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Is this idolatry?

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  • Is this idolatry?

    In a discussion thread on Marian devotion, it was suggested by Paprika that "Idolatry isn't merely ascribing what belongs solely to God to something else." which is exactly what I'd say idolatry is, as that's how the Church Father's used the term. Whenever someone venerated icons, representing foreign gods, that was idolatry. Taken in a more general term, its ascribing to something created that which belongs solely to God.

    Icons and statues of the saints and the blessed Virgin take up a lot of space in The Catholic Church and in the Eastern Orthodox liturgy and piety, so sometimes we hear this accusation from protestants (in some cases those protestants were ourselves before we joined the Church ).

    This is a thread to discuss whether these kinds of piety constitute idolatry, and what idolatry is.

  • #2
    I generally go with your definition of idolatry so I need to see Paprika's definition before I can form a response.
    "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

    "Theology can be an intellectual entertainment." Metropolitan Anthony Bloom


    • #3

      All idolatrous cults are condemned by the Biblical insistence on worship of Yhwh only. The Decalogue begins with the command to reverence the one true God and to recognize no other deities. On this theme the Pentateuch dilates from every point of view, and the efforts of the Prophets were chiefly directed against idolatry and against the immorality connected with it. To recognize the true God meant also to act according to His will, and consequently to live a moral life. The thunderings of the Prophets against idolatry show, however, that the cults of other deities were deeply rooted in the heart of the Israelitish people, and they do not appear to have been thoroughly suppressed until after the return from the Babylonian exile. There is, therefore, no doubt that Jewish monotheism was preceded by a period of idolatry; the only problem is that which concerns the nature of the cults (comp. the articles Adrammelech; Anammelech; Asherah; Ass-Worship; Astarte Worship Among the Hebrews; Atargatis; Ba'al and Ba'al-Worship; Baal-peor; Baal-zebub; Baal-zephon; Bamah; Calf, Golden; Calf-Worship; Chemosh; Dagon; High Place; Moloch; Star-Worship; Stone and Stone-Worship; Tammuz; Teraphim; and Witchcraft).

      Origin, Extent, Name.
      I. Biblical Data: The narratives in Genesis presuppose monotheism as the original religion. After its decline Abraham was called to spread the true knowledge of God (Gen. xii.; Josh. xxiv.), but the prophetical books still reflect the struggle against idols and idolatry. Even Jeremiah, who lived to see the end of the Jewish state, complains: "According to the number of thy cities are thy gods, O Judah" (ii. 28). The various terms, sometimes expressive of scorn and disdain, which were applied to idols and idolatry are indicative of the wide diffusion of polytheistic cults and of the horror with which they filled the Biblical writers. Thus idols are stigmatized "non-God" (Deut. xxxii. 17, 21; Jer. ii. 11), "things of naught" (Lev. xix. 4 et passim), "vanity" (, Deut. xxxii. 21 et passim; frequently in Jer.), "iniquity" (, I Sam. xv. 23 et passim), "wind and confusion" (Isa. xli. 29), "the dead" (Ps. cvi. 28), "carcasses" (Lev. xxvi. 30; Jer. xvi. 18), "a lie" (Isa. xliv. 20 et passim), and similar epithets. They are made of gold, silver, wood, and stone, and are graven images, unshapen clods, and, being the work of men's hands, unable to speak, see, hear, smell, eat, grasp, or feel, and powerless either to injure or to benefit (Scholz, Götzendienst und Zauberwesen," pp. 45 et seq.).Idols were either designated in Hebrew by a term of general significance, or were named according to their material or the manner in which they were made. They were placed upon pedestals, and fastened with chains of silver or nails of iron lest they should fall over or be carried off (Isa. xl. 19, xli. 7; Jer. x. 14; Wisdom xiii. 15), and they were also clothed and colored (Jer. x. 9; Ezek. xvi. 18; Wisdom xv. 4). At first the gods and their images were conceived of as identical; but in later times a distinction was drawn between the god and the image. Nevertheless it was customary to take away the gods of the vanquished (Isa. x. 10 et seq., xxxvi. 19, xlvi. 1; Jer. xlviii. 7, xlix. 3; Hosea x. 5; Dan. xi. 8), and a similar custom is frequently mentioned in the cuneiform texts.

