Chapter Eighteen: Some Reasons Why the Modern Church Now Uses Deity Images

The early Protestant church (like the ancient early church) discipled its members to avoid using images to represent God—such images were to be seen as an abomination to God, but the modern church is diametrically opposite. The modern church disciples all its members to use images to represent Christ, the second Person of the Trinity. Sunday Schools today disciple the church to think such images picture Christ.

Why did the church switch from the Reformation’s “first order” theology (which did not use images to represent God) to today’s “second order” theology which uses countless images to represent God? The change occurred gradually.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, the “otherness” of God (the ontological transcendence of God) was being forgotten by Protestants. Now at the end of the twentieth century it appears that the monistic Catholic era is reestablished, at least on a practical level.

Pictures to represent Christ today are sacrosanct. They are considered orthodox, necessary, and profitable. They are printed and distributed by the millions. They are used by nearly all denominations. They are used by Sunday Schools everywhere. They are given to people around the world. They are displayed on the walls of homes and churches around the world. They form the world’s concept of Christ. They are the universal symbol for Christ.

Nor are pictures to represent Christ perceived to be idolatrous in this modern, monistic, theological climate. The modern definition of idolatry refers only to the worship of gods with non-Christian names or idolatry is defined as covetousness, materialism, or selfishness. Nobody stands up to say it is idolatry to put God’s name on a picture, especially if the picture is “intended” as an aid to Christian education or devotion.

Comparing “then” and “now” (the early Protestant church and the modern Protestant church), one would think our modern church is the Catholic church in this regard. While there are obvious differences in some church forms (some organizational ritual or doctrinal differences, etc.), now both Catholics and Protestants feel that the knowledge of God is known and mediated through images.

The Protestant church today probably uses more pictures to represent Christ than does the Catholic church. The two churches see each other no longer as enemies, but as separated brethren hoping to work out some kind of reunion. They no longer call each other “Antichrist.” There is no difference in their concept of God, and no general awareness that they once saw an ontological difference in their two concepts of God.

Granted, Catholics still may have more three-dimensional images than Protestants. But Protestants use so many pictures. The major difference between pictures (two-dimensional) and images (three-dimensional) is merely physical; psychologically, they both create the effect of having three dimensions. Pictures of people are nonsense if we do not mentally project the 3-D dimension of depth into the 2-D scale of heighth and width. In psychological effect, pictures are 3-D images.

Why did the Protestant church forget its original reformed concept of God and return to using Deity pictures? Many factors engendered the “Second Order” idea of God which now controls the modern Protestant church. A number of influences are identifiable. Some are clearly monistic; others contribute in some other significant way:

The Lutheran church, not long after the death of Luther, decided to return to a “moderate” Catholic position regarding the use of images: use them, but do not “worship” them. This position fails, of course, to recognize that God’s nature is such that images are inappropriate to represent it. This position slowly inherits the Catholic definitions of “worship” and “idolatry.”

The liberal movement in the Protestant church captured control of much of the church worldwide. It causes the church to doubt the uniqueness and authority of Scripture, and it substitutes an immanent God who is continuous with nature, not other than nature.

The name “Liberal” reflects their desire to break away from Biblical constraints and to accept other, diverse ideas of God. According to J. Gresham Machen (one of the American leaders against liberalism):
when the liberal preacher uses the word “God,” he means something entirely different from that which the Christian means by the same word.
The liberals’ God was not a person separate from the world; instead God was the unity that pervades the world. Consequently, when liberals said that Jesus is God, they really meant that the life of God appears in all men and with special clarity in Jesus. The liberals’ definition of the deity of Christ is diametrically opposed to the Christian belief in the Deity of Christ. (Machen, Christianity and Liberalism, p. 110.)
Liberalism, sometimes called modernism, changed the Protestant church. It assumed there is an essential unity (monism) of nature shared by God and the universe. Thus, it converted the word “God” into monistic categories; it opposed defining God as supernatural.

Liberalism’s control over Protestant churches began in the universities where ministers were trained. Those ministers became leaders in their denominations. They captured the positions of organizational leadership, and they gained control of the churches’ educational institutions and publishing houses. Monistic theology went forth to the worldwide Protestant church.

