“Those Catholics always worshiping idols. Each of their gazillion Churches have their own individual statues and numerous graven images. They pray to those statues as if they were gods kind of like the Israelites formed a golden calf and worshipped it as their new god. At least the Israelites had only one god; the Catholics have a copious amount. Didn’t they read Exodus 20:4?”
Being a Catholic you’ll hear many accusations like this. Many of which are wrong, wrong, and wrong again. Do Catholics worship statues, idols, or graven images? Nope! Never in a lifetime. Does any Catholic go up to a statue of Jesus and think, “Oh wow! The real live Jesus in person! I shall kneel down before you and give you praise and thanksgiving.” If that were the case, I think we would have lines at every statue like we have lines to receive the Eucharist. That is what Exodus 20:4 was referring to, though. You can see this point proven when reading the whole Old Testament in context. The people back then were really “good” at handcrafting idols. They were not just idols; they were a god to them. They would offer burnt sacrifices to this simplistic object wholeheartedly believing it to be truly a god. This wasn’t just a onetime ordeal either. The Old Testament was riddled with this act of worshipping false gods. You get to a point where you are like, “Really?! Ba’al is still not a god! How many times does God have to make it apparent to you?”
So why do Catholics have statues and pictures? It all started way back when the general public didn’t have access to a Bible or couldn’t even read one if they did. The Church and parishioners made things like stained glass windows, statues, and pictures to tell a story – the story. Almost all the people were illiterate, so having these statues and pictures helped them get closer to the faith and learn about Jesus. Similar to how children are more attentive to a picture book.
Some might still say, “Well, the Bible still says not to have any graven images or idols.” Remember, though, all in context! If God really meant it to mean ALL graven images and statues, then why did He Himself instruct Moses to construct some on the tabernacle? “Make two cherubim of beaten gold for the two ends of the cover; make one cherub at one end, and the other at the other end, of one piece with the cover, at each end.” (Ex 25:18) Or how about in Numbers 21:8 when the Lord said, “Make a seraph and mount it on a pole, and everyone who has been bitten will look at it and recover. Accordingly Moses made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever the serpent bit someone, the person looked at the bronze serpent and recovered.” God could have miraculously made them all better with the flick of His fingers or the blink of His eyes, but He didn’t. Why? My guess would be that it has somewhat to do with human psychology. He knows how we are built since He built us. He knows that sometimes we need something physical to have here on earth. It is similar to how we always need leaders. Our country needs leaders and even our churches. No matter what denomination you go to, there will be a church leader. Some people say that Catholics should only go through God and not follow a man like the Pope. But those same people go to a church with a leader at the front. God knew that we needed a human representative here on Earth and you can see that all the way from the Old Testament (Abraham, Moses, Samuel, Saul, David, Solomon) to the New Testament (Jesus, Peter).
So can we have pictures or statues in our homes and at Church? Well, I think any Protestant would agree. They too read Bibles with pictures depicting God’s Word to children. They too see statues of President Lincoln and other historical figurines. They too watch television. They too have nativity scenes with a statue of baby Jesus and Mary. They too have stuffed animals and toys fashioned into animals. And they too keep and treasured pictures of family members. For Exodus 20:4 says to “not make for yourself an idol or a likeness of anything in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth.” Deuteronomy 4:16 extends that saying “not to act corruptly by fashioning an idol for yourselves to represent any figure, whether it be the form of a man or of a woman, the form of any animal on the earth, the form of any bird that flies in the sky, the form of anything that crawls on the ground, or the form of any fish in the waters under the earth.” If they can have pictures of their beloved ones in remembrance of them, why can we not have pictures of the ones we should look up to? The ones that are holier than our own family and friends. We do not worship these images as the word “idol” means and implies; they only serve as a reminder to us what we are here on Earth to do: to strive to be like Jesus.