The Second of Two Parts Detailing the Historic Errors of Roman Catholicism, Contrasted with the Historice and Scriptural Emphases of the Protestant Reformation
“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus . . . . ” (1 Timothy 2:5)
“And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed . . . . ‘ ” (Luke 1:46-48)
“To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:7)
“Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 9)
Roman Redeemers: Christ and Mary and the “Saints”
As you may well know, a redeemer is one who buys a slave and then sets it free. Yahweh himself redeemed the people of Israel when he called Moses from the burning bush to command Pharaoh in his name to “let my people go.” Having struck Egypt time and again by the plagues, directly demonstrating his power over Egypt’s gods, God coerced the slave masters of Egypt to release their slaves to the service of Yahweh. This was the chief redemptive act of God in the Old Testament; it’s the one which unifies the identity of the nation of Israel, which directly points to and typifies the work of the ultimate Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Christ our Redeemer was the only citizen of the nation of Israel to perfectly meet the demands of the covenant Yahweh instituted with the nation of Israel; he was the incarnation of the eternal Son of God, through whom God created the world. Thus our Redeemer was sent to Israel as a Prophet to reveal God’s will to his people; he was sent as King to conquer all his and his people’s enemies, namely the world, the flesh, the devil and death, rather than merely the political stranglehold of the Roman Empire over the nation of Israel; and in order to redeem his people, Christ served as the ultimate Priest, who mediated between the offending people and the offended God, Christ was God to man and man to God; his death met the terms of the holy and just God and likewise Christ’s death met the one essential spiritual need of the people, he demonstrated the grace and love without which all men live without hope. In this way, as Yahweh redeemed Israel from bondage to the Egyptians, so did Christ redeem his people from the consequences of the broken Law of God and bondage to sin.
Because Roman Catholicism receives Church Tradition as a source of revelation equal to Scripture, certain ideas about Mary have developed over time. These ideas are defended by inaccurate inferences drawn from Scripture texts related to Mary, coupled with an orthodox, Tradition-born title of her’s which has been misdefined and misapplied to make more out of Mary than is warranted by that title. One Church Council defended the doctrine that Christ was fully God and fully man from conception by saying that Christ was God even when he was in Mary’s womb. They bolstered this doctrine with a logical syllogism reasoning that since Mary is the Mother of Christ, and since Christ is God, then Mary is the “Mother of God” (theotokos). Through an inaccuarte transmission of this concept over time, the idea of Mary’s being the Mother of God gradually took into it associations of Mary with divinity. Coupling this with uncalled-for inferences from the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-48) and Mary’s “intercessory” activity in the New Testament account of the marriage at Cana (John 2:3), Roman Catholicism developed a divine mary who prays to her loving Son to extend forgiveness to penitent believers, making her a mediator between sinners and Christ, thus playing some role in Christ’s work as our Redeemer; a role which has led many Roman Catholics since the Middle Ages to call Mary “Co-Mediatrix” and “Co-Redemptrix” with Christ, which obviously contradicts the Bible’s emphasis that Christ alone (SOLU CHRISTUS, as the Reformers sloganized it) mediates between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). Thus in popular Roman soteriology, Mary becomes, if you will, the matron saint of Roman Redeemers.
If Mary is the brightest star in a sky of Saints, let us now turn our attention to the lesser lights, each of which individually and corporately play a role in the nature and ongoing maintenance of Roman Redemption. Protestants understand that the word “saint” is used many times in the gospels and epistles. According to 1 Peter 1:1-2, a saint is a “sanctified one,” one who was elected by the Father in eternity past (cf. Ephesians 1:3-6) to be set apart by the work of the Holy Spirit in the gospel preached to receive the gift of faith (cf. Romans 10:17; Ephesians 2:8,9), and be sprinkled with Christ’s blood. The apostles greet many of the churches to which they write, referring to them as “the saints.” Clearly, these are references to the members of the church, without any distinction being made between classes of saints.
Church Tradition began to claim that a Saint is one whose personal righteousness was so meritorious that there was not only enough righteousness practiced to ensure his inclusion in the Lamb’s Book of Life, but enough also to be deposited in a so-called “Treasury of Merit” to be dispensed through the sacrament of penance to repair the damage done by sinning Catholics to their own justification. In other words, if post-justification righteousness was graded on a modern teacher’s scale, the “Saints” are those who scored over 100% in their lifetimes with the amount exceeding 100% being deposited into this “Treasury of Merit” for the benefit of the rest of the Church. Thus by this unscriptural doctrine, Christ alone is not enough to ensure our eternal salvation; he requires the assistance of his mother and the most worthy of his disciples. It cannot be urged too strongly to flee any doctrine that does not center on redemption SOLUS CHRISTUS, in Christ Alone! Certainly a gospel that requires such an elaborate team of Redeemers is a gospel that differs from the one originally proclaimed by the apostles.
I hate that my first post here has to contain a criticism. On what is otherwise a very good post, I don’t think you Reformed predecessors would agree with your breaking of the second commandment. In pointing out the faults of the RCC, let us not fall into the trap of imitating them.
Keep up the good work and may God richly bless your efforts here.
Thanks for the warning. I’m a beginner. And the product of my semi-pelagian environment.
