Iconoclasm (Updated)


TITLE

"Iconoclasm" [1] as opposed to Iconography

KEYWORDS

attributes, icons, iconoclasm, idols, idolatry, imagery, representations, veneration, wallpapers, graven images, religious icons

PROOF-TEXTS

Ex. 20v3-5, 32v4-5; Deut. 4v12-16; 1 Kgs. 12v28; Is. 3v12; Hab. 2v18; Zech. 10v2; Rom. 1v21-23; 2 Cor. 5v16, 6v16; 1 Jn. 5v20-21

"They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image. Thus they changed Their glory into the similitude of an ox that eateth grass." (Ps. 106v19-20, AKJV, p.281)
"The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not; They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths. They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them" (Ps. 135v15-18; KJV)
"To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto Him?" (Is. 40v18, AKJV, p.321)
"But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him." (2 Cor. 11v3-4)

TEXT

"To whom then will ye liken God?" (Is. 40v18)

INTRODUCTION

Today, Iconography (the visual representation of God) is very common. Pictures of the Divine are found in churches and homes alike.

We find them on stained glass windows, in church foyers and living rooms, even 'Christian' schoolrooms. We find them on 'Christian' television, billboards, publications (including family Bibles), and sometimes, even behind the pulpit. The vast majority of 'Christian' bookstores sell a wide variety of these items - containing anything and everything, from the effeminate 'Northern European Messiah' to the grotesquely muscular Conan-like versions of Christ.

Even in the Reformed Churches (which, historically, ought to know better) pictures of the 'Suffering Servant' are fairly common in Sunday School materials.

The question is, "Are they merely acceptable works of art, as long as they are not worshipped in His stead?", or "Do they violate Scripture?".

THE SECOND COMMANDMEND

"Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me" (Ex. 20v3-5, KJV)

The Second Commandment are often sighted in defense of Iconoclasm and condemnation of Iconography. But is this correct? Let's see.

ICONOCLASM THROUGHOUT HISTORY

John Calvin (1509-1564)

Calvin took "a strong polemical stand against the Catholic Church, argueing that images of God lead to idolatry" [2].

J.C. Philpot (1802-1869)

"From this natural religion in the mind of man, a relic of the fall, sprang the first idea of idolatry — for the original knowledge of God being lost, the mind of man sought a substitute, and that substitute is an idol — the word, like the similar term "image", signifying a shape or figure, a representation or likeness of God. Against this therefore, the second commandment in the Decalogue is directed. Now, this idea of representing God by some visible image being once established by the combined force of depraved intellect and conscience, the debased mind of man soon sought out channels for its lusts and passions to run in, which religion might consecrate; and thus the devilish idea was conceived and carried out, to make a god of SIN. Thus bloodshed, lust, theft, with every other crime, were virtually turned into gods named Mars, Venus, Mercury, and so on; and then came the horrible conclusion, that the more sin there was committed, the more these gods were honored. Need we wonder at the horrible debasement of the heathen world, and the utter prostration of moral principles produced by the worship of idols — or at the just abhorrence and wrath of God against idolatry?" [14]

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

But why didn't God want graven images of His person?

When God 'appeared' to Moses, He spoke to him "out of the fire" (Deut. 4v12). Moses "saw no similitude" (Deut. 4v12), he only heard God's Word. The reason for this was to prevent Moses from creating a graven image, and thereby corrupting himself.

"And the Lord spake unto you out of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude: only ye heard a voice... Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female." (Deut. 4v12, v15-16, AKJV, p.90)

OBJECTIONS

But the Ten Commandments are no longer binding

While many reformers believed that the first and second commandment decreed images as an abomination, Luther however, believed that since this was from the Old Testament, it was no longer binding on the New Testament Christian.

What Luther seems to have missed, is that the Apostle Paul also condemned the practice in the New Testament.

"Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things." (Rom. 1v21-23, KJV)
"Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more." (2 Cor. 5v16, AKJV, p.513)

Furthermore, that which is condemned in the Old Testament is not justified in the New Testament.

But I don't worship these images

Well, as I've shown above, that is NOT the issue. God's objection to representations of His person is NOT only directed against it's possible worship, but against it's very existence. (Rom. 1v21-23)

But then we are also idols, since, according to Genesis chapter 1 verses 26 to 27 we were created in the 'Image' or 'Likeness' of God

Amongst those who promulgate this objection on MySpace®, we find a lady by the name of Giulia [15]; a guy called 1messiahJC [16]; as well as a self-proclaimed 'Jesus' [17].

In light of Exodus chapter 20 verse 4, 'Jesus' confirms the argument on his MySpace® web log as follow:-

"So not only can you not make heavenly images, but you can not make earthly ones [either]. Which if taken literally would mean you could not even make a painting of a rose, or take a photograph of yourself. Because according to Genesis all of humanity is made in the image of God. So, if I am an idolater, then so are you." [17]

So let's look at the above objection a bit closer.

