"Pieta", c 1499, by Michelangelo
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: 1.11.3
Deuteronomy 4:15-19 - “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. 19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the Lord your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven."
Isaiah 40:18-19 - "To whom then will you liken God,
or what likeness compare with him?
19 An idol! A craftsman casts it,
and casts for it silver chains."
Calvin continues his polemic of idolatry, with the condemnation of figurative representations of God:
My thoughts thus far:
- It seems that all of Calvin's Scriptural arguments are in fact talking about idolatry, and not specifically about a sculpture that might be created. Notice also that the verses in Deuteronomy are given to be us as, "watch yourself" and "beware".
- Perhaps, as this section of Calvin's treatise is specifically about God (as he has yet to introduce Christ), Calvin's objection to images, and/or figures is specifically to images and figures of God, and not intended to include Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The Bible does give us specific visual representations of both of these members of the holy Trinity.
- I continue to be persuaded that as God has not given us to specifically see him, and that as such, anything we create would indeed diminish his holiness, that perhaps any such desires to represent God, in the material, is a wrong desire. God is spirit, how can we reduce him to the corporal?
- In regards to my above example of Christ, in Michelangelo's Pieta, all must be careful not to pray to such sculptures, as some are inclined to do. But as Christ was given to the corporal, it would seem that to represent him as such, is appropriate and perhaps even beneficial to us. Again, with the strict warning not to give ourselves into idolatry, by giving the sculpture more due than a mere representation of a historical event and/or person.
These are my thoughts thus far, what think ye?