Blogging the Institutes–1.11.7–One Gospel More Powerful than a Thousand Crosses

“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.

One Gospel More Powerful than a Thousand Crosses

If Catholics have any sense, they should stop saying that images are the books of the uneducated. Even if I offered them a concession on this point, it still wouldn’t be a enough to validate the particular images they advocate for. It is well known what kind of monstrous images they impose on the church as divine. The pictures or statues of the saints are exhibitions of the most shameless luxury. If anyone dressed like these statues, they would deserve to be thrown in jail! Prostitutes in brothels dress more modestly than the depictions of the saints who are supposed to be virgins. The dress of the martyrs also is no more modest.

Catholics should have some kind of decency in picturing their saints and martyrs. Although it still wouldn’t be right, it would give more legitimacy to their argument–that these are images are “books” of some kind of sanctity. But when if this were the case, images are not the way the church should be educated. The true doctrine of God is very different from the instruction given by images. The true doctrine of God is given to us by the true preaching of the Word and the right administration of the sacraments. Those who spend all their time gazing at idols are too busy to learn from the Word.

Let me ask a question: Who are these supposedly uneducated people who can only learn from images? Think about Jesus’ uneducated disciples. He honors them by teaching them divine wisdom and reveals God’s mysteries to them. Now I admit that in today’s culture many people want to look at images. Where does this stupidity come from? The reason why those who are in charge of churches have resigned themselves to using images to educate people is that they themselves are dumb. Paul declares that in the preaching of the gospel Christ is portrayed as crucified before our eyes (Galatians 3:1).

Putting up images, putting up crosses of wood and stone, silver or gold would be no use if there was true gospel preaching in these churches. What point would there be if pastors spent time preaching the gospel: Christ died so that he would bear our curse upon the cross. He died so that we would wipe away our sins by the sacrifice of his body, wash us in his blood, and reconcile us to God our Father. From the one gospel, people would learn more than from a thousand crosses! As for the crosses of gold and silver, they give more pleasure to the eyes than actual instruction about God.

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