12 July 2006

Westminster Wednesday—Authority and Idolatry

The discussion of aesthetics and ethics has, in large degree, come down to a question of authority. I make the claim that beauty comes with an attendant obligation for the observer to appreciate it. Beauty is there. Beauty is the standard for the affections of all people. It is what we ought to like because it is what God likes. Baylor has emphasized a counterpoint. Because the Scriptures are our only authority, he reasons, we cannot know what pleases God except as Scripture specifies. God has not chosen to reveal the standards for fine arts in the Scriptures, therefore those standards are irrelevant for the believer.

Though I disagree with his conclusion, I do not wish to downplay the starting point of his argument whatsoever. Sola Scriptura is the formal principle of the Reformation, and it is reflected throughout genuinely Reformed theology. The Westminster Larger Catechism is no exception (emphasis mine):

Question 109: What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment? A. The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; tolerating a false religion; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever; all worshipping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretence whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed.

Question 110: What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment, the more to enforce it? A. The reasons annexed to the second commandment. the more to enforce it, contained in these words, For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments; are, besides God's sovereignty over us, and propriety in us, his fervent zeal for his own worship, and his revengeful indignation against all false worship as being a spiritual whoredom; accounting the breakers of this commandment such as hate him, and threatening to punish them unto divers generations; and esteeming the observers of it such as love him and keep his commandments, and promising mercy to them unto many generations.

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