Two Talents

Faith-based expressions of a Christian.

The Ten Commandments

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We had a visiting, fill-in pastor on Sunday. Before I begin I'd like to vent something. For reasons I don't know or understand we refer to pastors who fill-in as "pulpit supply". That is such an impersonal and cold term and I wish it would go away. Back to the topic. The pastor spoke of the typology of Noah's ark and Jesus Christ. At some point, while he explained the various typologies, I had a thought: What if God listed the Ten Commandments in the order He gave them for a reason. See, we've gone and numbered them and because that is what we are familiar with we see God's statement as being ten commands. One site I found states…

This (numbering) is a problem because there are actually more than ten imperative statements in the two relevant texts (Exodus 20:1-17, Deuteronomy 5:6-21).

That site finds 14 imperative statements. I'll give that list below. Still, whether we list 10, 14 or some other number of commandments they are nonetheless given in the same order by God. Let's look at Exodus 20 for ourselves:

1Then God spoke all these words, saying,

2"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

3"You shall have no other gods before Me.

4"You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.

5"You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,

6but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

7"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

8"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

9"Six days you shall labor and do all your work,

10but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you.

11"For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.

12"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.

13"You shall not murder.

14"You shall not commit adultery.

15"You shall not steal.

16"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

17"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor." {Exodus 20:1-17 NASB}

And there we have it. From 17 verses come 10 commandments. Ah, but that site I mentioned found 14 imperative statements. Let's see that list:

1 You shall have no other gods before me.
2 You shall not make for yourself a graven image…
3 You shall not bow down to them or serve them…
4 You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain…
5 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
6 Six days you shall labor…
7 In it the seventh day you shall not do any work…
8 Honor your father and your mother…
9 You shall not kill.
10 You shall not commit adultery.
11 You shall not steal.
12 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
13 You shall not covet your neighbor's house
14 You shall not covet your neighbor's wife…

Whether you stick with 10 or accept the list above and go with 14 commands, there is still an order in which they are given by God. Read the scripture and then the list and you will see that the commands of God are given in the same order. All the man who made the above list did was single out each command and list it separately, rather than leaving an entire verse intact and making it one command (i.e. coveting various things as one command). Adding some confusion is that the Catholic Church numbers the commands differently. They still end up with 10, and the same 10 at that, but they are divvied up differently. That nice segue to the Roman Church fits perfectly with the crux of this post, which I will now (finally) get to.

We are considering whether God listed the commands with any particular gravity. That is to say, did He list them in an order that infers the importance of the commands, such as from most to least important. What we do know is that sin is sin, and any and all sin will bring about separation from God. When I committed my first sin I was lost and in need of a Savior, and it didn't matter whether that first sin was murder or a "little white lie". It was still sin. Thus, it can be dangerous to minimize some sins as lesser than others. They are all bad and will all result in the same separation from God. While there is not much gained by trying to rank sins, are some things God wants us to do perhaps more important? Violation of God's commands is sin, but do some commands hold more water, as it were, than others? Again, this can be a dangerous route to take because if you lessen the importance of some commands then people will be inclined to focus mostly or entirely upon the ones said to be most important and thereby neglect the so-called lesser commands.

Still, I suspect that God listed at least the opening commandments first to emphasize their weight. He tells us first that He alone is God and we are to have no other gods before Him. Seeing as how there is no God but Him, putting another before Him would be exchanging the real God for a non-existent one, which would be the worst kind of insult to the true God.

He follows this up by saying we are to not make any idol of anything that exists in heaven above or upon the earth, or beneath the waters of the earth. Again, these things would not be God but mere things, or false gods. Therefore, we are not to make idols which represent angels or anything of this earth.

God then orders that we are not to worship such idols (it seems that He knew we would break the command not to even make or possess them) or serve them. It is here that God points out that He is a jealous God and points out His reprisal toward those who hate him. Who are those who hate God? Apparently those who would violate the commands so far given, because God follows up by saying he shows lovingkindness upon those who love Him and keep His commandments.

