Blogging the Institutes–1.11.1–God Opposes Idols

“Blogging the Institutes” is my on-going attempt to paraphrase John Calvin’s work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. You can find out more about the series in the Introduction. For all the posts in this series, check out the Master List.

God Opposes Idols

The Bible regularly speaks of God using common, everyday terms so that we can understand who God is, even with our limited intellects. Whenever the Bible wants to contrast the one, true God with idols, it will usually speak of particular, tangible idols that God is opposed to. Scripture still opposes ungodly philosophical systems and other sophisticated worldviews, but it usually doesn’t speak to such systems of thoughts because its goal is to show the foolishness of rejecting God. Scripture eliminates any possibility for there to be other so-called “gods” in the world. There is only one God, who is the only proper witness to Himself.

Idolatry has spread across the whole world. People constantly long for a visible representation of God so they often make idols of wood, stone, silver, gold, or any other kind of material. Therefore, we can draw this conclusion: If any visible form is said to represent God, then His glory has been corrupted by a lie! In the Law, after He claimed the glory of being God for Himself alone, God instructs the Israelites about what true worship looks like. Such regulations for true worship include instruction about images: “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below” (Exodus 20:4). Using these words, God curbs any attempt on our part to represent Him through a visible image. He also briefly adds the kind of images which would be out of bounds. For example, we know that the Persians worshipped the sun. They imagined that each star in the sky was a “god.” For the Egyptians, every animal was a form of God. The Greeks prided themselves on worshipping God in human forms. But God makes no exceptions with images–as if some are better than others for representing Him. He rejects all images.

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