Liberalism polarized the Protestant churches. It forced out of the churches the conservative leaders who held to the inspiration of the Bible and the unique Deity of Christ. New denominations arose, started by those who could not accept liberalism’s monistic theology and christology. The Bible School movement arose, partly in reaction to the spread of liberalism. Churches needed Bible-believing schools for training their ministers.

The controversy over liberalism dominated the church for nearly two centuries. It is the old controversy between monists and those who believe God is other than world. Schleiermacher, Hegel, and Strauss were some of the key leaders of the liberal movement in its early stages. Their monistic theology, to practical purposes, robbed Christ of any true divinity. If they spoke of His divinity they meant that everything, not just Christ, has a spark of divinity basic to its nature.

The liberals, as monists, cannot believe that Christ has two natures—because monists cannot believe in the existence of two natures. They do not object to using pictures to represent Christ. Christ to them is the same as any other man. Christ is as divine as any man, but no more divine than any man. Pictures are as appropriate for him as for any man.

Schleiermacher, Hegel, and Strauss influenced countless people to think of Christ as merely a man (great man that he might have been). They provided monistic thought systems to convert the church’s concept of Christ into thinking of Christ as only a man. Schleiermacher emphasized a feeling of dependence that required a oneness of being between “God” and man: God revealed himself through man’s feelings, especially his feeling of dependence upon the greater One. Hegel emphasized knowledge and provided a dialectical method which assumed that “God” could be synthesized with anything else. Strauss began to turn Christ into a mythical being.

Schleiermacher ‘s Monistic Christology

A surprising insight into Schleiermacher’s day is to discover his concern to defend Protestantism from Catholic idolatry. Schleiermacher scorned persons who chose Roman Catholicism: they were “really in search of idolatry” which they tried to find “beyond the Alps” in the priesthood, sacraments, absolution, and salvation of the church. (269)

Schleiermacher (1768-1834), to our surprise, defined idols much like early Protestants did, focusing on idols as handmade symbols of the Eternal. An idol is something that can be made and “foolishly and perversely set up to represent the Eternal ... as if the Eternal could be handled and magically weighed and measured at pleasure.” (Schleiermacher, 269)

Schleiermacher said that persons choosing Catholicism were leaving “the common sphere of (German Protestant) culture” and would “rush into a vain and fruitless activity and the portion of art that God lent them (would) turn into foolishness.” (270) It disturbed him that “Further progress of a Papistic Catholicism in Germany on many grounds necessarily involves a return to every kind of barbarity.” (274)

Schleiermacher, on the other hand, feared that Napoleon Bonaparte schemed “some design against Protestantism” when Napoleon threatened to take a large part of Catholic France over to Protestantism. Schleiermacher did not trust Napoleon, even if Napoleon seemed to promise to make France a Protestant nation. (273-274)

Yet Schleiermacher’s theology pulled the rug out from under Protestant opposition to idolatry. Freidrich Schleiermacher, known as the “father” of Protestant liberalism, believed the controversy between Catholics and Protestants was in his time reaching a turning point.

Schleiermacher said there always has been some kind of strong antithesis in Christianity—always with a beginning, middle, and end. The hostile elements separate and reach a climax. Then hostility gradually diminishes and disappears into another antithesis that gradually has been developing. Schleiermacher saw the major antithesis of his time to be between Catholics and Protestants. The issue dividing them, he said, was how to express the idea of Christianity. Only by merging their two characteristic expressions could the historical phenomenon of Christianity come to correspond to the idea of Christianity. Synthesis would solve the differences. (267-268) Thus Schleiermacher seems to have held the dialectical concept of history developed by Hegel and his followers (including Marx) in the years ahead.

Schleiermacher used the word “God” interchangeably with “Universe.” This concept of God as “Universe” is found frequently in his book On Religion: Speeches to its Cultural Despisers. Men know this Universe (God) by their feeling of dependence upon him (or it).

Schleiermacher identified piety with this feeling of dependence. This feeling of dependence or piety proved to him that God was making himself known to them. All men have some piety because all men have some feelings; God is therefore known to some degree by all men.

Christ was not essential or basic to Schleiermacher’s religion. “It matters not,” he said, “what conceptions a man adheres to, he can still be pious.” “On intuition of the Universe my whole speech hinges.” Feelings were his intuition of the Universe, his hinge connection with the Universe (God). “It is the highest formula of religion, determining its nature and fixing its boundaries.” (Schleiermacher, 278) The Christian faith for him was not centered in Christ but in the Universe and in one’s feeling of dependence upon it.

