Idolatry By Any Other Name Would Be …

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… idolatry. And God can smell the bad aroma.

Bowing down, kneeling, and falling down before an idol are variations of the same thing: idolatry. They can do all kinds of spin, hocus-pocus, and gymnastics to distinguish “veneration” from “worship,” but this is idolatry, plain and simple.

Filipinos are very proud today after the Pope has officially “canonized” Pedro Calungsod. They can now pray to San Pedro Calungsod to be healed of their diseases or for some other “miracles” (reminds me of many evangelicals!). They can now “venerate” this new “saint” by bowing down, kneeling, or falling down before an idol or icon of his likeness (like pictures of Christ, does anyone know what he really looked like?).

What is the Biblical basis for this? None. Zip. Nil. Because here are a few of the hundreds of places in Scripture where these practices are said to be an abomination before the true God in heaven:

Exodus 20:4-5 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image… You shall not bow down to them or worship them.”

Psalm 95:6 “Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!”

Revelation 19:10 “Then I [John] fell down at his feet to worship him [the angel], but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.’”

Notice especially the last verse. By falling down at his feet, the Apostle John was not merely expressing his awe and reverence of the angel, but was worshipping him, not God, incurring the angel’s sharp rebuke.

Bowing down, kneeling, and falling down before an idol are variations of the same theme: idolatry. Those who do these things can do all kinds of spin, hocus-pocus, and gymnastics to distinguish “veneration” from “worship,” but this is idolatry, plain and simple. Any preschool kid would know this.

Sure, people bow down to kings and presidents, and in the Filipino culture, to the older folks, as a show of honor, respect, and even submission to authority. But in religion, these actions are undeniably idolatry as defined by the Bible, especially if the idol is a substitute for God, Jesus, or anyone in heaven. If anyone doubts this, listen to what Paul says,

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5).

And here is the Bible’s typical description of what idols, like those that most Filipinos worship, are like:

2 Why should the nations say,
“Where is their God?”
3 Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.
4 Their idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
5 They have mouths, but do not speak;
eyes, but do not see.
6 They have ears, but do not hear;
noses, but do not smell.
7 They have hands, but do not feel;
feet, but do not walk;
and they do not make a sound in their throat.
8 Those who make them become like them;
so do all who trust in them (Psa 115:2-8).

Take note of verse 8. All who bow down and kneel before lifeless, inanimate idols will become like them: dumb, blind, deaf, inanimate. This is why all idolaters, Buddhists, Hindus and pagans are lifeless. They have “become like them.” Walking dead today. Worse, walking dead in the eternal age to come.

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John Calvin, in his treatise, On the Necessity of Reforming the Church, rejects this Roman distinction between veneration and worship:

Then what shall I say of adoration? Do not men pay to images and statues the very same reverence which they pay to God? It is an error to suppose that there is any difference between this madness and that of the heathen. For God forbids us not only to worship images, but to regard them as the residence of his divinity, and worship it: as residing in them. The very same pretexts which the patrons of this abomination employ in the present day, were formerly employed by the heathen to cloak their impiety. Besides, it is undeniable that saints, nay, their very bones, garments, shoes, and images, are adored even in the place of God (emphasis mine).

But some subtle disputant will object, that there are diverse species of adoration: that the honor of dulia [veneration], as they term it, is given to saints, their images, and their bones; and that latria [worship] is reserved for God as due to him only, unless we are to except hyperdulia [high veneration], a species which, as the infatuation increased, was invented to set the blessed virgin above the rest. As if these subtle distinctions were either known or present to the minds of those who prostrate themselves before images (emphasis mine).

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