In preparation for the coming season

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The Christmas season is almost upon us.
-Christmas music
-Traffic
-Shopping for people I love
-Decorations

Yeah…about that last one. I inevitably have many discussions around this time of year about Christmas decorations. Specifically, nativities. And how I don’t like them. To get the conversation proactively started this year (why not?) I thought about trying to condense my thoughts into an “argument” in the philosophy/logic sense, but there is a piece from John Murray that is short enough to hopefully keep your attention but long enough to cover several sides of the subject. Instead of linking I’m including…(this also applies to my stance on images of Jesus in church):

The question of the propriety of pictorial representations of the Saviour is one that merits examination. It must be granted that the worship of Christ is central in our holy faith, and the thought of the Saviour must in every instance be accompanied with that reverence which belongs to his worship. We cannot think of him without the apprehension of the majesty that is his. If we do not entertain the sense of his majesty, then we are guilty of impiety and we dishonor him.

It will also be granted that the only purpose that could properly be served by a pictorial representation is that it would convey to us some thought or lesson representing him, consonant with truth and promotive of worship. Hence the question is inescapable: is a pictorial representation a legitimate way of conveying truth regarding him and of contributing to the worship which this truth should evoke?

We are all aware of 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.

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.

Our Lord had a true body. He could have been photographed. A portrait could have been made of him and, if a good portrait, it would have reproduced his likeness.

Without doubt the disciples in the days of his flesh had a vivid mental image of Jesus’ appearance and they could not but have retained that recollection to the end of their days. They could never have entertained the thought of him as he had sojourned with them without something of that mental image and they could not have entertained it without adoration and worship. The very features which they remembered would have been part and parcel of their conception of him and reminiscent of what he had been to them in his humiliation and in the glory of his resurrection appearance. Much more might be said regarding the significance for the disciples of Jesus’ physical features.

Jesus is also glorified in the body and that body is visible. It will also become visible to us at his glorious appearing “he will be seen the second time without sin by those who look for him unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:28).

What then are we to say of pictures of Christ? First of all, it must be said that we have no data whatsoever on the basis of which to make a pictorial representation; we have no descriptions of his physical features which would enable even the most accomplished artist to make an approximate portrait. In view of the profound influence exerted by a picture, especially on the minds of young people, we should perceive the peril involved in a portrayal for which there is no warrant, a portrayal which is the creation of pure imagination. It may help to point up the folly to ask: what would be the reaction of a disciple, who had actually seen the Lord in the days of his flesh, to a portrait which would be the work of imagination on the part of one who had never seen the Saviour? We can readily detect what his recoil would be.

No impression we have of Jesus should be created without the proper revelatory data, and every impression, every thought, should evoke worship. Hence, since we possess no revelatory data for a picture or portrait in the proper sense of the term, we are precluded from making one or using any that have been made.

Secondly, pictures of Christ are in principle a violation of the second commandment. A picture of Christ, if it serves any useful purpose, must evoke some thought or feeling respecting him and, in view of what he is, this thought or feeling will be worshipful. We cannot avoid making the picture a medium of worship. But since the materials for this medium of worship are not derived from the only revelation we possess respecting Jesus, namely, Scripture, the worship is constrained by a creation of the human mind that has no revelatory warrant. This is will worship. For the principle of the second commandment is that we are to worship God only in ways prescribed and authorized by him. It is a grievous sin to have worship constrained by a human figment, and that is what a picture of the Saviour involves.

Thirdly, the second commandment forbids bowing down to an image or likeness of anything in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. A picture of the Saviour purports to be a representation or likeness of him who is now in heaven or, at least, of him when he sojourned upon the earth. It is plainly forbidden, therefore, to bow down in worship before such a representation or likeness. This exposes the iniquity involved in the practice of exhibiting pictorial representations of the Saviour in places of worship. When we worship before a picture of our Lord, whether it be in the form of a mural, or on canvas, or in stained glass, we are doing what the second commandment expressly forbids. This is rendered all the more apparent when we bear in mind that the only reason why a picture of him should be exhibited in a place is the supposition that it contributes to the worship of him who is our Lord. The practice only demonstrates how insensitive we readily become to the commandments of God and to the inroads of idolatry. May the Churches of Christ be awake to the deceptive expedients by which the archenemy ever seeks to corrupt the worship of the Saviour.

In summary, what is at stake in this question is the unique place which Jesus Christ as the God-man occupies in our faith and worship and the unique place which the Scripture occupies as the only revelation, the only medium of communication, respecting him whom we worship as Lord and Saviour. The incarnate Word and the written Word are correlative. We dare not use other media of impression or of sentiment but those of his institution and prescription. Every thought and impression of him should evoke worship. We worship him with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God. To use a likeness of Christ as an aid to worship is forbidden by the second commandment as much in his case as in that of the Father and Spirit.
Reprinted from Reformed Herald, vol. 16, no. 9 (February 1961), and from The Presbyterian Reformed Magazine, vol. 7, no. 4 (Winter 1993).

Only a few quick thoughts to follow:

  1. It’s interesting to me how many people are OK with nativities, but not OK with crucifixes. Often I hear, “but He’s not on the cross anymore.” Agreed. And He’s not a baby anymore either. I think Murray’s point about how the disciples would respond to one of our “images” of Christ is a powerful one.
  2. Another common one: “I’m not worshiping the image of Christ, I’m worshiping Christ.” First, the church has traditionally gotten itself in trouble introducing “aids” to worship, and I’d rather be safe than sorry. It is interesting (not a completely perfect parallel, though) that Aaron, after making the golden calf in Exodus 32, indicated that the following day they would use the calf and the alter before it to worship the LORD.

