An Analysis of the Cult of Image Worship

We are all familiar with the central role religious images – statues, icons and works of art – play in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Stories of miracles and supernatural feats are so hinged with the cult of images that it’s obvious that one can’t survive without the other.

Such stories have been crystallized in many Catholic legends (e.g St. Mary of Egypt, St. Thérèse of Lisieux and St. Faustina Kowalska etc.) and there’s no shortage of such today – from the spurious to the curious to the grotesque. In 2014, the Associated Press reported on an “oil weeping” statue of Mary in a small town in Northern Israel which attracted over 2,000 pilgrims.

There have also been stories of statues or icons of “Jesus” and the various “saints” weeping blood, oils or water, nodding, blinking, effective miraculous cures, or surviving a disaster. When Catholic believers listen to these tales they punctuate the air with chants of “Holy Mother pray for us!” while deliberately piping down on their own critical faculties to deny obvious questions.

The Catholic Encyclopedia says that “through the images which we kiss, and before which we uncover our heads and kneel, we adore Christ and venerate the saints whose likenesses they are” (8:636)

The Catholic Catechism (2132) also says: “The Christian veneration of images is not contrary to the first commandment which proscribes idols. Indeed, ‘the honor rendered to an image passes to its prototype,’ and ‘whoever venerates an image venerates the person portrayed in it.'”

We need to ask: why would any Christian kiss or kneel to worship an image in the name of God? How do Catholics know for sure that the images they venerate are really the “likenesses” and “prototypes” of the persons they portray? Have they physically seen Jesus, Mary or the “saints” before? Did they pose for a photo shoot?

If the honour or worship rendered to an image passes to its prototype, what then stops one from worshipping the rocks in one’s backyards since one can paint a supposed image of ‘Christ’ or the ‘saints’ on them? Different portraits of Jesus or Mary have been produced by different artists in different nations at different periods of history. Certainly, all these artistic renditions can’t be representations of the persons alleged. This is a fraudulent development.

Church history shows how the cult of images developed. The early Christians while not adverse to art, had no images of Christ. This is evident in the writings of the early church fathers who denounced religious images. For example:

Melito (d. 180 A.D.): “We are not those who pay homage to stones, that are without sensation; but of the only God, who is before all and over all, and moreover, we are worshippers of His Christ, who is veritably God the Word existing before time” (The Ante-Nicene Fathers III, 579).

Irenaeus (c. 125-202 AD): “They style themselves Gnostics. They also possess images, some of them painted, and others formed from different kinds of material; while they maintain that a likeness of Christ was made by Pilate at that time when Jesus lived among them. They crown these images, and set them up along with the images of the philosophers of the world…” (Against Heresies 1:25:6)

Tertullian (145-220): “But some one says, in opposition to our proposition of “similitude being interdicted,” “Why, then, did Moses in the desert make a likeness of a serpent out of bronze?” The figures, which used to be laid as a groundwork for some secret future dispensation, not with a view to the repeal of the law, but as a type of their own final cause, stand in a class by themselves … It is enough that the same God, as by law He forbade the making of similitude, did, by the extraordinary precept in the case of the serpent, interdict similitude. If you reverence the same God, you have His law, “Thou shall make no similitude” (Of Idolatry, Ch. 5).

Origen (c. 185-254 A.D): “But Christians and Jews have regard to this command … ‘Thou shalt have no other gods before Me: thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath … It is in consideration of these and many other commands, that they not only avoid temples, altars, and images but are ready to suffer death when it is necessary, rather than debase by any such impiety the conception which they have of the Most High God” (Against Celsus, 7:65)

Lactantius (c. 250-325 A.D.): “Wherefore it is undoubted that there is no religion wherever there is an image. For if religion consists of divine things, and there is nothing divine except in heavenly things; it follows that images are without religion, because there can be nothing heavenly in that which is made from the earth” (The Divine Institutes, 2:19).

