“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.
The Extreme Blasphemy of Idolaters
I’ll now turn my attention to the worst expressions of idolatry. They are so strange that it’s hard to believe that anyone wouldn’t speak out against them much less advocate for them. Exposing these weird practices is the right thing to do so that they are deprived of their legitimacy. I do not want Catholics to be able to point out how the use of images was an ancient practice. For example, Theodosius Bishop of Amora fires off a condemnation against those who object to images. Another writer attributes all of the calamities that befell Greece and the East to the fact that they did not worship images. Why did the apostle and prophets suffer so much then? No images existed in their day!
Furthermore, they argue that if the image of the Emperor should be given a pinch of incense, then how much more the images of the saints? Constantius, Bishop of Constantia in Cyprus embraces images and even goes so far to say that they should be given the same honor as the Trinity. Every person who refuses to do so he labels a heretic. You might think that this line of thinking is isolated to a few individuals. It is not. John the Eastern legate goes on to say that it is better for a city to be filled with brothels than for the worship of images be denied in it. Some even say that while the Samaritans are heretics, those who deny the worship of images are even worse than the Samaritans. Before leaving this discussion, those who embrace the worship of images would sign off this way: “Rejoice and exult, you who have the image of Christ, and offer sacrifices to it.” The Second Council of Nicea relies on images as much as on the living God.