Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist, #50: “No Graven Images”

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.”

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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:

“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

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?
https://www.gotquestions.org/graven-image.html

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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.

40 thoughts on “Answering the rebuttals of a Catholic apologist, #50: “No Graven Images”

  1. You are right, Tom, the Israelites did not worship the cherubims nor the bronze snake. The former is like a decor and the latter represents an act of faith (to look) and not the object per se. Your observations are true and that I can attest based on what I’ve seen and heard. It is really sad and pitiful that they are mislead to venerate if not worship a man-made something as if it is their savior, healer, and source of blessings that actually will make them sin further. Only GOD, by His grace alone, can change their heart, mind, and call/direct them to JESUS alone, and received Him as Lord and Savior, and GOD’s grace by faith alone. Your clarificatory and edifying posts will help them see the light through the work of our Triune GOD. I too may need these resources to persuade…thank you very much for these resources and the entire 50 posts. GOD bless you and your wife! Looking forward to your next LSH.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Kent, thank you for all of the good comments! Yes, Catholic apologists obviously must protest that their treatment of icons is not idolatrous when it is the very essence of idolatry. I appreciate the encouragement and support in the Lord. May Roman Catholics compare the man-made traditions of their religion to God’s Word.

      RE: Next LSH
      Thanks! I actually read LSH #11 last night, wrote the review early this morning, and will be publishing it Monday a.m. There’s plenty of DC Universe tie-ins that I’m not familiar with so I’m looking forward to your comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Broussard is wrong on this! Absolutely wrong. I thought it was blasphemous to say that the cherubim in the Ark of the Covenant supported his claim that God isn’t against religious statutes, images. You are so right, no one was worshiping the cherubim! I remember when I first walked into the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and people were throwing themselves on the anointing stone. I was horrified, that stone was only added in 1810! I am not suggesting all these folks were RCC but you can see the RCC and orthodox use of images even more there. The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is a shrine to man made religion and has little to do with Calvary, the Good News etc.

    To say the RCC doesn’t worship the images is a lie from the pit of hell. It is absurd to accuse Jesus of causing idolatry in Rev 3:9. I am learning what grates my soul the most about Broussard and some of the other RCC writings is the “sophistry.” God’s Word is plain, His Word does not cause confusion. The RCC holds to a low view of Scripture to defend tradition because if they didn’t they would have to take the Word for what it says! What does Broussard mean when he says the RCC doesn’t number the 10 commandments the same as Protestants? I found that confusing!

    I am thankful that God has called you out of the RCC! I am thankful for His grace and mercy helping you rebut these 50 arguments. I am looking forward to your round up and I am glad to finish the “after challenge” next week!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mandy, thanks so much for your good comments. Yes, despite all of Broussard’s protests that Catholics do not commit idolatry with their icons, Catholics’ behaviors prove otherwise.

      RE: Catholic sophistry
      I’m glad you see this. A Catholic will deny they do something while in the very act of doing it. This reminds me very much of 1984/Soviet “doublespeak,” an attempt to mitigate or deny what is actually happening. In this specific case, they insist that they “venerate” the person symbolized by the statue rather than “worshiping” the physical icon or the person symbolized. However, an objective observer would not be able to distinguish between Catholics’ “veneration” of icons and the worship of icons by ancient pagans.

      RE: Rome’s alternate numbering of Ten Commandments
      I’m very glad you mentioned this because it’s so pertinent to the topic. See a very short article via the link below:
      https://www.preparingforeternity.com/biblevscat.htm

      Thanks, Mandy! I am so grateful the Lord called me out of the RCC and I appreciate His guidance in helping me navigate through these muddy and dangerous RCC apologetics waters during the course of this long series.I truly appreciate all of your interest and encouragement.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Sorry for my delay in responding to this. I don’t even know where to start. I understand that doctrine which the church rises and falls is justification. I get that. I find the deletion of the 2nd commandment in the RCC canon completely untenable and at odds with Evangelicalism almost as much egregious as the RCC doctrine of (or lack thereof) justification. How Evangelicals (especially Protestant Evangelicals) largely define themselves as having a “high view of Scripture.” The first tenet of Evangelicalism is “high view of Scripture”!

