I have been debating the issue of making images of Christ with a Protestant, and seek your thoughts and experience with some questions I have not seen addressed here. These may be difficult, but I expect they have logical Catholic answers. I will state most of them from a Protestant point of view to clarify the perceived conflicts between Catholicism and the Bible:
- The primary problem lies in Romans 1:18-32. Verses 20-23 are the most salient:
“Ever since the Creation of the world, His invisible attributes of eternal power and divinity have been able to be understood and perceived in what He has made. As a result, they have no excuse; for although they knew God they did not accord Him glory as God or give Him thanks. Instead, they became vain in their reasoning, and their senseless minds were darkened. While claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of an image of mortal man…”
The problem here is that an image of Jesus (God) cannot contain the glory or holiness of God; the making of an image of Christ reduces this glory into an image. It represents man’s perception of God, rather than what God has actually revealed (His glory and holiness) through Christ. God is not subject to our views of Him. Making Him be so is the ‘exchange of glory,’ which creates a false/incomplete view of God. Saying “this is an image of Christ” implies that the glory of God is also present, which it cannot be.
Some images can be godly, as seen in the Old Testament (in the construction of the Temple, etc.). All such images, however, were commanded by God. Never did God command an image of Himself be made (because Christ had not yet come, of course, this was not possible anyway). The important objection is that our modern-day images of Christ were not commanded by God, and there doesn’t seem to be support for them in Scripture. We do not have (as far as I know) images of Christ handed down from apostolic times.
Even in modern times, we are surrounded by pagans who worship images of gods (e.g. in many world religions, in witchcraft, etc.), so we face the same dangers as the Israelites: we are surrounded by people who worship idols, and who still confuse images for God. As Christians the risk is lower, but it still exists.
We have not seen an image of God (Christ) come in the flesh. The apostles did, but they do not seem to have recorded what Christ looked like. Thus, any image is going to be a misrepresentation of the form of Christ; we cannot have a true “image of Christ” today (unless one has been passed down from the apostles).
The Sacraments were left by God as images, therefore we do not need others.
Saying “Christ is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) does not imply “therefore, make images of Christ.”
Thanks for any help you can provide!