Is art of pagan false gods acceptable in certain situations?

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blood-bought

Puritan Board Freshman
Hi all, I have been doing some buying and selling recently and I bought a large head bust of what I was told to be a Roman emperor. I know it sounds questionable but at the time I was thinking that those interested in history would appreciate it but then I found out it is actually a replica of the Greek pagan false god Apollo.

Are such representations of idols acceptable to keep in anyway obviously excluding the worship of them? In other words, can I sell this on or should I get the hammer? It also got me thinking about those who collect archaeological remains of such things or how it used to be in fashion to have paintings of such things like the famous one of Venus.

Thanks
 

blood-bought

Puritan Board Freshman
What made Moses' bronze serpent an idol?

2 Kings 18:4 He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan.

It became an object of idolatry by them burning incense to it which is something that should have been only burnt before God in worship to Him alone.

Are you saying that this head bust would only be wrong if it was involved in worship (idolatry)?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Are you going to offer sacrifices to it? Then throw it away.

Are you going to admire and look at it only? Then keep it.

Let's not get all Taliban-y and start destroying perfectly good pagan statues.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
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Idolatry has to be known and current for something to require the hammer taken to it I think is what Jack is saying. Think names of the days of the week or a picture of the same figure you have in a history book. Is it a good idea to have around for decoration? I don't know; I wouldn't want it. But to demand the hammer which is what Hezekiah's example instructs, I think it has to be something that is ongoing, known, notorious, a badge, temptation, reminder of current idolatry, etc.
 

blood-bought

Puritan Board Freshman
Idolatry has to be known and current for something to [you]require[/you] the hammer taken to it I think is what Jack is saying. Think names of the days of the week or a picture of the same figure you have in a history book. Is it a good idea to have around for decoration? I don't know; I wouldn't want it. But to demand the hammer which is what Hezekiah's example instructs, I think it has to be something that is ongoing, known, notorious, a badge, temptation, reminder of current idolatry, etc.

That is a good point. I am thinking of how any representation ("thou shalt not MAKE...") of the true living God goes against the second commandment, but then what about some people who have a representation of a false god?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
That is a good point. I am thinking of how any representation ("thou shalt not MAKE...") of the true living God goes against the second commandment, but then what about some people who have a representation of a false god?
Didn't I just answer that? I'm not sure what you are saying/asking now.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Professor
An idol replica may have educational value, but I don't think I'd set one up in my house as a decoration. It just wouldn't say beauty to me, given its origins as an idol.

I grew up among the Navajo people and I have a fair amount of Navajo art; I appreciate the people and their culture. But I have never liked owning Navajo sandpainting art, because sandpaintings are closely associated with pagan ceremonies. They are beautiful in an artistic sense, but I can't look at them without also seeing the spiritual emptiness from which they are derived.

So, I don't think you have to take a hammer to your Apollo bust, since folks you might encounter are unlikely to worship it. But I can see why you might prefer to get it out of the house and look at something that's more beautiful in every way.
 
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SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Snowflake
Idols have great educational value and should be preserved as important reminders of our past and as great tools to learn about early peoples ... refuse to become like the Taliban or ISIS.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
If I ever wrote Sci-fi, my evil characters would go back in time with robot statues and control whole populations through idolatry. The statues would speak and the masses would do their bidding.

The antagonists would undo them by destroying the robots...as well as other feats of heroism, such as taking back Constantinople from the Turks with only a small ragged band armed with modern weaponry.
 

blood-bought

Puritan Board Freshman
Didn't I just answer that? I'm not sure what you are saying/asking now.

Well, when someone makes a representation of the true God it is automatically a graven image and wrong, so what about when someone makes something that is intended to represent their false god? What are the morals involved if I make a carving of the Hindu elephant false god but didn't worship it as a deity?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
It is a known presently worshiped false god. Why would a Christian do that? Assuming there were some innocent reason for making it, I don't see how there would be for displaying it and making it known, "I made this." Thus it falls afoul of the rules of offense and use of things indifferent, again, presuming there were some innocent circumstances why the thing was made.
Well, when someone makes a representation of the true God it is automatically a graven image and wrong, so what about when someone makes something that is intended to represent their false god? What are the morals involved if I make a carving of the Hindu elephant false god but didn't worship it as a deity?
 

dane_g87

Puritan Board Freshman
I think it has to be something that is ongoing, known, notorious, a badge, temptation, reminder of current idolatry, etc.

Idols have great educational value and should be preserved as important reminders of our past and as great tools to learn about early peoples ... refuse to become like the Taliban or ISIS.

Upon what scriptural basis, standard, or precedent are idols deemed to have "great value" (educationally or otherwise) or permissible upon the condition that active worship of them is not ongoing?

In order for us to conclude that idols in fact do have "great educational value" would we not first have to establish that God shares this sentiment? To conclude that idols should be preserved as "important reminders" we would have to prove that God wants idols to be remembered.

I could be mistaken but I think God has made this matter pretty clear. Has God anywhere in Scripture attached educational value to idols, or expressed His desire for idols to be remembered, and does He ever consider the condition of whether or not they are actively worshiped?

What I find in Scripture is that God does not want idols to be remembered:

Exodus 23:13 Now concerning everything which I have said to you, be on your guard; and do not mention the name of other gods, nor let them be heard from your mouth.

