What do you think about religious art, especially the portraits of Christ?  Have you ever heard that it is a graven image or idolatrous?  Some think that to portray Christ in movies or art work is akin to blasphemy, or at the least a kind of pagan idolatry. They say we would never sanction statutes of Mary as the Catholics do. Yet doesn't a picture of Christ as the good shepherd comfort and inspire us?

Much depends on the purpose to which the art is produced and the purpose to which it is being used. Illustrations of scenes described in the Bible serve much the same purpose as story written for a children's Bible Story book. They might help one person understand better what another person has learned from the pages of the Bible. But what must always be kept in mind is that the artist and the author are uninspired men. They might get their facts wrong. As an example, you will find numerous paintings of biblical scenes done in the middle ages where the people portrayed are not wearing the garb of biblical times but the garb of Europeans in the middle ages. Similarly, most paintings of Adam and Eve fleeing the garden of Eden show them wearing skirts of leaves, skirts of animal skins, or something that looks like what an imagined cave man would wear instead of the tunics of animal skins that the Bible states God made for them.

Unfortunately, many paintings and statues of biblical characters are not used to help teach the Bible, but are revered and honored as something important in and of themselves. Now we might respect the genius and skill of a particular artist, but still what he produces is just the work of a man's hands. It should not become a substitute for our God. "Those who make an image, all of them are useless, and their precious things shall not profit; they are their own witnesses; they neither see nor know, that they may be ashamed. Who would form a god or mold an image that profits him nothing? Surely all his companions would be ashamed; and the workmen, they are mere men. Let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, they shall be ashamed together. The blacksmith with the tongs works one in the coals, fashions it with hammers, and works it with the strength of his arms. Even so, he is hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The craftsman stretches out his rule, he marks one out with chalk; he fashions it with a plane, he marks it out with the compass, and makes it like the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man, that it may remain in the house. He cuts down cedars for himself, and takes the cypress and the oak; he secures it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a pine, and the rain nourishes it. Then it shall be for a man to burn, for he will take some of it and warm himself; yes, he kindles it and bakes bread; indeed he makes a god and worships it; he makes it a carved image, and falls down to it. He burns half of it in the fire; with this half he eats meat; he roasts a roast, and is satisfied. He even warms himself and says, "Ah! I am warm, I have seen the fire." And the rest of it he makes into a god, his carved image. He falls down before it and worships it, prays to it and says, "Deliver me, for you are my god!" They do not know nor understand; for He has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. And no one considers in his heart, nor is there knowledge nor understanding to say, "I have burned half of it in the fire, yes, I have also baked bread on its coals; I have roasted meat and eaten it; and shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?" He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside; and he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, "Is there not a lie in my right hand?"" (Isaiah 44:9-20).

The problem is many excuse the making of modern-day idols by claiming that it is not an idol, while at the same time bowing before the object, making prayers before the object, and giving the object reverence. Their actions speak louder than their words.

See also:

Pictures from Children's Bible Story Books
Questions and Answers regarding Art
Questions and Answers regarding Roman Catholicism