Pictures "de-present" Christ—much more than they "re-present" him. The purpose of this book is to call Christians back to the Bible for their revelation of who Christ is.
The pictures everybody uses to represent Christ are not pictures of Christ at all. They are forbidden by Scripture. They are rooted in a non-biblical monistic idea of God—akin to pantheism. They become idolatrous, not just when they are "worshiped," but at the moment they are given the name of Christ. They redirect Christian worship, Christian education, evangelism and missions: they head the church into naturalistic and monistic interpretations of the Bible.
Following is a general overview of the book. Readers may want to glance at the first two sections to get the introductory orientation, and then skip to the third section to get into the reasons why such pictures should not be called "pictures of Christ," and then skip to the church history part.
The first part of the book notes world-wide usage of pictures to represent Christ. This formats people's minds, making them not see anything about Christ that does not fit those pictures.
The second part has three chapters showing why a study of the theology of pictures to represent Christ is so badly needed today. (1) Christ is Yahweh God. Later it will be seen that we cannot make an image or likeness of Yahweh. (2) The adequacy of the Scriptural revelation of Christ shows pictures to be unneeded by those who understand the Bible—so why not teach the Bible to everybody? (3) Pictures to represent Christ are based upon a monism of God and the picture. This monism changes "God" into a created being.
The third part gets into some things the Bible says against using pictures to represent God. The second commandment of the Decalogue is basic: the Law forbids such pictures. So what happens to persons who use images to represent God? The Golden Calves were made to represent God—even the Second Member of the Trinity. Their story shows the idolatry of those who make images to represent the holy God known as Yahweh.
The fourth part answers some questions that come from people who defend images. (1) Doesn't the Bible itself use anthropomorphisms for God, and doesn't this justify our making images to represent God? No, although the Old Testament does use so very many anthropomorphisms for God, the same Old Testament makes it clear that we corrupt ourselves if we make or use images of these anthropomorphisms—so the Old Testament thus tells us not to try to make pictures of Jesus, the ultimate anthropomorphism. (2) Another question pertains to the fact that God made man in the "image of God." Doesn't this justify our making images too represent God? Maybe it would, if the image of God were a physical image shaped like a human being. But the image of God is a spiritual thing, and our pictures corrupt our concept of the true image of God. (3) Then comes the objection, "But they're just symbols!" The answer is, Symbols, yes, but they are forbidden symbols—forbidden by the Bible for good reasons. (4) The most common justification of making pictures to represent Christ derives from the fact of Christ's incarnation. But our pictures corrupt our understanding of the Incarnation's two natures in the one Person of Christ. Examine what the church councils said. [The chapter about the church councils is now in the church history section.—Ed.]
The final section looks at four eras of church history. (1) It is a surprise, and contrary to popular opinion, to find that the Early Church rejected pictures to represent Christ. (2) It was several hundred years before the church started to use such images, but they finally became so popular that it became Roman Catholic doctrine to require their usage. (3) Then the Reformation churches got rid of these forbidden images—and the reformation spread. (4) But now the modern Protestant churches use pictures to represent Christ like the Catholics do. Why? This study identifies a number of reasons why such pictures are used in today's church. None justify the pictures.