More Questions about Images


#1

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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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).

  4. The Sacraments were left by God as images, therefore we do not need others.

  5. Saying “Christ is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) does not imply “therefore, make images of Christ.”

Thanks :slight_smile: for any help you can provide!


#2

Paul isn’t talking about simply the making of images - he’s talking about paganism, where the images themselves were believed to BE the gods they represented, believed to hold all the powers of those gods etc etc.

We don’t believe this of our images of Christ. We don’t believe that Christ is in any way limited either to his human form or his human nature. Hence we believe the Eucharist, and the Eucharist alone, is truly Christ, since it contains his ‘soul and divinity’ as well as his human body and blood.

Certainly, since we believe so, we pay much much more attention and respect to the Eucharist than to any picture or statute made in his human likeness.

As to the commanding of the making of images - well, Christ DID appear as a human being, did he not? Thousands, hundreds of thousands, of people clapped eyes on him in the form of a human being. They weren’t blinded nor struck dead for the blasphemy of beholding his ‘image’ (which his human body was). An image is simply a visual representation of someone or something. Christ’s body was not his entire self, but a representation or symbol of it, so those who saw it saw an image.


#3

Read the graven image part of the first commandment here:
Exodus 20:1-5

“1 And the Lord spoke all these words: 2 I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt not have strange gods before me. 4 Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth. 5 Thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them: I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me:”

It is clear that the prohibition is not iconoclastic, but based upon the intent of the one making and using the image. Since NO CATHOLIC EVER kneels down before any image to worship it we are not idolaters at all. We are not stupid enough to confuse a mass of rock, plaster, metal, or any other created thing with the almighty and ever living God of the Universe.


#4

Everything here applies to any idea, concept, mental “image” we have of God. God revealed himself to us in the form of a man, but that idea of God is not complete. Likewise, no matter how God has vevealed himself to us, the ideas, the concepts, the mental images are not complete.

So to put it bluntly, this guy’s argument condemns equally every idea that we have about God, because no idea we have about God contains the glory of God.

This is actually very common when arguing against Protestants. In their haste to find fault with Catholic teaching, they actually produce arguments against everything they believe as well. In their quest for arguments against Catholicism they produce arguments against all of Christianity.


#5

I’ll post some of my thoughts on the subject in the hope they might be beneficial.

Jesus came in the image of the Father and in His Father’s Name.

The Word was made visible and He wrote the Name of God. The Name of God became visible as the life of Christ wrote it with the material of earth. God put on matter and revealed Himself with matter. Matter is what was visible. It was by material means seen by the material eyes that the faith to do miracles was offered. Our human limitations make a visible sign necessary in order for us to have faith.

Just as the words of the bible when they form images in the mind that reveal the truth of God make the bible Holy, images that depict the life of Christ within humanity are Holy. I would say that the images that accurately depict Christ’s life within humanity are less prone to the errors of imagination projected onto the images formed by the mind when reading the bible. Images that depict events that revealed God (icons) are less likely to be distorted by the mind than words that describe those same events (bible). So if one admits that the words of the bible are holy yet the images that are formed by those words are not is being hypoctitical.

If the Name of God is revealed in the Word made visible, which is Christ , then what kind of vision? The vision offered by material eyes that inform the eyes of faith. The Name( as it pertains to the spiritual) and the Named are united in such a way that the Name can be said to be the Named.

The Word and the Name of God by means of becoming visible to the eyes of man opned the human heart to a saving faith. Not that that is the only means but is a means. The eyes and the images seen are important conduits of faith and it’s through faith that God manifest His power.


#6

Why do we still bring these things up, I thought that the matter was settled some 1,220 years ago at the second council of Nicaea.


#7

The question sir from reading this is “Does the Church teach that the images created that depict the likeness of Jesus Christ contain the glory and holiness of God.”

Also a second one, “Does the creation of an image of Christ reduce God’s glory to an image.” (Funny, but I see the creation of an image of Jesus Christ a far less thing than God becoming flesh- the roots of the Reformation show their true face here- for before them were the ones who denied that God became True Man).

You have to understand what idolatry is in order to understand what Paul is saying. In today’s society it is not an image of Jesus Christ that is an “idol”. It is something like say a rabbit’s foot, or a “lucky buddah”, giving divine attibutes to pieces of matter so to say. Astrology is another form of “idolatry” as well as “lucky pieces”.

