Claim 3: Catholic Worship is Idolatrous (Part 2)

2.     Bones & Relics

The author shows little demonstration of Holy Scripture. Does the touch of Christ’ cloak not heal a woman (Mt. 9:20-22), St. Peter’s shadow not heal in Acts (Acts 5:14-16), the handkerchief and aprons of St. Paul heal diseases and drive out demons (Acts 19:11-12)? What about when the bones of Elisha brought a dead man to life (2 Kgs. 13:20-21)? The list of Scriptural proof goes on with many more sacramental objects, such as, Elijah’s mantle, Aaron’s staff, etc.

Challies’ claim is strongly opposed to the testament of Scripture. Greater homework and honesty in research needs to be exercised. I understand the problem having formerly read the Scriptures from the lens of my Protestant tradition. “Blip verses” such as, “baptism… now saves you” (1 Peter 3:21) get ignored or swept under the rug with a shrug of the shoulders. Because they do not fit what pastor said. We resigned thoughtfulness in thinking the passage could not possibly mean what it said. As a former Baptist, when our young adults group read through 1 Peter, we unintentionally skipped conversation on the meaning of said verse. We were more interested in the “how do we apply this to our lives (in 21st century USA),” rather than asking “how did Christians in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. centuries interpret this Tradition of Holy Writ?” It was so much a part of the tradition of Protestant culture that we did not recognize our frequent biblical and intellectual dishonesty. A few significant select verses did not exist on the forefront of our consciouses like; Paul’s charge to participate in the Breaking of the Bread daily, James’ discourse on works completing Faith, and Jesus’ teaching that the Word of God is primarily Himself (not the Bible) and is freely given in the Eucharist (cf. Jn 1:1, 14; 6:56; Lk 22:19).

3.     Iconography – Graven Images

The Church venerates images in the same way Challies venerates pictures (a “graven image”) of his loved ones. Certainly, adherents to Protestantism keep photographs of family and friends on refrigerators and in their wallets, yet, are ever so slow to grasp this contradiction. Furthermore, do they not annually put out little “graven images” of the Nativity every Christ-mass (clearly, a Catholic holiday) season? Little figurines of the Holy Family are set up as a shrine to reflect the mystery of the Incarnation, however, Protestantism does not recognize this duplicity. Do Protestants pass by the famous Iwo Jima statues, or the Lincoln Memorial, and cry, “IDOLATRY!”? No.. Why? Because they rightly understand it is not idol worship to merely have a statue. It calls to mind the actions and glory of the ancestors and history we revere. Why not implement such art to draw hearts upward in prayer?

Shortly after quoting the commandment to have no graven images, the Protestant skips the “blip verse” commandment to build the statues of the cherubim. “…in the Old Testament, God ordained or permitted the making of images that pointed symbolically toward salvation by the incarnate Word: so it was with the bronze serpent, the ark of the covenant, and the cherubim”. [26]

The Image of God has been fully realized in the person of Jesus Christ; it is the pharisees who argue against Him. Why is it that Protestants find themselves at the logical conclusion, though haphazardly, with the pharisees, as if the Image of God is yet to be revealed? In fact, this is more reminiscent of Islam forbidding any images of their prophet.

If Protestantism desires to remain consistent on this point, they would do well to destroy all Nativity sets, this Billy Graham statue, dolls, figurines, photographs (on Facebook too!), and memorial sites. In fact, having a cell phone with a background picture of the Prince of Peace ought to be held culpable.

Next Post:
Appendix 1:
A Practice Inconsistent with “Earning” Salvation: Infant Baptism


26. CCC, 2130.

Claim 3: Catholic Worship is Idolatrous (Part 1)

1. Mary and Saint “Veneration”

Challies fails to define “To venerate” after stating it is nuanced.  It does not mean “idol worship” as he seems to presuppose, rather, a Google search would have aided him in finding the definition, “great respect; reverence”.

How is this different than having “great respect” for Great grandfather Arthur, who served in WWII. As his descendants we desire to emulate the virtue of his courage, valor, loyalty, and sacrifice displayed in a time of great hardship. We do not bow down to him in adoration nor do we offer sacrifice to him as a deity, yet, we do revere him and desire to model the virtue he embodied. This veneration does not diminish the respect we have for his fellow soldiers or superiors; rather, it demonstrates their excellent qualities as well. In a greater way than we ever could, Jesus, being perfect, obeyed the Ten Commandments to their fullness; thus, honoring His mother Mary. No Catholic venerates Mother Mary more than her Son, Jesus.

Catholics do not “pray to” (in the way Protestantism understands) the Holy Ones (saints), rather, we “humbly request” (definition of “to pray”) them to intercede for us. This is no different than asking a spouse, friend, brother, or mother to intercede for you. It does not differ because we have Eternal Life. To disagree is to side with the Sadducees; do we not serve the God of the living and not the dead? Our communion with them is not lessened when they enter into the fullness of life. They remain, in a greater way, part of the Vine. How dare we to cut them off simply because we cannot see them. Jesus, who is fully human, communed with the “saints,” Moses and Elijah at the Transfiguration. If Catholics are guilty of “saint worship,” than the conclusive extension of said logic applies to Jesus.

