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Can you explain the practical difference between a person "bowing down to" and "venerating" an icon?Yes, I can.............and I thank you for your honest question.
The first issue is one of semantics. To bow down to seems to imply divine worship of the statue. Thus, it would be an incorrect way to describe what the Catholic is doing. The posture of prayer is not to the statue, as if the statue where a god and we were praying to it. Instead, the statue is simply a reminder of the saint whose prayers we are invoking. We are not praying to the statue, we are requesting the prayers of the saint who is represented by it.
The second issue is the posture of kneeling or bowing, and what it means. The bible clearly shows that this posture need not be equated with divine worship, or the worship afforded to God alone. Lot "bowed himself with his face to the earth" before the angels that visited him in Sodom (Gen 19:1). Joseph's brothers "bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground" when they came to him for food (Gen 42:6). Saul "bowed with his face to the ground, and did obeisance" before Samuel (1 Sam 28:14). Bathsheba "bowed and did obeisance" to King David (1 Kings 1:16), as did Nathan (vs. 23), Ornan (1 Chron 21:21), and even the entire assembly (1 Chron 29:20). David himself bowed down before the temple of the Lord (Psa 138:2). The sons of the prophets at Jericho "bowed to the ground" before Elisha (2 Kings 2:15). King Nebuchadnezzar "fell upon his face, and did homage" to Daniel, and even commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him! (Dan 2:46). Even Jesus Christ himself will make those of the synagogue of Satan to bow down before the church in Philadelphia (Rev 3:9).
No one would accuse all of these people of idol worship because they assumed a posture of prayer or worship before an object of God's creation. One should not accuse Catholics of doing the same thing. Ultimately, this is a matter of intent. Kneeling or bowing can imply worship, but it need not necessarily, as these scripture passages reveal. It is just as erroneous to assume that a Catholic is worshipping a statue (simply because he is kneeling near it) as it is to assume that Nebuchadnezzer was worshipping Daniel...........and Nebuchadnezzer did so much more!
What these passages also show is that kneeling/bowing can also be an act of respect, or veneration. That is in fact what is going on in all of these passages, and that is what the Catholic does. When a Catholic kisses a crucifix, this is not an act towards the actual metal/wooden cross he is holding. Instead, it is a sign of the love that he has for Jesus and His work on the cross. David knelt before the temple not to worship the actual stone structure but to make an act of humility before the presence of the Lord that the temple represented.
I hope that helps. For more on this, go here: Statues and Icons
Thanks. That was well-put. All those cases you presented show examples of people bowing down to certain things or people. We are not required to say that idolatry was being done in those situations. Fair enough.Well, right off hand, there's the last passage I cited, Rev 3:9, where Jesus says that he will make those of the synagogue of Satan to bow down before the church in Philadelphia. I don't see why it matters if the people doing the bowing are his enemies are not. Jesus is still commanding a group of people to bow down before another group of people, which he would never command anyone to do --enemy or otherwise-- if it was a sin.
Just a quick follow up. Are there any examples in the Scirptures of God commanding or even encouraging His people (not His enemies) to bow down to/kneel before people or physcial objects?