      Forms of Idol-Worship.
      Temples, altars, and statues were erected to the gods, and figures of oxen and of other animals are also mentioned (Ezek. viii. 10 et seq.). In Israel the worship of high places was a favorite form of polytheistic cult, as is shown by the Book of Kings, where the reign of each monarch is judged chiefly from the standpoint of his participation in the worship of idols, so that the words "but the high places were not removed" form a stereotyped phrase. Prayer was offered to the gods (Ex. xx. 5, xxiii. 24, et passim), the hands were stretched out to them (Ps. xliv. 21 [A. V. 20]), they were invoked by name (I Kings xviii. et seq., xxiv.), their names were praised (Josh. xxiii. 7), knees were bent before them (I Kings xix. 18), incense was burned in their honor (I Kings xi. 8 et passim), they were invoked in the taking of oaths, and sacrifices were immolated to them (Jer. vii. 18; Ex. xxxiv. 15), the victims including even human beings, such as the offerings made to Moloch. The custom of worshiping stars and idols by throwing kisses to them is mentioned in Job xxxi. 13. The exchange of clothes, by which men put on women's clothes and women donned men's garments, was an idolatrous custom, and was consequently forbidden (Deut. xxii. 5). Human hair also served as a sacrifice, and the prohibition against shaving the head or having writing burned into one's body (Lev. xix. 18, 27; xxi. 5; comp. Jer. ix. 26, xxv. 23, xlix. 32) was recognized by the Talmud (Mak. iii. 6) and by Maimonides ("Moreh," iii. 37; "Yad," 'Ab. Zarah xii. 5) as connected with idol-worship. There were, moreover, many other forms of worship, and numerous commandments of the Pentateuch, even though they omit the term "abomination" as a synonym of idolatry, refer to polytheistic worship; foridolatry was deeply rooted in the national character, as is shown by the many proper names compounded with names of idols, so that it became necessary to make every effort for its eradication.

      "Faith is nothing less than the will to keep one's mind fixed precisely on what reason has discovered to it." - Edward Feser


      • #4
        The manner in which idol worship takes place is as follows:

        Physical object
        Selfish motive
        Self effort

        In every idol worshiping culture I have come across, the motive has been to chase after worldly gains: possession of good harvest, money, mate, fame or power. Different idols were assigned different spheres of activity, one for wealth, another for love, etc. A friend of mine returned from a visit to Turkey, and bought a small statue of Artemis. It was a molded figure of Diana or Artemis and it was covered with molded representations of the testicles of bulls: Artemis was a goddess of fertility, prayed to by those who desired to have children!

        Strictly speaking, idol worship does not require a physical object. Idol worship happens when the desire becomes a replacement for God, and all living breath is diverted to make those desires a reality. By that definition, the Pharisees were idol worshipers. They served mammon, not God:

        Luke 16:13“No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

        14Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, were listening to all these things and were scoffing at Him. 15And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.

        Men esteem very highly wealth, beautiful mates and power, all detestable to God, because they turn us from chasing after that which God esteems highly, justice, mercy and faithfulness, attributes that distinguish Man as made in God's image, that He wants us to manifest, as opposed to the carnal desires, as seen in the word of God to us, through His prophets from Abel to John, to repent, turn from selfishness to unselfishness, and through seeing the futility of nature acting selfishly, acting without God.

        Notice how Paul approaches the Areopageans, how he appeals to their inner nobility, which he attributes to their being God's children, and how he appeals to their sense of identity with God to stimulate them to desire what God desires, out of familial ties and out of obligation to their true Creator and Father:

        Acts 17:16Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit was being provoked within him as he was observing the city full of idols. 17So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. 18And also some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were conversing with him. Some were saying, “What would this idle babbler wish to say?” Others, “He seems to be a proclaimer of strange deities,”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is which you are proclaiming? 20“For you are bringing some strange things to our ears; so we want to know what these things mean.” 21(Now all the Athenians and the strangers visiting there used to spend their time in nothing other than telling or hearing something new.)

        22So Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects. 23“For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you. 24“The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; 25nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; 26and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’ 29“Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man. 30“Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, 31because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

        32Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.” 33So Paul went out of their midst. 34But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.
        Last edited by footwasher; 04-12-2015, 05:29 AM.


        • #5
          Moderator's note: This area is for orthodox Christians only.
          Last edited by KingsGambit; 04-12-2015, 04:04 PM.
          . . . the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; . . . -- Romans 1:16 KJV

          . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: . . . -- 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 KJV

          Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: . . . -- 1 John 5:1 KJV


          • #6
            Moderator's note: This area is for orthodox Christians only.
            Last edited by KingsGambit; 04-12-2015, 04:04 PM.


            • #7
              Moderator's note: This area is for orthodox Christians only.
              Last edited by KingsGambit; 04-12-2015, 04:04 PM.


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