When God said, in Genesis chapter 1 verse 26, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." did He suggest, for one moment, that He is 5 foot 7 inches with blond hair and blue eyes? Or handicapped (since He also created the handicapped)? Is dumb (since He created the dumb)? Or deaf (since He created the deaf)? Or that we are Gods, as some have already suggested?

No. When God "created man in His own image" (Gen. 1v27), He did not create little gods. Neither did He seek to visually represent Himself. It was spiritual.

Not only is this the testimony of Scripture; but it is also that of prominent theologians like Prof. Dr. John Calvin (1509-1564); John Wesley; Adam Clarke; Dr. Robert Jamieson (1802-1880), A.R. Fausset (1821-1910) and Prof. Dr. David Brown (1803-1897).

In commenting on Genesis chapter 1 verse 26, Prof. Dr. John Calvin (1509-1564) writes:

"The Anthropomorphites were too gross in seeking this resemblance in the human body; let that reverie therefore remain entombed... Since the image of God had been destroyed in us by the fall, we may judge from its restoration what it originally had been. Paul says that we are transformed into the image of God by the gospel. And, according to him, spiritual regeneration is nothing else than the restoration of the same image. (Colossians 3:10 and Ephesians 4:23) That he made this image to consist in righteousness and true holiness, is by the figure synecdochee; for though this is the chief part, it is not the whole of God's image. Therefore by this word the perfection of our whole nature is designated, as it appeared when Adam was endued with a right judgment, had affections in harmony with reason, had all his senses sound and well-regulated, and truly excelled in everything good. Thus the chief seat of the Divine image was in his mind and heart, where it was eminent: yet was there no part of him in which some scintillations of it did not shine forth." [18]

In commenting on the same passage, Matthew Henry (1662-1714) says:

"That man was made in God's image and after His likeness, two words to express the same thing and making each other the more expressive; 'image' and 'likeness' denote the likest image, the nearest resemblance of any of the visible creatures. Man was not made in the likeness of any creature that went before him, but in the likeness of his Creator; yet still between God and man there is an infinite distance. Christ only is the 'express' image of God's person, as the Son of His Father, having the same nature. It is only some of God's honor that is put upon man, who is God's image only as the shadow in the glass, or the king's impress upon the coin. God's image upon man consists in these three things:-- 1. In his nature and constitution, not those of his body (for God has not a body), but those of his soul... But it is the soul, the great soul, of man, that does especially bear God's image... 2. In his place and authority: 'Let us make man in our image, and let him have dominion.' As he has the government of the inferior creatures, he is, as it were, God's representative, or viceroy, upon earth; they are not capable of fearing and serving God, therefore God has appointed to fear and serve man. Yet his government of himself by the freedom of his will has in it more of God's image than his government of the creatures. 3. In his purity and rectitude. God's image upon man consists in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10. He was upright, Ecclesiastes 7:29.... Thus holy, thus happy, were our first parents, in having the image of God upon them." [19]

John Wesley's (1703-1791) then confirms the views of both Calvin and Henry, in his 'Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible', by declaring that:

"God's image upon man consists in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10. He was upright, Ecclesiastes 7:29.... Thus holy, thus happy, were our first parents, in having the image of God upon them. But how art thou fallen, O son of the morning? How is this image of God upon man defaced! How small the remains of it, and how great the ruins of it!" [20]

Adam Clarke's (1760-1832) 'Commentary on the Bible' on Genesis chapter 1 verse 26, says,

"What is said above refers only to the body of man, what is here said refers to his soul. This was made in the image and likeness of God. Now, as the Divine Being is infinite, He is neither limited by parts, nor definable by passions; therefore He can have no corporeal image after which He made the body of man. The image and likeness must necessarily be intellectual; his mind, his soul, must have been formed after the nature and perfections of his God... It was created after the image of God; and that image, St. Paul tells us, consisted in righteousness, true holiness, and knowledge, Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10." [21]

Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's 'Commentary Critical and Explanatory of the Whole Bible', adds:

"In our image, after our likeness-- This was a peculiar distinction, the value attached to which appears in the words being twice mentioned. And in what did this image of God consist? Not in the erect form or features of man, not in his intellect, for the devil and his angels are, in this respect, far superior; not in his immortality, for he has not, like God, a past as well as a future eternity of being; but in the moral dispositions of his soul, commonly called 'original righteousness' (Ec. 7:29). As the new creation is only a restoration of this image, the history of the one throws light on the other; and we are informed that it is renewed after the image of God in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. (Col. 3:10, Ep. 4:24)" [22]

Since man is therefore NOT a visual representation of God, as some have mistakenly assumed; and since the Old and New Testaments objects to nothing but the visual representations of God (Is. 40v18; Rom. 1v21-23; 2 Cor. 5v16), we are at liberty to photograph whatever we like.