His Universe was a spiritual thing, but not necessarily a personal thing. He was not a convinced pantheist—because he was not sure that the Highest Being is a personal God. This lack of personality in the Universe puzzled him because the highest state of piety almost certainly requires the concept of a personal God, he said. But he did see error or imperfection in conceiving of the Universe as having personality.

His God was not a transcendent God. One single being outside of the world or behind the world is not the beginning and end of religion. It is only one description for God, always inadequate.

Schleiermacher was not a Trinitarian. The Trinity was, to him, only a philosophical speculation. Speculation comes from a different part of the soul, not the feeling part. One’s concept of God is not important because concepts are lifeless. Only feelings are alive and important.

It doesn’t matter what theology a man holds: he can still be pious, Schleiermacher said. A man’s piety—his feelings—can be better than his theology. Some people do have a concept of God and also have piety. But never is their theology the germ from which their piety comes, because theology has no life in itself.

Schleiermacher questioned the authority of the Bible. He said the Christ presented in the Bible is not necessarily the real Christ. He said it was not really John who wrote that Gospel about Jesus: instead, it was “a later writer (who) invented this mystic Jesus.”

Schleiermacher’s Christ was a mediator, but not a unique mediator. He was one of many. He was basically no different than the others. “He never maintained He was the only mediator, the only one in whom His idea actualized itself.” Anyone is a mediator who shows enough divine life to quicken to a higher sense even a small circle of people.

There are very few references to Christ in Schleiermacher’s first book, On Religion: Speeches to its Cultural Despisers, the book that started him on his way to fame. This book was intended to make Christianity acceptable and popular with the “despisers,” but its few references to Christ, and its syncretistic acceptance of all religions, suggest that Christ was not very important to Schleiermacher’s religion.

Schleiermacher struggled between two concepts of Deity—similar to the divergent Catholic and Protestant concepts of God. Both concepts seemed necessary to him in his naturalistic search for the Highest Being:

1. Iconic (or anthropomorphic) concepts. This concept of God lives childishly and sensuously in images. It is “gradually purified and elevated,” but it does not completely disappear. It is based on analogy: the analogy of the human in the conception of the Highest Being. The image is the earthly shell; the kernel is what it causes us to think of, what it represents. (22) The kernel of truth is hidden in the shell—in the icon.

2. Aniconic (or anti-anthropomorphic) concepts. Imageless contemplation is the higher way: get rid of the earthly forms when thinking about the Highest Being. So taught the profoundest Christian teachers. Assume that there is nothing in God which can be opposed, divided, or separated. Nothing human can be said of Him. Nothing from the earthly world gives birth to this aniconic idea of the Highest Being. (22-23)

Neither the iconic nor the aniconic concepts were adequate in themselves: “... they become incapable of living reproduction and (so they) disappear.”(22) Concepts were not wrong or sinful—merely inadequate and temporary.

Schleiermacher did see some value in concepts and forms. Childish forms fade away, but develop some greatness in the soul which later connects with another form that brings the soul to a higher consciousness. (22-23)

This use of images and philosophical concepts to represent God was not contrary to Schleiermacher’s concept of the Christian faith—they were the very stuff from which the Christian faith evolved. Faith, maybe imperfect faith, is present in all operations of the spirit. (23)

Schleiermacher, it seems, lost faith in the theological doctrines of the church, Catholic and Protestant. But he pleaded with other “cultured despisers” of religion that a pious dependence upon the unknown Highest Being was still needed, and that such commitment—such faith—was really the kernel of what Christianity is all about. Worry not who Christ is or how you form your concept of the Highest Being. Simply cultivate the feeling of leaning on the Universe.

Schleiermacher’s synthesis of Catholic and Protestant theology shut the door to the Bible (as supernaturally inspired) for Protestants who followed him, but did open a door for them to use pictures to represent Christ.

Hegel’s Monistic Christology

The dialectical idealism of Hegel (1770-1831) assumed the existence of a monistic unity in everything, and in which the dialectical method can reconcile seeming differences between thesis and antithesis. Knowledge, not feeling, was man’s contact with the Absolute.

The universe, to Hegel, was the Absolute (or God) in constant development through struggle and effort. The Absolute is spirit. The Absolute develops according to the laws of mind, the laws by which mind thinks itself out logically.

