Monday, July 23, 2012



San Carlos Borromeo
PART II: Images
July 21, 2012
8:30 A.M. – 3:00 P.M.
San Carlos Seminary
San Carlos Pastoral Formation Complex
EDSA, Guadalupe Viejo, Makati City
Bro. Marwil N. Llasos resumes his lecture
The second topic I discussed was the perennial charge of “idolatry” against the Roman Catholic Church. In the Philippines, and elsewhere, this often peddled canard is the No. 1 objection to the Catholic Faith. In my ministry as a Catholic apologist, I have often been asked to refute the accusation that we worship idols. This long-debunked lie has always been rehashed by the enemies of the Church. As Adolf Hitler’s propaganda minister, Paul Joseph Goebbels once said:
Bro. Marwil Llasos discusses the objection on sacred images
 If you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. // If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. // If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it. // If you repeat a lie long enough, it becomes truth. // If you repeat a lie many times, people are bound to start believing it.”[1]
Bro. Mars Llasos enumerates verses showing images of those that are in heaven
I believe that the only antidote to falsehood is truth. If the enemies of the Church keep on telling lies about us, then all the more that we must keep on telling the truth about them. Thus, I was more than happy to share to the Pre-College Seminarians of San Carlos Seminary the techniques on how to refute the anti-Catholic propaganda that we worship images.
Seminarian Kevin reads the verses in his Bible
At the outset, I asserted that the charge that Catholics worship (adore) images is nothing but sheer false accusation. Nowhere in the official teachings of the Catholic Church are we commanded to adore images or statues. Those who bring up the false accusation that we are idolaters are the ones guilty of violating God’s commandment, “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” (Exo. 20:16; Dt. 5:8-9). They are spreading lies in violation of the stricture in Exodus 23:1.[2]
Bro. Kevin reads aloud the verses as Bro. Mars Llasos and the seminarians listen
While it is true that Catholics have statues and images in their churches and homes, these statues and images, however, are not idols. I stated the operative principle that not all images are idols and not all idols are images.”[3] I pointed out that the Bible is clear that there are images that are not idols such as the carved images of cherubims God commanded to be made (Exo. 25: 18-22; 26:1; 31). On the other hand, there are idols, like Mammon (cf. Mt. 6:24; Lk. 16:9), that are not images.
Bro. Marwil Llasos reaches to the miniature Ark of the Covenant
Using the example of the brazen serpent, it is not the image per se that is forbidden. God commanded the making of the brazen serpent and wrought miracles through it (Num. 21:8-9). However, when the Israelites began worshiping it as Nehushtan by burning incense to it, the brazen serpent degenerated into an idol (2 Kings 18:4). Thus, it is not the image that is wrong in itself but our attitude towards it (adoring it as god) that makes it an idol or a false god. This is illustrated in the story of Naaman the Syrian whose master leaned on his arm so he had to bow to the pagan god Rimmon. When he confessed this to the prophet Elisha, the prophet said, “Go in peace” (1 Kgs. 5:17-19).[4] Naaman did not consider Rimmon a god; hence did not worship him. Similarly, Catholics know that idols are nothing (1Cor. 8:4).[5]
Apologetics coach shows the model of the Ark of the Covenant
When do images become idols? Using standard Bible references, I told the seminarians that when images are worshipped as gods that they become idols. The Tyndale Bible Dictionary defines “idols” and “idolatry” as “[m]an-made images or natural representations or material representations worshiped as deities, anything receiving worship other than the one true God. Idolatry is the spiritual worship of an idol.”[6] The same Bible dictionary defines “worship” as an “[e]xpression of reverence and adoration of God.”[7]
Bro. Mars explains that God Himself commanded the making of cherubims on the Ark of the Covenant
After this peroration, I proceeded to present the arguments raised mostly by the Iglesia ni Cristo. I noted how the INC shifts its arguments once Catholic apologists are able to successfully refute them. First, the INC uses Exodus 20: 3-5 and Deuteronomy 5:8-9 to condemn the “graven images” of Catholics. I noted that the King James Version uses the expression “graven image.” I required the seminarians to read their Bible versions and pointed our that newer translations of the Bible like the Revised Standard Version and Contemporary English Version correct “graven image” to “idol.” The Oxford Essential Guide to Ideas and Issues of the Bible defines an “idol” as “a figure or image worshiped as the representation of a deity.”[8] I reiterated to the seminarians that an image becomes an idol when it is worshiped as god (Is. 44:7).[9]