I recognize that the second commandment specifically states not to make an image of things in heaven, etc. as a complete thought before elaborating that they are forbidden to be used in worship. Now, a blog is not a worship service, and the image is not being offered as an object of worship, and I’m not worshiping it.
I rarely see any Reformed material addressing images outside the context of worship. That leads me to detect a dose of liberty in such a gray area.
So, your advice is that I take the first complete thought in the commandment in a universal sense, out of the context of worship, in which the complete thought is made?
Pray for me and instruct me further in your next comment.
Got a look at your blog. Looking good! Perhaps you’ll receive a visit from me there as well. And by the way, in case you hadn’t already figured it out, my “Capt. HK” identity does not mean I know it all, unless you compare me with some of those I go to church with. But naturally, that’s the wrong measuring rod. I’m out here in the blogosphere to learn from all you experienced Calvinists with enough time to put really good stuff together to post on your blogs!
Criticize away! I’m teachable!
I think the historic reformed position is not necessarily against images of any kind in any use…but rather images of Christ used in Worship.
This is what the second commandment itself says:
“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them” (Exod. 20:4-5 // Deut. 5:8-9).
As I understand the passages in Exodus and Deuteronomy, they prohibit the making and worshiping of false gods. They do not specifically prohibit the use of images in the worship God, let alone the making of images for purposes other than worship. Scripture itself commanded and/or approved the making of certain images of created things, even for use in worship. For instance, the tabernacle and the temple were filled with images: lampstands that looked like flowering almond trees (Exod. 25:31ff.); a huge basin resting on the backs of oxen (Jer. 52:20); pomegranates on the clothes of the priests (Exod. 28:33); angels on the Ark of the Covenant (Exod. 25:18ff.) and the curtains (Exod. 26:1,31), and spanning the Holy of Holies (1 Kings 6:23ff.); all kinds of things on the doors to the doors sanctuary (1 Kings 6:32,36).
If we have to obey the 2nd commandment, in the broader context then no image of anything is allowed at any time, for any use. For example, if I were to paint a picture of a flower, my action would not violate this commandment — even though the commandment specifically forbids making any likeness of what is on the earth. Therefore the purpose and function of the image is critical to determining the propriety of the image.
But if we interpret the commandment as prohibiting all images regardless of their use, then we can paint nothing in creation. We cannot take photographs of our children. We cannot put pictures of products in advertisements. We cannot watch television or movies of any type, or take x-rays…etc.. you get the point.
I appreciate your teachable spirit. I will try to elborate on what I’ve written. And Gage, I used to believe the way you have expressed it here, but after much prayful thought and study, I’ve come to the conclusion that images of God are wrong in any situation. I can do no better than to quote John Calvin, and I am in agreement with him;
“The sum is, that the worship of God must be spiritual, in order that it may correspond with His nature. For although Moses only speaks of idolatry, yet there is no doubt but that by synecdoche, as in all the rest of the Law, he condemns all fictitious services which men in their ingenuity have invented. For hence have arisen the carnal mixtures whereby God’s worship has been profaned, that they estimate Him according to their own reason, and thus in a manner metamorphose Him. It is necessary, then, to remember what God is, lest we should form any gross or earthly ideas respecting Him…
The words simply express that it is wrong for men to seek the presence of God in any visible image, because He cannot be represented to our eyes. The command that they should not make any likeness, either of any thing which is in heaven, or in the earth, or in the waters under the earth, is derived from the evil custom which had everywhere prevailed; for, since superstition is never uniform, but is drawn aside in various directions, some thought that God was represented under the form of fishes, others under that of birds, others in that of brutes; and history especially recounts by what shameless delusions Egypt was led astray. And hence too the vanity of men is declared, since, whithersoever they turn their eyes, they everywhere lay hold of the materials of error, notwithstanding that God’s glory shines on every side, and whatever is seen above or below, invites us to the true God…
He (Moses) declares, then, that a true image of God is not to be found in all the world; and hence that His glory is defiled, and His truth corrupted by the lie, whenever He is set before our eyes in a visible form…
Now we must remark, that there are two parts in the Commandment — the first forbids the erection of a graven image, or any likeness; the second prohibits the transferring of the worship which God claims for Himself alone, to any of these phantoms or delusive shows. Therefore, to devise any image of God, is in itself impious; because by this corruption His Majesty is adulterated, and He is figured to be other than He is. There is no need of refuting the foolish fancy of some, that all sculptures and pictures are here condemned by Moses, for he had no other object than to rescue God’s glory from all the imaginations which tend to corrupt it. And assuredly it is a most gross indecency to make God like a stock or a stone…let us recollect that God is insulted, not only when His worship is transferred to idols, but when we try to represent Him by any outward similitude.”
I hope this helps.
I’m not sure that it helps, your quote from Calvin is interesting in that it seems to me he is explicite in discussing images used in worship. No argument here on that issue, the issue is art, or the viability of art in other places and uses other than worship. It seems to me that if we outlaw art/images of any kind based on the 2nd commandment, then things like pictures of our children, a painting of a landscape also have to be excluded.
Your two parts to the commandment make sense to me when it comes to worship… the golden calf wasn’t sinful, because pictures of gold calves are sinful, but they are sinful when the calf is honored as the representation of God in worship. That I get. I guess the issue is art a museum, or a blog etc… not seeing it.
