Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Is Mariolatry Comparable to Indian Idolatry?
07/23/2009 - Tur8infanHow dare I suggest that this story (link) about an Indian idol's problem with folks outdoing themselves by giving their idols large crowns have anything to do either with this photo of an idol to Mary (attempted image of Jesus in the background) or these similar idols (first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth) or similar to this gift of a golden rose to an idol of Mary (link)? I dare because I think those who are willing to seriously consider the matter must see that Roman Catholicism treats Mary as a goddess in every way except actually saying the word "goddess."
But I know my words have little influence. After all, who am I? Just an anonymous Reformed apologist. Perhaps you think my judgment is biased. Perhaps then you will hear what Tertullian ("the Father of Latin Christianity") had to say.
He explained that it was the mark of a Christian man not to wear a crown:
Very lately it happened thus: while the bounty of our most excellent emperors was dispensed in the camp, the soldiers, laurel-crowned, were approaching. One of them, more a soldier of God, more steadfast than the rest of his brethren, who had imagined that they could serve two masters, his head alone uncovered, the useless crown in his hand— already even by that peculiarity known to every one as a Christian— was nobly conspicuous. Accordingly, all began to mark him out, jeering him at a distance, gnashing on him near at hand. The murmur is wafted to the tribune, when the person had just left the ranks. The tribune at once puts the question to him, Why are you so different in your attire? He declared that he had no liberty to wear the crown with the rest. Being urgently asked for his reasons, he answered, I am a Christian.- Tertullian, On the Crown, Chapter 1
And again he explained that none of the religious leaders either of the Old Testament or the New Testament (up to his day) wore crowns (though, sadly, we have seen that change in some churches that claim to be ancient). He also points out that God himself did not wish to be worshiped with crowns:
In short, what patriarch, what prophet, what Levite, or priest, or ruler, or at a later period what apostle, or preacher of the gospel, or bishop, do you ever find the wearer of a crown? I think not even the temple of God itself was crowned; as neither was the ark of the testament, nor the tabernacle of witness, nor the altar, nor the candlestick crowned though certainly, both on that first solemnity of the dedication, and in that second rejoicing for the restoration, crowning would have been most suitable if it were worthy of God. But if these things were figures of us (for we are temples of God, and altars, and lights, and sacred vessels), this too they in figure set forth, that the people of God ought not to be crowned. The reality must always correspond with the image. If, perhaps, you object that Christ Himself was crowned, to that you will get the brief reply: Be you too crowned, as He was; you have full permission. Yet even that crown of insolent ungodliness was not of any decree of the Jewish people. It was a device of the Roman soldiers, taken from the practice of the world—a practice which the people of God never allowed either on the occasion of public rejoicing or to gratify innate luxury: so they returned from the Babylonish captivity with timbrels, and flutes, and psalteries, more suitably than with crowns; and after eating and drinking, uncrowned, they rose up to play. Neither would the account of the rejoicing nor the exposure of the luxury have been silent touching the honour or dishonour of the crown. Thus too Isaiah, as he says, "With timbrels, and psalteries, and flutes they drink wine," [Isaiah 5:12] would have added "with crowns," if this practice had ever had place in the things of God.- Tertullian, On the Crown, Chapter 10
And further Tertullian argues that crowns are tightly linked to idolatry, and consequently unworthy of Christian worship:
So, when you allege that the ornaments of the heathen deities are found no less with God, with the object of claiming among these for general use the head-crown, you already lay it down for yourself, that we must not have among us, as a thing whose use we are to share with others, what is not to be found in the service of God. Well, what is so unworthy of God indeed as that which is worthy of an idol? But what is so worthy of an idol as that which is also worthy of a dead man? For it is the privilege of the dead also to be thus crowned, as they too straightway become idols, both by their dress and the service of deification, which (deification) is with us a second idolatry.- Tertullian, On the Crown, Chapter 9
And further, Tertullian explains that we should keep ourselves from any resemblance to idols:
Thus the crown also is made out to be an offering to idols; for with this ceremony, and dress, and pomp, it is presented in sacrifice to idols, its originators, to whom its use is specially given over, and chiefly on this account, that what has no place among the things of God may not be admitted into use with us as with others. Wherefore the apostle exclaims, "Flee idolatry:" [1 Corinthians 10:14] certainly idolatry whole and entire he means. Reflect on what a thicket it is, and how many thorns lie hidden in it. Nothing must be given to an idol, and so nothing must be taken from one. If it is inconsistent with faith to recline in an idol temple, what is it to appear in an idol dress? What communion have Christ and Belial? Therefore flee from it; for he enjoins us to keep at a distance from idolatry— to have no close dealings with it of any kind. Even an earthly serpent sucks in men at some distance with its breath. Going still further, John says, "My little children, keep yourselves from idols," [1 John 5:21] — not now from idolatry, as if from the service of it, but from idols— that is, from any resemblance to them: for it is an unworthy thing that you, the image of the living God, should become the likeness of an idol and a dead man. Thus far we assert, that this attire belongs to idols, both from the history of its origin, and from its use by false religion; on this ground, besides, that while it is not mentioned as connected with the worship of God, it is more and more given over to those in whose antiquities, as well as festivals and services, it is found. In a word, the very doors, the very victims and altars, the very servants and priests, are crowned.- Tertullian, On the Crown, Chapter 10
And still further Tertullian explains how the Crown of Christians is Christ, not gold:
