Francis Bacon a French Philosopher is renowned for his treatise on four “idols.” According to him “idols” constitute barriers to the attainment of true knowledge of reality by human beings. The four idols mentioned are : Idols of the Tribe, Idols of the Cave, Idols of the Market Place and Idol of the Theater. Francis Bacon was unmistakably clear as to what the “idols,” are he never confused them for something else. His idol was based on Epicurean physics from Greek “eidolon” meaning “phantom” or “image”- a potential deception or source of misunderstanding that clouds or confuses true knowledge.
Reading through Femi Aribisala’s article titled: “Christians are idol worshippers,” serially published in the Vanguard Newspaper on 14th February, 25th February and 5th of March, 2018 respectively, one could see his confusion of terms, illogicality, heresy and inaccurate interpretation of Christian scriptures right from the headline to his conclusion.
Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion especially in matters of religious beliefs and profession of faith but no one is entitled to presenting personal opinions and falsehood as the universal truth in the public domain, thereby deliberately misinforming the masses. My intervention is based on two points, the need to correct the erroneous ideas Femi Aribisala presented as Gospel truth and the need to present the other side of the narrative for interested readers whose faith was attacked ruthlessly by his callous but simplistic arguments.
His definition of “idol” should be our starting point since his points were anchored around it. In his write up on February 18, 2018 he defined “idol” as “that thing that steals our hearts from God. Worship of man-made goods. ” He listed cell phones, watching of premier leagues and video games and yearning to acquire Jeeps and deluxe cars as examples. After which he disingenuously spoke about: “Mariolatory: worship of Mary” according to him, “over a billion Catholics all over the world worship Mary, the mother of Jesus.” Writing further he asserted that: “This worship has no scriptural foundation whatsoever and is idol worship pure and simple.”
What discerning readers should ask him is, if there is any correlation between his definition of idol as something that steals the mind away from God and his attack on Catholics’ devotion to Mary. The examples he cited for his definition of an idol clearly show that the writer is confused about the two disparate realities he attempted to educate the masses about. There is simply no relationship between the distraction material things such as cell phones and desire for exotic jeeps can cause an individual, and Catholic doctrines about Mary which is purely a religious phenomenon. Mr Aribisala did not tell us that he once joined the Catholics in their devotion to Mary and she stole his heart away from God. Even if he was once a Catholic faithful and found devotion to Mary distractive, his personal experience cannot be accepted as the norm, considering the fact that about 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide have a contrary experience and belief. The writer simply fell into the faulty reasoning Francis Bacon attributed to the “Idol of the Cave,” which simply involves presenting erroneous personal opinion as a universal truth.
According to Aribisala: “Catholics pray to Mary, making her an intermediary between God and man, even though the scriptures say different…” His accusation is certainly is not the official position of the Catholic Church on this matter, Catholics do not pray to Mary but ask her to intercede for them when they pray to God. For the avoidance of doubt the official position of the Catholic Church according to Vatican II Document Lumen Gentium- Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (no 60) is that: “Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes the unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power.” The invocation of Mary as Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix does not take anything away or add anything to the dignity and efficacy of Christ the one Mediator cf. (Lumen Gentium, no 62).
Furthermore, St. John Paul II in his Encyclical: Redemptoris Mater (no 38) stated that the intercession of Mary possesses a specifically maternal character, which distinguishes her mediation from that of other creatures who in various and always in a subordinate way shares in the one mediation of Christ. The Church does not hesitate to proclaim the subordinate mediation of Mary to that of Christ, but affirms it to be special and extraordinary. All the arguments with misinterpreted Biblical references presented to support his personal opinion were simply attempt to throw dust into the eyes of the readers. I challenge Mr. Femi Aribisala to cite an official Catholic teaching that states that Catholics worship Mary.
His next definition of idol is that: ‘Whatever you fear is your god…If you are afraid of poverty, wealth is your god.” This is simply ridiculous, we all know that fear is a natural psychological response to things whether physical or metaphysical that threaten the well being of human persons. Equating fear with “idol” as done by the writer is therefore simplistic and is suggestive of inadequate knowledge of human emotional response to stressors and vagaries of life. Good Christians entertain genuine fears for various reasons when their well being and comfort are threatened in life, which do not in any way take them away from their faith or rob them off their faith in the living God. Again the article succumbed to the “idol of the theater” as defined by Francis Bacon. This error of knowledge is committed when an individual presents an idea not supported by verifiable facts.
