By Victor Edwin SJ, New Age Islam
13 July, 2015
Assalam u Alaikum
Recently a Muslim friend asked me about the statutes in the Church whether Christians worship statues. In other words: Are Christians idol worshipers?
We had a very helpful religious conversation around the topic. I would like to share with you ... and request if you judge this note useful, kindly publish in your esteemed journal.
Christians are monotheists. They affirm without ambiguity that worship is due to God alone. In his or her worship of God, a Christian adores the one living God. This worship includes three principal acts: namely adoration (or the recognition of God's infinite perfection), prayer or the asking for divine help, and sacrifice or the offering of something precious to God.
Christians also venerate angels and saints. Veneration like adoration has three principal forms. In venerating angels and saints; first, Christians honour the sanctity of the angels and saints; second, they pray to angels and saints to intercede before the divine Majesty; thirdly, Christians imitate saints and angels love for and service of God.
The statues one finds in the churches and chapels are symbolic form of the saints and angles. The purpose of keeping statues in the places of veneration is to recall the person whom the statue represents in order to inspire greater piety.
In history we meet a heresy termed as Iconoclasm (Etym. Greek eikon, image + Klaein, to break) that rejected the use of religious images as superstition. Saints John of Damascene and Theodore were the staunch defenders of sacred images. They emphasized that these images may be lawfully displayed and venerated. They made it clear that the respect shown the sacred images were really given to the person they represent.
I hope it suffices. Thanks for asking this question.
Yours in HIM
Victor Edwin SJ
Dear Muslim friends:
Peace and greetings. Recently
in our New Age Islam my little note on adoration and veneration invited many
helpful responses. I am grateful to the comments. One or two responses were on
whether Christians are monotheists or not. I write this note as a way of
ongoing dialogue with my Muslim friends.
Muslims, Christians too are monotheists.
Christians believe that God is one. They believe (within this frame of
reference) that God has revealed Himself as Lord and Savior in and through
Jesus Christ. God has made himself
present in Jesus Christ. Christ does not
exhaust the mystery of God. God cannot exhaust God’s self. But Christians
believe that God’s design for humanity (Romans 16.25) is revealed in Christ. God revealed his definitive plan in Christ.
That definite plan is to recapitulate everything in Christ (Ephesians 1.9).
after speaking in many places and varied ways through the prophets, God “last
of all in these days has spoken to us by his Son” (Hebrews 1. 1-2). For He sent
His Son, the eternal Word, who enlightens all men, so that He might dwell among
men and tell them the innermost realities about God (cf. John 1. 1-18). Jesus
Christ, therefore, the the Word made flesh, sent as “man to men” (Epistle to
Diognetus VII.4), “speaks the words of God” (John 3.34), and completes the work
of salvation which His Father gave him to do (cf. John 5.36; 17.4). To see
Jesus is to see His Father (John 14.9). for this reason Jesus perfected
revelation by fulfilling it through His whole work of making Himself present
and manifesting Himself through His words and deeds, His signs and wonders, but
especially through His death and glorious Resurrection from the dead and final
sending of the Spirit of truth. Moreover, He confirmed with divine testimony
what revelation proclaimed: that God is with us to free us from the darkness of
sin and death, and to raise us up to life eternal (Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation: Dei Verbum, 4).
When Christians talk of Father
– Son relationship between God and Jesus, Muslims think that Christians are
speaking of a father and son relationship in a biological sense. The
theological explanation of the Trinity through the concepts ‘nature’ (tabîa) and ‘person’ (shakhs, uqnûm) does not greatly help. Of the
Arabic equivalents for persons, shakhs
conveys the idea of a visible form, while uqnûm (the technical term used in
Arabic Christian theological writing) is unfamiliar to contemporary Arabs. Tabîa refers to a created nature (Cf.
Christian W Troll, Muslims Ask,
Christians Answer (Gujarat Sahitya Prakash: Ananad, 2005), 46).
