(This is part of a catechism that deals with pictures of Christ. It does give us helpful information to consider in this question.)
The Second Command
and Pictures of Christ
Q. What is forbidden in the second commandment?
A. The second commandment forbiddeth, the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.
Q. 1. What are the leading sins forbidden in this commandment?
A. Idolatry and will-worship.
Q. 2. What is the idolatry here condemned?
A. [The worshipping of God by images]: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, etc.
Q. 3. What is an image?
A. It is a statue, picture, or likeness of any creature whatsoever.
Q. 4. Is it lawful to have images or pictures of mere creatures?
A. Yes, providing they be only for ornament; or the design be merely historical, to transmit the memory of persons and their actions to posterity.
Q. 5. Can any image or representation be made of God?
A. No; it is absolutely impossible; he being an infinite, incomprehensible Spirit (Isa. 40:18). “To whom will ye liken God? or, what likeness will ye compare unto him?” If we cannot delineate our own souls, much less the infinite God (Acts 17:29). “We ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.”
Q. 6. What judgment should we form of those who have devised images of God, or of the persons of the adorable Trinity?
A. We should adjudge their practice to be both unlawful and abominable.
Q. 7. Why unlawful?
A. Because directly contrary to the express letter of the law in this commandment, and many other Scriptures; such as, Jer. 10:14-15; Hos. 13:2; and particularly Deut. 4:15-19, 23. “Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves, (for ye saw no MANNER OF SIMILITUDE on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb, out of the midst of the fire) lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female,” etc.
Q. 8. How is it abominable?
A. As it is a debasing the Creator of heaven and earth to the rank of his own creatures; and a practical denying of all his infinite perfections (Psa. 50:21).
Q. 9. May we not have a picture of Christ, who has a true body?
A. By no means; because, though he has a true body and a reasonable soul (John 1:14), yet his human nature subsists in his divine person, which no picture can represent (Psa. 45:2).
Q. 10. Why ought all pictures of Christ to be abominated by Christians?
A. Because they are downright lies, representing no more than the picture of a mere man: whereas, the true Christ is God-man; “Immanuel, God with us” (1 Tim. 3:16; Matt. 1:23).
Q. 11. Is it lawful to form any inward representation of God, or of Christ, upon our fancy, bearing a resemblance to any creature whatsoever?
A. By no means; because this is the very inlet unto gross outward idolatry: for, when once the Heathens “became vain in their imaginations, they presently changed the glory of the incorruptible God, into images made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things” (Rom. 1:21-23).
Q. 23. Is it lawful, as some plead, to have images or pictures in churches, though not for worship, yet for instruction, and raising the affections?
A. No; because God has expressly prohibited not only the worshipping, but the making of any image whatsoever on a religious account; and the setting them up in churches, cannot but have a native tendency to beget a sacred veneration for them, and therefore ought to be abstained from, as having, at least, an appearance of evil (1 Thess. 5:22).
Q. 24. May they not be placed in churches for beauty and ornament?
A. No: the proper ornament of churches is the sound preaching of the gospel, and the pure dispensation of the sacraments, and other ordinances of divine institution.
Q. 25. Were not images of the cherubim placed in the tabernacle and temple, by the command of God himself?
A. Yes: but out of all hazard of any abuse, being placed in the holy of holies, where none of the people ever came; they were instituted by God himself, which images are not; and they belonged to the typical and ceremonial worship, which is now quite abolished.
Fisher’s Catechism: Selections from Q&A No. 51