Q 96. What is God’s will for us in the second commandment?
A 96. That we in no way make any image of God nor worship him in any other way than has been commanded in God’s Word.
Q 97. May we then not make any image at all?
A 97. God can not and may not be visibly portrayed in any way.
Although creatures may be portrayed, yet God forbids making or having such images if one’s intention is to worship them or to serve God through them.
Q 98. But may not images be permitted in churches in place of books for the unlearned?
A 98. No, we should not try to be wiser than God. God wants the Christian community instructed by the living preaching of his Word—not by idols that cannot even talk.
Why does it seem like the inside of churches is so drab? Especially in Protestant churches, the walls are often quite plain and the decor can seem… well… less than inspired. While this might not be true of all churches, in many cases plain is the name of the game. But why?
At the time of the reformation, there was a great push by the reformers to remove the icons and imagery from the church. One of the chief fears and complaints about much of the art work that is present, much of which you can see in old cathedrals in Europe, is that the art itself became the center of worship rather than what it was meant to point to.
The same is true with icons and with relics. These things are “infused” with special spiritual meaning and intended to be a way of helping the people of God focus on God. However, over time these things became the objects of worship themselves. People kiss images of Mary and other saints; are we honoring God with that, or the person whose image is portrayed?
Granted, everyone answers to God for their own heart, but if the Church is promoting such idolatry, isn’t that a problem that it should address?
The reformers said “yes.” Their response was to remove almost everything artistic from the church. Many great master pieces were lost during that time as Protestants took over places of worship and rid them of their so called idolatry.
Many would ask if this was the right way to go. It certainly was a response that was the otherside of the pendulum swing. For them, there was no middle ground.
Yet God is a God of beauty; His artistry can be seen throughout creation. He also created us with a creative spirit and gifts to bring that creativity out. No doubt He desires us to use these gifts in ways that honor Him.
What is important about this week’s Lord’s Day is the nature in which that happens. So much can be drawn from artwork. Themes, emotions, and even metaphors can be found there in ways that are not possible anywhere else. Indeed, these gifts should be celebrated. However, it is also important that we remember
However, it is also important that we remember that these creations are not meant to be worshipped, but instead to direct our focus to the gift giver: God. He is the ultimate creator, the one who holds the universe in His hands. He alone is to be worshipped and adored.