What about Christian art and images? Are they okay to have around? Are they idols?
This is an interesting question that has been debated throughout history. Christians fall on both sides of the issue. Because of the commandment in the Bible to not worship any images because they are idols (Exodus 20:4-6), some believe these are bad and others think they are okay.
Christian iconoclasts were people who took very literally the commandment against carved images used for idolatrous worship. They are on the extreme end of believing that any image is idolatrous. They would destroy images in churches and break stained-glass windows. They were typically on the fringes of Christianity, if not declared heretics.
Throughout the Middle Ages, almost no one was literate enough to read the Bible for themselves. Images in churches, like the Bible stories told on stained-glass windows actually helped people to know the Bible.
In the Renaissance period, artists painted images of angels and Bible characters. They also told the stories of the Bible. The only problem with them is that they contained a European interpretation of the Bible.
In the church I went to when I was in Bible college and seminary, there was a painting on one of the walls of a white Jesus with blonde eyes praying in the garden of Gethsemane. My friends and I couldn’t help noticing that Jesus was Middle Eastern, a Jew, most likely with olive skin and brown eyes. Of course, we don’t personally know that for a fact, but this is the world Jesus was born into and ministered in. These differences shouldn’t really matter to us.
There’s a difference between worshiping an object that a person created for the purpose of worshiping it and art that tells Bible and Christian stories. We are by nature visual creatures. The arts can help us to understand the Bible better.
God created the universe and he passed his creativity onto us. In one sense, we can glorify God through Christian art. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing. But if we are glorifying the art rather than the Creator who gave us that creative faculty to make amazing art, then it is idolatry. All Christian art must glorify God instead of the artist or the art itself.