For state reasons, the various orders of the citizens also are crowned with laurel crowns; but the magistrates besides with golden ones, as at Athens, and at Rome. Even to those are preferred the Etruscan. This appellation is given to the crowns which, distinguished by their gems and oak leaves of gold, they put on, with mantles having an embroidery of palm branches, to conduct the chariots containing the images of the gods to the circus. There are also provincial crowns of gold, needing now the larger heads of images instead of those of men. But your orders, and your magistracies, and your very place of meeting, the church, are Christ's. You belong to Him, for you have been enrolled in the books of life. [Philippians 4:3] There the blood of the Lord serves for your purple robe, and your broad stripe is His own cross; there the axe is already laid to the trunk of the tree; [Matthew 3:10] there is the branch out of the root of Jesse. [Isaiah 11:1] Never mind the state horses with their crown. Your Lord, when, according to the Scripture, He would enter Jerusalem in triumph, had not even an ass of His own. These (put their trust) in chariots, and these in horses; but we will seek our help in the name of the Lord our God.- Tertullian, On the Crown, Chapter 13
Tertullian is particularly express in pointing out the impropriety of crowns on the head of Christian women, who ought not to have their heads uncovered, much less crowned. Should you wish to honor Mary as being a woman of virtue, you would preserve her modesty. When you crown her, in Tertullian's words, you mark her with "utter wantonness":
Much less may the Christian put the service of idolatry on his own head— nay, I might have said, upon Christ, since Christ is the Head of the Christian man— (for his head) is as free as even Christ is, under no obligation to wear a covering, not to say a band. But even the head which is bound to have the veil, I mean woman's, as already taken possession of by this very thing, is not open also to a band. She has the burden of her own humility to bear. If she ought not to appear with her head uncovered on account of the angels, much more with a crown on it will she offend those (elders) who perhaps are then wearing crowns above. [Revelation 4:4] For what is a crown on the head of a woman, but beauty made seductive, but mark of utter wantonness—a notable casting away of modesty, a setting temptation on fire? Therefore a woman, taking counsel from the apostles' foresight, will not too elaborately adorn herself, that she may not either be crowned with any exquisite arrangement of her hair. What sort of garland, however, I pray you, did He who is the Head of the man and the glory of the woman, Christ Jesus, the Husband of the church, submit to in behalf of both sexes? Of thorns, I think, and thistles—a figure of the sins which the soil of the flesh brought forth for us, but which the power of the cross removed, blunting, in its endurance by the head of our Lord, death's every sting. Yes, and besides the figure, there is contumely with ready lip, and dishonour, and infamy, and the ferocity involved in the cruel things which then disfigured and lacerated the temples of the Lord, that you may now be crowned with laurel, and myrtle, and olive, and any famous branch, and which is of more use, with hundred-leaved roses too, culled from the garden of Midas, and with both kinds of lily, and with violets of all sorts, perhaps also with gems and gold, so as even to rival that crown of Christ which He afterwards obtained. For it was after the gall He tasted the honeycomb and He was not greeted as King of Glory in heavenly places till He had been condemned to the cross as King of the Jews, having first been made by the Father for a time a little less than the angels, and so crowned with glory and honour. If for these things, you owe your own head to Him, repay it if you can, such as He presented His for yours; or be not crowned with flowers at all, if you cannot be with thorns, because you may not be with flowers.- Tertullian, On the Crown, Chapter 14
Here then is Tertullian's conclusion, that we await any crowns God may give us in heaven. By comparison, any earthly crown is a mere chaplet. Be shamed by the infidel follower of Mithras who refused an earthly crown claiming that Mithras was his crown:
Keep for God His own property untainted; He will crown it if He choose. Nay, then, He does even choose. He calls us to it. To him who conquers He says, "I will give a crown of life." Be you, too, faithful unto death, and fight you, too, the good fight, whose crown the apostle [2 Timothy 4:8] feels so justly confident has been laid up for him. The angel [Revelation 6:2] also, as he goes forth on a white horse, conquering and to conquer, receives a crown of victory; and another [Revelation 10:1] is adorned with an encircling rainbow (as it were in its fair colours)— a celestial meadow. In like manner, the elders sit crowned around, crowned too with a crown of gold, and the Son of Man Himself flashes out above the clouds. If such are the appearances in the vision of the seer, of what sort will be the realities in the actual manifestation? Look at those crowns. Inhale those odours. Why condemn you to a little chaplet, or a twisted headband, the brow which has been destined for a diadem? For Christ Jesus has made us even kings to God and His Father. What have you in common with the flower which is to die? You have a flower in the Branch of Jesse, upon which the grace of the Divine Spirit in all its fullness rested— a flower undefiled, unfading, everlasting, by choosing which the good soldier, too, has got promotion in the heavenly ranks. Blush, you fellow-soldiers of his, henceforth not to be condemned even by him, but by some soldier of Mithras, who, at his initiation in the gloomy cavern, in the camp, it may well be said, of darkness, when at the sword's point a crown is presented to him, as though in mimicry of martyrdom, and thereupon put upon his head, is admonished to resist and cast it off, and, if you like, transfer it to his shoulder, saying that Mithras is his crown. And thenceforth he is never crowned; and he has that for a mark to show who he is, if anywhere he be subjected to trial in respect of his religion; and he is at once believed to be a soldier of Mithras if he throws the crown away— if he say that in his god he has his crown. Let us take note of the devices of the devil, who is wont to ape some of God's things with no other design than, by the faithfulness of his servants, to put us to shame, and to condemn us.- Tertullian, On the Crown, Chapter 15
But if you will not hear the words of an anonymous Reformed Apologist, or the words of the "founder of Latin Christianity," then perhaps you will hear the words of the apostle John.
1 John 5:21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.