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Modern Christianity has come under serious criticism from various religious organizations because of a growing culture of idolatry. Christianity applies in various brands that have been subject to accusations on idolatry (Benson 20). Christians, especially Roman Catholics have been accused of worshiping images of Jesus and the crucifix.
Christianity is a monotheistic system of beliefs and practices based on the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus, as embodied in the New Testament. The bible is very clear, on whom Christians should worship. The concept of idolatry applies differently today compared to ancient days (Johnson par. 5). Christianity has its own explanation of idolatry and use of images in churches. It explains idolatry as any practice of worshiping something that is not God (Benson 33).
In the context of Christianity, anything includes material things, actions, and thoughts that make people to exhibit great independence in thought and action from God. For a long time, Christian worship has incorporated the use of icons and symbols, which has resulted in people developing different understandings on their use. Idolatry in Christianity applies when people use God’s given gifts and commandments to achieve selfish gains by acting to appear powerful and knowledgeable.
One of the most controversial topics in development of religion is the elements of Christianity that apply as idolatrous. In the past, people considered idolatry to be the worship of statues and carved images, while modern explanation of the practice considers God’s commandments.
It is important to understand various elements of idolatry, and ways that Christians can avoid the practice. It is important to understand that this practice goes beyond bowing down to sculptures, and involves lack of respect to God’s commandments (Johnson par. 8).
In the past people worshiped sculptures, which critics argue to have modern representation in the image of Jesus and the crucifix. A crucifix represents the cross on which Jesus died. Modern Christians are very self-centered, greedy, and rebellious towards God (Mills 58). People are turning away from the biblical teachings that present God’s commandments to all believers. God communicates a lot with Christians through the bible. Exodus 20:3 says, “You shall not have any other gods before me.”
Christians have decided to serve two masters at the same time (Mills 59). People have generated their own priorities that come before God for the sake of earthly gains. Christians have turned to worshiping money, if the number of churches and vague prophets emerging everyday is anything to go by (Neumaier par. 4). Luke 16:13 says, “No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate one and love the other. He will devote to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Images in the Roman Catholic Church
Images have been part of the Catholic religion for a many years. Most people have associated the use of images to depict Jesus, Saints, the holy family, and the crucifix as a form of idolatry (Barton 66). The history of images in Christianity dates back to the third century. However, due to growth experienced in the church in terms of popularity and numbers, images applied as one of the ways to teach new members about the religion (Seinfeld par. 9).
Some of the images developed at the time included those of angels, the crucifix, saints, and prophets among others. Since then, use of images became part of teaching and worship among Catholics. Images also apply as form of decoration for churches. Images apply to explain various biblical stories that form the foundation of Christianity. Images used by Christians are just arbitrary signs that have acquired a conventional significance for representing something else that is invisible (Seinfeld par. 12).
Unlike early forms of idolatry where people used to bow down to visible things as their gods, Christians use images and sculptures to manifest their faith in the existence of God. Most people fail to understand that Catholics follow the system of prayer explained in the Old Testament (Barton 70). Roman Catholic believers hold images used in their religion with high regard, and often show their respect by kissing liturgical objects used in worship.
One of the commandments applies to warn people against making their own desired images of the heavenly father. Catholics explain this commandment to mean that Christians should not worship these images or a false god through them (Heimer par 3). This means that Catholics do not use images as idols, but as sentimental objects that help them to make a connection with God through their religious practices.
Idolatry of Christianity applies when people follow God’s commandments for their own personal fulfillment, and not for the sake of satisfying the will of their creator. When people live and follow the biblical teachings in order to have the praise of fellow human beings, then Christianity becomes idolatry (Mills 60).
Christians also find a lot of joy and fulfillment in serving people in churches, whereas they often fail to recognize the presence of God in their lives. Commandments teach Christians to look after the welfare of others, by helping them when in need and showing them the presence of God in their everyday challenges and tribulations (Seaton 100).
However, most Christians demonstrate a lot of discomfort in associating with suffering people, and often hide themselves to avoid any engagement. Christianity becomes idolatrous when people start using God and his teachings to endear themselves to fellow human beings (Seaton 109). People have turned to bowing and worshiping their fellow human beings, who have convinced them that they have equal ability to influence their destiny just as God can do.
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People have lost the value of having God in their lives, and replaced him with earthly joys such as sex, money, and power among others (Heimer par. 6). The biblical story of the Golden Calf is the closest that the bible gives a clear depiction of idolatry. The Israelites had used the good things that God had given them to go against him.
This was a true manifestation of immoral living, because these people had literally used God’s power and good will to his people to replace him. The gold used to make the calf was meant for use in God’s work, but the Israelites used it to make their own god.
Idolatry of modern Christianity goes beyond bowing to sculptures. It includes any action by human beings that makes one to have little value for God over other things.
People have replaced God as their hero with other things that do not guarantee salvation. Use of images by Roman Catholics does not qualify as idolatry because they do not worship them, but apply to develop a connection with their religious beliefs. Idolatry of Christianity applies when people follow God’s commandments for the sake of pleasing their fellow human beings and not their heavenly father.
Barton, Stephen. Idolatry: False Worship in the Bible, Early Judaism, and Christianity. New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2007. Print.
Benson, Bruce. Gods that Fail: Modern Idolatry and Christian Mission. Journal of world Christianity 5.3 (2011): 23-29. Print.
Heimer, Mark. “Scandal Hints at Decline of U.S, Denominations.” The New York Times 26 October 2012. Print.
Johnson, Matt. When Christianity is Idolatry. 2013. Web.
Neumaier, Arnold. Christian Idolatry and Reality. 2013. Web. <https://www.mat.univie.ac.at/~neum/sciandf/eng/idol.html>
Mills, Kenneth. Idolatry and Its Enemies. Journal of World Christianity 6.2 (2010): 56-62. Print.
Seaton, Debra. Idolatry of Christian Leaders. New York: Cengage Learning, 2007. Print.
Seinfeld, Peter. “Looking to Other Religions, and to Atheism, For Clarity in Faith.” The New York Times 06 November 2009. Print.