Insight on the News
“Not By Sight”
Recent scientific tests have confirmed that the Shroud of Turin is a 14th-century fake. Yet, “Catholics were encouraged to continue their veneration of the shroud as a pictorial image of Christ, still capable of performing miracles,” reports The New York Times. Anastasio Ballestrero, the archbishop of Turin, stated: “The exceptional evocative power of the image of Jesus Christ should be preserved.”
What does this mean? It means that although the church has admitted that the stained image of a man’s body on the shroud is not that of Jesus Christ, faithful Catholics should nevertheless continue to view it as if it were the Christ and thus as something holy. Why? According to Adam Otterbein, a Roman Catholic priest in charge of the Holy Shroud Guild, relics like the shroud can assist believers to render honor to the one the image represents.
It is not surprising that, despite its lack of authenticity, the shroud would remain a powerful symbol of faith for the Catholic Church. “Statues, paintings and icons . . . are given a revered place in Catholic practice,” notes The New York Times.
Does the Bible support the use of such images in worship? No! God’s Word clearly says: “Flee from idolatry.” (1 Corinthians 10:14; compare Exodus 20:4-6.) Christians are admonished to worship God “with spirit and truth,” not with the help of some image or relic. (John 4:24) Appropriately, Paul wrote that true Christians “are walking by faith, not by sight.”—2 Corinthians 5:7.
In keeping with an apparent trend toward the relaxation of Biblical standards among religionists, “a growing number of U.S. theologians are arguing that Christian churches need a sexual revolution,” reports the Star Tribune. This Minnesota newspaper cites views expounded by such notables as John Spong, the bishop of Newark for the Episcopal Church of America, and James Nelson, sexual ethics expert at United Theological Seminary in New Brighton. The paper claims that these and other theologians feel that churches should “bless homosexual couples in church ceremonies, acknowledging their commitment to one another in a loving, moral relationship; . . . offer young betrothed adults the church’s blessing if they live in loving, committed relationships, although not married”; and “consent when mature adults are sexually active in responsible ways, although not married to one another.” Why do these theologians believe that such changes are needed? Spong claims that “we give our consent to promiscuous living” if such unions are not blessed.
What Spong and others fail to observe, however, is that it is the very blessing of such unions that establishes the churches’ consent to such “promiscuous living.” God’s Word is clear. “Neither fornicators, . . . nor adulterers, . . . nor men who lie with men . . . will inherit God’s kingdom.” Followers of Christ are not only commanded to “quit mixing in company” with such ones but are also told to “remove the wicked man” from among themselves.—1 Corinthians 5:11, 13; 6:9-11.
A Paramount Need
This year, the statistical report of Britain’s Free Church Federal Council has revealed a further drop for its 15 affiliated denominations. For the first time, membership has plummeted below the one million mark, reports the Church Times, a Church of England newspaper. The reason? Although the churches say that they are committed to “the vast majority . . . whose paramount need is for redemption,” the article notes that “the Free Churches have continued to devote too much time and energy to . . . socialities.” According to the Church Times, “if the Churches are in decline, it is not because their annual bazaars are a flop or their dramatic-society productions are not patronised: it is because they have not taken their ministry of redemption seriously enough.”
Religious leaders of Jesus’ day did not take their ministry seriously either. Jesus rightly criticized them for having made “the word of God invalid” by their traditions. He said that they were hypocrites, who ‘honored God with their lips though their hearts were far removed from him.’—Mark 7:6, 7, 13.
True ministers of Jehovah God, however, are devoted “to the ministry of the word.” They take seriously Jesus’ command to “make disciples,” and they follow the example of the apostles, who “continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ.” To true Christians, this work is of paramount importance.—Acts 5:42; 6:4; Matthew 28:19, 20.