The laws of thought are the laws of things. Three dialectical stages are always involved. There is a movement in one direction (a thesis). It advances until confronted by opposition or limitation (the antithesis), then both thesis and antithesis join in a higher union (the synthesis). (Walker)

Religion is the realization of man’s finite spirit being a fragment of the Absolute. Religion, to be true, involves more than feelings: it must be knowledge. All religions attempt to know God, and God always strives to reveal Himself. His outworking must be through the three stages of development.

God is explained by Hegel’s dialectical system as thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. The Father is unity—the thesis. He objectifies Himself in the Son—the antithesis. The synthesizing love is the Holy Spirit. The whole dialectical process is the Trinity. God is the process.

Man is explained in Hegel’s dialectical system in the following way. Idea is the thesis, nature is the antithesis, and the two unite in man—the higher synthesis between Idea and Nature. Man is a portion of the Absolute come to consciousness.

Man’s thinking is a portion of the Absolute’s thinking. All men’s thinking—as long as it is the Absolute thinking—gives true knowledge, making it possible for individuals to know truth beyond themselves. To realize man’s relationship to the Absolute is man’s first duty.

Christ, to Hegel, was only a man. Hegel wrote a “Life of Jesus,” describing him as merely the son of Joseph and Mary. In Jesus’ teaching Hegel tried to find what made Jesus so great. Seeing Christ as the natural son of Joseph, Hegel could not accept His having two natures, in the orthodox sense.

“The divine nature is the same as the human,” said Hegel in his book Phenomenology of Mind, “and it is this unity which is intuitively apprehended (angeshaut).” So the human and divine natures of Christ were really one and the same nature—a nature that man can intuitively recognize.

Hegel does speak of “incarnation of the Divine Being.” What does he mean? Does the Incarnation break him free from his monism? Is He admitting that two natures really do exist, where one nature is incarnated in the other? Or is Hegel translating “incarnation” into a monistic meaning?

The Incarnation is explained in Hegel’s system as thesis, synthesis, and antithesis. God is the thesis. Finite man is the antithesis. Both God and man unite in the higher synthesis, the God-man. (Walker)

In Hegel’s system, the “incarnation” means that the Divine Being is coming to the consciousness of itself as Spirit. This is pantheistic monism. This is what “Religion” is all about for Hegel. The incarnation of the Divine Being is known through man’s self-consciousness. This is the substance of “Absolute Religion.” In man’s self-consciousness the Divine Being makes itself known that it is Spirit. “Spirit” is known by man as self-consciousness.

So “incarnation,” to Hegel, was not a unique combination of the human and divine natures in Jesus: it was “self-consciousness”—not just in Jesus, but wherever “self-consciousness” is found.

Hegel’s pantheism created within Protestantism a theological framework where pictures of Christ seemed as legitimate as pictures of any other man—a framework that eliminated any awareness that Christ might have an unpictureable divine nature united with His humanity.

Hegel’s dialectical system changed Protestant Christology in the “mainline” denominations. Eventually Hegelianism has even been adopted by some Catholic leaders. Though he was not primarily a theologian, Hegel influenced theologians in his day and probably for centuries. This teacher (at Jena, Nuremberg, Heidelberg, and the University of Berlin) and author changed the way much of the world does its thinking.

Obviously, such a pantheistic and humanistic view of Christ would allow pictures to represent Christ. No theological reason to forbid them remained for the followers of Hegel.

Strauss’ Monistic Christology

David Freidrich Strauss (1808-1874) was influenced by Schleiermacher and Hegel. He was first of all a student of Hegel; he was also quite in agreement with Schleiermacher’s negative view of Christian dogma.

Strauss devoted his energies to attacking the Bible, trying to get rid of anything that did not fit into his monistic system, which he tried to make consistent with the natural world. He criticized and questioned the authenticity of the biblical records, especially the records about Jesus.

Strauss published his Life of Christ in 1835. Like Hegel, he raised doubts about the virgin birth of Christ, the details of the crucifixion and resurrection, the post-resurrection appearances of Christ, and about many of Christ’s sayings. He attacked the supernatural by finding natural explanations or by crediting it to myths which supposedly arose between the time of Jesus and the time the evangelists wrote about Him.