Calvin’s point in your quote was that, even though the second commandment was explicitly talking about the context of worship, we are to take it as implicitly talking about occasions outside of worship as well. If that is the case, then Gage is right that we cannot only not use images of things in heaven, on earth or under the earth in worship, but we are forbidden to use it in any context.
Does that mean that just as we are able to violate God’s commands in thought and word as well as in deed, then also, any reference to anything in any context in any command is to be similarly expanded to include every reference to everything in every context in every command?
Sorry to wax simplistic, but that’s a bit too implicit of an application to be either practical or reasonable. It’s good to desire to honor the Law by seeing not how much we can get away with, but by seeing just how well and extensively we can command it, so, believe me, I respect the motive behind your application, but to consider your application (which is also shared by many) in the context of the wording and meaning of the second commandment, leads one logically to the conclusions Gage draws, that therefore all images of everything are forbidden in every context.
Great discussion, guys!
Yoo-hoo! John the Curious Catholic! You’re the one I posted this for!
. . . .
He must have gone out of town early for Labor Day holiday.
Looking forward to more on this string.
I tried to highlight the points where Calvin says images of God are wrong, not only in worship, but in general. He says “to devise any image of God is impious”, not merely in the context of worship, and that His glory is defiled and His truth is corrupted “whenever He is set before our eyes in visable form”. Again, this would include, but not limit it to worship.
Likewise, Calvin deals with the issue of other images. He says,
“There is no need of refuting the foolish fancy of some, that all sculptures and pictures are here condemned by Moses, for he had no other object than to rescue God’s glory from all the imaginations which tend to corrupt it.”
– So he doesn’t condemn pictures of flowers, art, etc. Rather, Calvin, like myself, seems to limit us to not portraying images of God. So, I’m not saying you can’t disagree with me (or Calvin), I’m suggesting it is the historic reformed view that all images of God, in any context, is forbidden by the 2nd commandment.
You can find a more detailed discussion of this issue
here. This has been an edifying discussion.
I printed out Calvin’s commentary on the second commandment and read it in my down time at work and paid close attention to his words, and considered it. And I get what he was trying to say.
The sum of his words, as I take them, are that the first sentence, “make no graven image of anything in all creation,” is to be taken in the sense of doing so while claiming that it represents God even if it is outside the context of worship. This reveals the reason for expressing it in a twofold manner.
Command 2a, if you will, forbids representing God by an image of anything in all creation, for such a form inherently diminshes his glory and makes him out to be other than he truly is, and the one who engraves the image (or cuts and pastes it, as in my case) “immediately falls into false worship,” superstitiously adoring the work of his hands. Whether we mean to, or think we are, Calvin asserts that’s how God takes it.
Command 2b forbids the additional offense of worshiping God by means of the engraved form of anything in all creation offered as an image of God.
Some claim the first sentence actually means we are forbidden to ever make any form of anything for any use, but Calvin says they are foolish, for the object of the command is to protect God’s glory from those who would corrupt it by their imaginations.
Calvin is willing to accept the point that we are not to make images for the purpose of worshiping it (as Gage and I have been asserting), but Calvin’s exegesis reads the command as including more than this one activity and so concludes, “I will then readily allow these two things (2a: representing God by the engraved image of any created thing & 2b: worshiping God by the engraved creature), which are inseparable, to be joined together; only let us recollect that God is insulted, not only when His worship is transferred to idols, but when we try to represent Him by any outward similitude,” (outside the context of worship).
Now that I’ve been able to pay closer attention to Calvin’s words as summarized above, I get it.
Now that I am persuaded of my sin, this reminds me of an experience I had as a teenager when I participated in a Youth Conference at Arlington Baptist College. Contestants could compete by singing, drawing, dramatically reciting Scripture or, as in my case, write and perform a skit. I decided to write a play inspired by a song by Michael Card called, “Gentle Healer.” The lyrics simply tell the story of Jesus coming to town, healing the blind and sick and leaving the people believing that he is the Messiah. So, I was going to dramatically portray these little vinettes of Jesus entering, healing someone and leaving and having the person healed somehow express his faith in Jesus as the Christ.
The people in charge of the conference let me know I would not be able to enter the skit because it was in the rules that any art entered may not portray the person of Jesus in any way. Back then, I didn’t understand why, and no one around me could give a satisfying answer; we all just shrugged it off, saying, “Well, they’re just being old-fashioned.” I left it at that.
In case you haven’t learned yet from some of the online interaction between Gage and I, we used to work together in a print shop where many fine folks from his Presbyterian Church also worked with us. Now that was an incredible experience! I call the place the Reformation Station (www.covenantprinting.com) because these guys would have some mind-blowing theological discussion going on in the middle of the shop in the middle of the day, and I loved every minute of it. This is where years of wondering off and on about Calvinism finally culminated in my embracing the theology completely, much to the chagrin of some of those closest to me.
One of these fascinating discussions that took place involved the issue of whether or not pictures of Jesus or God outside the context of worship was or was not a violation of the second commandment. Listening to these guys and thinking through it myself is where I came away with the view that I had been holding. While considering these things, it dawned on me that this is why the folks at Arlington Baptist College disallowed artistic renderings of Jesus. The guys at work had been asserting to me that the Baptist tradition was founded squarely within the bounds of the Reformed tradition, although they objected to paedobaptism–and this claim helped me piece together that the prohibition at the conference was trace evidence of the “leftover” Calvinism of the Baptist tradition.