        While we are no longer under the Law I find it reprehensible to sympathize with an organization who flaunts venerating idols and willfully, purposeful deleting the second commandment. This is just wrong! I can understand/empathize with folks who do not have a good understanding/grasp of justification by faith, there is NO excuse as to how or why anyone would not understand the commandment “do not make any graven image or bow down to other gods.” This is carried to the NT in which every person who has ever lived, is living and will ever live “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10-11 ESV). I will accept criticism by anyone who would say that in this regard I sound like a Bible worshiper rather than a Jesus worshiper.

        Papa Tom, this to me is just so damning and I don’t understand why those who know this about the RCC don’t speak out more against this. Jesus came to fulfill the Law and He is the expression, fulfillment of the 2nd commandment where we will worship and bow down to Him.

        I cannot imagine the judgement that is going to befall on the clergy of the RCC for having the nerve not to just to twist and omit Scripture in order to defend their tradition, but saying they have God’s approval to do so. Woe to you arrogant fools! I cannot imagine the judgement that God is going have against the clergy of the RCC for covering up their crimes of sexual abuse. God will hold the clergy of the RCC accountable for leading countless people into hell with their false gospel. Woe to the prominent Protestant Evangelicals who compromise their beliefs to cater to the RCC. More and more I see it’s not the RCC who bends, it is Protestants.

        This is dire. I almost wish I didn’t know this because now I am responsible for the knowledge that I have been given! Solomon is right, as wisdom and knowledge increase so does sorrow!

        I have visited many RCC cathedrals (famous and nonfamous) all over the world. I will NEVER enter an RCC institute the same way again. I will enter knowing full well that they purposefully deleted the 2nd commandment and that the congregants and visitors are largely unaware of this. It doesn’t appear the Eastern Orthodox omitted the 2nd commandment, but it doesn’t stop them from “venerating” icons either (https://www.goarch.org/-/the-ten-commandments; here’s an article from Orthodox fellowship defending this heretical practice, their mission is targeting orthodox students https://www.ocf.net/icons-are-not-idols/).

        Thank you again for your patience with me. I probably should have emailed you. I am going to spend the rest of this very rainy day learning more about this. Love and blessings to you and Corinne!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Hey Mandy! I hope you guys had a good weekend! My highlight/lowlight was watching my LA Chargers lose to the local favorites, the Buffalo Bills.

        Thanks for all of the good comments! In the past, I’ve read with sadness several articles from evangelicals who wrote in glowing terms about the massive Catholic cathedrals in Europe. The writers were indifferent to the fact that the impressive buildings each contain a sacrificial altar in front, confessional booths in back, and have throughout a multitude of statues that are worshiped. Reaching high above the surrounding structures in the cities of Medieval Europe, the imposing structures were also symbols of the RCC’s absolute authority (and wealth). I don’t begrudge evangelicals visiting historic non-Christian religious buildings (we visited several pagan religious buildings in Rome and I would visit the Pyramids of Egypt and the Acropolis in Athens if given the opportunity), but many evangelicals are deceived into thinking the cathedrals were/are Christian when in fact the genuine Gospel was never once preached within their walls.

        Thanks for the articles re: the Ten Commandments. I have heard Catholic apologists argue that their version of the Decalogue is correct and it was Zwingli and the Reformers who followed who renumbered the order of the commandments to comport to their iconoclasm, which totally ignores the fact that the Jews have historically numbered the Ten similarly to Protestants except for a variation in how #s 1 & 2 are divided.
        https://www.beliefnet.com/faiths/2007/03/chart-comparing-the-ten-commandments.aspx

        Yup, it’s a very rainy day here also, with much more of the same predicted for most of this week. Stay warm and dry! Thank you and blessings to you, Nathan, and your Mom as well!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Dropping by with a hi! Wow you must be really tired in light of waking up in the middle of the night. Hope you will get some rest and nap today? I’ll be reading this rebuttal later at my parents in law place

    Liked by 2 people

    1. 👋🏻 Enjoy your visit with your in-laws!