Strauss published his Christliche Glaubenslehre in 1841 and 1842, in which he raised doubts about Christian doctrines. He questioned their historical development.

Strauss’ anti-supernaturalism and his monistic belief in the “divinity” of the world show through in his response to his brother’s death (in 1863?), when he dedicated an edition of his writings to his deceased brother, as if he were still living. He speaks of the sufficiency of a universe that disclaims “supernatural aids” and leaves man to himself and to the “natural order of the world.” He speaks of relying alone on that which you are able to be, and to know as man and member of this “divinely teeming” world where everybody and everything is “God” manifesting his or its being.

In the conclusion to his “Mythical History of Jesus,” Strauss wrote his belief that Jesus was simply a man who revealed the (monistic) oneness of God and man. He said supernaturalism is evil because it obscures belief in the oneness of God and man. Criticizing supernaturalism was not sacrilege in the eyes of Strauss. Any critic does a good and necessary job if he sweeps away the supernaturalism of Jesus, according to him. Mankind must be referred to the ideal Christ, to the moral principles that Jesus revealed. Emphasis should be placed upon improvement and perfection by the work of mankind in general.

This idealistic monism, which caused Strauss to disallow any supernatural existence and to see the world as “divinely teeming,” did render it impossible for Strauss to find employment on a theological faculty in his day. He eventually “broke completely with his early faith and died a materialist and a pessimist,” reports historian Latourette.

But Strauss’ influence through his books was powerful and widespread. “It may also be argued that Strauss was the most important theologian of the century,” said biographer Horton Harris. Strauss triggered the rise of “historical criticism” when he raised doubts about the historicity of Jesus. Strauss’ last book, published in 1872, went through six large editions in six months, an unrivaled feat in Germany for any theological or philosophical book.

The popularity of Strauss’ writings suggests that in Europe and America many other people were leaning toward monistic theology and looking for a way to reinterpret Christ as being only a man. Christ could have only one nature.

Bible students, reading those theologians’ works, recognize that liberals did not get their theology from the Bible. But many members of the churches influenced by liberalism have no idea what their teachers and ministers really believe theologically. People sometimes need to inquire and find out. The roots of Liberal theology need to be known. They are monistic, not monotheistic.

Leadership of the Protestant churches was captured largely by men who saw no basic difference between God and man. Their God was continuous with nature.

Believing that there is no basic difference between God and the world, they see no problem with picturing Christ. They think he has only one nature, not different from any other. They act very consistently with their monistic theology and their monistic christology when they use pictures to represent Christ.

Protestant liberals have used pictures to represent Christ very casually. If they ever criticize the pictures, it is only done as art criticism. They never criticize the pictures as being theologically impossible because of Christ’s two natures—real liberals do not accept the existence of two basic natures.

When liberals do not use the pictures, it may simply be that they do not think Christ is all that important. Again they are being consistent with their monistic theology which says Jesus is no different basically than anybody else.

Liberalism alone did not change the Protestant position regarding pictures to represent Christ. On the conservative side of the church, many devout people, who considered themselves loyal to the Bible and committed to its full inspiration, also have come to the place where they feel comfortable using pictures to represent Christ.

The rise and spread of the Pietistic movement illustrates how some of the pictures arose in the conservative part of the Protestant church, the part of the church that otherwise vigorously rejected the Liberals’ monistic errors.

Pietism came out of the pain of war and bloodshed. Tired and disillusioned with religious wars, people began to emphasize living tolerant lives.

The pietistic movement, wearied and repulsed by religious wars over doctrinal differences (and repulsed also by the ungodly lives of some people who fought over doctrine), decided doctrine was not that important: they would pursue piety apart from theological questions.

Pietism involved mysticism. It sometimes involved allegorical Bible interpretation. This combination is reminiscent of the “spirituality” that allowed the Catholic church to drift toward images.

Jacob Bohme (1575-1624), a mystic, influenced people in Germany, Netherlands, Russia, and England. He influenced Isaac Newton and William Law (who influenced Wesley). Paul Gerhardt (1607-1676) wrote hymns during the time of the religious wars. Lutherans loved his hymns and John Wesley translated some of them into English. Pietism’s influence reached far and wide.

Philip Jacob Spener (1635-1705) grieved over the controversy that different doctrinal positions caused. Controversies were bitter. They seemed unrelated to practical life. Spener saw examples of drunkenness and immorality of people who fought bitterly over doctrine.