I’ve always said that as I learned Calvinism, questions I’d always had were regularly answered, and that experience was one of those occasions.
Captain, I am truly humbled by your expression of humility. Oh, that there were more men like you! One of the most satisfiying experiences we can encounter in the Christian faith is to be molded through our sanctification and understanding of God’s sacred Word. You have taught me through your willingness to relent your position.
One final note, (in case you ever find yourself defending you new-founded view).In ANY human depiction of Christ we cannot but help divide His divine and human nature. We cannot depict His God-nature in our art therefore denying the fullness of His deity and as Calvin has said, detracting from His glory.
I freely admit that John is a sinner, and indeed should repent of most things, (;, (Sorry John) how does the undercarriage of that bus feel?
I think we are going to have to be a little apart on the issue of images. Interesting when I read the same commentary on the 2nd commandment by Calvin, I found myself agreeing with Calvin. But I couldn’t help but think that the overall weight of his own argument was against the use of images as representing God in worship. I am not convinced that the Reformers emphasis was on anything other than worship and the removal of icons as a part of that worship. Luther was clear in his argument against the Schwaermer (The “Enthusiasts”)and their destruction of Sacred Art in Germany. It may be however, that Luther disagreed with the other Reformers on that issue. I’m not convinced either way at the moment. However, if I do disagree with Calvin, then I do so humbly, recognizing that Calvin along with any Reformer and most scholars for that matter, transcend me in knowledge, scholarship and giftedness as a Great White transcends a guppy. I am not worthy to change their chamberpots, and if I disagree with them, then it probably shows my ignorance.
However my view stacks up with the Reformers, I will study further, and see if I be convinced in either direction.
As it stands now, it seems to me that the first commandment is “Simply, worshipping the right God” and the 2nd command is “worshipping the right God in the right manner.” I will have to be in the minority here with you and John. As far as the view of the Reformers on images in general, (I think we agree on the command against their use in worship). On whether or not they should be used as aides in worship, again, I think we are in agreement. Good discussion, you guys caused me to think and read, (never a bad thing). My view as it stands now is one that I am not willing to take a position on, as one dying on a hill…
Soli Deo Gloria
The undercarriage of the bus feels no worse than the full experience of what I actually deserve.
We agree that the “big picture” of the second commandment is to worship God the right way. But the fact that the command against engraving the image is separate from the command agianst worshiping the engraved image lends credence to the idea that the “engraving clause,” if you will, is specifically against the sin of representing God by images, period.
If, after reading Calvin’s commentary, you are not convinced Calvin was against the representing of God by images regardless of context, then why did he say that to do so, whether or not one worships it, inherently robs God of his glory, and moves man to worship, if not God, then at least the fact that this “image of God” in the form of a created thing is the work of his own hands?
Believe me, I’d rather agree with you, but Calvin’s got better credentials.
Here’s a few reasons I’d rather agree with you:
I own a copy of “The Passion of the Christ”;
For my tenth anniversary, Kathy and I went and watched the Great Passion Play in Eureka Springs, Arkansas;
While in Eureka Springs, Kathy and I bought $70 worth of old Bible engravings of the Nativity and Christ being removed from the cross.
Just to name a few. Yes, you are right, Gage, I am a sinner, and the most offensive idea in the world is that things that seem as innocuous as having a couple of pictures and a movie and watching a play, if those were the only sins I ever committed, would earn for me eternal condemnation.
But God . . .
Oh, and just in case some third or fourth party is reading this in the future, the image in particular we’ve been discussing was an image I originally had on my post which was a Catholic image of Mary which included a drawing intended to represent God holding up a crucifix with Christ hanging on it. For obvious reasons, the picture has been removed.
Thanks for your kind words, and thanks for directing me to Calvin’s commentary, where I could deal with the issue for myself, not as a derivative of others’ discussion. Like I said, I’m on the web, not to demonstrate how brilliant I am, but to pass on what little I’ve learned (I’m haunted by that classic analogy of the stagnant waters of the Dead Sea) and to learn from other Reformed folks. I don’t have a lot of them to interact with in my daily life, but this is one way in which I can, in order to continue my education in the things of God.
Now it occurs to me that Scripture teaches that Christ is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). Likewise, when God created man, it is said that he was created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), and we know that Scripture teaches that the form that image takes is not the human form, but consists of the righteousness in which the man was created, which was lost in the fall of man(which, incidentally, was depicted in the third of three engravings we bought in Eureka Springs, “The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden”)and is recovered by the obedience of the God-Man (Ephesians 4:24).
Only God knows how to accurately convey his own image, and thus has he condescended to do so. For us to presume to do so by the work of our own hands diminishes his glory (talk about “putting God in a box”!) and moves us to proudly adore that which our own hands have wrought, whether we’re willing to admit it or not.
I think we need to put out an APB on John the Curious Catholic!
It’s pretty hilarious to me that in my effort to do PR for the Reformation to a Roman Catholic draws fire from fellow Reformed. I guess that helps John the Curious Catholic get an even more accurate picture of life as a Reformed Protestant. . . 🙂
YOu said, “But the fact that the command against engraving the image is separate from the command agianst worshiping the engraved image lends credence to the idea that the “engraving clause,” if you will, is specifically against the sin of representing God by images, period.”
