Sinclair Ferguson Evaluates Two Pieces of Visual Theology

John Bunyan and William Perkins had attempted to provide a means of visual instruction showing how God saves his people (and damns those who are not his people).

Both “charts” appear to have the same goal—to give a pictorial representation of how God works in relation to salvation and damnation. They are single-page, visual representations of truths that would take an entire volume to expound; their diagrammatic form made them helpful for those with poor reading skills and perhaps even for some with none. In essence they were Puritan PowerPoint presentations!

 

We recently produced two “new” visual theology posters that are really not new at all. Both were updates of posters created by Puritan authors John Bunyan and William Perkins. Here is Bunyan’s and here is Perkins’. Both of these men had attempted to provide a means of visual instruction showing how God saves his people (and damns those who are not his people). Both were evaluated by Sinclair Ferguson in his excellent book The Whole Christ. I thought you might find it interesting to consider the posters in light of Ferguson’s analysis.

The subtle nature of the issue pointed up here emerges in a rather puzzling difference between two works produced at opposite ends of the Puritan era. Both William Perkins (1558–1602) and John Bunyan (1628–1688) produced what Perkins described as an “ocular catechism”—in his case a diagram of “The Golden Chaine of Salvation” and in Bunyan’s “A Map Shewing the Order and Causes of Salvation and Damnation.”

Both “charts” appear to have the same goal—to give a pictorial representation of how God works in relation to salvation and damnation. They are single-page, visual representations of truths that would take an entire volume to expound; their diagrammatic form made them helpful for those with poor reading skills and perhaps even for some with none. In essence they were Puritan PowerPoint presentations!

The same elements are present in each chart as they trace salvation from eternity to eternity. There is, however, one major, striking, albeit puzzling, difference.

In Perkins’s chart, every aspect of the application of salvation is tied in to a central spine representing Christ in terms of the various clauses of the Apostles’ Creed. One might surmise that Calvin’s words quoted earlier had made a profound impact on him.

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