      And thanks! The dog and I are now locked in a vicious spiral of enablement. Her habit once was to wake up an hour after I did and come out to the family room to sleep next to me on the couch. But she’s becoming conditioned and whines earlier and earlier for me to get up so we can both go on the couch, her preferred sleep spot.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Gregory the Great disagrees with Broussard…..

    Pope Gregory the Great (Gregory I c. 540-603) : Furthermore we notify to you that it has come to our ears that your Fraternity, seeing certain adorers of images, broke and threw down these same images in Churches. And we commend you indeed for your zeal against anything made with hands being an object of adoration; but we signify to you that you ought not to have broken these images. For pictorial representation is made use of in Churches for this reason; that such as are ignorant of letters may at least read by looking at the walls what they cannot read in books. Your Fraternity therefore should have both preserved the images and prohibited the people from adoration of them, to the end that both those who are ignorant of letters might have wherewith to gather a knowledge of the history, and that the people might by no means sin by adoration of a pictorial representation. (NPNF2, Vol. 13. & MPL 77:1027-1028) Book IX, Selected Epistles of Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome, Epistle CV. To Serenus Bishop of Massilia (Marseilles), Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Grand Rapids, MI, Pg 69

    Pope Gregory the Great (Gregory I c. 540-603) : For indeed it had been reported to us that, inflamed with inconsiderate zeal, you had broken images of saints, as though under the plea that they ought not to be adored . And indeed in that you forbade them to be adored, we altogether praise you; but we blame you for having broken them. Say, brother, what priest has ever been heard of as doing what you have done? If nothing else, should not even this thought have restrained you, so as not to despise other brethren, supposing yourself only to be holy and wise? For to adore a picture is one thing, but to learn through the story of a picture what is to be adored is another. For what writing presents to readers, this a picture presents to the unlearned who behold, since in it even the ignorant see what they ought to follow; in it the illiterate read. […] And if any one should wish to make images, by no means prohibit him, but by all means forbid the adoration of images. (NPNF2, Vol. 13. & MPL 77:1128-1130) Book XI, Selected Epistles of Gregory the Great, Bishop of Rome, Epistle XIII. To Serenus, Bishop of Massilia (Marseilles), Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Grand Rapids, MI, Pg 133

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    1. Epiphanius disagrees with Broussard too. So much for so called “tradition”. LOL!

      Epiphanius of Salamis (310/320-403): Asking what place it was, and learning it to be a church, I went in to pray, and found there a curtain hanging on the doors of the said church, dyed and embroidered. It bore an image either of Christ or of one of the saints; I do not rightly remember whose the image was. Seeing this, and being loth that an image of a man should be hung up in Christ’s church contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures, I tore it asunder and advised the custodians of the place to use it as a winding sheet for some poor person. NPNF2: Vol. VI, The Letters of St. Jerome, Letter 51 – From Epiphanius, Bishop of

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The venerating and worship distinction seems artificial when you think of the bowing down and praying. Good point. Congrats on finishing this! What a tour of force and fortitude to pour all that effort refuting this RC apologist

    Liked by 1 person

    1. RE: veneration vs. worship
      Yes, it’s such an artificial distinction. The Jesuits were well known for this type of force-fitting sophistry and it became known as “Jesuitical casuistry.”

      Thank you for all of the support and encouragement over the past year in regards to this project! It was much appreciated! I’m grateful to the Lord for seeing me through to the end.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, well done brother! This has been incredibly helpful, and this last one is no different. Odd that the argument states none of their statues are of God but they have statues of Jesus. Wouldn’t they consider Him a member of the Trinity?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, sister, for all of the support and encouragement throughout this series! Good point about Broussard’s quote. The RCC does teach Jesus is God the Son so he goofed with his all-inclusive statement.

      Like

    1. Thank you, Crissy! I appreciate your encouragement and support throughout this long series. In researching this book, Broussard assuredly had to grapple with reconciling God’s Word with RC false teaching. Yes, may the Holy Spirit open his eyes.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, Crissy! We’re enjoying the afternoon watching football with our oldest son! Also still relishing the end of the leaf campaign! Have a blessed week in the Lord!

        Liked by 1 person

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