The second part of the article was published in the Vanguard Newspaper on February 25, 2018 under the headline: “Christians are Idol Worshippers II.” In this article he defined “idol” as “self- worship” according to the writer, “Self-worship One critical attribute of idol worship is the self glorification of self.” Still pursuing the anti- Catholic agenda, the writer discussed a few Biblical passages that condemn self-pride and self- glorification; he then irreverently linked up his discussion thus: “But Christians are idol worshipers because we celebrate pagan festivals refurbished into Christianity by Roman Catholics. In the Scriptures, God institutes holy days such as Passover, the Pentecost and the feast of Tabernacles…However, the Church of Rome replaced these with heathen holidays camouflaged as Christian, in the bid to make it easier for pagans to become Christians; while largely ignoring the divinely ordained holy days that Jesus disciples observed.” Our contention again is that, the writer failed to explain how self-worship –his understanding of idol dovetail into the Christians’ observed festivals?
For the sake of enlightenment, it is to be noted that Judaism is a religion distinct from Christianity and Christ came to reform it. Christianity and Judaism are not one and the same religion. Passover and Feast of Tabernacles were and still remain feasts of Judaism, Christ already instituted new feasts of the new covenant which are the ones true Christians rightly observe. Without equivocation, Christ in his words and actions demonstrated he came to institute a new order not to become an adherent of Judaism as a religious faith cf. Mark 2: 18 – 22; Matt.9: 17ff. The Apostles were eventually expelled from the Jewish Synagogues and Temple because they were non-conformists. While Judaism served as the offshoot of Christianity, Christians do not belief in Judaism as a faith based religion and vice versa. The error discernible here from the article is theological malapropism, which showed itself in Francis Bacon’s “idol” of the market place. Without critical analysis the writer presented market place opinion as a universal truth.
Other Christian feasts dubbed as pagan celebrations by the writer are Christmas and Easter celebrations. The ideas presented there were culled in a clumsy way from some existing erroneous books such as: “The Jesus Mysteries: Was the Original Jesus a Pagan God?” written by Timothey Freke and Peter Gandy, “The Ancient Babylon Mystery Religions” – author not specified and “The Ancient Gods: The History and Diffusion of Religion in the Ancient Near East and the Eastern Mediterranean” by E. O James, just to mention a few. Mr. Femi Aribisala did not even articulate the erroneous arguments against Christian festivals as well as these authors whose ideas he plagiarized and which he tried to popularize as something new and novel. A black and hollow tissue of lies! The celebration of Christmas is not about a particular date- December 25 but about Christ. The birthday of Christ could have been fixed for any other day in the absence of a definite date in the Bible as evidence of the birthday of Christ. Similarly, Easter is a celebration of the resurrection of Christ not about any pagan “idol,” notwithstanding the personal opinion of an individual suffering from personal incredulity of the Christian festival.
An application of Francis Bacon’s “idol’ to his submission here shows that the article fell into the trap of the “idol of the tribe.” This idol is the natural tendency in human beings to be easily deceived by their personal opinions, a kind of wishful thinking and natural inclination to accept, believe and prove what we would prefer to be true, even when such is in accurate. This idol makes people rush to premature conclusion instead of gradual and painstaking accumulation of evidence to provide unassailable proof of fact..
In his last publication on the subject matter we are discussing in the Vanguard Newspaper published on March 4, 2018, the writer reiterated most of the fallacious arguments published earlier, expectedly he had another Catholic doctrine to condemn. He asserted that:” All sorts of highly dubious traditions of men have been built around the Veneration of Mary, based upon fictitious extra-biblical foundations. One of these, the doctrine of the immaculate conception, states that when Mary was conceived in her mother’s womb, the Holy Spirit came and exchanged her blood with one completely sinless. This means, like Jesus, Mary is presumed to have lived a sinless life.”
To say the least the writer is uninformed about the correct doctrinal position of the Catholic Church on this matter. The Catholic Church never teaches that “Holy Spirit exchanged the blood of Mary in the womb.” The doctrine states that Mary through the grace of God was conceived without the stain of original sin. Original sin is a metaphysical concept and has nothing to do with physiological blood. In his literary mischief, the writer interchangeably used the words “veneration,” and “worship” in his discussion of Catholic religious beliefs about Mary. Which of the two did he understand and accept as the right expression for Catholic devotion to Mary? Pure mischief and intellectual dishonesty involved in this. The Catholics have devotion to Mary, venerate her and seek her maternal intercession in prayer but she is never a subject of worship in the Catholic tradition.
In conclusion, Mr. Femi Aribisala’s article titled: “Christians are idol worshipers” is inaccurate, misleading and it contains substantial misinformation. He is entitled to his personal opinions about Catholic doctrines but he has no right to repudiate the religious beliefs of other people on faulty and fallacious grounds. As pointed out in the body of this rejoinder, the article falls victim of all the four idols of Francis Bacon namely: Idol of the Tribe, Idol of the Market Place, Idol of the Cave and Idol of the Theater. One can only recommend and hope that the writer will re-examine and free his mind from his “intellectual idol worshipping.”