Here I don’t agree with your exposition at all. In no way is the command against engraving separate from the command against worshiping.
20:4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image9 or any likeness10 of anything11 that is in heaven above or that is on the earth beneath or that is in the water below.12 20:5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them,13 for I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God, responding to15 the transgression of fathers by dealing with children to the third and fourth generations16 of those who reject me.
The Context makes the connection for you. It is not a division you can make. Verse 5 is pretty clear. Obviously, after the golden calf incident, the command to abstain form building or “engraving” is needed, but needed for what? SImply this, you are not to make an representative for you to worship. I don’t mind being disagreed with, or that I disagree with Calvin, but the context is clearly about Worship, and there is no division.
To quote you again,
if you will, is specifically against the sin of representing God by images, period.”
It should read-if you will, is specifically against the sin of representing God by images, in worship- period- that’s what the context demands.”
John the Curious Catholic here- sorry I have been away on business.
I’m fascinated by any aspect of Reformation Theology that starts out as anti-catholic and then forces on the text, it’s anti-catholic presuppositions. Here is the thing about this argument that I don’t understand. The plain reading of Ex 20 is about worship. That’s painfully obvious. To build a doctrine over whether or not you can use images as art apart from worship, like say on a blog for instance, is making Ex 20 say something that it is not saying. Exodus is about a group of folks who decided to create their own representation of God, ie… a golden one. Thus the prohibition to abstain from creating anything that represents God. Yet is it true that the very first commandment in Exodus 20 reads that “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth…”? (vs.4) Yes, God did say these words. However, the word for “graven image” in the old King James Version can also be translated “idol” or “image.” The very next verse indicates that it is an “idol,” or object of worship, that God was referring to when he also said: “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God…”
It was interesting in reading the various thoughts on the matter, I decided to read what Luther had to say. Very interesting.
[Ewald M. Plass, compiler. What Luther Says: A Practical In-Home Antholouy for the Active Christian, St. Louis: Concordia
“We read of no instance in which God punished the Israelites because of images or altars except when they worshiped them. They kept the brazen serpent of Moses (Num. 2 1:8) until Hezekiah did away with it only because it was being worshiped (2 Kings 18. 4). In addition, I have a powerful proofiext in Lev. 26:1: “Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image; neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land to bow down unto it; for I am the Lord your God” How now? I seems to me that God Himself here explains clearly enough that worshipping is His concern… That is why the “making” also in the First Commandment must look to the worshiping and no farther.” While it may be that Gage disagrees with Calvin, although I don’t think Gage thinks he does, but it does seem to me that you diagree with Luther.
Luther obviously saw no problem with having statues or pictures of Christ, or for that matter, of the apostles or other biblical figures. I understand however why many reformers would of objected to their use, for it seems to me that the 16th Century Roman Church was very likely of using the art or the statue as the actual representation of God in many cases. The key, however for Luther, is how they are received. If they are used as objects to be worshiped themselves, this is wrong.
Which begs yet another question: If there is the danger that some might abuse these “images” in a way that is idolatrous, should we then take all images down lest such a mistake occur? Luther yet again makes a helpful observation. He notes that God has commanded us not to “lift our eyes unto the sun and other heavenly bodies in order to worship them,” and that “there are many people who worship the sun and the stars.” But then he adds: “Shall we, therefore, rashly attempt to pull the sun and the stars from the heavens? No we shall not do it. Furthermore, wine and women bring many a man to misery and make a fool of him. Shall we, therefore, kill all the women and pour out all the wine? Likewise, gold and silver cause much evil. Shall we, therefore, condemn them? Nay, if we wanted to drive away our worst enemy, who does us the most harm, we should have to kill ourselves; for we have no more injurious enemy that our own heart” (Ibid., p. 300)
Thus, the question regarding art in the church should not be “Is anyone using such a thing in an improper way?”, but “Is the church and its leaders encouraging us to use these things in an idolatrous fashion?” For there will always be people who use even the most innocent things in totally improper ways. But their abuse does not negate the possibility of their use. As the old Latin saying goes: Abusus non tolit usum, “abuse does not take away use.” In his Large Catechism Luther also repeats the saying “Abusus non tilit substantiam,” or “The abuse does not destroy the essence but confirms it,” “For gold is not less gold though a harlot wear it in sin and shame.” After his split with Karlstadt, Luther viewed externals with indifference, regarding Christians as free to have them or not. He thought religious artworks were “neither here nor there, neither evil nor good.” Luther saw Karlstadt’s prohibitions on images as just as restrictive of the freedom of a Christian as were the rules of the Papacy, and even as a form of works-righteousness.
Sorry for such a lengthy portion-
John the Curious Catholic
John and David,
While I may disagree with your exposition of Ex. 20- I decided to read Calvin’s Institues 1.11.12 to further investigate his thoughts. To be fair, it seems that Calvin indeed saw no place for images of any kind. I freely admit that I was wrong in thinking that Calvin wasn’t as strong in his stance against images as I thought. While I am not fully convinced that I agree with Him, (Yet) and that is a big (Yet), I will say that I am out of accord with Calvin on the matter, something that I didn’t think was necesarly true, but now after reading Calvin, I found that I am out of accord. A very precarious position, I know. So, I will study further, and may indeed change my position.
