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Friday, September 12, 2014

Why do Catholics have statues in their churches when the Bible forbids having statues?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,     
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

 “Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus” --Pope Francis  (Evangelii Gaudium, #120)

Short answer:  The Bible doesn't forbid having statues.  

The Bible forbids worship of statues.  No Catholic ought to be worshipping anything or anyone but the Triune God.  

I think that if you asked even the most nominal Catholic, "See that statue? Do you believe that statue is a god?" even if she's essentially clueless about her Catholic faith, she's most likely going to respond, "No?  I'm pretty sure that statue isn't god."

Longer answer:  This Sunday's first reading from the Book of Numbers has a good apologetics verse to defend Catholic use of statues:  

So Moses prayed for the people, and the LORD said to Moses,
“Make a saraph and mount it on a pole,
and if any who have been bitten look at it, they will live.”
Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole,
and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent 
looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.--Numbers 21:8

This is an example from Scripture of God commanding the carving of a statue.  And from this statue benefit to the faithful is achieved--"whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the [statue], he lived".

Here's another example from Scripture of God commanding the building of a statue:

“You shall make two cherubim of gold, make them of hammered work at the two ends of the mercy seat. “Make one cherub at one end and one cherub at the other end; you shall make the cherubim of one piece with the mercy seat at its two ends. “The cherubim shall have their wings spread upward, covering the mercy seat with their wings and facing one another; the faces of the cherubim are to be turned toward the mercy seat--Exodus 25:18-20

Statues and other religious icons in our churches are simply images of heavenly realities.  There is nothing idolatrous about having statues and paintings in our churches.  It does not contradict any Bible verse to have statues.  

It is not an act of worship (to the statue) to kneel down and pray before a holy image.  

We are no more worshipping the holy image, than this Protestant Christian group is worshipping a box of kleenex when we see them bowing in prayer (during presumably an altar call):

"Common sense tells us that, since God has revealed himself in various images, most especially in the incarnate Jesus Christ, it’s not wrong for us to use images of these forms to deepen our knowledge and love of God. That’s why God revealed himself in these visible forms, and that’s why statues and pictures are made of them. "

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15


  1. Great explanation! As a Catholic I know we don't worship statues (and that seems like such a "duh" statement) but it's nice to know where in the Bible we get the idea for it.

  2. To the statues in our church are a good reminder of the ones that have gone before us. Through their teachings and love of the church we arrive where we are today. Like your parents stone in the cemetery a reminder of and teachings they had for us.

  3. We forget that each statue, the Stations of the Cross, stained-glass displays- all are telling the Gospel and these renditions of the Bible story were mainly for the illiterate, were begun during a time in human history when reading was rare. In the U.S. alone, prior to the 1900's, the average literacy rate was only 10%. And yes, they are aesthetically beautiful as well....

  4. Nice and informative. Now I can easily answer if someone question me about our statues in church.