; you shall make them of hammered work, at the two ends of the mercy seat. Exodus 25:18 Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition
Two important facts can be derived from this passage,
- God’s prohibition in the carving of images was not absolute.
- Religious images are allowed as long us it is not of pagan deity and it leads us back to God.
Every Protestant who attended their bible study memorized Exodus 20:3-5 but was never told about Exodues 25:18. Another interesting note is that in the book of Kings the temple of God (Where the Jews worship God) was filled with images, in fact the number of images in the temple dwarfs the number of images that can be found in an average Catholic parish.
God ordered the creation of images in His Temple 1 Kings 6:20-30
The interior of the inner sanctuary was twenty cubits long, twenty cubits wide, and twenty cubits high; he overlaid it with pure gold. He also overlaid the altar with cedar.[a] 21 Solomon overlaid the inside of the house with pure gold, then he drew chains of gold across, in front of the inner sanctuary, and overlaid it with gold. 22 Next he overlaid the whole house with gold, in order that the whole house might be perfect; even the whole altar that belonged to the inner sanctuary he overlaid with gold.
The Furnishings of the Temple
23 In the inner sanctuary he made two cherubim of olivewood, each ten cubits high. 24 Five cubits was the length of one wing of the cherub, and five cubits the length of the other wing of the cherub; it was ten cubits from the tip of one wing to the tip of the other. 25 The other cherub also measured ten cubits; both cherubim had the same measure and the same form. 26 The height of one cherub was ten cubits, and so was that of the other cherub. 27 He put the cherubim in the innermost part of the house; the wings of the cherubim were spread out so that a wing of one was touching the one wall, and a wing of the other cherub was touching the other wall; their other wings toward the center of the house were touching wing to wing. 28 He also overlaid the cherubim with gold.
29 He carved the walls of the house all around about with carved engravings of cherubim, palm trees, and open flowers, in the inner and outer rooms. 30 The floor of the house he overlaid with gold, in the inner and outer rooms. 1 Kings 6:20-30 Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition
Catholics are not guilty of idolatry for having images of saints in the Church, the images of saints are not pagan deities but people who fought the good fight and kept the faith (1 Timothy 4:7). In the Catholic Church you cannot find images of pagan deities such that of Buddha or Greek gods and goddesses.