Here is the quote from Calvin:
Chapter 11- Section 12 of Volume One- has the title:
THE FUNCTIONS AND LIMITS OF ART
“And yet I am not gripped by the superstition of thinking absolutely no images permissible. But because sculpture and painting are gifts of God, I seek a pure and legitimate use of each, lest those things which the Lord has
conferred upon us for his glory and our good be not only polluted by perverse misuse but also turned to our destruction. We believe it wrong that God should be represented by a visible appearance, because he himself has forbidden it [<022004>Exodus 20:4] and it cannot be done without
some defacing of his glory. And lest they think us alone in this opinion, those who concern themselves with their writings will find that all wellbalanced
writers have always disapproved of it. If it is not right to
represent God by a physical likeness, much less will we be allowed to worship it as God, or God in it. Therefore it remains that only those things are to be sculptured or painted which the eyes are capable of seeing:
let not God’s majesty, which is far above the perception of the eyes, be debased through unseemly representations. Within this class some are histories and events, some are images and forms of bodies without any depicting of past events. The former have some use in teaching or admonition; as for the latter, I do not see what they can afford other than pleasure. And yet it is clear that almost all the images that until now have stood in churches were of this sort. From this, one may judge that these images had been called forth not out of judgment or selection but of foolish
and thoughtless craving. I am not saying how wickedly and indecently the greater part of them have been fashioned, how licentiously the painters and sculptors have played the wanton here — a matter that I touched upon a little earlier. I only say that even if the use of images contained nothing evil, it still has no value for teaching.”
To John the Curious Catholic- It seems that I am in disagreement with Calvin for now on the matter. That is somewhere this Calvinist does not like to be…
Earlier in my post I called you a sinner- etc… brother please know that it was in good fun and jest… I’m not sure if you took it that way. Sorry if I came across as offensive.
Gage, it was obvious you were having fun with me. I know you, and I know your sense of humor.
I know it was humor and I know it is true. The fact that we’re standing on two sides of an issue doesn’t make it any more offensive.
For it is not offensive to me.
Welcome back, John!
I’ve read your post and I will get to work on examine your points and I will get back to you ASAP.
So, what additional contribution do you have to the points made in the post itself about Solus Christus? How well did I do representing the Roman Catholic teachings regarding Mary and the Saints?
it seemed as fair as any fundamental evangelical could be… I’ll examine it further and let you know. The topic over images had been my primary focus.
john the cca
Good quotes from Luther. His is definitely the position I’d rather hold. However, the clear wording of the commandment states, first, don’t make things that are going to represent God; then don’t bow down to it or serve it.
If you do the first, but think you’re not doing the second, then you’re condemned by the Law.
Isn’t that the way Jesus applies the Law? Just when we think we’ve got the Law in a nice, neat little box where we can observe it outwardly and continue to do as we please, we’d better think twice.
Sorry that Reformation Theology comes off as anti-Catholic sometimes; after all, wasn’t the Roman Catholic Church the institution the Reformers were intending to Reform? There’s anti-Catholic, and then there’s anti-Catholic. Believe me, this is nothing compared to the anti-Catholicism real “fundamentalists” are capable of!
It’s not like I’m advocating some violent iconoclastic riot! I still believe in live and let live. It’s more important that I not violate God’s Law or my conscience than it is for me to make sure that those who treat the “gray areas” with broader borders than mine don’t violate MY conscience. Although, as David McCrory exemplifies so well, I do have some responsibility as a Christian to address issues in a Christian manner with those who may be actually violating God’s Law.
It’s ultimately between ourselves and God how narrowly or broadly we interpret his Word. It would still be a sin for one who interprets the 2nd commandment in the narrower sense to violate his conscience on the matter, until he is thoroughly convinced of the correctness of the broader view.
I read your post about Solus Christus and I must say that many of the points you raised are part of why I am leaving the RCC and moving toward the Reformation.
One note of clarity…You said
“Thus by this unscriptural doctrine, Christ alone is not enough to ensure our eternal salvation; he requires the assistance of his mother and the most worthy of his disciples. It cannot be urged too strongly to flee any doctrine that does not center on redemption SOLUS CHRISTUS, in Christ Alone! Certainly a gospel that requires such an elaborate team of Redeemers is a gospel that differs from the one originally proclaimed by the apostles.”
This may be the official position of the Church, but not one that I have ever heard preached or taught. With all sincerity, I have been trained at a Catholic Seminary as well as trained to be a Deacon in my Parish. This is not a stated doctrine among clergy. I do believe however, that you may infer this to be the logical outcome of Roman Theology. But I stress this is not taught to normal Roman Seminary students or parishoners. While I was taught to esteem her as one who is blessed of God, I did not ever feel that I worshiped her. While there may be the worship of Mary, it is a quiet doctrine. One of the things that drove me to the point of being curious about the Reformation, other than reading Calvin on the Mass was the idea of “who is my mediator”? The scripture is clear enough, that it is Christ alone. This is the glaring doctrine that seems to be a boar in my vineyard. The idea that there is one mediator was the sticking point for me. But, beware of any caricature that alludes to the fact that Roman Catholics don’t think they are saved by Christ. The Roman Church has always taught that salvation in any one else save Christ.
