Worship and the Artist
Recently, I visited a blog of a man who is both a sculpter and painter, a very acomplished artist. This man is a Roman Catholic and his work takes him to various churches restoring the religious figures that adorn these places of worship. He mentioned in his post that many Christians condemn his work and the objects of his craft and even him in that he is repairing idols, being that idol worship is wrong.
Exodus 20: 3-6;”3
“You shall have no other gods before me.”
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”
The reason this discussion on the condemnation of this man is because many worshipers bow down and pray before the image. Can an image help a worshiper feel closer to God? Many protestant churches have eliminated imagery from their churches and regard religious images as idolatrous. These same churches though, may have very ornate or stylized crosses above the alter. Could not images serve the same as these crosses, to draw people closer to God.
Much of the criticism is around the images of the Virgin Mary, or other patron saints. Surely the objection is toward prayer in the name of these saints and not the image itself. Are the frescoes of cathedrals idolatrous?
If images are considered idols, I wonder then, how could a sculptor or painter glorify God in his craft? Do not ‘religious’ works of art glorify God? Is not artistry a talent gifted from God? Is not true art a reflection of God, the great artistic creator? Artistry can be in many forms, sculpture, painting, music, dance, can not these all be used in God’s service and glorify God?
Exodus 31:1-11 – The Lord said to Moses, “I have chosen Bezalel,…and I have filled him with my power. I have given him understanding, skill, and ability for every kind of artistic work – for planning skillful designs and working them in gold, silver, and bronze; for cutting jewels to be set; for carving wood; and for every other kind of artistic work….”
Every church uses music as part of the worship service. When I was part of the music ministry in the church I was attending, there were several occasions on which we discerned that many of the congregation were becoming ‘wrapped’ in the music rather than in the spirit. Several selections were becoming favorites particularily for that reason, the music itself was becoming seductive. Was the music becoming an idol? I do not really know but, we did take precautions.
I was raised in the Anglican tradition and much of what became ‘orthodox’ tradition has stuck with me even though I no longer attend an Anglican church. I find myself bowing before the alter before taking my seat at church, I will still cross myself as a sign for blessing of the Holy Trinity. Perhaps some may find this practice idolatrous.