The Garner Ted Armstrong Evangelistic Association
 

Christian Idolatry
By Jim Josephsen

“Oh that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commandments always, that it would go well with them and their children forever!” So spoke the God of the Old Testament, who is Jesus Christ, the Lord of Glory. Was this petition specific for only ancient Israel or is it not relevant for our day and age?

When is it ever wrong to keep the commandments of God? When do people not want “it to go well” for them? Is it not the pursuit and desire of every human being to want a good life, a prosperous life, a life of long term, dependable, steady peace and peace of mind?

Throughout the Bible we’re shown that keeping God’s commandments will result in physical blessings. The laws and commandments of God are holy, just and good (Romans 7:12); having not been done away (Matthew 5:7). Jesus Christ said, “If you are to enter into life (eternal life), keep the commandments (cf. Matthew 19:7). The commandments of God are not grievous and by keeping them, we show our love for God (1 John 5:3).

Yet how frequently, consistently and unconscionably God’s commandments are being broken, across this world and in this country, every day. By the scores we witness the blatant, daily breaking of the laws of God which are intended to (when kept) bring peace, happiness and contentment in one’s personal life and society at large. The breaking of God’s laws brings both personal and national misery, emptiness, sorrow, destruction and ultimately death and our world gives daily witness to this fact without fail.

According to the Christian faith, the reason Jesus Christ came to be the ultimate atoning sacrifice, being crucified and died, was to save us from sin. That fact is a doctrine all Christian churches and denominations believe and teach. It is understood: the wages of sin, which is the breaking of the law (1 John 3:4), is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through His Son. Jesus Christ died because you are a sinner, a transgressor of God’s laws. That fact is a bedrock Christian doctrine you cannot mess with. Jesus Christ came into this world to save sinners, so Christianity confesses.

Yet, in the mainstream state of “being saved,” just how frequently do Christians consistently break the laws of God? Knowing that breaking the laws of God is the reason Christians confess needing a Savior, just how frequently do Christians continue to sin?

Does mainstream, modern-day, American-style Christianity really take to heart and sincerely believe what it confesses? Do mainstream, modern-day, American-style Christians have hearts that are inclined to fear God and keep His commandments always?

What about the second commandment; “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below”?

Now, of course, Protestants and Evangelicals are quick to point out that the Catholic Church is loaded with idols and icons, paintings, statues and images, all of which are preposterous and sinful. All these physical things, they say, are religious props that get in the way of true worship of God. What the Catholic Church promotes, Protestants are quick to condemn as being nothing more than pure idolatry.

Catholic laity is taught to “bow down” in prayer to these images, statues and figures, as each is an earthly representation of the named person for which each is molded; be it the Virgin Mary figure or one of the 12 disciples, or Joseph or one of the multitude of saints. Of course, there is the traditional and highly venerated figure of the individual affixed to the cross. All these physical religious objects are believed to represent and remind the worshiper of the actual being.

Are the Protestants correct? Well before they point the finger, Protestants and Evangelicals need to heed the words clearly written in the same Bible the Catholics claim.

The Scriptures speak clearly; “you are not to make idols.” It is clear and obvious when we look back in history, we see how the ancients would image and sculpt, mold and shape, design and fabricate all types of statues, sculptures and figurines. Pagan gods came in all shapes and sizes, representing different creatures on earth, in the heavens and in the sea. From human male and female, to bovine and lizards, to birds, eagles and vultures, to fish, whatever could be represented, being converted into some form of artistic work, has been, and has been used for worship. Certainly, Christians in the 21st Century look at the behavior of ancient pagan cultures and think, how foolish and vain their religious practices; how bizarre their statues and forms of worship were.

Knowing the rebellious hearts of men and women, when God gave the second commandment to Israel, God was intent on keeping His chosen people from fabricating and sculpting images of things in the sky, on earth and in the sea. God’s desire was to keep His people from looking like fools; from worshipping vanity; from worshipping, admiring, and glorifying rocks. Idols in no way impress God.

Most of all, God’s desire was to ensure His people would keep their minds and hearts focused on Him, having faith in the God who they did not see. Ancient Israel was like those in the true Church of God in that, they were admonished to understand, as Peter taught; “Whom having not seen, you love; in whom though now you see him not, yet believing.” Images and sculptures do nothing for one’s faith.

And heaven forbid if God’s people would ever attempt to manufacture images or statues, actual idols, of what they perceive God looks like.

