Images and the 2nd commandment

Discussion in 'The Law of God' started by Scott Bushey, Dec 21, 2004.

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  1. doulosChristou

    doulosChristou Puritan Board Freshman

    Actually, Fred, an older (thus, more authentic) manuscript discovered last summer in a Vatican dust bin presents the true rendering of Mat 3:16 as will be authoritatively reflected in the upcoming NA29 critical edition of the NT. It reads:

    evn o`moiw,mati peristera/j "in the likeness of a dove"

    (KIDDING!) :bigsmile:
  2. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    To represent the Holy Spirit as a dove is just as contrary to the Second Commandment as any other attempt to represent the other Persons of the Godhead. It does not matter what the purpose is, or what motives one has for doing so; God says that to attempt to represent him visually is carnal and vain. "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things." Rom. 1.22-23
  3. SmokingFlax

    SmokingFlax Puritan Board Sophomore

    The flip-side of this issue that makes me very uncomfortable is people getting religious experiences via images of "Christ".

    I sat and listened (in a charismatic church) to all these people talking about how they "got a revelation" while watching Mel Gibson's flick
    ...and have visited church websites (Southern Baptist) that had a portion of their site devoted to entering "Your Passion experience/testimony"
    ...and seen the Huge billboard advertising Easter services at a church that was also viewing the Passion movie during the service, etc. etc.

    I defy anyone to separate these things from the worship of God.

    If I were to smash a film/dvd/vhs of this film (or a painting or statue of "Jesus") I'd be willing to bet that there are PLENTY of folks (who aren't RC) who would view this as an act of sacrilege.

    Perhaps the question should not be

    "Is it lawful for us to represent Christ with an image?"

    but rather

    "Is an image of Christ an idol?"
  4. luvroftheWord

    luvroftheWord Puritan Board Sophomore

    I was thinking about this issue today on the plane trip home, and I was afraid I may have given the impression that I believe it is permissible to create images of God the Father. But I do not believe that. Just wanted to clarify that. I believe it is permissible to paint a picture or sculpt a sculpture of anything that our eyes are capable of seeing. And I also think it is just absurd to suggest that when the apostles observed the Lord's Supper and remembered Jesus, having ministered with him for three years, that they were somehow sinning because of the mental images that appeared in their heads. They are only seeing in their minds what they saw with their own eyes. I think my view is basically the same as Paul Manata's.


    The reason I say the commandment would forbid all images is because of what the commandment itself says. Don't make an image of anything in heaven, or on earth, or in the sea. You can't just arbitrarily say that this is only applying to Christ.

    [Edited on 24-12-2004 by luvroftheWord]
  5. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian


    On what basis -- if not the Second Commandment -- do you believe that representations of God the Father are impermissable?

    On what grounds do you condone the representations of the other persons of the Godhead, when Deut. 4.15-19 (which expounds upon the Second Commandment), Rom. 1.22-23 and Acts 17.29 (the latter specifically prohibits representations of the Godhead) all deny the lawfulness and proclaim the foolishness of attempting to do so?

    Do you really think it is permissable to make a picture or sculpture of anything that we can see with our eyes? Do you really think there are no restrictions whatsoever? Even if it violates the Seventh Commandment?

    Do you really think that anyone can accurately portray Christ in a picture? Do you personally know what He looked like? If such a picture is based on the artists' imagination, then is it not a false representation? And can a false representation of Christ ever be condoned as praiseworthy? Can it ever be anything more than a 'teacher of lies'?

    Do you think the Apostles and disciples, coming out of the Jewish culture as they did, and recognizing Jesus' claims to be God as they did, actually thought it was ok to make drawings of Him? Was it a mistake that Jesus came in the 1st century when He did when society lacked the means to accurately reproduce His image? Perhaps we should rely on the Shroud of Turin to settle this question?

    Even if we could accurately portray what Christ looked like in the flesh -- which we can't -- could we dare to represent God the Son as a man only? Perhaps we should put a halo on Him to let the viewer recognize His divinity?

