It has long been noted in the Reformed tradition that pictures of Christ were seen as violation of the second commandment, “You shall not make for yourself a carved 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.” (Exodus 20:4).
Question 109 of the Westminster Longer Catechism answers, when raising ‘What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?’:
“The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, … the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever…”
Likewise, Question 98 of the Heidelberg Catechism which posits: ‘But may not pictures be tolerated in churches as books for the people?’ answers it by stating:
“No, for we should not be wiser than God, who will not have His people taught by dumb idols, but by the lively preaching of His Word.”
This position is also taken by John Owen, one of the ablest proponents of Puritan theology, who in his The Glory of Christ (1679) argues:
“Many there are who, not comprehending, not being affected with, that divine, spiritual description of the person of Christ which is given us by the Holy Ghost in the Scripture, do feign unto themselves false representations of him by images and pictures, so as to excite carnal and corrupt affections in their minds. By the help of their outward senses, they reflect on their imaginations the shape of a human body, cast into postures and circumstances dolorous or triumphant; and so, by the working of their fancy, raise a commotion of mind in themselves, which they suppose to be love unto Christ. But all these idols are teaches of lies. The true beauty and amiableness of the person of Christ, which is the formal object and cause of divine love, is so far from being represented herein, as that the mind is thereby wholly diverted from the contemplation of it. For no more can be so pictured unto us but what may belong unto a mere man, and what is arbitrarily referred unto Christ, not by faith, but by corrupt imagination.”
Thomas Watson, another well-known Puritan, on his exposition of the Ten Commandments (1692), states:
“If it is not lawful to make the image of God the Father, yet may we not make an image of Christ, who took upon him the nature of man? No! Epiphanies, seeing an image of Christ hanging in a church, brake it in pieces. It is Christ’s Godhead, united to his manhood, that makes him to be Christ; therefore to picture his manhood, when we cannot picture his Godhead, is a sin, because we make him to be but half Christ – we separate what God has joined, we leave out that which is the chief thing which makes him to be Christ.”
Such additional arguments against the creation and use of such images can be also found among the writings of Calvin, Karlstadt, A’Brakel, Voetius, Fisher, Gill, Hodge, Pink, Vos, Murray and Packer.
Yet we are acutely aware that there are many books, good books even, that are currently published which do not subscribe to the general Reformed position on the Second Commandment. However, we don’t believe that this should necessarily prevent believers from perusing the helpful content in such volumes. As such, we are making these packs of ten 50 x 50mm stickers available for those who subscribe to this position in order to help avoid violations of conscience.
We wouldn’t be surprised if this receives ridicule or laughs, but we earnestly want to serve our brethren in this way which we believe is entirely consistent with the Reformed tradition.