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Painted and Graven Images as Representation

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on earth beneath or in the waters below.” (Exodus 20:4, NIV)

Museo De Intramuros

A statement that explains the use of religious images as representation is posted at the second level of the Museo De Intramuros, Manila, Philippines. It refers to the Nicean Council (787 A.D.) and The Council of Trent (1545-1563) and the long history of the use of such icons in the Catholic Church to justify such practice. The Nicean council considers it the “unwritten ecclesiastical traditions that have been entrusted to us, which provides confirmation that the becoming man of the Word of God was real and not just imaginary, and as it brings us a similar benefit. For, things that mutually illustrate one another undoubtedly possess one another’s message.“ (papalencyclicals.net)

Museo De Intramuros. Photo: Althea Carisse Lastrilla

We cannot deny the fact that “images enhance the homage people pay to what they represent.” (Council of Trent.) This is also true in the case of Protestants, we do not use graven images but almost all protestants and evangelical churches use the image of the Cross to represent Christ and his atoning sacrifice. Some use painted emblems such as, doves, the face of a lion, eagle, etc. Such emblems enhance their knowledge of Christ and his works and aid in the understanding of doctrines.

The use of images in religious rites is a concrete example mediation and the use of “points of contact” (see kapeatkamalayan.com/experiencing-christ-through-the-black-nazarene). It does not only enhance the homage but religious icons serve as means by which miraculous powers are transferred to people like in the case of the Devotion to the Black Nazarene of Quiapo, Manila, Philippines.

For the evangelicals, we believe that “there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5, NIV). Furthermore, John 1:18 states that “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him (NASB) that is, he showed men who God is and what he is (RWP).

Since the Nicean and Trent Councils were made within the context of ecumenism, it will be good if all of us will endeavor to promote unity and mutual understanding among churches.

References:

MySword Bible for RWP

Bible Gateway: biblegateway.com

papalencyclicals.net

britanica.com

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