A BRIEF HISTORY OF CHRISTIANITY
In 31 A.D. after the ascension of Jesus Christ, the apostles spread the good news initially from Jerusalem throughout the Roman Empire. In Rome, the apostle Simon Peter together with Paul established the Church which Jesus Christ told to Simon Peter, “and I tell you that you are peter [peter derived from Greek petros means rock], and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” [Matthew 16:18]. In the year 107, St. Ignatius of Antioch named this Christian Faith as the Catholic Church [catholic derived from Greek katholikos means universal]. It became the state religion by Armenia in 301; Georgia in 319; and in the year 380, Theodocius 1 declared this Faith as the official religion in Rome. In 1054, the Latin West Church and the Greek East Church split especially due to conflict of leadership and language barrier, which later became known as the Roman Catholic Church in the west and the Orthodox Catholic Church in the east. Today, the Roman Catholic Church proved to be the most dominant of all Christian Religions at 1.6 Billion adherents around the world. There had been ecumenical efforts made to reunite these two early Churches.
In 1517, a priest named Martin Luther protested the management of the Roman Catholic Church, he questioned the using of images and also selling indulgences by some corrupt leaders. Martin Luther’s purpose was to reform the management but later led to breaking away from the Mother Church and establishing the Protestant Church. And that’s the Genesis of the many schisms, many so-called Christian reformists followed.
In 1527, King Henry vIII of England asked the pope to have his marriage to Catherine of Aragon annulled because for nearly twenty years they had not yet produced a male heir to the throne. The pope refused to grant the annulment so Henry declared his independence from the pope in 1534 and founded the Church of England.
In 1914 in the Philippines, Felix Manalo founded the Iglesia ni Cristo. He claimed that he’s an angel rising from the east. From the Philippines it reached as far as America.
In 1870, Charles Taze Russell in the USA founded a Bible study movement and had gained many members. In 1931 after Charles Russell’s death, his followers led by Joseph Rutherford established the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Since then, many other Christian sects had emerged, each of them claimed that they are the true Church. These Christian denominations or sects were once partakers of the Catholic Faith founded by Christ through Saint Peter and other Apostles, but eventually left the Mother Faith. Just like children who rebelled against their parents, just like Satan who rebelled against God.
TRUTH OR ORIGIN OF A RELIGION
If believers want truth of a religion, they should trace back the origin of it. How come a newly sprouted Church can be true or original? Instead, it is the one which has the earliest foundation, the one that Jesus Christ founded through St. Peter and other apostles, the one which has an unbroken continuity with the early apostolic Church. A Christian religion that has no apostolic connection is false. God said to Simon Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” [Matthew 16:19]. To break away from the Church bound by Peter and other Apostles is a rebellion, and therefore it has the consequence of losing the grace of God’s promise. Saint Paul already predicted this apostasy or rebellion in his epistles: “for the time is coming when men will not endure sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths“ [2 Timothy 4:3-4]; and, “don’t let anyone deceive you in anyway, for that Day will not come, unless the rebellion occurs” [2 Thessalonians 2:3]. They rejected the Church that Jesus Christ founded, therefore God will reject them in the Last Day. One needs to be part of this Church bond in order for them to be enclosed by the Lord’s grace. If ever there is a blemish in the management, it’s not the Church itself that erred, but some people within it. Jose Rizal became doubtful of this Faith because of the atrocities inflicted by the Friars, but later retracted his doubt. People are prone to be swayed by earthly pleasures, and the clergy are not impervious to it for they are humans too.
DO CATHOLICS WORSHIP STATUES OR IMAGES?
Most of the newly sprouted Christian religions are attacking the Catholic Church focusing on the image issue. I prefer to call them ‘newly sprouted Christian religions’ because of the enormous time span from the time the Catholic Church was established to the time they emerged as religions. For more than thousand years, there was no other Christian religion except the Catholic Church. Some regard these newly sprouted Christian religions as cults or sects because they were founded by men only.
In [Exodus 20:4-5] it says, “you shall not make for yourself a graven image or likeness of anything that is 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”. This passage is the center of accusation and rebellion by many so-called reformists. It is right to point fingers against people committing the sin of idolatry, but condemning the Catholics because they use images is based on misinterpretation of what the Bible says about the purpose and uses of statues.
COMMENT: If we read the verse 3 of Exodus 20, God begins His commandment by saying, “you shall have no other gods before Me”. So the issue here is not really the images themselves, but people who worshiped other gods (like Molech, Golden calf, Asherah, Baal, Bel, Amon, Dagon, Tammuz, Zeus, Hermes, Artemis, and many others). Why God hated these images? Because these were the images of gods that the Israelites worshiped. The Catholicism is the owner of the Holy Scriptures, so they know better than all rebellious groups.
In (Exodus 25:18-20), God instructed Moses to make two gold cherubim [Cherubim is pl. form of Cherub means angel statue] and placed them over the Ark of the Lord. Even King David held a feast for the Ark of the Lord with the two cherubim over it [2 Samuel 6:15, 19]. He sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before it, he was dancing and leaping with all his might before it [2 Samuel 6:13-14]. David was despised by his wife Michal for what he had done, so the Lord penalized her by closing her womb (2 Samuel 6:16, 20, 23). King Solomon made Cherubim too and placed them in the inner sanctuary of God’s Temple [1 Kings 6:23-27]. God also instructed Moses to make a bronze statue of snake, and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived [Numbers 21:8-9].
Catholic Church does not worship, bow, or serve idols. When Catholics kiss the image of God, they imagine it as they kiss the heavenly Father, just like when you are hugging a pillow while you are longing for your loved one, just like when you are kissing their picture while you are imagining them in your arms. Assuming that you have a girlfriend somewhere else, at one day, a friend of yours informed you that she is caressing your picture and hugging pillow in longing for you, would you get angry of your girlfriend because of what she is doing? _certainly you would not. How much more on the part of God? The Lord is not severe, He is slow to anger and abounding in love (Exodus 34:6). God would have even spared Sodom and Gomorrah if only He had found ten righteous men living in those cities [Genesis 18:32]. God instead loves those who are addicted to Him.
Catholics use statues, paintings, and other devices to reflect the persons who had firm faith in God that led to their martyrdom. By looking at their images, it helps us recollect their examples, as well as strengthen our spiritual Faith. Catholics also use the images as teaching tools for the instruction of the illiterate people. In the situation of the gold cherubim and bronze snake, it proves that God does not forbid the ritual use of religious images. It is when people start to worship and serve a statue as god that the Lord becomes angry. The Bible recorded that early people killed their children as propitiatory sacrifices for their cult images; and did many other detestable practices (such as sexual perversions in homage for their gods) that provoked the anger of the Lord. God does not prohibit the making of image as long as it is solemnly consecrated to Him, as in the case of Micah’s carved silver image [Judges 17:3]. Judges chapter 18 tells about Micah’s carved silver image which was brought by Danites when they attacked Laish, and God let them conquered Laish.