Your assertions above, particularly when you say, "Making Him be so is the ‘exchange of glory,’ which creates a false/incomplete view of God.

Saying “an image of Christ” implies that the glory of God is also present." is not what the Church teaches. My God man, I see an image of Jesus Christ as an image of God as man- the truth of salvation! Believe what you see- that God became man and died for YOU! You see that with your eyes every time you enter a Catholic Church!

The Second Council of Nicea held in 787 AD answered such questions for us already concerning this issue and I am in agreement with them. They anathematized those who said that the images of Jesus are idols an in turn what you are saying in paragraph #2. You are going too far and setting up a straw man to knock down and not representing the official teachings of the Church in this matter.

More info here catholic.com/library/Do_Catholics_Worship_Statues.asp

Ken


#8

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.

An image can’t contain all the glory, but why would it have to reduce it? When I see a picture of Christ, I don’t have a lesser idea of what God is.

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.

There doesn’t seem to be much point to this. Our views of God are always incomplete anyway. In fact, being reminded of the incarnation gives us a more complete view of God than the people of the old testament ever had. Again, I see no logical connection here that says having an image of Christ lessens our *already *incomplete understanding, do you?

Never did God command an image of Himself be made. 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.

No logical connect. Just because God didn’t command the creation of images doesn’t mean he probited it. And even if we don’t have images from apostolic times (I think we have images from the catacombs though), that doesn’t mean they were prohibited.

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.

Being at risk of worshipping idols is not a sin. Worshipping idols is, and Catholics do not worship idols and if anyone is at risk of it, they have a lot more problems in their faith life then just the image. I frankly don’t see the risk anyway. I have seen no evidence of Catholics worshipping something other than God by witnessing an image of God. Have you? Has your friend?

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).

How specifically is the misrepresentation in this context an injustice or insult to God? For example, maybe he had curly hair when our pictures showed him with straight. What is innately evil in that? How is God’s glory lessened by such a misrepresentation? Of course, it is not. To assume it is is to judge a human’s worth according to his looks, to be prejudicial. Of course, it doesn’t matter we don’t get the hair color, height, or whatever detail correct. What is critical is the fact that Christ was human. That’s where the value lies, and that’s what the images tell us.

The Sacraments were left by God as images, therefore we do not need others.

Why not? In fact, even if we didn’t need other images, how does that mean that having others is bad? Again, no logical connect.

Saying “Christ is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) does not imply “therefore, make images of Christ.”

But where does it imply we *shouldn’t *make images of Christ?

In short, I think arguments such as this really do us and Christ a disservice. It lowers the value of humanity, which is infinitely valuable and is infused with the very saving life of God through Christ’s incarnation and suffering. And honestly, the suggestion that we would belittle Christ by having a picture of him that is not correct in the physical details gets awful close to bigotry.

LT


#9

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Just the fact that you would kneel down before any image is worship, whether you believe it to be or not. God said don’t do it, and we must obey him.

Just like the statue of the serpent was allowed by God, before the Jews began to kneel before it, then God demanded it be destroyed.
Those Jews didn’t think they were worshiping either, they thought they were just paying honor to it. but God knew what was really in their hearts, even if they did not.


#10

That’s not what the Word of God says…Exodus 20:1-5

“1 And the Lord spoke all these words: 2 I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 Thou shalt not have strange gods before me. 4 Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth. 5 Thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them: I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me:”

You can believe that if you want to, but don’t try to tell me and my Catholic brothers and sisters that you get it from the Bible, because it’s not there.

Oh and I suppose the cherubim that God commanded to be placed on top of the Ark of the Covenant are also idols?:dts:


#11

when you kneel down to pray to Jesus, does your mind not imagine a reference to whom you are communicating , or have you trained your imagination to suspend it’s normal function in this type of act?

Because of our human limitations we need a visible reference that points our mind to the spiritual reality. Your mind will construct them if you don’t and the ones that really happened reveal God in ways we could never imagine.


#12

More along those lines…God said not to make for worship graven images, that is, make an idol. Neither heavenly or of the earth. But that implies that we expect to find life in the images.

The images are just that…images–not to worship but to imagine. To fix the image or to remind.