Roman Catholic Catechism:
452 The name Jesus means “God saves”. The child born of the Virgin Mary is called Jesus, “for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21): “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
453 The title “Christ” means “Anointed One” (Messiah).Jesus is the Christ, for “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:38). He was the one “who is to come” (Lk 7:19), the object of “the hope of Israel” (Acts 28:20).
454 The title “Son of God” signifies the unique and eternal relationship of Jesus Christ to God his Father: he is the only Son of the Father (cf. Jn 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18); he is God himself (cf. Jn 1:1). To be a Christian, one must believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (cf. Acts 8:37; 1 Jn 2:23).
455 The title “Lord” indicates divine sovereignty. To confess or invoke Jesus as Lord is to believe in his divinity. “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit'” (I Cor 12:3).
Hope this helps.
John the CC
John my Curious Friend,
While I understand that you may have not had this taught at seminary nor taught in your deacon training or preached in your Church, regardless, there is an official position given to Maryology by the Church. Here it is:
– The following random quotes from the book Ten Series of Meditations on the Mystery of the Rosary, by John Ferraro, is intended to give an overview of
Roman Catholic dogma concerning the Virgin Mary. Ferraro’s book was given the Nihil Obstat and the Imprimatur, which is an official statement by the Roman
Catholic Church that the book “is free of doctrinal or moral error.” Therefore, we can take these quotes as official Roman Catholic doctrine:
(a) She [Mary] is co-Redemptrix of the human race.
(b) The church and the saints greet her thus: “You, O Mary, together with Jesus Christ, redeemed us.”
(c) God has ordained that no grace will be granted to us except through Mary. It is a doctrine preached by all the saints that no grace will come to us
from heaven without passing through Mary’s hands. No one will be saved nor obtain mercy except through You, O’ heavenly lady. Remember this well,
no one will enter heaven without passing through Mary as one would pass through a door. O’ Mary, our salvation is in your hands.
(d) During His passion, Mary suffered in her heart all the pains that Jesus suffered in His body. For this reason, God exalted her so greatly.
(e) Mary is our co-Redemptrix because she gave us Jesus pledge of our salvation. Furthermore, she is co-Redemptrix of the human race, because with
Christ she ransomed mankind from the power of Satan.
(f) Jesus redeemed us with the blood of His body, Mary with the agonies of her heart.
(g) We were condemned through the fault of one woman; we are saved through the merits of another woman. Just as Eve was the root of death for
everyone, so Mary was the source of life for everyone.
(h) Mary is our co-Redemptrix because she suffered in her heart whatever was lacking in the passion of Christ. Are we obligated to Jesus for His
passions? — so we are indebted to Mary for her participation in His passions. She gave birth to Jesus with joy; she gave birth to us, brothers of Jesus,
in anguish and sorrow.
(i) Mary, Queen of the Apostles: She is queen of apostles because she formed them and directed them in their preaching. Mary is Queen of Apostles
because by herself she routed all the heresies. Mary is Queen of Apostles because she is mother of grace and channel of mercy. She is Queen of
Apostles because in her every hope is life and virtue. She is Queen of Apostles because she is conqueror of the Infernal Dragon. (Emphasis added.)
(j) If we spread devotion to Mary, we will gain heaven — “Who explains me will have life everlasting.”
(k) God shared His power with her [Mary]. “My mother, ask, for I must not turn away your face.” Christ speaking to Mary: “Without your command,
no one shall move hand or foot in the whole land.”
(l) All grace is passed from God to Jesus, from Jesus to Mary, and from Mary to us. The grace of God, cure for our ills, comes to us through Mary like
water through an aqueduct.
(m) Mary is the compliment of the Holy Spirit. Before God she asks not — she commands!
(n) No true devotee of Mary will be damned because she is the terrible conqueror of the devil.
(o) Because she believed in Christ’s mission of salvation, she became the co-Redemptrix of the whole human race.
(p) Mary is holier than the saints, loftier than the heavens, more glorious than the cherubim, more venerable than any other creature.
(q) No one can acquire an intimate union with Jesus and a perfect fidelity to the Holy Spirit without being greatly united with Mary.
(r) It is necessary for us to have a mediator besides Jesus as mediator, and we will never find one more qualified than Mary.
Very interesting comments; and how refreshing to hear that what Protestants warn against as mariolatry is more evidenced in the official teachings than it is disseminated among the laity. There is true to the fact that things aren’t always as bad as they seem, and that may in some ways be true of the Roman Catholic Church, but I think you’re definitely right to seek greener pastures in the Reformation emphasis of Solus Christus. If he alone isn’t our mediator, then we’re hopeless, for even Mary herself in the Magnificat rejoices in “God her SAVIOR.” Only sinners need a Savior, and the “Mother of God” is among us as in need of a Savior.
Unfortunately, these were the only two short essays I wrote regarding the Solas when my Protestant friends were considering the Roman Catholic Church. I’ve really been interested in your replies from the official Roman Catholic doctrine. May your continued studies in Reformation theology prove fruitful, and may you rest in the hope of justification before God by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone!