Zechariah 13:2 "It will come about in that day," declares the LORD of hosts, "that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered; and I will also remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land.

His command in Deuteronomy 12:1-4, if carried out, wouldn't seem to leave any traces of idols that could later be used "educationally"?
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
You cited my post but I'm not sure why. Maybe I need to explain further? Idolatry and superstition have to be known and functioning if I can put it that way to need to address them as issues. Otherwise, even if it has passed into common use like the names of the days of the week, it would necessitate obliteration of those sorts of holdovers from old pagan civilizations. Scots Presbyterians such George Gillespie address this distinction in addressing when such things need to be removed. See his rule on removing monuments of idolatry here.
His command in Deuteronomy 12:1-4, if carried out, wouldn't seem to leave any traces of idols that could later be used "educationally"?
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Upon what scriptural basis, standard, or precedent are idols deemed to have "great value" (educationally or otherwise) or permissible upon the condition that active worship of them is not ongoing?

In order for us to conclude that idols in fact do have "great educational value" would we not first have to establish that God shares this sentiment? To conclude that idols should be preserved as "important reminders" we would have to prove that God wants idols to be remembered.

I could be mistaken but I think God has made this matter pretty clear. Has God anywhere in Scripture attached educational value to idols, or expressed His desire for idols to be remembered, and does He ever consider the condition of whether or not they are actively worshiped?

What I find in Scripture is that God does not want idols to be remembered:

Exodus 23:13 Now concerning everything which I have said to you, be on your guard; and do not mention the name of other gods, nor let them be heard from your mouth.

Zechariah 13:2 "It will come about in that day," declares the LORD of hosts, "that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they will no longer be remembered; and I will also remove the prophets and the unclean spirit from the land.

His command in Deuteronomy 12:1-4, if carried out, wouldn't seem to leave any traces of idols that could later be used "educationally"?

Sounds a bit Taliban-ish to me.

Though, when a tribal man was converted and we taught him the story of Gideon destroying the altar of Baal, he went and chopped down a spirit tree that was obstructing part of the airstrip construction. We did not do so as outsider, but his own local conscience told him that this was what he should do.

Was he right or wrong? I don't know.

I've peed in places said to be sacred, just out of spite towards the superstition (but this did not destroy the property...only yellowed it a bit for a time).
 

dane_g87

Puritan Board Freshman
Perg, I am trying to understand what standards are being appealed to when it is deemed good to retain idols, or that idols have educational value. Am I wrong or Taliban-ish for inviting further debate by questioning the rationale and asking that it be validated from Scripture, especially in light of other Scriptures that seem to me (and I am open for correction) to suggest the opposite of what has thus far been posited? Can you define Taliban-ish?

Naphtali, I cited your post because you stated a condition for the removal of idols (ongoing/known/etc.), and I was wondering what scriptural basis or principle is this conclusion based on? My thinking is that because Deuteronomy 12:1-4 is so comprehensive, that God intended neither trace nor memory of idolatry to be left. Does this not show that God was not interested in any kind of "educational value" in these artifacts? If this command was carried out, there would be no traces of idolatry in existence for there to be a debate about whether or not to retain them.

We don't live in a theocratic kingdom and so it is not our place to go out and destroy certain artifacts, that's not what I'm arguing. I'm questioning what our duty as Christians is if we come across a false god idol in our private possession, as the OP has asked.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Snowflake
Upon what scriptural basis, standard, or precedent are idols deemed to have "great value" (educationally or otherwise) or permissible upon the condition that active worship of them is not ongoing?

In order for us to conclude that idols in fact do have "great educational value" would we not first have to establish that God shares this sentiment? To conclude that idols should be preserved as "important reminders" we would have to prove that God wants idols to be remembered.

I don’t need a biblical warrant for archaeology or cultural anthropology. Our understanding of the ANE, among other ancient civilizations, has been enriched - and therefore our understanding of Scripture has been enriched - due to their findings. It is impossible to understand a people without understanding their religion. Ergo, uncovering idols, shrines, temples, etc., is incredibly helpful. The passages you cite refer to practical worship and acceptance by the Israelites, not to a denunciation of fields of science.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
See the Gillespie pdf I linked to for what I am getting at. I'm not arguing for retaining dead idols for study as some extra scriptural absolute, nor do I think we should take those passages about destruction in some absolute sense whether we know the thing is an idol or not (if not to take them on our lips what does that mean for some of the names of the days of the week?). If it is long dead and buried and really really "nothing" at that point, how do those passages apply? I would like to see some of the TEs explain those passages in light of the NT passages we have when the church has moved from a covenanted nation to all nations filled with all sorts of idolatry. I think that would be the profitable direction for the thread if it continues. I think the sorts of things Gillespie talks about, idolatry affecting the church, are a far more real threat and a concern and not "nothing."
Naphtali, I cited your post because you stated a condition for the removal of idols (ongoing/known/etc.), and I was wondering what scriptural basis or principle is this conclusion based on? My thinking is that because Deuteronomy 12:1-4 is so comprehensive, that God intended neither trace nor memory of idolatry to be left. Does this not show that God was not interested in any kind of "educational value" in these artifacts? If this command was carried out, there would be no traces of idolatry in existence for there to be a debate about whether or not to retain them.
 
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