Besides, God also commands the Israelites to fasten golden angels to a temple, etc…

God bless,
Aaron


#13

It is interesting that while Protestants don’t like any attempt to depict God’s holy essence, even Calvin remarked God’s existence is easily inferred from the majesty and glory which is communicated from God in his creation. In fact the error comes when humans look at the majesty and glory in creation and then worship creation itself, rather than its invisible and incomprehensible maker. This principle seems to be what irritates Protestants, as making images, icons or statues and then venerating them seems to worship a human attempt to capture the infinite glory of God.

Clearly this is a common problem with Christianity and other religions; how to make the Absolute real and tangible enough for prayer, devotion and worship. Even Buddhism, which is probably the most ‘negative’ of all world religions because it refuses to say what the Absolute is (and many forms of Buddhist meditation try to achieve direct conciousness of the Absolute by bypassing concepts, thoughts and images, especially Zen) still has many visible forms of image, symbol and icon, as well as holy scripture.

In Christianity, the church, the sacraments, and also icons and statues try to bring ‘heaven’ to Earth, in the sense of making invisible realities visible and tangible. The point of the Eucharist is to make God himself present and bring believers face to face with the very mystery of the Absolute itself, mediated to us by Jesus. Saints, icons, beautiful church architecture, stained glass windows and other material objects are not meant to be venerated but to lift the mind up into invisible reality, which is Holy Being itself. Similarly religious reflection on the majesty and glory of the visible cosmos should do the same. Scriptures and devotional reading are also supposed to achieve the same thing, as is participating in the Eucharist.

Clearly between Catholics and Protestants there is a strong difference. For Catholics, the strongest experience of God occurs when taking part in the holy eucharist, while for Protestants, it is when the Word of God is proclaimed, studied and preached. For some Protestants closer to the Catholic Church (Anglicans and Lutherans) both the sacraments and the word play a vital importance for bringing one to God’s prescence, and also for some Catholics as well the Eucharist needs to happen alongside the proclamation of the Word to feel God around.

Ultimately there are many ways of raising the mind towards God in the Christian tradition, of which images is one legitimate way. While God’s essence cannot be captured or represented in any image, images of various types can help raise the mind to God. Even with no physical images, scripture itself is full of many colourful images in the form of words which raise the mind to God.


#14

Bravo!:bowdown2:

And, no, I am not trying to worship you by bowing (bad joke).

God bless,
Aaron Magnan


#15

The use of images and statues began in the early Church because most people were illigerate. The people were taught scriptures and bible stories. But it helped them to have something to remind them… for example the stations of the cross that are in most if not all Catholic Churches.

Many people today read from the bible for use it during worship. It is on different to use the Bible during worship then it is to have a statue or picture that bring to mind what we are contemplating.

As a child, I used to spend the quiet time before mass contemplating the stations of the cross. In Catholic School we went to mass every morning so that was a lot of contemplation. There were other statues and paintings in the Church that got the same attention from me.

In my home growing up we had one of those big, beautiful, illustrated bibles. I recall hours of me and my 7 siblings sitting with my mother… her reading it to us. I learned a lot just from the pictures. I used to spend hours by myself looking at them. Later when I could read, it was the pictures that enticed me to read the bible… because the made me want to learn more.

There is absolutely no difference between using works on a page and religions art as a means to communicate and teach. We humans have many senses. We learn the best and live the fullest when all of our senses are used. Why restrict religion to use only a few of our senses? Makes no sense to me.

I have never once in my life prayed to a statue or painting. But religious art is one of the first things that drew me to the Church.


#16

God was upset because they were paying honor to the serpent statue. That means that they were attributing properties of power to the statue. They tough that the statue was performing miracles, but God was doing it. So they did not give honor to God. I’m sure this did indeed anger God. It would be dangerous for mankind for God to allow humans to attribute powers to objects.
This is in no way similar to what Catholics do. We do not pay any kind of honor to statues, paintings or other objects. They have no power at all. They only serve to remind us of things such as scripture, the life of Jesus and the holiness of Jesus.


#17

Just paint a invisible picture of Jesus.:smiley:


#18

There are many people for whom this still poses a great risk, to confuse where the “power” is coming from. I suspect it is human nature.

I think the caution against idols should at least be considered as valid. I am glad that most people can remain very clear in their hearts and heads about the use of statues, but it doesn’t hurt to remember that many cannot.