Spener avoided doctrinal matters and emphasized spiritual growth. Small groups were organized in the context of the larger church, groups which met for Scripture readings and mutual support in spiritual growth.

Pietism stressed the development of the subjective devotional life and avoided getting embroiled in doctrinal controversies that disturbed the peace. Pietism assumed that God could be mystically known apart from the Scriptures, though it relied very heavily upon the Scriptures.

The Pietists were missionary minded, spreading the faith. Count Zinzendorf (1700-1776), a Moravian, influenced Wesley. Zinzendorf’s pietism took the form of an ardent devotion to Jesus. He said, “I have one passion, ‘tis he.” He gave himself to missionary endeavors. (Latourette, pp. 894-897)

Zinzendorf himself, as a young man, reportedly saw a “picture of Christ” and credited it for moving him to conversion. Thus good lives seemed to result from pictures. Good lives lived by pietist leaders, combined with their avoidance of divisive theological controversies, created a climate where doctrinal objection to pictures did not fit. Pictures of Deity slipped into the mainstream of this part of the Protestant movement.

Mennonites and Baptists have direct roots in the pietistic movement. Indirectly, the influence of the pietistic movement reaches to all Protestant churches.

Allegorical interpretation of the Bible has returned in some parts of the church, notably among some very evangelical people who have used this method to reconcile the Old Testament and the New Testament.

This has weakened their awareness of what the Bible literally says about God’s nature. People can come to the Bible with preconceived notions of who God is, and they can make the Bible’s statements about God match their preconceived notion of Him. The literal meaning seems unspiritual and non-existential for such Christians.

If they are imprinted with a concept of Christ that permits pictures, they then project this concept back into the Bible to interpret and picture whatever they read about Christ. Where Scripture prohibits that concept of Christ, that Scripture is allegorically interpreted so that it will seem consistent with their imprinted preconception of Christ.

Dispensationalism tends to make the law against images of God seem to belong only to darker ages past. We now live in the New Testament dispensation where the Law makes no real claim upon us. The Second Commandment, in particular, belonged only to the Jews before the time of Christ. But we do not live in the dispensation of the Law. Now we can make pictures.

Dispensationalism usually misinterprets the Second Commandment—making it forbid all pictures, all images, all photographs, all representative art. If the Second Commandment does actually forbid all art, then how could modern man accept it? Dispensationalism solves this problem for modern man, making the Second Commandment belong only to the Jews of the Old Testament.

But the Second Commandment never did forbid all art, not even in Old Testament times, as we discovered earlier. The Second Commandment only forbade art that was used to represent God Himself. This principle is rooted in the holy, unpictureable nature of God and cannot be dispensationalized.

True, these are New Testament times. Christians are under grace, not under Law. This great truth sometimes is abused and allows people to forget the Christological purpose of the Law. People come to think that art and nature, instead of the Law, point us to Christ.

When people lose the Old Testament as the referent for the name of Christ, they must find some other natural referent, something from the created universe. Images to represent Christ usually fill the vacuum. Such images become a necessary referent for the name of Christ when the Old Testament reference points are lost.

Evolution theory gives school children a monistic worldview of man’s relationship to the inanimate world. Evolution, as a worldview, is monistic in the sense that it teaches that man is one being with the universe. It is theologically monistic because it is used to deny the existence of God the Creator. Man is nothing but the chance product of natural forces at work in the universe.

Evolution is taught in schools all over the western world and many places in the eastern world. It is taught in kindergartens, primary schools, high schools, and in universities. It is sometimes taught as theory and sometimes as fact. It is the only explanation given to most public school students as to the existence of man on the earth.

When evolution is the accepted worldview, Christ can be explained only by the theory of evolution. If Christ is the product of evolution, he obviously is a pictureable being.

Freud is sometimes called “the Copernicus of the mind.” (A.D. Dennison, Jr., M.D., p.48). Instead of man’s life revolving around God, Freud made man central. God is only a projection of man’s mind, he said. Man created God in man’s own image. Man’s concept of God arises from the same psychogenetic source from which myth arises. Freud just as easily got rid of sin by making it mean merely a poor adjustment to one’s environment.

