This post is part of my year long study of Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion. To facilitate this course of study, I am following along with Princeton Theological Seminary's "A Year with the Institutes", which also includes an audio reading of the text.
Calvin's Institutes: 1.11.2
In further contemplating John Calvin's concerns with images, and figurative representations, I can certainly understand, and completely agree with many of his concerns.
Here is a photograph that I shot in the heart of the Roman Catholic Church, at St. Peter's Basilica.
This bronze statue, of the Apostle Peter, clearly has significant value assigned to it beyond a piece of art representing a possible likeliness of Peter.
While we were in the basilica, hundreds of people were lined up to rub the foot of St. Peter. In so doing, the "faithful" believed that this would bring them good luck, while some believed that this might preclude St. Peter to open the "pearly gates" to let them in, when they die. Here are many examples from flickr.
First of all, let me be clear, I had no interest in rubbing the foot of this statue. Why would I, unless I was willing to assign it some value beyond its bronze?
Herein, lies the rub! Hah Hah! No pun intended...well...maybe some intention given to the pun.
It would seem to me, that this statue, in and of itself, is not an idol. However, the behavior of thousands of people each day, do in fact, seem to elevate it to such a thing.
Therefore, if Rome were to call me today, and offer me this statue, free of charge, I would deny the thing. Millions have touched, prayed to, hoped through, and perhaps even worshiped this thing. What would I have to do with it, but throw it into the deepest sea!
So, here I stand clearly with Calvin. This, in my opinion, is clearly people placing hope, faith, trust, or something in an inanimate object, instead of solely and clearly in the one, true, and holy God.
To this, I am certain that God is angry.