    Isn't 'icon' another word for 'idol'? Why did councils and synods in the early and midieval church prohibit icons? Why did the Reformation reject the lawfulness of images of Christ in opposition to Roman idolatry? Does God anywhere in the Scriptures command us to make images of Himself or say that images of Himself do not engender worship? On the contrary, He says that He cannot be represented by anything that is in heaven or on earth (this is the wording of the Second Commandment). Did God contradict Himself by commanding representations of certain things (ie., cherubim, the bronze serpent, etc.) to be made in contrast with the wording of the Second Commandment? Is it really "arbitrary" to say that represenations of the Trinitarian Godhead are prohibited by the Second Commandment when the Lord says that the Godhead cannot be representated by art or man's device (Acts 17.29)?

    Just wondering...

    [Edited on 24-12-2004 by VirginiaHuguenot]
  6. luvroftheWord

    luvroftheWord Puritan Board Sophomore

    I'm kinda busy with Christmas doings right now. But for the moment, I'd just like to ask a question.

    When Jesus walked up to Matthew the tax collector that day and said "follow me", did Matthew see his deity? Or did he only see his humanity? If he only saw his humanity that day, and if the people who saw Jesus each day only saw his humanity, then why would it be wrong to only be able to see Jesus' humanity in a picture without his deity?
  7. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    One problem here Paul - the image of God in Christ was a divinely created image. All pictures are not, and are necessarily and inevitably deceptive and lies.
  8. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    Matthew saw His Person. Not just an attribute, or a hunk of flesh. He saw Jesus Christ as He truly is - God and man, two natures in one Person, an image created by God Himself. The best one can say with images of Christ is that a partial Christ (i.e. only an attribute - a hunk of flesh and not His Person) is portrayed.

    You are assuming that one could look at Christ Himself and somehow detach His humanity from His Deity. It cannot be done. In fact, to do so is called Nestorianism.

    There is no way to equate a view of Christ on earth and a picture. To do so misses completely the point of Chalcedon.

    [Edited on 12/24/2004 by fredtgreco]
  9. tcalbrecht

    tcalbrecht Puritan Board Junior

    "Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'?" (John 14:9)

    You don't get that view of reality from a picture.

    [Edited on 24-12-2004 by tcalbrecht]
  10. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    But that doesn't make it any less true. You cannot know who Jesus is by just picturing a Nature apart from His Person. You know a Person, not a Nature.
  11. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    Either that, or He looked in the mirror and said - "I wish I could see Who I am, but I guess I'll have to be satisfied with seeing a hunk of flesh." :D
  12. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    Just to clarify, do those in the PCA who condone images of Christ thereby take exception to the Westminster Confession and Catechisms (see my first post on this thread for references)?
  13. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    Except for a little thing call authorial intent...

    or I guess the liberal who says that the Word of God is only part of the Scriptures can appeal to WSC 2: "The Word of God, Which is Contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him"

    And Nestorianism rears its ugly head again -- since during no portion of *that ministry* did He cease to be God.

    [Edited on 12/24/2004 by fredtgreco]
  14. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    In my first post on this thread I highlighted the most relevant portions of the Confession and Larger Catechism which address this issue. If one takes exception, that's one thing. But to argue that making or condoning of images of Christ is consistent with the Standards which are quite explicit in their prohibition of these things is to do violence to the English language and the plain meaning of words like 'any.'

    What part of 'But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture' or (listing of sins forbidden) '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' can justify images of Christ?

    [Edited on 25-12-2004 by VirginiaHuguenot]
  15. tcalbrecht

    tcalbrecht Puritan Board Junior

    What do you man "not literal"?

    As I said, you don't get that reality of Christ imaging the Father from a picture.
  16. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    Sorry, wrong again. Not my Confession, at least the one I swore an oath to:

    And if you didn't understand that the unanimous, virulant authorial intent of the divines (and those of the adopting act of 1789) was against your intepretation, you have some serious historical theology to do. ;)
  17. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    Uhh, because they were not remembering a man-made image? But again, if you think it brings someone closer to God to view a sissy, false, Anglo-Swedish hippy and think it bears any resemblance to our Lord - of, wait, it can't bear a resemblence, that's right, because it is not Jesus (it can't be His person), just some unembodied hunk of flesh that is not in any way an image of His Deity, which is somehow distinct from His humanity, but yet not really distinct, because that would be Nestorianism. Maybe if we looked at a mirror of a mirror, of a mirror, of a mirrir of a pond of a brass plate of a mirror of Jesus, we could get the ratio of His Deity to under the approrpriate amount, but yet not so low as to be Nestorian... :p

    Go have some egg nog and ejoy your kid's Christmas. Seriously (no sarcasm - mean it and love ya bud!). I hope you both have a wodnerful time, and that he enjoys all his presents. I hope mine do as well - Star Wars nuts this year! Blessings.
  18. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    So you are saying that the Standards only prohibit represenations of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit? Therefore you agree that to represent God the Holy Spirit by a dove is contrary to the Standards? Interesting...

