Images of Christ, Part 2
Images [of Christ] undermine the supremacy and sufficiency of the means of grace which is a vital organizing concept for reformed ecclesiology, missiology, and piety. Means of grace and images of Christ are antithetical to each other.
This and the previous article show that images of Christ undermine various essential doctrines, not simply an essential doctrine. Let us continue setting forth the reasons why. First, it undermines the doctrine of the bodily resurrection and ascension of Christ. Consider WLC question 53 which states, “How was Christ exalted in his ascension? Answer:
Christ was exalted in his ascension, in that having after his resurrection often appeared unto and conversed with his apostles, speaking to them of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God, and giving them commission to preach the gospel to all nations, forty days after his resurrection, he, in our nature, and as our head, triumphing over enemies, visibly went up into the highest heavens, there to receive gifts for men, to raise up our affections to where He is, and to prepare a place for us, where he himself is, and will continue until his second coming at the end of the world.”
Note a few things. The Catechism teaches that Christ in our nature visibly went up into the highest heavens and that we are to raise our affections to where He presently is visibly. This means that Christ being visible in the throne room of God in true flesh is to be where our affections are to be regularly directed. Our minds and thoughts are to be directed to where He is embodied in heaven, not pictured below. This implies that any embodiment of Christ on earth (whether by statues, movies, or drawings) assumes that His bodily presence in heaven is an insufficient and/or inappropriate embodiment. Indirectly applied, it means, by implication, that by making Christ visible below it assumes that something is wrong with His present visibility above. With that logic, unless Christ can be seen below, His visibility above lacks efficacy and or sufficiency. The necessity of making Christ visible below undermines His embodied efficacy high above and, in so doing, distracts the Christian from setting His affections where Christ is seated above.
The scriptures tell us to find comfort in the knowledge that Christ is visibly in heaven. This is why question WLC question 55 states, “How does Christ make intercession? Answer:
Christ makes intercession, by his appearing in our nature continually before the Father in heaven, in the merit of his obedience and sacrifice on earth, declaring his will to have it applied to all believers.”
Christ’s humanity appearing in our nature continually above means that we do not need to make Him visible anywhere else because He is indeed actually visible where it is essential for Him to be so. To make images of Christ below is to declare that His true incarnate self as seen above is deficient. God perfectly made His Son visible and to make Him visible is to presumptuously assume that the Father’s work needs human improvement. Making Christ visible consequently assaults the doctrine of the incarnation rather than affirming it.
Second, it undermines the efficacy of the word of God and the sacraments. In Galatians 3:1 Christ is said to be vividly portrayed as crucified through the verbal proclamation of Christ. This is to say that in the word of Christ in the Spirit through faith, the Saint indeed sees Christ vividly. WLC question 89 states that God especially makes the preaching of the word of God an effectual means to convince and convert. Chapter 25:3 states, “Unto this catholic visible church Christ hath given the ministry, oracles, and ordinances of God for the gathering and perfecting of the saints in this life to the end of the world and doth, by His own presence and Spirit, according to His promise make them effectual thereunto.” The making of images of Christ seriously undermines the ability of the word of Christ to effectually portray Christ.