God next tells us to not take His name in vain, and states that those who do will not avoid punishment for doing so. The rest of the commands follow; keep the Sabbath day, honor your parents, do not murder, commit adultery, steal, lie or covet. While me trying to claim that God issued these commands in order of importance is inviting disagreement or criticism, I will at least maintain that because God opened this conversation by mentioning that He alone is God, that we are to not make or possess idols, and that we are to not worship or serve said idols that these things are of great importance to Him. I'll stipulate that they are not necessarily more important than the other commands, but certainly no one would argue against me saying these first commands are of major importance.

So, how does the Catholic Church fit into this? I'll explain that to you. Let us first see what the Catholic Church has to say about idolatry:

Idolatry etymologically denotes Divine worship given to an image, but its signification has been extended to all Divine worship given to anyone or anything but the true God. St. Thomas (Summa Theol., II-II, q. xciv) treats of it as a species of the genus superstition, which is a vice opposed to the virtue of religion and consists in giving Divine honour (cultus) to things that are not God, or to God Himself in a wrong way. The specific note of idolatry is its direct opposition to the primary object of Divine worship; it bestows on a creature the reverence due to God alone.

A bit academic, but a pretty good description of idolatry. Of course, and you've likely figured this out already, I maintain that the Catholic Church practices, promotes and teaches idolatry. It does this primarily through the standing of Mary in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Encyclopedia defines (in part) idolatry as "direct opposition to the primary object of Divine worship", which would be God, and further states that idolatry, "bestows on a creature the reverence due to God alone." The Catholic Encyclopedia does not have a specific entry on "reverence", but Webster defines it as…

1 : honor or respect felt or shown : DEFERENCE; especially : profound adoring awed respect
2 : a gesture of respect (as a bow)
3 : the state of being revered
4 : one held in reverence — used as a title for a clergyman

This would actually be something seemingly less than worship, although in practice revering someone or something would almost certainly be offering worship to it. At least in the eyes of God it would be. The Catholic Encyclopedia does have an entry for adoration though…

In the strict sense, an act of religion offered to God in acknowledgment of His supreme perfection and dominion, and of the creature's dependence upon Him; in a looser sense, the reverence shown to any person or object possessing, inherently or by association, a sacred character or a high degree of moral excellence. The rational creature, looking up to God, whom reason and revelation show to be infinitely perfect, cannot in right and justice maintain an attitude of indifference. That perfection which is infinite in itself and the source and fulfilment of all the good that we possess or shall possess, we must worship, acknowledging its immensity, and submiting to its supremacy. This worship called forth by God, and given exclusively to Him as God, is designated by the Greek name latreia (latinized, latria), for which the best translation that our language affords is the word Adoration. Adoration differs from other acts of worship, such as supplication, confession of sin, etc., inasmuch as it formally consists in self-abasement before the Infinite, and in devout recognition of His transcendent excellence.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Back up the truck! There is some form or worship given exclusively to God? That infers that there is at least one form or worship not exclusive to God. One thing you learn when studying Catholicism is that the Church loves overly academic explanations which are rife with big words and explanations which can be initially confusing. What the above states is that adoration is a different sort of worship. So does the Catholic Church claim different kinds, or modes, of worship? Yes, it does.

The word worship (Saxon weorthscipe, "honour"; from worth, meaning "value", "dignity", "price", and the termination, ship; Lat. cultus) in its most general sense is homage paid to a person or a thing. In this sense we may speak of hero-worship, worship of the emperor, of demons, of the angels, even of relics, and especially of the Cross.

Okay, but God said we were to not make or possess idols which represent anything in heaven, or upon the earth, or under the waters of the earth. Thus, paying homage (worship) to heroes, emperors, demons, angels, relics or crosses would be violating God's command. However, the Catholic Church is not content to muddy the waters by saying adoration is supposedly a differing mode of worship.