Freud, father of modern psychoanalytic theory, moved countless people into a monistic universe where no God exists and counseling is done by getting man into normalcy and harmony with his natural, social, and psychological environment.

Freud started something big. His psychological movement grew to include birds of many monistic feathers, e.g., psychoanalysis, reality therapy, transactional analysis (“I’m OK, You’re OK”), gestalt therapy, behavior modification, etc.

It is institutionalized. State mental institutions, mental health clinics, social work agencies—private and governmental—plus myriads of counselors (inside and outside the church) function according to principles and insights learned from Freud and the psychological studies he precipitated.

His studies have influenced the way people think of themselves. They change the context for solving psychological problems. God is often left out of the concept of reality as it is taught by these counselors.

The Catholic Church still influences the world in a big way.

At the present time the Roman Catholic position on images has not substantially changed from the decision at Nicea in 787. It was reaffirmed by the Council of Trent during the time of the Reformation. It was again reaffirmed “firmly” by the Second Vatican Council, during the latter half of twentieth century. (Abbott, ed., The Documents of Vatican II, p. 175).

Remember that, back in 1623, Pope Urban VIII banned images of the Holy Spirit made in human form. The practice of representing the Holy Spirit by a human form, until then, had become fairly common. But why did the Pope not also ban humanistic images of the other two members of the Trinity?

The Catholic Church is cautious about using images in lands where Protestants have criticized Catholics for idolatry. Yet it firmly believes that God can be represented by images, therefore it requires loyal acceptance of them.

What about the Eastern Orthodox Church? The eastern catholic church uses pictures and icons to represent Jesus. It is this concept of Christ upon which their religion operates. They gave this monistic concept of Jesus to the Russians, and it might be suggested that Russia suffered a seventy year captivity because of consequent idolatry. In recent times, the Orthodox iconic way of worship is being popularized in the United States, especially among evangelicals.

Much of the world gets its only concept of Christ from the monistic pictures, icons, and images of the Catholic churches, whether eastern or western Catholicism.

Many eastern religions, since World War II, have invaded the western world on a scale far greater than ever before. These religions now influence everyone in the west directly or indirectly.

For instance, military servicemen encountered Buddhism, were influenced by it, and brought that influence home after the war. Some married Buddhist wives and brought them home.

In the 1960s the Beatles, a British rock music group, popularized Hindu religious ideas in their songs.

Yoga exercises involve many people in exercises calculated to induce people, stage by stage, into experiencing the monistic world view. Eastern meditation techniques are taught in universities, workshops, and magazine articles. Given as techniques to reduce stress and increase productivity, they promote a sense of unity with the universe as the key to peace and success.

New Age religions promote eastern religion ideas all over the western world.

Many western religious cults and sects are an extension of the Eastern Religion category. Many try to interpret Christianity according to some monistic principle.

Monistic cults affect everyone. What person has not been influenced directly or indirectly by the monism of Theosophy, Rosacrucianism (and its reincarnation idea), Christian Science, Religious Science, Unity, B’hai, Moonies, Mormonism, etc.? This genre of monism tries to fit into Christianized society, not as enemies of Christianity, but as contributors or improvers. Their contribution is, almost always, some monistic idea. Even Mormonism is “more-monism” in its basic idea that “God who sits in yonder heaven is a man like unto you yourself!” Pictures of “Christ” are used by the cults to create credibility (among image-using Christians) that the cultists believe in “Christ.”

Just Plain Ignorance: Protestants are blissfully unaware of the fact that God cannot be pictured. Some of this fault must lie with failure to read the Bible, resulting in ignorance.

It is amazing how little Bible knowledge there is among Sunday School graduates. This is partly because churches have no goals for Bible knowledge and no testing of students’ Bible knowledge. Churches pay lip service to the Bible, but in practice hold Bible knowledge in low esteem.

It is more amazing to discover that few ministers and missionaries realize that the Bible prohibits making images of God. This fact apparently is unknown or ignored in Bible Schools, Christian colleges, and seminaries—let alone, in local churches.

The church is more familiar with artists’ pictures to represent Christ than it is with Old Testament typology and preparation for Christ. Because the Bible consistently forbids pictures to represent Christ, it is inevitable that either the pictures go—or else comprehensive Bible study goes.

Concluding Observations

The cumulative effect of one or more of the above influences affects Protestants in the modern world. All these factors influence people to think of God in secular or monistic terms.

