Why does the Lord speak against graven images of other Gods and then order Moses to make images including a snake, which was used in healing? The answer is simple; the images, Moses was ordered to make were not images of false pagan gods. God was not speaking against all images, but pagan images of "OTHER GODS" (Ex 20:3) that turn people from the one true God. The angels of gold on the Arc (Exodus 25:17-18) and the seraph mounted on a pole (Nm 21:6-9), were not pagan gods. They were symbols that point to the one true God. Mary, not only points to the one true God; "Do whatever He [Jesus] tells you" (Jn:5). She gave birth to the one true God, Jesus. She is hardly a candidate for being a false pagan God and so why do so many see her this way and misuse Exodus 20:3-5?
The detractors of the Catholic Church never ask the question; why does God speak against images in one place and order images to be made in another? The reason is because they want to use Exodus 20:4-5 against the use of Catholic images of Jesus, Mary, saints and angels. When you answer this question, your are bringing in the context and can no longer use this against Catholic images. When they quote Exodus 20:4-5, they leave out verse 3 because it gives us the context "OTHER GODS." It is precisely these graven (carved) images of other gods that God speaks against, not images of Jesus, Mary, saints and angels.
After explaining this in detail, on Facebook, I still have people denying the context and wanting to use Exodus 20 against any and all images. When they comment, next to their comment is an IMAGE or photograph of themselves and I point out that according to their Biblical understanding, they are in violation of Exodus 20 because they have an image of themselves in the form of a photograph. At this point I usually get silence, because in order to justify an image of themselves they are going to have to now take the Bible in context and admit that Exodus 20:3-5 is not speaking against any and all images or Catholic images, but images of “OTHER GODS” (Ex 20:3).
At my place of employment there was one person who always seemed uneasy around me. I didn’t realize he was having a problem with my Catholic faith until one day he started yelling at me and said; “Why does the Catholic Church elevate Mary so much?” And so I yelled back at him, “Oh, you mean where the Catholic Church makes Mary into a God equal to Jesus or even greater than Jesus.” And he said “yes.” I told him that “never in its two thousand year history did the Church ever make Mary into a God or equal to Jesus.” He stood there for a moment and then walked away. He later came back and apologized to me forspeaking in an area that he did not know that much about.
And so why did he not respond when I told him that the Church, in its entire history, has never deified Mary? First of all, everybody agrees that Mary in the Bible is not a deity, but the mother of Jesus. And so, if he was correct, then the deification of Mary, if it happened at all, had to happen at later date in history. He would have had to cite a council, or perhaps the Catechism of the Catholic Church or some other Catholic document. The problem is this, there is no Catholic source saying that Mary is a God or equal to God. The deification of Mary is Protestant teaching, and more specifically, Protestant teaching about the Catholic Church, not to be confused with real Catholic teaching.
When a Catholic joins an Evangelical Church, they teach him that Catholics worship Mary as God. The ex-Catholic then parrots the Evangelical teaching, claiming that, in Catholic teaching, Mary is God or equal to God. And then the Evangelicals cite ex-Catholics who got their information from the Evangelicals as proof that the Church deifies Mary. Ultimately, they take this Evangelical misrepresentation and call it Catholic teaching. This is a most excellent example of circular reasoning. If they wanted to find out the truth all theywould have to do is to step out of the circle and check Catholic sources. If you want to make an ex-Catholic very uncomfortable, ask them when and where in history did the Catholic Church deify Mary? They will not be able to cite Catholic sources, only Evangelical anti-Catholic sources. Where is the intellectual honesty?
On one occasion while visiting an Evangelical Pentecostal Church here in Milwaukee, the subject of Mary came up. One person claimed that he knew a number of Catholics who believed that Mary is equal to Jesus, and this was his proof that Catholics actually deify Mary. Isn’t this interesting; I, who have beenCatholic all my life and never heard any Catholic every say Mary is God or equal to God and he, who was never Catholic, says that he knew of a number of Catholics who claim the Church deified Mary. If he had said that he got his information, not from Catholics, but from ex-Catholics, who in turn got their information from Evangelical anti-Catholic sources, he would have been telling the truth, but of course he didn’t. He was not speaking the truth. Apparently he doesn’t understand the concept, “You cannot do evil (lying) that good may come of it.”
Even though the standard Evangelical line is that Catholics worship Mary as God, not everyone who has left the Catholic Church and joined Evangelical Christianity buys into this false allegation. This past week I was talking to someone who grew up Catholic and later joined Evangelical Christianity, but then started questioning what they were saying. She said and I quote, “I had a very devout Catholic Mother. They used to say Catholics worshiped Mary [as God] and I knew she didn't and that just ate at my heart when they would say things like that. My mother was very devoted to the Blessed Mother and the Rosary.” Even as an Evangelical she did not buy into this intellectual dishonesty and later came back to the Catholic Church.
It is interesting that some of the most anti-Catholic Evangelicals, when they realize that their tradition has misrepresented the Catholic Church concerning Mary and other topics, actually do the unthinkable. They become Catholic. Over the years, Evangelicals would often boast to me about how their churches were filled with ex-Catholics, and this was true. Now the pendulum seems to be going the other way. Eighty two percent of Evangelical churches are going down in numbers (http://www.facebook.com/notes/leonard-alt/162-the-decline-of-evangelical-america/451821068201175). In more recent years so many of these Evangelicals were becoming Catholic, that some Evangelicals became alarmed. The local Evangelical T.V. station here in Milwaukee did a program titled, “Why are so many evangelicals returning to Rome” (http:/ http://newcovenant journal.blogspot.com/2010/07/why-evangelicals-are-returning-to-rome.html/newcovenantjournal.blogspot.com/2010/07/why-evangelicals-are-returning-to-rome.html). This program discusses why they believe people are leaving Evangelical Churches and returning to the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches.
It is very typical among Evangelicals to misrepresent the Catholic Church concerning Mary. They misrepresent the Church and then disagree with their own misrepresentation. And so the question is this; why do they do this? I believe the reason is this; if you can convince people that Mary is equal to God, then it would be a reason for these same people to leave the Catholic Church and join the local Evangelical Church. After all, the Bible does not to refer to Mary, as God; she is referred to as the “Mother of my Lord” (Lk 1:43). And so this misrepresentation of the Church is in effect a recruiting device to get people out of the Catholic Church and to keep them from going back. It actually works to some degree as they boast of Catholics leaving for Evangelical Christianity. .
On the other hand this often times back fires on them. When the people who have left find out that the Church does not teach that Mary is a deity, they realize that they have been given bad information from their Evangelical sources. Now they have a real problem; how can they trust the local Evangelical Church which has given them untrue information on another church. This realization is one of many reasons why so many cradle Protestants and ex-Catholics are coming home to the Catholic Church.
In defense of my Evangelicals friends, I do not believe that the majority of them realize that they are spreading un-truth. There are a lot of wonderful Protestants out there, who like me are interested in truth. There is a point when they realize that some of the things that they have been taught in their traditions are misrepresentations of the Bible and the history of the Church. Many of these same people end up falling in love with the very Church that they were taught to hate.