Bro. Marwil N. Llasos shows the images of cherubims on the “mercy seat” of the Ark of the Covenant
I helped the seminarians to properly understand the sense of Exodus 20: 4-5 and Deuteronomy 5:8-9. I averred that it is not a prohibition of all images. Otherwise, God would have contradicted Himself when several chapters later, He commanded the Israelites to make gigantic images of cherubims (Exo. 25: 18-22). Since God cannot lie (Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18) and cannot contradict Himself (2 Tit. 2:13), it is obvious that the contradiction lies in the wrong interpretation of the accusers of the Catholic Church. What God clearly forbids is the making of graven images to be worshipped. The Amplified Bible, used as a Scripture resource, expressed it in its rendition of Exodus 20:4:  You shall not make yourself any graven image [to worship it] or any likeness of anything that is in the heavens above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Exo. 20:4, AMP). [10]
Teaching aid: Model of the Ark of the Ark of the Covenant
Since Exodus 20: 4 and Deuteronomy 5:8 mentions images of anything in heaven, on the earth and on water under the earth, I wrote on the board the verses about images of those that are in heaven, earth and water. The seminarians copied the verses in their “cheat sheet.”[11]
The Tablets of Stone and the Ark of the Covenant
I used the model of the Ark of the Covenant as visual aid in my discussion. Two images of cherubims are found on the “mercy seat” on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant (Exo. 25:18-22). The miniature Ark of the Covenant was provided me by the seminarians. I found it useful as a teaching aid. After driving home the point that images per se are not prohibited in Exodus 20:4 and Deuteronomy 5:8, I showed the seminarians a blown up picture of the monument of INC founder Felix Y. Manalo to expose the hypocrisy of the INC. On the marker of Manalo’s monument, it is stated: “Ang kahalalan ng Sugo ay lagi nating alalahanin ngunit ang larawan at siya kailanman ay huwag sasambahin.” The seminarians chuckled when I said that the INC is teaching Catholic doctrine! I asked them to notice how similar is the inscription on the monument of Manalo to the position of the Catholic Church regarding images. Images can be made as long as they are not worshipped; and those that they represent can be remembered.
Bro. Mars Llasos lists verses showing images of those that are on earth 
I stated the next argument used against images as: “The images of cherubims mentioned in the Bible were commanded by God but the images in the Catholic Church are nowhere commanded by God to be made.”  My reply to this is two-fold. First: Did God contradict Himself, or is it even possible for God to contradict Himself? Since it was God who commanded against the making of images, how come He later on commanded the making of cherubims and other images? It will appear that God violated His own commandment. God would be fickle minded and violate His own nature (cf.  Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18; 2 Tit. 2:13).
Bro. Marwil Llasos writes on the board Numbers 21:8-9 about the bronze serpent
Second: There are images in the Bible that were not commanded by God like the images of emerods and mice made by the Philistines as peace offering to the God of Israel mentioned in 1 Samuel 6:5; 11, 17-18.[12] Solomon’s Temple were also filled with images although not expressly commanded by God (2 Chron. 3:5, 7, 10-14, 16; 2 Chron. 4:2-5, 13, 15, 21 and 2 Chron. 5:7-8). Then I posed the question – “where in the Bible can we read that God commanded the making of Felix Manalo’s statue?” – to which the seminarians laughed heartily.
Bro. Marwil N. Llasos points out that the bronze serpent deteriorated into an idol called Nehushtan because people began worshiping it (2 Kings 18:4)
I moved on to discuss the last accusation made against Catholics that we worship images because we bow or kneel down to them. To this I replied that we don’t bow or kneel to the images – we bow or kneel before them. While it is true that bowing or kneeling could mean worship (Ps. 95:6);[13] they could also mean respect or obeisance.[4] Then I showed a blown up picture of ministers of the INC kneeling in front of Eraño Manalo, the late Executive Minister of the INC. I asked: “If it is true that kneeling always translates to worshipping, then the ministers of the INC are worshipping Manalo because they kneel to him? Again, the seminarians laughed!