The Protestant church itself now uses pictures to represent Christ almost universally, considering itself to be too enlightened to be in danger of worshiping the pictures. Most Protestants do not even know that their church once rejected those pictures.

The definition of idolatry has changed for modem Protestants. They no longer are aware that idolatry includes using an image to represent God. Like the Catholics, they now consider such pictures to be legitimate and helpful, perhaps even necessary.

Protestants are convinced that they do not worship the pictures. They define worship to mean “to adore.” They know that the picture is not God himself. Therefore, they are not idolaters—they are sure of this.

They are not aware of the degree to which the picture controls and forms their concept of Christ. It is this concept (and thus, this picture), rather than Christ Himself, that they may be worshiping unaware. Protestants’ unquestioning acceptance of the pictures to represent a member of the Trinity is adequate proof that these people are not aware of how monistic their concept of God has become.

Protestants do agonize over the secularism of their society; they hate to see the eastern religions flooding into Protestant lands and they still occasionally preach against “idolatry” (by which they mean the worship of gods they identify to be other gods). Nor do they tolerate anybody saying that “God is dead.” But as for the concept of a living God whose nature is such that He cannot be pictured, such a God is dead in pictures representing Christ.

Protestants today, depending upon a Christ they identify through their monistic pictures, cannot communicate knowledge of the ontologically-transcendent God—are they aware of such a God? Monists themselves cannot present any real alternative to the pantheistic error of eastern religions or the atheistic error of secular society. They have nothing absolute to say to the monistic relative ethicist because their own Lord and Lawgiver is not set apart in His divine nature. Everything is becoming relative for them, too.

In their mind and heart they think they are worshiping Christ, but their Christ conforms to the picture and comes from the picture. Such a Christ is not the unpictureable Lord revealed by the Bible.

Some churches even have a picture or an image placed in the front of their sanctuaries, either in a stained glass window, a painting, or a statue.

Whenever these pictures and images are located at the front of the sanctuaries, people bow before them whenever they bow in prayer. They do not consider that they are bowing before the image; they would be offended if accused of bowing to the image. On the other hand, they would also be offended if told they could not call their image or picture by the name of Christ. They do accept it as a picture of Christ. For how many would it seem sacrilegious and be offensive to remove the picture as something ungodly?

Protestant children especially are taught to use pictures in their worship. Such pictures are always found in Protestant Sunday Schools and church buildings. Worship centers use pictures to represent Jesus. The mental picture that a child is taught to worship is based on these artistic forms that are always placed before the child.

The legitimacy of the pictures is never questioned publicly. Occasionally somebody says that the pictures are only artists’ ideas of what Christ looked like, but the pictures are continually used. This validates them for the children.

In adult sanctuaries, if these pictures happen not to be literally hanging on the walls, how many of them are mentally carried into the sanctuaries in the imprinted minds of the adults, ready to be mentally recalled when the name of Jesus is spoken? Such is the training of Protestants today. Nowadays, God is like an image. Directly or indirectly, image worship is the prevailing trend.

Bibliographic References and Notes

Abbott, Walter M., ed. The Documents of Vatican II, trans. ed., Joseph Gallagher (New York: America Press, 1966), p. 175.

Bright, John. The Authority of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1967).

Denison, A. D., Jr., M.D. “What Can Christians Learn from Freud?” Christian Life, May, 1970. p. 48.

Farley, Edward. The Transcendence of God (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1958). Gives history of how modernism took control in much of the church by getting liberals into the chairs of theology where leaders were trained, and by getting control of the publishing houses.

Latourette, Kenneth Schott. A History of Christianity (New York: Harper & Brothers. 1953), 894-897.

Machen, J. Gresham. Christianity and Liberalism (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1923), p. 110. Stood against modernism.

Robertson, O. Palmer. The Christ of the Covenants (Phillipsburg, N. J.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980). See chapter 3 “The Unity of the Divine Covenants,” and chapter 11 “Which Structures Scripture—Covenants or Dispensations?”

Schleiermacher, F. On Religion: Speeches to its Cultural Despisers, John Owen, trans. (New York: Harper & Row, 1958).

Scofield, C. I. Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (New York: Loizeaux Brothers, n.d.). Emphasis on dispensational approach by the man who popularized it through his notes in the Scofield Bible.