Today, we have the final installment in our series responding to “Meeting the Protestant Challenge: How to Answer 50 Biblical Objections to Catholic Beliefs” (2019), written by Karlo Broussard. This week, the Catholic apologist concludes his last section of the book, “Catholic Life and Practice,” with this chapter, in which he attempts to defend the Roman church’s use of religious statues and paintings when the Bible says we should have “No Graven Images.”
Multiple statues and/or paintings of Jesus Christ, Mary, and the saints are present in every Roman Catholic church and many Catholics also have these icons in their homes. Catholics bow down and pray before these images. Yet, as Protestants point out, the Bible strictly forbids the use of graven images in worship:
4 “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. 5 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, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” – Exodus 20:4-6
Broussard responds with two arguments:
(1) Broussard argues that “God can’t be condemning religious statues and images because elsewhere he explicitly commands making them” (p. 271). He cites such examples as the angelic cherubim statues placed over the ark of the covenant (Exodus 25:18-20), the large cherubim statues placed in the holy of holies inner sanctum of the Jerusalem temple built by Solomon (1 Kings 6:23-28), and the crafted bronze serpent used in the healing of Israelites who had been bitten by venomous snakes (Numbers 21:6-9).
(2) Broussard states that what Exodus 20:4-6 expressly forbids is the creation of physical idols for worship. He writes, “Catholics don’t treat statues or the people whom the statues represent as gods. As such the Biblical prohibition of idolatry doesn’t apply” (p. 272).
Let’s now respond to Broussard.
(1) It’s obviously true that God authorized the creation of the angelic statuary for the ark of the covenant and for the holy of holies of the Jerusalem temple and the creation of the bronze serpent recorded in Numbers 21. However, these objects were NOT created for worship. In both cases of the graven cherubim, only the high priest and his assistants were allowed to view them.
(2) Broussard insists that Catholics do not “worship” their graven images of Jesus, Mary, and the saints, but, of course, that is precisely what they do. They prostrate themselves before the icons and offer their prayers to them. Catholics insist they are not worshiping the icons, but rather “venerating” the persons that the icons represent. This is Catholic sophistry. Bowing and praying are certainly acts of worship. The pagans of antiquity worshiped their statues of false gods in the same way that Catholics worship statues of Mary and the saints, believing that the graven icons were conduits to deity. Nowhere in the Old or New Testament is there an example of genuine believers prostrating themselves before or praying to an icon in worship.
We’ve already discussed at great length Catholicism’ egregious error of worshiping Mary and the saints in our previous examinations of chapters 30 through 39 so there’s no need to repeat the arguments here. Suffice to say that Catholicism’s claim that it doesn’t worship Mary and the saints is based upon a circular reasoning fallacy, i.e., “We don’t worship Mary and the saints (despite the clear evidence to the contrary) because we say we don’t.”
What is a graven image?
My deep thanks to everyone who supported this “Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist” weekly series, which began all the way back on December 6, 2019. I thank the Lord for leading me out of the spiritually deadly errors of Roman Catholicism to the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. Please remember to witness to Catholics and pray for them, that many will accept Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone and come out of the Roman false church.
Next Friday, I will publish a comprehensive index to the 50 posts included in this series.