It doesn't matter God sees my heart

There is a lie most prevalent today, that "God sees the intentions of the heart", or, "that the attitude of the heart is what God looks at"; and that in response He will excuse the grossest of doctrinal error and sin; solely on the basis of our ignorance.

While God did, historically provide some excuse for ignorance (Acts 14v16), it is no longer the case.

"And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead." (Acts 17v30-31, AKJV, p.491)

Adolf Hitler had "good intentions" for his Aryan Nation, whether you and I regard them as such, is of no consequence; both he and his followers did. The white supremacist with "good intention" upholds racial segregation. The Crusaders and Muslims of the 11th Century with "good intention" slaughtered millions. Roman Catholics with "good intention" martyred thousands of Protestant believers.

When many "good intentioned" Pharisees and Sadducees came to be baptized by John the Baptist, he rebuked them, saying, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Mt. 3v7; Lk. 3v7)

Christians are placing way too much emphasis on their "good intentions". If God had to consider our "good intentions", He would have had to allow for just about anything. We have to confess then, that indeed "the road to hell is paved with good intentions".

CONCLUSION

After much study, and much deliberation, I simply could not deny the overwhelming testimony of both, the Old- and New Testaments. As far as I am concerned, the above were sufficient to condemn iconography, once and for all. Whatever debate or objection one might call upon, there was no denying that by Biblical Definition: Iconography constitutes Idolatry. And Idolatry is a sin (Ep. 5v5) that corrupts us (Ex. 32v7; Deut. 4v12).

This issue here has nothing to do with personal preference or opinion; "the issue is most serious for in the Bible, idolatry is clearly spoken of as something God hates. Idolatry has always been the Achilles' Heel by which the people of God have been wounded and brought down." [7]

The sheer amount of vehement objections I have so far receive, should in and of itself, serves as a testimony to the powerful grip of idolatry within the modern church.

"The dearest idol I have known,
Whatever that idol be,
Help me to tear it from my heart,
And worship only Thee"
[14]

ADHERENTS

Andreas Karlstadt (1486–1541) [1] | Brian Schwertley [11] | Pastor EJ Hill (1977-) | Huldrych Zwingli (1484–1531) [1] | J.C. Philpot (1802-1869) [14] | Prof. Dr. John Calvin (1509-1564) [1|2] | Randall Paquette [6|9] | William Dowsing (1596–1668) [1]

» Richard Bennett [6|7|8|9] and J. Virgil Dunbar [7|8] of Berean Beacon. [6|7|8|9]

VIDEOS



BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Iconoclasm (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia; 27 September 2010)
2. John Calvin (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia; 27 September 2010)
3. Iconolatry (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia; 27 September 2010)
4. Byzantine Iconoclasm (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia; 27 September 2010)
5. Tore Kjeilen. Christian Iconoclasm (LookLex Encyclopedia; 27 September 2010)
6. Richard Bennett and Randall Paquette. Idolatry In The Church (Berean Beacon; 27 September 2010)
7. J. Virgil Dunbar and Richard Bennett. Idolatry in the Evangelical Camp: Pictures of 'Christ' or the Glory of God? (Berean Beacon; 27 September 2010)
8. Richard Bennett and J. Virgil Dunbar. The Passion of Christ: Mel Gibson's Vivid Deception (Berean Beacon; 27 September 2010)
9. Richard Bennett and Randall Paquette. The Practice of Idolatry Within the Church (Berean Beacon; 27 September 2010)
10. Catholic Idolatry (YouTube; 25 May 2009)
11. Brian Schwertley. Are Pictures of Christ Unbiblical? (Haslett, MI: Reformed Online Library; 2003)
12. Idolatrous Pictures Of Christ (Test All Things; 20 February 2008)
13. Official Idolatry Condemned Website (27 September 2010)
14. J.C. Philpot. The History of an Idol, its Rise, Reign and Progress (Grace Gems; October 1855)
15. Giulia (28 May 2007)
16. 1messiahJC (30 May 2007)
17. Jesus (28 May 2007)
18. Prof. Dr. John Calvin. Commentary On Genesis (Volume 1): Genesis 1:26 (28 May 2007)
19. Matthew Henry. Commentary on the Whole Bible: Genesis 1:26 (28 May 2007)
20. John Wesley. Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible: Genesis 1:26 (28 May 2007)
21. Adam Clarke. Commentary on the Bible: Genesis 1:26 (29 May 2007)
22. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown. Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible: Genesis 1:26 (29 May 2007)

REVISION

28-30.05.2007 / 18.06.2008 / 27.09.2010 / 30.09.2010 / 15.10.2010/ 17.10.2010 / 14.02.2011