I have learned over time to take Luther with a grain of salt. He was the spark that lighted the Reformation (not forgetting the many before him, though), yet he was definitely not it’s greatest light. The Reformation in Germany took on a different flavor than that of Geneva or even in Scotland or England. There would be many areas where I (along with English and Scot-Irish Presbyterians) would differ with Luther, his sacramentology and ecclesiology being two prominent places. As one who most comfortable identifies with the Covenanters, I have no problem disagreeing with Luther over his use of images. Remember, he never intended to leave Rome, merely reform it. If having to choose between Luther and Calvin, I’d go with Calvin every time.
I agree that in general Calvin was more thorough of a Reformer than was Luther. Things that I’ve read about Luther have indicated that there were several areas in which he remained satisfied with Medieval interpretations at the expense of older, more apostolic interpretations. Which is why it is unpersuasive to counteract Calvin with Luther in my book. Although Luther’s logic or words by themselves are very respectable and, barring alternatives, would definitely be more influential.
I’m in agreement with both your sentiments regarding Luther. However, it seems to me that both of you discount his impact on the Reformation. Calvin himself thought highly of Luther. Calvin said, “He may call me a dog, but I will call him Master.” Luther himself, re-discovered the Gospel, which had been lost. It is hard in my estimation to ascribe to him a level of brightness as David wants to do. I don’t see how any Protestant could diminish Luther. While I have disagreements with him, the Reformation owes a great deal of debt to him. Don’t forget Calvin didn’t want to have any Reformation at one time, but would have rather had a discussion among scholars instead. Only Later would Calvin decide to get into the fray, much in the same way Luther did.
To prefer Calvin’s judgment to Luther’s is not to diminish Luther’s greatness, but to keep in mind that, after all, Calvin’s work was a more thorough and biblical reformation than Luther’s. Just as Farel was a feisty pioneer in Geneva, but handed off the work to Calvin, so, by comparison, may it be said between Luther and Calvin. Luther pioneered in the work which Calvin later refined and perfected.
Therefore, if it comes down to a question of whose interpretation is more trustworthy to Calvinists, is it unreasonable to err on the side of the namesake of the system?
I’m sure David loves Luther just as much as I do.
I agree about Calvin’s Systematizing of Theology, but I don’t want to be guilty of downplaying Luther’s role in the Reformation. Remember it was Luther’s sermons and Luther’s Gospel of Sola Fide that was being read at the University of Paris by Nicholas Cop (Calvin’s Friend) that caused Calvin to flee Paris in the first place. Luther was not just a feisty pioneer. He wasn’t just a spark- he was the flame and the gasoline!
He did his own work of theology before Calvin was born. I see many Calvinists today downplaying Luther’s contributions to the Reformation, simply because of their disagreement with him on the sacraments. My point in my last blurb was to the point that David and many other Calvnists, tend to downplay his life and work, by saying he never wanted to leave the Roman Church, therefore, implying that he brought baggage into his reformation. Remember, Calvin was the most reluctant of all Reformers, and brought his own baggage to the Reformation- so that same accusation could be made about Calvin, that David brings up about Luther.
I guess I want to call Luther more than just a pioneer, that Calvin built on. Calvin was only 8 years old when the 95 thesis were nailed. And Calvin called Luther, “Father” a term not thrown around willy nilly.
Also, I can’t help but think that Luther unlike Calvin was first and foremost a pastor- (which is why many think him, not a theologian). Calvin was eventually a Pastor- but regrettably…(he said he only wanted to study and argue with his books). I tend to think that Luther being a Pastor wasn’t as worried with systematizing doctrine as much as Calvin. Although, to say that he was no theologian is bad, simply because, if it wasn’t for his theology of the Cross, and the recovery of the Sola’s… (I wonder where we would be).
Luther was a theologian of the first order… although I have disagreements with him.
Another thought on Luther as more than a spark! Luther’s theology spread like wildfire, throughout Europe! That is why it got to Paris at the University while Calvin was there. Remember, the flames of the Reformation spread to Paris in the matter of about 9 years. That in my mind is more than a spark! It’s an wildfire!
Got it. Luther, “Father”, not pioneer; theologian, not just pastor; wildfire, not spark.
You know John, I can’t help but think how funny that was on your part, I have been laughing for five minutes… and I can’t get over how silly I sound… sorry for beating the dead horse… I am off the caffeine now at 11:30 pm… WOW!\\
Back to basics! Sorry I get off track-
Reel me in Cap’n
Well, I was having fun boasting about my numbers on this string of comments. Perhaps I could nit-pick some minute detail and keep you spurred to continue adding comments, but the well’s about run dry!
This was a great misadventure! I’m glad you were part of it.
Hey, I just have to post so that I can boost the numbers around here!
Honestly, though, I did enjoy this discussion. I do have to side with Gage. I just think that to outlaw all art (depicting Christ or God) is beyond the scope of what was in view with the giving of the 10 commandments. I think it is making the text say too much.
Think about this, when Christ was incarnate, his human form was not anything super special. People could see it and yet not know he was God. There was a time, then, that you could see God–Jesus. But that God was in human form. The face of Jesus–exactly how he looked–is not important. It was not meant to be. An art form depicting Jesus, that is not meant to place extreme importance on what Jesus looked like–that is not meant to be venerated and worshipped, should be okay.
I am not sure if the argument I just gave makes sense, but it coupled with what seems to be a plain reading of the text combine to allow me to join Gage and chalk up Calvin’s position to being based on an overreaction against Rome (possibly).
Again, it was a profitable discussion.
God bless you all.