I do get concerned that Catholics often treat the warning as ridiculous, as if there is NO danger at all that any Catholic anywhere ever would slip into this very common human tendency.

I know I have seen it in members of my family and church growing up, and felt it in myself, a too great attachment to a particular image, statue or portrayal of some holy person. And I never heard any teaching about the proper use or relationship to these items either, the Catholic community did seem to support a rather rabid devotion to their use.

Especially for children, it can be confusing where the devotion is actually aimed. So, as one who experienced such issues from the inside, I would encourage those that make use of these items to be sure to instruct newcomers and children in the proper use and perspective.

Without explanation, people can only base their understanding on what they see, and sometimes that can lead to erroneous conclusions.

It is important to make sure these things don’t become stumbling blocks, when the intent is that their use will draw one closer to the Lord.

cheddar


#19

I would like to add. Genesis 1: 26 says that God said “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” From the very beginning humans themselves are in the image of God. Now Exodus 20:4 says “Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth.” Given that, what do you think is happening when humans procreate? Well, in creating humans, we are creating images of God right there. If we are going to be to be so literalist in this image stuff, we would have to let our race just die out. Again, sadly it seems that some don’t realize the holiness of humanity infused by God. When we don’t allow ourselves to embrace the connection, we do both God and us a disservice.

LT


#20

There is an extremely well-known and respected evangelical Protestant teacher/author named J.I. Packer.

In the evangelical world, he is ranked as one of the Top 25evangelicals of all time. I would consider him one of the Top FIVE teachers who have influenced evangelical thinking in the last twenty years. His book, Knowing God, is a classic that is often listed as one of the top 100 or even the Top 25 Christian books of all times.

He is NOT a fundamentalist, not a “wacko” or a TV evangelist-type nutcase. He is an EXTREMELY intellectual man who writes in the literary, apologetic style of C.S. Lewis. He is a scholar.

Packer tends to use the “Puritan” teachings, incorporating them into contemporary Christian life. **This means that he crosses a LOT of denominational lines. **Evangelicals of all denominations, including the pentecostal and non-denominational evangelicals, would consider him a reliable teacher and writer and encourage their members to read and study his books.

I hope I’m getting this across. J.I. Packer is to evangelicals what John Paul II is to Catholics when it comes to teachings.

In his teaching and writing, Packer demonstrates that the Bible absolutely forbids the making of ANY images of God. I remember reading his book Knowing God years ago, in which he even condemns the use of pictures of Jesus in children’s Sunday School books, and flannelgraph representations of Jesus.

That was the reason I decided back then that he is a little over-the-top when it comes to the graven image question, and other evangelicals feel the same way. Almost all evangelical churches have pictures of Jesus in the books and often on the wall. You don’t see too many statues, but sometimes you do, and you will often see paintings of the Lord.

(It’s OK in the evangelical church to pick and choose which teachings are right. Catholics would do well to remember this.)

But there are also evangelicals who accept Packer’s interpretation of the Bible totally and do not permit ANY images of Jesus in their personal lives or in their churches.

I’ve tried to find a link to J.I. Packer article about graven images, but all I can find is blogs and forums in which people (Protestants) refer to Packer’s various books and articles when it comes to the issue of graven images.

This teacher has been a tremendous influence on many evangelicals! Many of the new evangelical pastors and teachers today were brought up on Packer books and teachings.

Perhaps the OP’s friends are among those who have read Packer’s books and agree with his very intellectual and well-thought out conclusions about graven images.

**I would highly recommend that the OP get his book, Knowing God and study it. ** Just as Catholics tell Protestants to “know what the Catholic Church really teaches,” I think it is fair to say that we should know what the Protestants are teaching. This author has shaped the thinking of evangelicalism when it comes to graven images, and his teachings cannot be answered with a simplistic apologetic, “We don’t worship the images, so it’s OK.”

BTW, J.I. Packer is one of the evangelicals who has refused to sign the agreement crafted by the organization “Evangelicals and Catholics Together.” This puts him at odds with another great evangelical teacher/author/activist, Charles Colson. But as far as I know, the two men behave like gentlemen and continue to practice Christian love toward one another, even though they disagree on certain theological questions. I would say that MOST evangelicals would probably support Packer rather than Colson, because of Packer’s pastoral background and education as opposed to Colson’s political background.


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