Paul revealed how ignorant men can be when it comes to idols and the worship of God. “Because when they knew God they glorified him not as God…they became vain in their imagination …they became fools…changing the glory of the incorruptible, immortal God into an image made like to corruptible, mortal man and to birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things. (Romans 1:21-23).

Moses reminded ancient Israel, “when the Eternal spoke to you out of the midst of the fire, you heard the voice of the words and saw no similitude (form, shape or body), only you heard a voice. Take heed therefore, you saw no manner of form on the day the Eternal spoke to you. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourself a graven image, an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman” (Deuteronomy 4:12-16). Creating any such idol would only result in evil in the sight of God and will provoke Him to anger.

It is absolutely unacceptable to God; God will not allow Himself to be represented by vain, pathetic, inanimate statues or idols. The Apostle Paul reminded the church in Thessalonica, those individuals who before were law-breaking, sinful gentiles but were now converted Christians, that they had “turned from serving idols” to serving the living God.

How needful it is to understand these two principles today. How challenging it is for modern-day, American-style Christians to realize, God is a God of the living. He is not found in rock or marble. Neither is He found in porcelain, plaster, wood, fiberglass and Styrofoam. God cannot and will not be represented by the images and idols manufactured by the hands of man.

Consider a logical question. Was a portrait ever painted of the Messiah during the years He walked on earth? Is there an actual image of Jesus Christ extant today? No, is the answer to both questions.

What you see today in historic art form of statuary and icons, and on canvas, are all the images, the creation of, the mental depictions of artists who imagined what Christ looked like, as they conceived him in their minds relevant to their day and time. Whether Byzantine, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Enlightenment, Neo-classical, or the 20th Century universally recognized image painted by Clarence Thorpe (1955); whether it be the thousands of images painted over the past 50 years; all these images of God and the Son of God are the creation of man’s mind, man’s vanity, and all are uninspired by God.

Go to the Internet and google pictures of Jesus Christ. You should be thoroughly disgusted at the thousands and more images, representations and paintings supposedly depicting our Savior; all of which are the vain imaginations of men and women who are blatantly violating the second commandment; who are promoting Christian idolatry, whose hearts are not inclined to fear God. In addition, let us not even begin to speak of the many sarcastic and blasphemous representations the first amendment allows.

Just off I-75, near Monroe, Ohio stood an idol, a statue, a false representation of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The famed “King of Kings” statue was simply one more example of a Christian church unwilling to obey its namesake; just one more example of Christianity’s disobedience to the laws of God.

It once stood some 62 feet high, visible for millions to view since it was completed back in 2004. However, on June 14th, 2010, lightening struck the statue, burning it completely, leaving nothing more than the internal metal frame, distorted by the heat, charred by the flames.

The Bible reveals how God would often intervene in human affairs by destroying or striking down the images, statues and idols of false gods or He would intervene by rebuking and punishing disobedient idolatrous people.

Was this the case on June 14th, 2010 or was it simply a time and chance lighting strike? One should wonder. What is of certainty leaving no doubt, is the fact that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. When He therefore commands, you shall not make any graven images or idols in your attempt at worshipping Him, then you would think Christians would obey Him.

Christians need to stop committing idolatry. Statues and idols, like the famed “King of Kings,” transgress the second commandment and are an insult to God. Once Christians understand the second commandment, perhaps they can next look into the sin and abomination of steeples and fish and other supposedly Christian symbolism.
 

Breaking News Stories
Go here for the latest news stories on this subject. –news stories posted 1 July 2010
 
Further reading:
Our Booklets
The Ten Commandments
Are Christians Under the Law?
Was God's Law in Force Before Sinai?
 
Quote by Garner Ted Armstrong:

"Catholics have always claimed they do not "worship" their many graven images but rather the idol only REMINDS them of the real thing they worship.  But this was the precise purpose for a graven image in the first place!  No demented, ignorant, perverted savage, whether Babylonian, Egyptian, or Maori, ever claimed the stone, or wood, or metal WAS the "god"; they always claimed it REMINDED them of the "god."  God did not write the "ten suggestions".  It is not up to us to decide WHAT -- God has already done that -- it is up to us to decide WHETHER we will obey god.  If not, then "the wages of sin is death."  It's just that simple." 

 
Resources
 News report video of King of Kings statue burning
 

Photos:
Left: King of Kings statue before the fire
Center: King of Kings statue just after lightning struck
Right: King of Kings statue after the fire