Often, I have been asked the
same question. I simply share with them: the apostles in the
light of resurrection of Jesus deeply felt that they have encountered God in
the human person Jesus. Jesus was nailed on the cross by the Jewish
authorities. He died on the cross. But God raised him. They met the Risen
Christ. In the light of this unexplainable experience the apostles taught that
the saving care and grace of God was given in and through the person of Jesus.
As a Christian I do experience the life of God in the healing and reconciling
words of Jesus. I encounter God in Christ. I believe that Jesus has revealed
his relationship with God as Father. I witness to what I deeply believe. I give
account of my faith with humility and joy and listen to the faith witnessing of
Muslims with equal joy as I believe we can only apprehend the mystery of God
and we could never exhaust the mystery of God.
Let Christians do what they are comfortable with. Let us do what we are comfortable with. Let us not make issues out of this.
It is important to note here that the Christian understanding
of God is different in a very fundamental way from the Islamic (and also
The Christians have developed a belief in the
“Trinity”, and so their understanding of God is very different. Many Christian
and former Christian scholars themselves have pointed out that the ‘Trinity” is
a later invention and that it was not taught by Jesus. Some of the things they
are saying about the inventions of false doctrines about Jesus by those who
call themselves Christians are precisely what the Quran revealed many centuries
These days, I am reading an amazing book on this and
related issues, called Jesus, Interrupted:
the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (and Why We Don’t Know About Them)”, by a leading American scholar on Christianity, Bart
Ehrman, who is
the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious
Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (USA), and a leading
authority on the Bible and the life of Jesus.
Ehrman studied in a Christian seminary, but later realized
that what the Church teaches about Jesus is to great extent concoctions that
developed after Jesus [and this includes the notion of the ‘Trinity’]. He says
that many Christian scholars who have studied in liberal seminaries in the West
know this very well but remain silent on this in front of their congregations.
You can download several books by Bart Ehrman on these and
related issues from the Internet free of cost [just type in “Bart Ehrman pdf”
and the name of the book as key words]. I downloaded the following books by
1. Lost Christianities: Christian Scriptures and the Battles Over
2. Forged: Writing in the Name of God—Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We
Think They Are
3. Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why
(This is a New
York Times Bestseller)
4. “Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the
Hidden Contradictions in the
(and Why We Don’t Know About Them).
Ehrman has written several more such books, including one
titled How Jesus Became God, whose title indicates how Jesus, who never
claimed to be God, was later deified by people who claimed to follow him.
Dear Rational Saheb, could you please tell me, what
exactly happens when your comment gets posted twice or thrice.
I tried to
do it without putting in another captcha text in an old article, it didn't
work, the comment did not get posted twice. Now we can see the message
immediately after posting, if the comment has been posted or the captcha text
was wrong and has to be put in again
I would be
grateful if you can recall how and why it happens.
Mr. Edwin's letter or article very clearly shows how far
Christians have departed from the teachings of Jesus. There is no evidence to
suggest that Jesus venerated the ‘saints’ and that he called upon his followers
to do so.
The Christians’ ‘veneration’ and ‘adoration’ angels and ‘saints’,
Mr. Edwin says, includes “pray[ing] to angels and saints to intercede before the
Praying to anyone other than God is against monotheism. So, in
which way can Mr. Edwin claim, as he does in the beginning of his letter, claim
that Christians are monotheists? Further, there is no evidence, even in the
books that Christians take to be sacred, that Jesus ever asked his followers to
“pray to angels and saints to intercede before the divine Majesty.”
Mr. Edwin seeks to legitimize the purpose in Christians keeping
statues in places of veneration. Again, clearly this is not something that
Jesus ever taught. It is a later innovation, again showing how far those who
call themselves Christians have deviated from Jesus’ teachings.
Another point: Mr. Edwin mentions about Christians venerating
saints and venerating ‘sacred’ images. It needs to be pointed out that it is
the Catholics who do so, and not all Christians, as far as I know. The
Protestant churches, as far as I know, don’t have statues and the Protestants
do not believe in the cult of the ‘saints’.