The apologetics lecturer writes verses on images of palm trees
A seminarian asked me if there is an instance in Scripture where God’s servant kneels before an image. My repartee was “not only kneeling but even prostrating!” I cited Joshua 7:6-8 where Joshua and the people of God prostrated themselves before the Ark of the Covenant until evening.[15] I once again showed the model of the Ark of the Covenant with the cherubims atop it. I noted that Joshua was exteriorly oriented towards the inanimate object but his prayer was directed to God, saying: “Alas, O Lord God!”
Apologetics coach Marwil Llasos debunks the accusation of idolatry against the Catholic Church
Finally, I mentioned that the Catholic Church erects statues of saints in the same manner as the country builds monuments of its heroes. The saints are the heroes of the faith. We honor their memory by building monuments for them. I said that the monument of Felix Manalo in central temple of the INC is no different, in principle, from the monuments of our saints. I said that building monuments for the saints has precedent in Sacred Scripture. I cited (a la INC) Matthew 23:29 of Ang Buhay na Salita translation:
Seminarians jot down notes from the lecture of Bro. Mars Llasos
“Masumpa kayo – mga eskriba at mga Fariseo! Mga ipokrito! Gumagawa kayo ng libingan para sa mga propeta at pinagaganda ninyo ang mga monumento ng mga taong matuwid.”
I said that in the verse cited, Our Lord condemned the scribes and Pharisees for their hypocrisy but not the monuments of the righteous people (saints). I then cross-referenced this to 2 Kings 23:17 (Ang Biblia) which also mentions a monument of a man of God (prophet):
Is this an idol? Bro. Marwil N. Llasos shows the monument of Felix Y. Manalo to the seminarians
Nang magkagayo’y kaniyang sinabi, Anong monumento yaong aking nakikita? At isinaysay ng mga lalake ng bayan sa kaniya, Yao’y libingan ng lalake ng Dios, na nanggaling sa Juda, at itinanyag ang mga bagay na ito na iyong ginawa laban sa dambana sa Beth-el. At kaniyang sinabi, Bayaan ninyo; huwag galawin ng sinoman ang mga buto niya. Sa gayo’y binayaan nila ang mga buto niya, na kasama ng mga buto ng propeta na nanggaling sa Samaria.”
Bro. Mars Llasos exposes the hypocrisy of the Iglesia ni Cristo when it comes to images
A very interesting Q&A followed. Most of the questions asked by the seminarians were the ones routinely asked by the INC. These questions were answered in the following blog articles:
Bro. Marwil Llasos refutes the attacks of the Iglesia ni Cristo on the sacred images of the Catholic Church
Does kneeling mean worshiping? If so, the ministers of Iglesia ni Cristo are worshiping their Executive Minister!
The morning session ended at 12:00 noon with the Angelus. After Angelus, we proceeded to the refectory for lunch. Even during lunch, the seminarians continued to ask me questions mostly on Mariology. I told them that because of their interest on Mariology, I will tackle Marian apologetics during the next class. The seminarians were delighted to hear the news.
Bro. Marwil Llasos coaches the seminarians how to refute the arguments of the Iglesia ni Cristo
The seminarians write down the verses shared by their apologetics coach
Seminarian Paul reads his Bible as the lecturer and his classmates listen
Seminarian Paul reads God’s Word
Bro. Marwil N. Llasos invites the seminarians to ask questions
Bro. Mars enjoys answering the questions from the inquisitive seminarians
The morning session ended with the Angelus at 12:00 noon
Seminarian M.L. leads the Angelus
Bro. Mars Llasos joins the seminarians in praying the Angelus
Bro. Marwil Llasos and the seminarians at the refectory
Bro. Mars Llasos join the seminarians inpraying before the meals.
Seminarian Kim and Bro. Mars make the Sign of the Cross at the conclusion of the prayer before the meals


The simple truth: Catholics do not worship statues
[6] Philip W. Comfort, Ph.D. and Walter A. Elwell, Ph.D., eds., Tyndale Bible Dictionary (Carol Stream, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2001) p. 624.
[7] Ibid., p. 1311.
[8] Bruce M. Metzer and Michael D. Coogan, eds., The Oxford Essential Guide to Ideas & Issues of the Bible (New York: Berkley Books, 2001) p. 209.

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