There are several degrees of this worship:

  • if it is addressed directly to God, it is superior, absolute, supreme worship, or worship of adoration, or, according to the consecrated theological term, a worship of latria. This sovereign worship is due to God alone; addressed to a creature it would become idolatry.

This becomes confusing in that Rome claims there is one type of worship that is meant for God alone, and to offer it to anyone or anything else is idolatry. It is confusing because Rome has decided there are differing forms or worship and has assigned names to each. Above is the so-called "latria" worship. There are two other types, according to the Catholic Church.

  • When worship is addressed only indirectly to God, that is, when its object is the veneration of martyrs, of angels, or of saints, it is a subordinate worship dependent on the first, and relative, in so far as it honours the creatures of God for their peculiar relations with Him; it is designated by theologians as the worship of dulia, a term denoting servitude, and implying, when used to signify our worship of distinguished servants of God, that their service to Him is their title to our veneration (cf. Chollet, loc. cit., col. 2407, and Bouquillon, Tractatus de virtute religionis, I, Bruges, 1880, 22 sq.).
  • As the Blessed Virgin has a separate and absolutely supereminent rank among the saints, the worship paid to her is called hyperdulia (for the meaning and history of these terms see Suicer, Thesaurus ecclesiasticus, 1728).

Well, this is a curious thing. Rome states that there is a form of worship known as latria that is reserved for God alone, and offering latria worship to anyone or anything other than God is idolatry. However, Rome simultaneously claims that there are two other forms of worship: dulia (addressed only indirectly to God) and hyperdulia (reserved for Catholic Mary alone). Regarding hyperdulia, the word "supereminent" is used in denoting Mary's status. Not only is that a $10 word, it speaks volumes toward how Catholic Mary is regarded and the esteem she is given.

The problem with these supposed varying modes of worship is that they were created and defined by some mortal man, not God. Read again God's words as found in Exodus and compare them to Rome's offering. God simply states that He alone is God, we are not to have or possess idols and that we are not to worship or serve idols. The Almighty is cut-and-dried on this. He does not specify that one mode of worship is for Him alone, but other modes or worship are allowed toward anyone or thing other than Him. What is stupefying in itself is that dulia and hyperdulia worship would violate the ban on idolatry, before you even reach the ban on worshiping or serving said idols. You see, as a former Catholic I know well that dulia and hyperdulia worship is not paid exclusively to the target of said worship without some object of some kind every being involved. That object would be an idol. Rome tries to cover its tracks here by claiming that such objects are "aids to worship" and that the worship is not paid to the object, but to whom the object represents. According to Rome's logic, someone knealt in prayer before a statue of Mary is only using the statue as some sort of aid in the worship (hyperdulia in that case), and that therefore there is no idolatry happening. Really? But God was explicit about not making, possessing, worshiping or serving such objects. I cannot imagine that God agrees with Rome here. Moreover, God does not state that Mary, or any saint, or any relic of a saint (and so on) is able to be honored, revered or adored with some lesser form of worship, just so long as you save the latria worship for Him. In fact, He even tells us that He is a jealous God who invokes punishment upon those who hate him by violating His commands, commands which tell us not to do what the Catholic Church is promoting and claiming to be godly.

The problem with Christianity is the Christians. Mankind is flawed, and even saved sinners remain sinners. When we, flawed sinners, try to project what we desire upon God's ways we enter the proverbial minefiled and invite disaster. It only increases the harm and danger when a Church teaches that which God clearly and unequivocally has prohibited. God says that He alone is God, we are not to make or possess idols and we are not to worship or serve said idols. Rome says that as long as you classify your worship of idols as dulia or hyperdulia, your actions are acceptable. God says A, Rome says B. God's word is easily understood. Rome's word is pretentiously scholarly, confusing and clumsy. I'll let you decide which is right, but I would encourage you to look to what God has to say as you do so. After all, none of us will one day be judged by the Catholic Church, but we will all be judged by God. That makes the decision an easy one.

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Written by Shawn

May 15, 2006 at 5:13 am

One Response

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