In the same way, a person in Protestantism asks someone, who they readily identify with, to intercede for them, so do the faithful of the Church ask those Saints to intercede for us (cf. Hebrews 12:1 and 1 Tim. 2:1-3). We have great confidence in this because no unholy person may stand before the face of God (cf. Rev 21:27), and the prayers of the righteous availeth much (cf. James 5:16). Just as the Mother of God interceded on behalf of the people at the Wedding Feast of Cana (cf. John 2:1-4), so do we now recognize she intercedes for us at the Eternal Wedding Feast of the Lamb, along with all the other saints below the Altar (cf. 6:9-11). And she is always pointing toward her Son saying, “Do whatever He tells you” (cf. John 2:5).

The piece fails to adequately understand “worship”. The term is used by The Church in an ancient sense and was not simply developed 180 years ago in the United States with the advent of Fundamentalism. “…In common speech worship means adoration given to God alone. In this sense Catholics do not worship Mary or any of the other saints. But in older usage the term worship means not just adoration of God but the honor given to anyone deserving. It comes from the Old English weorthcipe, which means the condition of being worthy of honor, respect, or dignity. To worship in the older, larger sense is to ascribe honor, worth, or excellence to someone, whether a sage, a magistrate, or God. But there are different kinds of worship as there are different kinds of honor. The highest honor, and thus the highest worship, is given to God alone [sacrifice], while the honor or worship given to living men or to saints in heaven is of a different sort. Idolatry thus does not simply mean giving worship (in the old sense) to living men or to saints; it means giving them the kind reserved for God. …Consider how honor is given. We regularly give it to public officials. In the U.S. it is customary to address a judge as ‘Your Honor’. (It has been the British custom to address certain magistrates… as ‘Your Worship’…)”. [24]

The Jews believe in intercession of the saints as well, if only partially. They believe the “Archangel Michael protects and prays for the people of Israel (Dn. 10:21, 12:1).” And, “In the second century before Christ, the deceased High Priest Onias was seen praying for ‘the whole body of the Jews with outstretched hands’ (2 Mac 12:15).” Furthermore, and quite astonishingly for those in Protestantism, “For centuries, Jews have made pilgrimages to the Tomb of Rachel, considered the third holiest shrine of Judaism. Faithful Jews… praying… knowing that God will answer prayers through the intercession of Mother Rachel” [25] because she is “weeping for her children” (Jer 31:15).

To maintain consistency, Challies should no longer pray for anyone or ask anyone to intercede for him. Of course, that would be absurd, but consistent.

If Challies would have read the catechism for himself he would have read, CCC 2113:

“Idolatry not only refers to false pagan worship. Idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God. Man commits idolatry whenever he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether this be gods or demons (for example, satanism), power, pleasure, race, ancestors, the state, money, etc.”

Here is a link to understand The Intercession of the Saints. It is a biblical and historical understanding. Quotes from the earliest Christians attest to the validity of interceding/praying for one another.

St. Augustine of Hippo said,

“A Christian people celebrates together in religious solemnity the memorials of the martyrs, both to encourage their being imitated and so that it can share in their merits and be aided by their prayers” (Against Faustus the Manichean [A.D. 400]).

A Note:  This is also discussed in this post: Wait, What?!? You DO Worship Mary!?!

Next Post:
Claim: Catholic Worship is Idolatrous (Part 2)


24. Keating, Fundamentalism and Catholicism, pg. 259-60.
25. Taylor Marshall, The Crucified Rabbi, pg. 171.

Claim 1: Catholicism Denies the Gospel (Part 3)

4. + the Work of Mary?

If I praised St. Paul for his prolific letter writing, tireless fight against the Judaizers, unquenchable desire to spread the Gospel, and legacy of church planting by saying “I don’t know where the Gospel would be without Paul” no one would bat an eye.

However, I can’t do anything like that with Mary.  I could never utter “Without Mary there is no Incarnation.” I don’t dare bring up that if we all bore Christ into the world, proceeded with haste to be with others, cared for children in danger, sought out the lost, pondered the actions of God in our heart, meekly interceded on behalf of those who may not be aware of their need yet, stood by those suffering, and gathered with the Church in prayer (aka if we were more Marian) then Christianity would be richer and more vibrant.  Saying any of that will likely mean I am accused of being a gospel denying, apostate, idolater.  Now you may say, “I don’t have a problem with what you said, except when you make Mary necessary for salvation.”  That raises a great question.  Was Mary necessary for God to achieve our salvation?  No.  Did God, by choosing to take flesh through Mary, give her a necessary role in our salvation?  Unequivocally, yes.  It’s a lot like the Cross.  Read this Socratic Dialogue [15] if you are confused.