    The Catechism says "of all or any of the three persons." There is no wiggle room. Your view is out of accord (in direct contradiction) with the Confession and Catechisms. As Fred said, you have some serious historical theology to do, Paul.
  19. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    Your speculation about a mirror image of Christ, supposing he had a mirror, during his earthly life is not justification for us to invent images in contradiction to the Second Commandment that probably look nothing like how he actually looked.

    Actually, the command is "do this [partake of the Supper] in remembrance of me." The symbolic picture in the Lord's Supper is of his death, the shedding of his blood, and the breaking of his body, for the sins of his people. It is not meant to be taken in the literal sense that you are suggesting. That kind of literalness leads to the Roman Catholic error known as transubstantiation.

    The Apostles and disciples already had the Second Commandment which forbad images of the Godhead. Paul is the one who wrote Rom. 1.22-23 and Luke is the one who recorded Paul's statement in Acts 17.29, both of which reiterate the prohibition against attempts to represent the Godhead (Godhead refers to all three persons). Hence, your statement about 'nada' is flat wrong.

    [Edited on 25-12-2004 by VirginiaHuguenot]
  20. Me Died Blue

    Me Died Blue Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Andrew, while I have the same view as you on this matter, I think you're misunderstanding what Paul is saying. He is agreeing that we are not to visibly represent God the Son per se, but is arguing that we can represent Jesus' human nature without representing His divine nature, and thus that pictures or movies of Christ are not in fact visibly representing God the Son. As to the problems with that argument, I second Fred's posts above.
  21. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    What I am saying is that the Standards do not allow that kind of wiggle room. There is nothing to suggest that the Westminster Assembly gave allowance for a Nestorian approach to images. They were fully aware of the whole history of the Iconoclastic controversies. Their statement is flat and unambiguous. I reiterate: Paul's view that making or condoning of images of Christ for any reason (recognizing that he justifies images of Christ as a man but not as God) is flatly out of accord with the Standards. Period.
  22. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    Your mirror argument proves nothing and is getting more absurd as you progress. How does Christ looking in a mirror justify graven images today of an artist's conception of how he looked? No one is saying that Jesus sinned by looking in a mirror, if he did; this is a straw man argument.

    I addressed the literal approach you seemed to be taking that those who were with Christ and later celebrated the Lord's Supper were not forbidden to devise representations of Christ and indeed were commanded to do so by the word 'remember.' If I took your approach more literally than you intended, pardon me. I don't mean to suggest that you advocate transubstantiation. However, the phrase remember with respect to the Lord's Supper was never intended to be a call to devise a visual representation of Christ either inwardly or outwardly. You seem to suggest that an inward literal representation of Christ is commanded by the use of the word remember (which is not the actual word used), and I am saying that do this in remembrance of me is not about the literal physical image of Christ at all as you suggest, but about his work and sacrifice on the cross.

    I fail to see how the words of Luke and Paul condemning representations of the Godhead don't address your point that those who followed Christ allegedly were never told to avoid representations of Christ. In my view, my 'salvo' is dead-on and your point is refuted.

    [Edited on 25-12-2004 by VirginiaHuguenot]
  23. VirginiaHuguenot

    VirginiaHuguenot Puritanboard Librarian

    The point I am arguing is that God's Word forbids us to make any visual representation of God inwardly or outwardly as the Confession and Catechisms state. The God-made laws of physics allow that Christ -- if he looked in a mirror which is merely your assumption for debating purposes and not grounded in any known fact -- would have seen his reflection in whatever form it took. To jump from that to the assumption that we are thereby authorized to make graven images of Christ is a leap that is unwarranted.

