The Reformed ban on images contra the use of visual words have often struck me as somewhat arbitrary. Because it assumes that one can in fact draw a sharp distinction between words and pictures.

Here is an interesting scenario. Suppose there was a tribe or people whose written language was actually pictures. Like Egyptian hieroglyphics or very early primitive Chinese character scripts which looks more like iconic pictures. How on earth are the Reformed going to ban images without banning words at the same time? The ban doesn’t really make any sense.

Of course there are much deeper questions concerning the nature of language (i.e. language as Wittgenstein use rather than representation of ideas, etc), but prima facie, it seems that the only way for the Reformed to be truly consistent is to adopt a sort of Islamic “sacred language” whereby Arabic itself IS the divine language directly given by God and thereby they can circumvent this word-picture ambiguity by claiming that ONLY this divine language alone can be used in worship.

Then again, many have noted parallels between the “wholly transcendent” and austere God of Calvinism and Islam…

Maybe that why there is a close relation between the “anti-Catholicism” of the fundies and their KJV-onlyism.  A sort of Qu’ran substitute…

One thought on “Random Theological Thought of the Day”
  1. The ban, properly understood, does not apply to pictographic languages. Man was created as the image bearer but fell. This is what is meant in that all have fallen short of the glory of God. Christ, the God-Man who is the second Adam redeems man as the image and is the exact representation of the Father. Images are forbidden because any attempt to apprehend the Father, if accurate, will come through our apprehension of the Son who is the divine Logos, the Word of God. If you trace the doctrine of the Word from Genesis through revelation and its connection to Jesus as the full embodiment of Truth and the revelation of God the Reformed position makes sense. Pictographic languages are not designed to communicate images. Rather, the images themselves communicate propositions. The revelation of God is propositional and we can only be saved by the Truth (which is necessarily propositional).
    BTW… when referring to Wittgenstein it is helpful to the educated reader to distinguish between his early and late views. I think a theory of language developed from Scripture, however, will contradict Wittgenstein, particularly early Wittgenstein.

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