Notice from these quotes that the only groups of people who venerated images purported to be of Christ were heretics who had mixed Christian elements with occult Gnosticism. The Synod of Elvira (305/306) prohibited images as a hindrance to the spiritual worship of God. Ambrose, Jerome and Eusebius made references to people making images of “Christ” or “saints” in their time but they were seriously frowned upon. Epiphanus for instance, wrote:

“…I came to a villa called Anablatha and, as I was passing, saw a lamp burning there. Asking what place it was, and learning it to be a church, I went in to pray, and found there a curtain hanging on the doors of the said church, dyed and embroidered. It bore an image either of Christ or of one of the saints; I do not rightly remember whose the image was. Seeing this, and being loth that an image of a man should be hung up in Christ’s church contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures, I tore it asunder and advised the custodians of the place to use it as a winding sheet for some poor person” (Jerome’s Letter, 51:9)

Catholic scholar, Ludwig Ott noted that: “Owing to the influence of the Old Testament prohibition of images, Christian veneration of images developed only after the victory of the Church over paganism” (Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Tan Books: Illinois, 1974, 320).

Even when images were introduced, several emperors condemned their use as heresy and ordered them destroyed. In 784 A.D. Tarasius who was an advocate of images, became the Patriarch of the East and the Synod of Nicaea in 787 ascribed reference to images and worship to God through them. This practice was sanctioned in the West through the Synod of Frankfurt in 794. Even then, several emperors, Catholic bishops and others were still opposed to image and relic worship.

After 850, the cult of image worship began to grow in churches along with stories of “miracles” performed through them. In 1188, it was declared that a denial of images was a denial of God. In 1225, it was said that Christ was not Christ unless He was graven. Thomas Aquinas said in Summa Theologiae that an image of Christ claims the same veneration as Christ Himself. At the Council of Trent (1551-1552) idolatry was finally made a dogma (compulsory belief) for Catholics and so it remains till date.

What the Bible Says

In Scripture, none of the inspired writer ever mentioned the use of images in worship to God in the tabernacle or temple rites except when Israel was backslidden and served pagan gods. The Bible denounced religious images as the works of man’s hands; imitations of creations, made of dead materials and a foolish worship (see Lev. 19:4 2 Kgs. 18:4 , Isa. 44:8-20; 46:6-7 etc.). The second commandment in the Decalogue says:

You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them” Exodus 20:4-5 (New American Bible)

This commandment has been slyly eliminated from the Catholic Catechism because of its implications on Catholic dogma. To properly bury the verse in the rat’s nest, they split the tenth commandment into two – making the part about not coveting your neighbour’s wife into the ninth and the rest, servant, etc. was grouped together to form the tenth.

Catholic doctrinal books also intentionally use the review of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy instead of the original giving of the commandments in Exodus. These efforts prove that Catholic leaders too are aware that God’s commands condemn their use of images in worship.

You saw no form at all on the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire. Be strictly on your guard, therefore, not to degrade yourselves by fashioning an idol to represent any figure, whether it be the form of a man or a woman…” (Deut. 4:15-16 NAB)

I shall pronounce my judgements on them because of all their wickedness, since they have abandoned me, offering incense to other gods and worshipping what their own hands have made” (Jer. 1:16 New Jerusalem Bible)

To whom could you liken God? What image could you contrive of him” (Isa. 40:18 JB)

These were directives given to God’s people in the OT denouncing images made of God or any divine figure. In the NT, the same commands were given to Christians forbidding them from “Christianized” image worship:

Therefore, my beloved, avoid idolatry 1 Cor. 10:14 (NAB)

Others must stay outside [heaven]: dogs, fortune-tellers, and the sexually immoral, murderers, idolaters, and everyone of false speech and false life” (Rev. 22:15, NJB).

God doesn’t need to go into semantic acrobatics or manipulation of terms. His Word is clear that any worship or veneration offered to an image is idolatry. Plain and simple. We spurn His commands only at our own peril.

During a discussion with an ex-Catholic friend, Rita, years ago, I asked, “What was the main factor that led you to reject Catholicism?” She answered, “Every time we prayed towards an image, something in me would ask, ‘Is this not idolatry? Is this not an abomination before God?’ Sometimes when I voiced out my inner protests, they would defiantly tell me it’s not idolatry. But their explanations couldn’t drown my inner voice. It was when I looked into the Bible, that I realized that God had been tugging at my conscience all along”

This “Christian” idolatry persists because many religious people want to walk by sight rather than by faith. They want God or Jesus to be portable and manageable; in a form that they can see, touch and kiss rather than serving Him in spirit and truth. The cult of image worship is simply a continuation of the traditions of pagans who made images of their deities.

The Catholic Encyclopedia‘s article on ‘The True Cross’ says “in the first ages of Christianity, when converts from paganism were so numerous, and the impression of idol-worship was so fresh, the Church found it advisable not to permit the development of this cult of images, but later, when that danger had disappeared…the cult developed freely”

The bigger the tales of miracles wrought through these idolatrous images, the bigger the income generated for Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy and the greater the number of souls led into spiritual bondage. But God must be worshipped as He has prescribed – in spirit and truth – not as we think He should be worshipped.


The Dangers of Eastern Alternative Medicine (I)

Eastern Alternative Medicine currently enjoys increasing popularity all over the world today. In many countries, they are frequently sought as an alternative therapy to conventional medicine. The New Age movement has also popularized Eastern alternative healing practices in the West, and they can be termed New Age medicine. The Mayo Clinic reports that nearly 40 per cent of adults use complimentary and alternative medicine.

The combination of these therapies with conventional medicine is called “integrative medicine.” They can be classified into ancient healing systems (from China, India etc), naturopathy (acupuncture, herbal remedies, massage and lifestyle counseling), mind-body medicine and homeopathy.

Many Christians are introduced to Eastern alternative medicine by doctors, scientists and individuals (even church leaders) with scientific credentials. They are told that Holistic medicine works better than mainstream medicine and comparatively has no side effects. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is presented as a set of “natural remedies” for longevity and health preserved by ancient sages. Some people see these interwoven with their culture. I have been reliably told that many Christians in the East patronize such alternative therapies. [1]

New Age medicine are series of alternative therapy to physiologically, scientifically, medically based analysis, diagnosis and treatment. They are also known as holistic medicine because they claim to deal with the spiritual side of man and utilise it to effect physical healing. Scientists agree that these therapies do sometimes work, but their efficacy cannot be scientifically explained.

Scientific studies have revealed that Eastern medicine can be harmful. They “show very clearly how dangerous the products of TCM can be” says Frite Sorgel, head of the Institute for Pharmaceutical Research in Nuremberg, Germany. “The public needs to be better informed about these dangers,” he said. Researchers at Murdoch University, using modern sequencing technology analysed 15 samples of traditional Chinese medicine by extracting the DNA from the mixture.

Through this method, they identified the DNA of animals and plants used to make to the medicine. They found DNAs of animals present in the mixture which weren’t listed on the pack. They also found potentially toxic chemicals as part of the herbs which could become carcinogenic as well as chemicals that could pose danger to health when used in combination with other drugs. [2]

Dr Stalker and Glymour observe that “holistic medicine is not a scientific tradition. It has no paradigmatic work, no recognized set of problems, and no shared standards for what constitutes a solution to those problems; it also lacks the critical exchange among its practitioners that is characteristic of the science.” [3]

This shows the potential of Eastern alternative medicine in weakening the demands of scientific evidence and rational thinking even within the medical community. Most of what are touted as therapies and “clinical trials” in New Age journals are not science but Eastern religion.

Dr. Thomas Chalmers, a distinguished Service Professor of Medicine, after examining the scientific quality of articles in the Journal of Holistic Medicine says that the journal “has a long way to go to achieve the same standards of scientific reporting as the more orthodox journals.”

There are 5 major differences between scientific medicine and New Age medicine

1. Scientific medicine is based on the starting premise that diseases operate at the physical level and should be treated physically. But New Age medicine is based on the premise that diseases begin at the energy level and should be treated energetically.

2. Conventional medicine is rooted in materialism or naturalism which is quite compatible with Christian theism. On the other hand, alternative therapy is rooted in occultism, pantheism (”all is God and God is all”) and spiritualism.

3. Scientific medicine is based on scientific disciplines such as chemistry, anatomy, physiology, biology and pharmacology but New Age medicine is based on Hinduism, Taoism, American Indian spirituality and Western occultism.

4. In conventional medicine, diagnostic methods are based on physical, observable and consistent methodologies, whereas Holistic medicine is based on psychical and contradictory techniques.

5. Mainstream medicine is backed by scientific data, clinical trials, confirmed medical testing and peer review. Eastern alternative medicine is based on little or no data, no proven methods, uncritical attitudes and pragmatic measures.

Most scientists agree that such alternatives work as a Placebo effect, because their efficacy cannot be empirically tested or repeated. It cannot be scientifically explained why it works for some people but not for others. But one thing is clear: the principles behind such alternative medicine are neither novel nor scientific. They are old techniques utilised by witchdoctors for centuries before they found their feet in medicine.

Michael Harner, a shaman, wrote: “The word ‘holistic’ is an euphemism for witchcraft … The burgeoning field of holistic medicine shows a tremendous amount of experimentation involving techniques long practiced in Shamanism, such as visualization, altered states of consciousness, aspects of psychoanalysis, hypnotherapy, meditation, positive attitude, stress reduction, and mental and emotional expression of personal will for health and healing. In a sense, Shamanism is being reinvented in the West precisely because it’s needed.” [4]

Although Eastern alternative medicine is often camouflaged with scientific, neutral or spiritual terms, it is based on ancient occult principles. All through history witchdoctors, pagan priests/priestesses, spiritists and occult healers in different cultures have sought the spirit world and followed demonic instructions on how healing can be attained.

Dr. Walter Addison Jayne, in his work, The Healing Gods of Ancient Civilization chronicled the dramatic influence of the gods and spirits in ancient medicine. “The spirit guides supply constant medical advice … and even give treatment in case of illness,” he wrote.

Below are 3 examples of occult concepts on which New Age medicine is based:

a) Chi/Qi

This means “breath,” gas, energy flow, life force which is believed to permeate everything in the world, link their surroundings together and flow through the human body. It is an underlying principle in Chinese traditional medicine and martial arts. In most pagan belief systems, Chi/Qi is said to be an impersonal energy which flows through various “meridians” of the human body. When its flow is blocked, disrupted or unbalanced, diseases result.

Now, this is simply one of the basic tenets of witchcraft, that there is an impersonal life force that can be tapped into and used for various purposes. “We refer to the substance as psychic energy. The same substance is called ‘Prana’ by yogis, ‘Chis’ by practitioners of the martial arts, and ‘bio-energy’ by therapists.” [5]

From a Biblical perspective, we know there are no “impersonal energies” animating everything on earth – for that is based on the pagan lie of Pantheism. These so called “energies” are actually demon spirits and they are very personal (1 Cor. 8:5-6).

“Perhaps it is this concept of a cosmic, universal, mystical or “divine” life energy (supposedly uniting people, God, and the universe) that is most frequently associated with Spiritistic phenomena. For example, New Age medicine teaches that in order to really understand health and disease, we must switch our thinking from a model of health based on matter to one based primarily on energy. In the end, this is an open door to spiritism under another name. [6]

b) Wu Xing

This refers to the 5 elements, 5 phases or 5 agents (the types of chi dominating at different times). In Chinese occultism, these five elements are: wood, fire, earth, water and metal. In Western occultism, the 5 elements are: air, fire, earth, water and spirit (or ether). In the East, the elements are also linked with five seasons: wood (spring), fire (summer), earth (late summer), water (winter) and metal (harvest).

Wu Xing dates back to the earliest records of Chinese intellectual history. “Shang dynasty (1600-1046 B.C.E.), oracle bone inscriptions (used in divination rituals to predict and discern outcomes in nature and human affairs) rely on the number five. Typically, this is the pattern of four around a center, where four represent the cardinal directions expressed in the territories…” [7]

The Wu Xing is widely applied in geomancy, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), astrology, music and martial arts. It is a basic belief of witchcraft. The spirits associated with the four elements are linked with the four cardinal points and the four seasons of Western hemisphere. These elemental spirits are often invoked in witchcraft rituals.

When a famous witch, Laurie Cabot was featured on an edition of NBC’s Sunday Today programme, using a pentacle (the 5-pointed star emblem of witchcraft), she conjured spirits, saying: “Earth … air… fire…and water…and the Great Spirit, I invoke the god and goddess within my body.” [8] This concept is denounced by the Bible (Deut. 32:20-21).

c) Yin-Yang

These are complimentary cosmic forces that interact to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the assembled part. Yin is the “female principle” – dark, negative, passive and associated with the moon. Yang is the “male principle” – light, positive, active and associated with the sun. It is believed that there must be harmony between both forces for there to be “balance” and life.

Zhuang Zhou, an influential Chinese philosopher who lived around the 4th century BC wrote: “The highest Yang is the most restrained. The highest Yin is the most restrained. The highest Yang is the most exuberant. The restrained comes forth from Heaven. The exuberant issues forth from the Earth. The two intertwine and penetrate to form a harmony, and [as a result] things are born”. [9]

What Zhuang is reiterating is the father-mother (sky-earth) binary interwoven into all fertility pagan systems where a sun deity is complimented with a moon goddess. In Taoism, this is represented by the Tai-Chi symbol which says that there is no distinction between good and bad. Philosophically, yin-yang implies that good must be balanced with evil. Thus, occult circles have the light “right hand” paths and the dark “left hand” paths. But the Bible teaches the opposite: “God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 Jn. 1:5).

This is a compelling reason why Christians should avoid Eastern alternative medicine. They lead Christians astray from Biblical truth because they are founded on a view of reality that is contrary to Scripture. They are not pointing to the Creator of the universe, but powers, energies, forces or a “mind” out there. They are based on tapping into an occult energy which the Bible unmasks as powers emanating from Satan and his demons.

Barbara Brennan, a New Age healer who was ranked in 2011 as the 94th most spiritually influential person in the world, revealed in her book that demon spirit guides usually healed her patients when she applies her techniques, sometimes taking them out of their bodies while they are unconscious. She said, “I usually have about three [spirit] teachers that guide me. The person who has come to me for help will usually be accompanied by his guide or guides” [10].

She’s not lying. People can pick up strange spirits by consulting Eastern healing therapies.

In part two and three, I will be highlighting some examples of these occult healing techniques and what a Christian needs to watch out for before adopting a trending “healing therapy.”


1. Thanks to Sister Elly Anny for sharing her insights on this crucial topic.

2. Kai Kupferschmidt, The Dangers of Chinese Medicine brought to life by DNA Studies, 2012 (Coghlan et al., PloS Genetics 8)

3. Michael R. Miller and Josephine M. Harper, The Psychic Energy Workbook, Aquarian Pub., 1987, 9

4. Michael Harner, The Way of the Shaman, HarperOne, 1980, 136.

5. Douglas Stalker and Clark Glymour, Examining Holistic Medicine, Prometheus Books, 1989, 26.

6. John Ankerberg and John Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, Harvest House Pub., 1996, 492.

7. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, art. “Wuxing”.

8. David Benoit and Eric Barger, Entertaining Spirits Unaware, Evangel Publication, 2000, 49.

9. Burton Watson, The Complete Works of Zhuangzi, New York: Columbia University Press, 2013.

10. Hands of Light: A Guide to Healing Through the Human Energy Fields, Bantam Publishers, 1988, 171.