    I don't doubt that first century Christians could recall the physical appearance of Christ. I don't believe that provides justification for the imagination of man today to devise an inward representation of Christ. Thomas reached out and touched our Lord. Others touched him and recognized his appearance as distinct from the average Joe walking down the street in Gallilee. I concede those things, but that doesn't warrant someone who didn't see or touch him from devising vain and imagined representations of Christ's appearance. I encourage you to re-read Calvin on the subject of idolatry in the Institutes. I have cited numerous statements by him on this subject earlier in the thread which no one has responded to. He speaks of the vanity and unlawfulness of images, including Christ in the flesh, and including the dove as Holy Spirit. He also speaks of the danger in that man's heart is prone to visualize the spiritual in carnal ways. One can see that most clearly in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox religion today. Jesus could have come during an era when his physical image could have been reproduced but he did not. The early church rejected images of Christ for 500 years, according to Calvin. An icon is an idol, and an idol can only lead to false worship. Hence the making of such and the worship by, through and of such is forbidden in the Second Commandment and reiterated numerous times throughout Scripture.

    You said that no one who followed Christ was forbidden in the context of the Lord's Supper to inwardly physically represent him. I responded by reminding you that the Apostles and disciples already had the Second Commandment so such a prohibition would have been redundant. Nevertheless, Luke and Paul who both saw Christ wrote in the Scriptures that any and all visual representations of the Godhead, ie., all three Persons, were forbidden. They don't say, it's ok to represent Christ in human form, but not ok to represent him as the Son. They say, such representations of all the Godhead were foolish and vain. The Scriptures were and are for all Christians at all times and in all contexts. Therefore, your argument that there was no such prohibition to the disciples is incorrect.
  24. RickyReformed

    RickyReformed Puritan Board Freshman

    Isn't this the tu quoque fallacy?
  25. luvroftheWord

    luvroftheWord Puritan Board Sophomore

    If mental images of Christ are wrong, then don't ever bother to read Revelation 1:13-16.

    "...and in the middle of the lampstands {I saw} one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire; His feet were like fine brass, as if refined in a furnace, and His voice as the sound of many waters; He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength."

    Try reading that without your **imagination** developing a mental image of what Jesus probably looked like at that moment. It's automatic. And since the details themselves aren't sufficient to give an EXACT replication of Jesus, as you seem to think is necessary, then your imagination causes you to sin every time you read this passage, which is foolishness and is one of the reasons I don't agree with such a view.
  26. fredtgreco

    fredtgreco Vanilla Westminsterian Staff Member

    I guess you don't read passages that describe sex, or the beauty of a woman, either. Wouldn't want to break the 7th commandment in thought, now would we?

    But then again, since the Catechism says that what is forbidden is not contemplating a God-devised image in His Word, but "the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind" there is no problem.

    Otherwise, by your argument, we are "foolish" for not constructing images of God the Father either - since the Bible is full of such images (Ezekiel, just to name one). So Go Sistine Chapel!
  27. luvroftheWord

    luvroftheWord Puritan Board Sophomore

    Then I guess the fact that the Bible does, in fact, tell us things INSPIRED (see God-devised) about Christ's appearance then we are allow to picture him as he walked with his disciples in our minds as well, just as we are allowed to picture Revelation 1:13-16 in our minds. Thanks for pointing that out.
  28. Me Died Blue

    Me Died Blue Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    I think what Fred was saying (correct me if I'm wrong) was not that it is biblical to picture the Revelation image in our mind, since he used the word contemplate, which I would take to mean meditating on what the textually-described image says about Christ and His attributes. That could well be taken to be the purpose of such descriptions, since their visual nature does not necessarily mean that we are to visually depict them in our minds ourselves, hence Fred's mention of the sexual passages and feminine physical descriptions.
  29. luvroftheWord

    luvroftheWord Puritan Board Sophomore

    Or Eutychianism.
  30. tcalbrecht

    tcalbrecht Puritan Board Junior

    "Whoever, then, makes an image of Christ either depicts the Godhead which cannot be depicted, and mingles in with the manhood (like the Monophysites), or he represents the body of Christ as not made divine and separate and as a person apart, like the Nestorians.

    "The only admissible figure of the humanity of Christ, however, is bread and wine in the holy Supper. This and no other form, this and no other type, has he chosen to represent his incarnation"¦"

    Synod of Constantinople (Hieria, 753 AD)

    Quotes collected by the First Presbyterian Church of Rowlett, Texas
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