Thursday, April 8, 2010

Relics for the 21st Century

We are all probably aware of the insane relic trade of the Middle Ages. The worship of relics was based by Thomas Aquinas upon the regard nature prompts us to pay to the bodies of our deceased friends and the things they held most sacred. Following the Seventh Ecumenical Council, the Scholastics denied that when adoration is paid to images, worship is given to the image itself. They claimed that it is rendered to that for which the image stands. Since we treasure the belongings of our deceased loved ones, how much more should we venerate the belongings or remains of the saints? So the logic goes.

Among the objects transmitted to Western Europe from the East were Noah’s beard, the stone on which Jacob slept at Bethel, the branch from which Absalom hung, our Lord’s foreskin, his navel cord, his coat, tears he shed at the grave of Lazarus, milk from Mary’s breasts, the table on which the Last Supper was eaten, the stone of Christ’s grave, Paul’s thorn in the flesh and a tooth belonging to St. Lawrence. Christ’s tooth was only debunked because Guibert of Nogent argued that when Christ rose from the dead he was in possession of all the parts of his body. He also attacked the genuineness of the umbilical cord. The true cross was found more than once and fragments of it were so numerous that one could build an entire forest from the pieces.

Initially, images and relics were claimed to be books for the illiterate. This was certainly not the practice in the early ages of the Church. John Chrysostom preached these words, “To become adult Christians you must learn familiarity with the scriptures.” He routinely told his congregation to check what he had preached against the Scriptures to see if it was correct. This presupposes that they had access to the Bible and were literate.

It is important to remember that in giving His instructions for worship, God forbade all use of images. The human heart is too prone to idolatry to be trusted with anything else but God’s word. In fact, images by their very nature are deceptive (Hab 2:18). The early Church knew this. Clement of Alexandria wrote, “But we have no sensible image of sensible matter, but an image that is perceived by the mind alone,—God, who alone is truly God.” (Exhortation to the Heathen, Chapter 4.) Religious images and relics are not like museum pieces. The religious significance inevitably leads to idolatry. Israel had a relic once, and later they were found to be worshipping it. (Num. 21:8; 2 Kings 18:4).

You’d think that we had learned our lesson. But alas, relic making and worshipping is alive and well – outside of Romish circles. For $25.00 you can buy your very own Sword of the Word Letter Opener from Benny Hinn “Ministries.” That this is an image or relic in the most degenerate Romish way is clear from the product description: “This beautifully-crafted Sword of the Spirit Letter Opener, exclusively available to Benny Hinn Ministries partners and friends, serves as a useful reminder in so many ways—the Scriptures can enter where no other sword can, piercing through all barriers to penetrate with our Lord’s life-giving Word, and the Bible is effective and powerful wherever it is read or spoken. Hebrews 4:12, comparing the Word of God to a double-edged sword, provides stunning visual imagery for this practical 8-inch gold metallic and black-handle letter opener.” (emphasis mine)

Other ministries offer similar idiotic gifts: Torah Prayer Shawls, Ark of the Covenant replicas (complete with special blessings), vials of water from the Sea of Galilee, dirt from Jesus’ tomb, mustard seeds from the Holy Land, etc. This is popish idolatry at its vilest! Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Give me an old-fashioned thigh bone of a saint anyday!

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