Monday, June 29, 2009

Whither the Third 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 down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Exodus 20: 4-6)

Read this from the Chicago Tribune and weep.

Melrose Park church to celebrate new crowns for statues made of donated gold, blessed by pope

When parishioners of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Roman Catholic Shrine in Melrose Park decided to create gold crowns for statues of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus, they donated to the cause by reaching deep into their hearts and memories.

Joe Rosa gave his grandfather's wedding band. Corinne Principe wept as she slipped her own wedding ring off her finger. Antonio Godinez removed the big Jesus medallion he wore close to his heart and plopped it into a collection basket.

In all, 15 pounds of gold was given, including a dozen gold watches, several rings, bangle bracelets, earrings, chains and medals. Carrying out a religious tradition from Southern Italy, the donated gold was then melted down and molded into two new 14-karat gold crowns appraised at $75,000.

The self-sacrifice here in one way is very touching. Few possessions are more precious to an individual than their wedding band. The willingness to give up items that are precious to you is in many ways an admirable example of sacrificial living. But…

…to take the gold and make two crowns worth $75,000, fly them to Rome to be “blessed” by Joseph Ratzinger and then adorn them on statues is idoloatrous. Set aside for a moment the idea of a church spending $75,000 on something so vain and frivolous as golden crowns for statues. That is a huge issue but no more so than the sinful lavishness of many Protestant churches with obscenely ornate buildings, the latest in technology to impress people, large paid staffs, etc. The great issue here is that this is idolatry, nothing less. Look into the Bible and tell me how this veneration of statues of people is in keeping with the worship of God by His people? The statue of Christ is bad enough, but the statue of Mary? This veneration of a statue and praying to Mary and other saints is tragic. I am confident that when I pray, God’s will is always done and that I need no other intercessor but Jesus Christ, our great High Priest.

Humans naturally desire something tangible. The ancient Israelites did something very similar to this in Exodus:

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play. (Exodus 32: 1-6)

Sound similar at all? Idolatry is a heinous sin. Even for motivations that may seem pure to man, idolatry is replacing God as He has revealed Himself with something tangible that replaces Him. It is the creation set on its head, man creating God in our own image. Our God is not a God who appears bodily or that desires or permits us to create graven images.

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor 4: 17-18)

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. (Hebrew 11: 1-3)

I pray that God will work in the hearts of these people who are crowning statues, parading them around town, praying to sinners. I pray that He will reveal Himself to them that they may have the assurance of life eternal through faith in Christ, not in prayers to sinners and idols. I pray that we who have been saved through His sovereign grace will not likewise fall into the temptation of idolatry, idolatry of our learning, or of human leaders, or of organizations, or of doctrines.

No comments: