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Should Images of Divine Persons Be Forbidded in Christforums?

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  • Should Images of Divine Persons Be Forbidded in Christforums?

    Are all images/statues/paintings intended to represent Jesus Christ (and the Father and the Holy Spirit) violations of the 2nd Commandment? “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them” (Exodus 20:4-5a).

    I am considering implementing another rule. Banning images of any of the divine persons. Please consider the argument, special credit to Pastor Joe Vusich of CFDD:

    One question I am frequently asked as a Reformed pastor is why I believe all images of the divine Persons of the Trinity are sinful. This is my reply.

    Historically, Reformed and Calvinist churches have taught that all images/statues/paintings intended to represent Jesus Christ (and the Father and the Holy Spirit) are violations of the 2nd Commandment: “You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them” (Exodus 20:4-5a).

    Thus John Calvin: “God is opposed to idols, that all may know He is the only fit witness to Himself. He expressly forbids any attempt to represent Him by a bodily shape . . . We must hold it as a first principle, that as often as any form is assigned to God, his glory is corrupted by an impious lie” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1:11). See also Heidelberg Catechism Questions 96-98; Westminster Larger Catechism Question 109; and 2nd Helvetic Confession Chapter IV.

    So, no images of Christ at all? Not in church? Not in public nativity scenes? Not even as art? Yes, that is the teaching of the Reformed confessions, and I am persuaded from Scripture it is the correct one. Here’s why:

    1. The 2nd Commandment forbids not only the worship of man-made images of beings regarded as divine, but also the creation of such images. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image.” The tendency is to run this statement together with what follows (“you shall not bow down to them nor serve them”) to conclude that it is only the worship of such images that is forbidden. Yet the commandment has two imperatives and expressly forbids the making of such images exactly because it is in the nature of man to fall down and worship what he considers to be divine. Jesus our Lord is in heaven, and He is to be worshiped by faith. He is not to be imaged.

    Many Christians say that it’s not sinful to make images of Christ (or other so-called gods), just so long as we don’t worship them. Yet this conclusion doesn’t follow from the 2nd Commandment, and is not supported by Scripture.

    If it was theoretically okay for the Israelites to make graven images of God or so-called gods as long as they did not actually worship them, why in Deut. 4:15-18 does God command the Israelites to “take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form when the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, lest you act corruptly and make for yourselves a carved image in the form of any figure: the likeness of male or female, etc.”?

    Notice that God says acting “corruptly” is evidenced not just in the worship of graven images, but in the creation of them. Why is the making of such images in itself sinful? Because God says that a graven image, an image of the unseen God or any other so-called god, is innately “a teacher of lies” (Hab. 2:18). This is why Moses completely destroyed the golden calf, and ground it into powder. This is why in Deut. 7:25, God commanded the Israelites to utterly destroy every Canaanite idol when they went into the land: “You shall utterly detest it and utterly abhor it, for it is an accursed thing.” The image is evil and accursed in itself, because it lies to us. This is why it draws us into lying, accursed worship (kissing icons, kneeling before images, praying while staring at images, etc.). And this is why we are not to make or possess images of God (including the incarnate Christ) or other so-called gods.

    2. Many say, “The sin’s not in the thing, it’s in my heart. There is nothing innately wrong with images of Christ, it’s how men abuse them that is sinful.” This type of argument would certainly apply in the case of things like alcohol and dancing. The Bible teaches that wine is a gift from God (Ps. 104:14-15), and nowhere does the Bible prohibit dancing. It’s true that people frequently abuse those things (just as they abuse other good gifts from God like food and sex), but the abuse of a thing is no argument against its proper use. It is Pharisaism, man-made religion, to say all drinking of alcohol and all dancing are innately sinful.

    However, in light of the plain and repeated teaching of Scripture, the above argument is misapplied in the case of graven images. “The sin’s not in the thing, it’s in my heart” is a false dichotomy when applied to the creation (and ownership) of images of the unseen God or other so-called gods. Again, according to God Himself, the sin is in the image itself. This is why the Israelites were commanded to “burn the carved images of (the Canaanite) gods with fire . . . for it is an abomination to the Lord your God” (Deut. 7:25). The images themselves were abominations, hateful things to God. This is why the 2nd Commandment specifically forbids both the creation of such images and the worship of them.

    3. The apostles walked the Earth with Jesus, and even though they wrote extensively about Christ, they did not leave behind any images of the Lord, nor did they even describe His earthly appearance. We can be sure that if these early eyewitnesses had thought it was important for the Christian church to have an accurate image of Jesus in His humiliation, they would have provided it. But they didn’t. This means that no one knows what Jesus looks like, and all images of Him are nothing more than figments of human imagination. Thus if a man draws a picture and says, “This is Jesus,” he is telling us that what he has invented in his mind and created with his hands is the Son of God, and that is impious deceit, a gross corruption of His unique glory. There is no essential difference between pointing to an icon or statue of an imaginary person and saying “this is Jesus,” and Aaron referring to the golden calf as “the Lord (Yahweh).” (Exodus 32:5).

    4. Images of Jesus can only capture His (imagined!) human nature. Christ’s divine nature is impossible to reproduce, and thus the deceitfulness of the image is compounded, for the incomprehensible glory of the enthroned Son of God is unrepresented. Zacharias Ursinus, the primary author of the Heidelberg Catechism, said that this seems to revive the ancient heresy of Nestorius, who taught that the human and divine natures of Jesus were separate things.

    5. Christianity is a religion of faith. It focuses on “things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Christians worship the unseen God and His unseen Son seated in the unseen Heaven, mediated by the unseen Spirit. Unauthorized images of Christ add nothing beneficial to this religion of faith, and serve only to tempt the faithful to take their minds off “things above” (Colossians 3:2) and focus on the creations of human hands. Such images tempt us to idolatry, the very thing we are to guard ourselves against (1 John 5:21).

    6. Christians today need to be especially clear about these matters, given the growing number of popular films that portray Jesus. As well-made as “The Passion of the Christ,” “The Jesus Film,” “Jesus of Nazareth,” and “The Son of God” may be, they violate the 2nd Commandment in that they are riddled with graven images of an imaginary Christ, leaving in their wake a mental image of Jesus that is a gross corruption of the true Christ. We must especially resist the idea of using such films to promote Christian evangelism. Faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17), not by watching graven images set to film.


    7. Are Reformed churches against the creation of all images? This is a frequently-asked question, and the answer is no.

    Heidelberg Catechism Question 97 speaks to this: “May we not make any image at all? Answer: God may not and cannot be imaged in any way; as for creatures, though they may indeed be imaged, yet God forbids the making or keeping of any likeness of them, either to worship them or to serve God by them.”

    The 2nd Commandment forbids the making of images of beings regarded as divine, whether it be the true God or a saint or some pretended god (for example, the various sky, animal, river, and underworld gods the Egyptians worshiped, which are referenced in “heaven above . . . the earth beneath . . . the water under the earth”). God did not forbid the making of all images. He forbade the making of images of beings the Israelites had made a habit of worshiping while they lived in Egypt (Ezekiel 20:5-9). That this prohibition included any and all images of the God of Israel is obvious, as was demonstrated in the golden calf incident, where the Israelites exhorted Aaron to “make us Elohim that shall go before us,” and then referred to the image as “the Lord (Yahweh) . . . that brought (us) out of the land of Egypt,” a terrible sin for which they were severely judged (Exodus 32:1-5, 27-28).

    As Ursinus concluded, “God ought not to be represented by any graven image, because He does not will it, nor can it be done, nor would it profit anything if it were done.” (Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, p. 883)

    “What profit is the image, that its maker should carve it? The molded image, a teacher of lies?” (Habakkuk 2:18)

    “I am the Lord, that is My name. I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images.” (Isaiah 42:8).
    5
    Yes, prohibit images
    80.00%
    4
    No, do not prohibit images
    20.00%
    1
    I do not know
    0%
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  • #2
    I’m voting for banning the images.

    I think an educational illustration of Jesus in his ministry in a children’s Bible is fine or an infant (a place holder) in a Nativity set is fine, presented for historical reasons. But, I don't approve of paintings of Jesus found even in many Protestant churches. The intent of art is to have the viewer adore the image. The Catholic religion promotes worship carved images of Jesus. Or, any kind of image designed as an idol is forbidden. It could be a bird in pagan religion or a statue of Mary in the Catholic religion.

    Another reason I’m against images of Jesus is that they diminish Jesus. I’ve seen so many tacky images of Jesus. I’ve seen so many blasphemous portrayals of Jesus in video. Images sometimes create pointless controversy about what Jesus looked like. I think it’s human nature to have more reverence for what you cannot see than for something you can reduce to an image. And, reverence is in very short supply in the modern church.

    I see no reason why anyone would need to post an image of Jesus. And, I’d very much prefer not see an image of Jesus utilized as an avatar, in a tagline, connected to a particular religious group, or any other way I can think of an image likely being used.




    Comment>

    • #3
      What about images that were in the tabernacle? Wouldn't you have to ban them too? They were against the Old Testament too:

      [FONT=Trebuchet][SIZE=14px]Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness [/SIZE][/FONT]of any thing[FONT=Trebuchet][SIZE=14px] that [/SIZE][/FONT]is[FONT=Trebuchet][SIZE=14px] in heaven above, or that [/SIZE][/FONT]is[FONT=Trebuchet][SIZE=14px] in the earth beneath, or that [/SIZE][/FONT]is[FONT=Trebuchet][SIZE=14px] in the water under the earth:[/SIZE][/FONT]
      Exodus 20:4 "You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.


      Comment>

      • #4
        Originally posted by Cornelius View Post
        I’m voting for banning the images.

        I think an educational illustration of Jesus in his ministry in a children’s Bible is fine or an infant (a place holder) in a Nativity set is fine, presented for historical reasons. But, I don't approve of paintings of Jesus found even in many Protestant churches. The intent of art is to have the viewer adore the image. The Catholic religion promotes worship carved images of Jesus. Or, any kind of image designed as an idol is forbidden. It could be a bird in pagan religion or a statue of Mary in the Catholic religion.

        Another reason I’m against images of Jesus is that they diminish Jesus. I’ve seen so many tacky images of Jesus. I’ve seen so many blasphemous portrayals of Jesus in video. Images sometimes create pointless controversy about what Jesus looked like. I think it’s human nature to have more reverence for what you cannot see than for something you can reduce to an image. And, reverence is in very short supply in the modern church.

        I see no reason why anyone would need to post an image of Jesus. And, I’d very much prefer not see an image of Jesus utilized as an avatar, in a tagline, connected to a particular religious group, or any other way I can think of an image likely being used.




        1 Corinthians 10:19 What say I then? that the idol is any thing, or that which is offered in sacrifice to idols is any thing?

        1 Corinthians 10 (Blue Letter Bible: KJV - King James Version)

        The answer is "no".

        In my years on the net, I haven't seen many people with avatars depicting Jesus except for three crosses.
        I think banning them can be construed as an attack on the truth.


        Matthew 25:40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

        And what is the motive of the Christian who decides to use it?


        Mark 9:38 ¶ And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.
        Mark 9:39 But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.

        Do you have the right to forbid other Christians who follow you not?

        Philippians 1:18 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

        Can you rejoice if Christ is preached in pretense? Can you?

        So the real question is, do you reject giving people the gospel because of your stance on what you should allow or prohibit? Closed doors means that you keep the world out from hearing your gospel and you decide whom can and cannot participate to hear your gospel.

        Is there anything about love in any of your decisions? The law comes first and people second? Or does the law negate your potential love for anyone?

        I've witnessed to people who are in worse shape than what this discussion seeks to ban. Are they throw away souls? Walls that you erect will keep them out especially when you are to go unto all the world and preach the gospel. Jesus didn't say to go into all the world and erect walls.
        Comment>

        • #5
          By the way, what do you think of the Church of the Closed Fist?
          Come on in. We'll judge you up and down.
          Do you think it will work?
          Comment>

          • #6
            Exodus 20:4-5:

            4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,
            The 2nd Commandment was never intended as a general decree forbidding the creation of every sort of image, but a two-imperative law that forbade 1) making images of beings that are worshiped; and 2) the worship of those images.

            Originally posted by Chuckt View Post
            In my years on the net, I haven't seen many people with avatars depicting Jesus except for three crosses.
            I think banning them can be construed as an attack on the truth.
            Lemme clarify, we are voting on whether we should be banning images of any divine persons of the Trinity. You may of not seen many people here on the web that post images of Christ, but that is because we do not appeal to Catholics, which in our years online are notorious for posting images of Jesus.

            While we are on the subject of truth, and if truth is what we are attempting to convey, then neither you nor I or anyone else knows what Jesus looked like.Therefore, any image of Jesus would not be depicting the truth.

            As to 1 Corinthians 10. Please read Acts 15:29 "that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from what has been strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

            Then read:

            1 Corinthians 8:4-13:

            4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

            7 However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8 Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9 But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating[a] in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged,[b] if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? 11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers[c] and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
            As well as 1 Corinthians 10:14-22:

            14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel:[a] are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
            Now the question I ask you. Is there a contradiction between Acts 15; 1 Corinthians 8; 1 Corinthians 10? If not, how do you reconcile them?