5. + Prayer?

Many Protestants will be quick to point out that the Bible calls us all saints.  Which is true, which makes their denial of the intercession of the saints strange.  Denying the intercession of the saints as a violation of Christ’s mediation is to deny that any of us can pray on each other’s behalf.  However, interceding on behalf of one another, even loving someone to express God’s love for him/her (you could call that mediation) does not violate Christ’s singular role as the mediator of the New Covenant between heaven and earth, God and humanity.  Catholics are no different from Protestants in believing that we can and should pray for one another.  However, we differ because Catholics believe that those standing face-to-face with the Lord and Lover of Souls can pray for us.  They pray in and through Christ.  Their prayer like mine or yours, not Christ’s unique mediation from the altar of the cross.  And once again, the Protestant obsession with only/sola statements butts up against the Trinity as it is very clear in Scripture that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf (cf. Rom. 8:26-27).  I bring this up because the Protestant proof text against a Catholic understanding of the intercession of the saints is 1 Tim. 2:5, in which Paul specifically emphasizes Christ’s incarnation, His humanity, as the linchpin of His unique mediation.  The point being, that the common Protestant apologetic regarding this passage proves too much as it was not the Spirit that became incarnate.

6. + Tradition?

Did you know the reformed theology that seems to have saved the Gospel from the shackles of Catholicism is a tradition?  Did you know the Table of Contents in the front of your Bible is a tradition?  Did you know the Bible is in fact written tradition?  And in written tradition we find the command to observe all that was passed down by letter and word of mouth. [16] Weird…

“[Christ] is himself both the mediator and the sum total of Revelation” (Dei Verbum, 2).

7. + Response?

Why does free gift equal no response in reformed theology but nowhere else in God’s universe?  My life is a free gift… guess I don’t need to breathe.  In all seriousness, Catholic theology talks about response, Challies though decides to articulate it as effort possibly to emphasize his accusation of a works doctrine.  More about this in # 9.  (Read Bonhoeffer’s chapter in The Cost of Discipleship on “Single-Minded Obedience” to really see an honest wrestling with the need for response from a very faith-filled Protestant Christian) [17].

8. + The Mass?

The Mass is not added to the Cross. It is the door to the Cross.  Check out The Lamb’s Supper, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, The Mass of the Early Christians, or The Fourth CupSeriously, I’ll buy it for you.  (Here is my email: hargadsl@gmail.com)

Next Post:
Claim 1: Catholicism Denies the Gospel (Part 4)


15. http://mattfradd.com/why-the-virgin-mary-is-necessary-for-our-salvation-a-socratic-dialogue/
16. What do Catholic’s believe about the transmission of that “faith that was once for all handed down (traditio) to the holy ones” (Jude 1:3)?  Find out in Dei Verbum (On Divine Revelation) from Vatican II.
17. “Single-Minded Obedience,” 79-85.

Life’s Distractions

Reflection from the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Scripture Readings

Today is the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  It is said that Mary appeared to St. Juan Diego starting December 9, requesting that a church be built.  The bishop who was petitioned requested a miraculous sign before approving a church.  Mary promised that she would deliver the sign on December 11.  You might have noticed by now that we are celebrating this feast on December 12.  Turns out Juan Diego got distracted. Continue reading “Life’s Distractions”

Why I’m Doing a 33 Day Self-led Retreat

I’m currently on a self-led retreat known as 33 Days to Morning Glory.  It is a form of ‘Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary.’  When I initially agreed to undertake this journey with my friend Ryan, I didn’t have a particularly deep reason for doing it.  I knew I wanted to, but to be honest it was partly a cry for community and brotherhood, and partly a desire to check the box for another Catholic devotion.

However, as I sat in adoration (a prolonged time of prayer just sitting in the presence of the Lord) two compelling reasons struck me and those are the ones I wish to offer. Continue reading “Why I’m Doing a 33 Day Self-led Retreat”

A Hard Pill to Swallow

Christ has many difficult teachings.  He tells us that adultery can be committed in the heart (Mt. 5:28), that we need to eat his flesh and drink his blood (Jn. 6:53), and that whoever is not with him is against him (Mt. 12:30).  He calls us to pick up our crosses and follow him (Mk. 8:34) and to pray for and bless those who persecute us (Mt. 5:44).  A teaching from today’s gospel can keep company with these other challenging commands.  Jesus tells his disciples to listen to the Pharisees.

Continue reading “A Hard Pill to Swallow”

My Magnificat

zechariahs-songA while back I wrote a reflection for my parish inviting people to sit down and write their magnificat; their own version of the Canticle of Mary, or Zechariah, or Simeon.  That reflection can be found here.

Shortly after that I issued the same challenge to the Youth Group I work with.  Below is my own magnificat. Continue reading “My Magnificat”