Blogging the Institutes–1.11.12–Works of Art, OK. But Not in Church

“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

Works of Art, Ok. But Not in Church

I’m not so superstitious as to think that all images of any kind are unlawful. For example, painting and sculpture are gifts from God. What I want is that these good gifts from God are used in line with His purposes and not abused and perverted. We believe it is unlawful to give a visible shape to God because He has forbidden it. It can also not be done without tarnishing His glory. I don’t want you to think that I am alone in believing this. In actuality, if you are aware of the works of good theologians, you will find that they have always disapproved of the practice.

Furthermore, if it is unlawful to make a visible representation of God, how much worse is it to also worship that image? Therefore, the only things which should be painted or sculpted are those things which can be seen with the eye. God’s glory, which is far beyond our sight, must not be dishonored by being turned into an image.

Now, there are two kinds of representative art. The first kind is the historical, which gives a representation of events. The second kind is the pictorial, which presents bodily shapes and figures.Historical works of art can be used for education or warning. Pictorial figures are only good for entertainment. Unfortunately, it is abundantly evident that pictorial figures have been found in churches. Showing them off was the result of a foolish desire and not a wise decision-making process. I won’t even go into detail about the improper and indecent forms present in them, or the over-ambitious license the artists took. Even if these were “perfect” works of art, there would still be no spiritual value in them.

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