344 • Part III. Christian Morality: The Faith Lived
Christians, however, have been permitted to fashion religious art.
The veneration of icons—religious images of Christ, Mary, the angels,
and the saints—was upheld by the seventh Ecumenical Council at Nicea
(AD 787), in opposition to the iconoclasts—those who rejected the use
of religious images such as statues, paintings, and mosaics. The fact that,
in the Incarnation, Christ took on human nature provided the founda-
tion for the Church’s tradition that artistic images such as icons can
portray mysteries of salvation. Whoever venerates a holy image vener-
ates the person portrayed. This veneration of Mary and the saints—and
images of them—differs from the adoration that belongs to God alone.
Today idolatry has emerged in new forms, whenever something cre-
ated is given absolute value. Examples of where this happens include
power, money, materialism, and sports. Also, those who resort to astrol-
ogy, palm reading, and interpretation of omens by mediums, clairvoy-
ants, and others who claim to control time and history weaken their faith
in God, lapse into superstition, and sometimes fall into sin. Those who
get involved with cults or the occult (e.g., magic, witchcraft, Satanism)
open themselves to evil influence, undermine their faith in the true God,
and commit sin.
Some contemporary individuals turn to a New Age spirituality. This
spirituality does not have a doctrinal basis but reflects many religious
strands from the non-Christian East, various occult practices like astrol-
ogy, and some insights from psychology. Practitioners tend to abandon
doctrinal teaching on the Trinity, Jesus Christ, the Church, and the sac-
raments. They also ignore the moral teaching of God and the Church.
In the context of our culture, atheism often wears the face of secular-
ism in its extreme form. Atheists or radical secularists deny God’s exis-
tence. Some are strict materialists, believing that ultimately there is noth-
ing spiritual whatsoever. Some are secular humanists, who claim that
humans should control history and the world with no reference to God.
Christians must always examine their own behavior because lack of con-
sistency with the Gospel in their lives can encourage others in atheism.