            God bless,
            William
            Comment>

            • #7
              Originally posted by William View Post
              Exodus 20:4-5:



              The 2nd Commandment was never intended as a general decree forbidding the creation of every sort of image, but a two-imperative law that forbade 1) making images of beings that are worshiped; and 2) the worship of those images.



              Lemme clarify, we are voting on whether we should be banning images of any divine persons of the Trinity. You may of not seen many people here on the web that post images of Christ, but that is because we do not appeal to Catholics, which in our years online are notorious for posting images of Jesus.
              You're banning stuff that hasn't appeared here yet?

              I think you are banning a reality of what is even if it is distorted.


              John 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
              Comment>

              • #8
                Originally posted by Chuckt View Post

                You're banning stuff that hasn't appeared here yet?

                I think you are banning a reality of what is even if it is distorted.


                John 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
                We are voting on banning images of divine persons in the trinity. And images have been posted here and removed. Just because you haven't seen them doesn't mean that they haven't been posted. Again, have you voted in the poll? If not, your voice will not be heard. We are taking the poll into consideration. Present your case, as you have, by all means. But I do not believe you provided clear evidence for allowing them from Scripture. You seem to be appealing to "seeker" sensitivity. That is fine, but at what expense?
                Comment>

                • #9
                  Originally posted by William View Post

                  We are voting on banning images of divine persons in the trinity. And images have been posted here and removed. Just because you haven't seen them doesn't mean that they haven't been posted. Again, have you voted in the poll? If not, your voice will not be heard. We are going by the poll. Present your case, as you have, by all means. But I do not believe you provided clear evidence for allowing them from Scripture. You seem to be appealing to "seeker" sensitivity. That is fine, but at what expense?

                  You would have to ban images from history or from the historical church as well.
                  Comment>

                  • #10
                    Originally posted by William View Post


                    Now the question I ask you. Is there a contradiction between Acts 15; 1 Corinthians 8; 1 Corinthians 10? If not, how do you reconcile them?

                    God bless,
                    William
                    I'm not going to look or try.
                    You were dead in your tresspasses and sins.
                    There is a higher law than right or wrong or else you wouldn't have been given a second chance by God to be saved.
                    Comment>

                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Chuckt View Post


                      You would have to ban images from history or from the historical church as well.
                      Thank you Chuck for that information.

                      Comment>

                      • #12
                        Originally posted by William View Post
                        you saw no form when the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire
                        This would certainly require that you ban images that claim to be of the Father or the Holy Spirit but in Jesus God became a man so we could see what he was like.

                        Originally posted by Cornelius View Post
                        Another reason I’m against images of Jesus is that they diminish Jesus. I’ve seen so many tacky images of Jesus. I’ve seen so many blasphemous portrayals of Jesus in video.
                        Images of Jesus that are disrespectful or blasphemous should certainly be banned. Pictures of crucfixes would fall in this category because they downplay the importance of the resurrection as part of the gospel message. But I don't believe all images of Jesus need to be banned.
                        Clyde Herrin's Blog
                        Comment>

                        • #13
                          Originally posted by theophilus View Post
                          This would certainly require that you ban images that claim to be of the Father or the Holy Spirit but in Jesus God became a man so we could see what he was like.
                          I realize that the plea for the propriety of pictures of Christ is based on the fact that he was truly man, that he had a human body, that he was visible in his human nature to the physical senses, and that a picture assists us to take in the stupendous reality of his incarnation, in a word, that he was made in the likeness of men and was found in fashion as a man.

                          Please consider the influence exerted on the mind and heart by pictures. Pictures are powerful media of communication. How suggestive they are for good or for evil and all the more so when accompanied by the comment of the spoken or written word! It is futile, therefore, to deny the influence exerted upon mind and heart by a picture of Christ. And if such is legitimate, the influence exerted should be one constraining to worship and adoration. To claim any lower aim as that served by a picture of the Saviour would be contradiction of the place which he must occupy in thought, affection, and honour.

                          Originally posted by theophilus View Post
                          Images of Jesus that are disrespectful or blasphemous should certainly be banned.
                          And how will we determine that? With not one Scripture describing what Jesus' physical features were? Would you consider the progressive feminization of Jesus that has occurred over the last hundred years or so disrespectful or blasphemous? Most of these paintings depict Him as soft and harmless with long flowing locks of hair. Do you think that is an accurate portrayal of Jesus Christ?

                          God bless,
                          William
                          Comment>
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