Sorry if the post seems so defensive, but I just can’t seem to get used to the “you don’t like nativities??? why in the world not??”

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0 Responses to In preparation for the coming season

  1. Stephen says:

    Surely you’re open to discussion on this right??? Well, I will assume so and go ahead with my thoughts…..

    I would argue, that no more does a picture need to evoke worship than this article mentioning the name “Jesus” needs to evoke worship. This article doesn’t require that I worship Jesus, just because his name was mentioned. The article about pictures of Jesus was intentioned to make people think—not worship. Likewise, a picture can be used to create a schema to think of the complexity of Jesus as God and man—and it doesn’t have to be intentioned to directly evoke worship. It may be true that we don’t have an accurate idea of what he looked like, but that isn’t necessarily dishonoring. What if a child drew a picture of her dad gone off to war to remember him by—is that dishonoring to him since it looks nothing like him? In fact, I think that if pictures looked exactly like him, there might be more of a conflict in worshiping the picture and exchanging the glory of God for the glory of the picture.

    Which brings me to the a point of his argument, “We cannot avoid making the picture a medium of worship.” I disagree. Music is a medium of worship—and I wouldn’t classify the existence of a picture in the same realm. Looking at a picture is not how I worship. Also, this article doesn’t make a distinction between kissing the feet of a statue and praying to it verses having a picture of Jesus in a video on a Sunday morning. There’s a difference between worshiping an object as “a way to worship God” and conjuring up an image to evoke the complexities of the glory of Christ by having a person think of their existing schema of Him. The schema is there to organize information—not to be an unchanging object of worship. When I say “apple,” you and I picture different images of what an apple looks like—but the goal is the same—to think of the shape, color, etc of the thing that is an apple.

    Also, the 2nd commandment is one of the few that are qualified. Along with the creation of idols, is a description of bowing down to them and God being jealous of that which man could exchange his glory for. So, if you worship a nativity, then of course God will be jealous. If you isolate the first part of the commandment, then it doesn’t make sense—to not make a carved image of pretty much anything—whether in heaven, on earth, or even in the water. So are all artists who have drawn a fish guilty of breaking the 2nd commandant? Of course not–but they’re in trouble if they worship it. He also makes a clear distinction in the commandment of those who worship idols as those who hate him and those who love his commandments as those who love Him.

  2. DrLidbom says:

    I’m absolutely open to discussion and would not have posted if I weren’t. Thanks for engaging.

    My thoughts on your (insightful) thoughts:
    1st paragraph:
    Just the mention of “Jesus” should have an impact on us (ideally worshipful I think), as we should not be able to think of him without remembering what has been done for us. This is part of the whole principle of not using his name frivolously. There is a definite difference between HIS name (revealed in scripture) and a representation of his likeness (that could not possibly be correct).

    2nd paragraph:
    We might have to agree to disagree. The mere existence of a picture isn’t in the same realm, but using a picture in the context of corporate or private worship is (to me) akin to using music to worship. I’m not sure I agree with the fact that there’s a difference in using an object as a way to worship god and “conjuring up an image to evoke the complexities of the glory of Christ.” Let’s say there is…why would you want to challenge/create introspection of a person’s view of Christ with something that almost certainly doesn’t represent him?? Along those lines, if we had a book that revealed EVERYTHING I needed to know about said apple, why would you want to put a picture of the apple (that wasn’t described in pictorial details, because it wasn’t part of what I needed to know) during our times together discussing the important knowable things about the apple? A little digression, but a question nonetheless.

    3rd:
    I’m not fully convinced (yet) (or trying to successfully argue) that all images of Christ are violations of the second commandment. I’ve read compelling arguments for it, but I’m just not there yet (although I’m closer and closer). My stance on this issue is more that I think it is extremely unwise to use images of Christ in worship, in whatever form.

    Thanks again for the discussion.

  3. Jeremy says:

    I think pictures of Jesus are used as a crutch for people without imaginations. They were probably originally created to help people jump the chasm from non-belief to belief via imagery. Based on experience, most of the “pictures” of Christ I have seen were in children’s books which makes sense since many children learn better with images.

    So, where does that put me? I think the intention of the creation of the images is noble but does not follow the commandments and therefore I must stand with Derek — against all images.

  4. Mark says:

    I think it bears mention the origin of imagery of Christ in modern society. I don’t think anyone would argue that it mainly originated from the Catholic Church in the middle ages.

    This was a time of rampant illiteracy and the bible was not in the people’s languages even if they could read ad write their own language. (the distortion of scripture by the middle ages Church is another topic altogether). Because of this illiteracy, the marvelous Churches were built with reliefs and stained glass windows in order to teach the common class of man about the stories contained in the Bible. I believe these images were meant as more of education than an evocation of worship.

    That being said, I don’t believe that any literate society has need of images in order to evoke worship of Christ. (I think it’s OK to use pictures for the teaching of children and use by missionaries in tribes with no written language).

    I’m not against it, I just think that they don’t add anything that a literate person needs in order to get a “picture” of who Christ is.

    On another note: I would argue that a picture’s main purpose is to try and reproduce the subject accurately (modern art and impressionism aside). I don’t know any artist that physically saw and then painted Christ. If we can’t accurately represent our Savior (which I’d argue that we can’t) I think we do a disservice to Him.

  5. Stephen says:

    Like in Mark’s example of teaching children–I don’t think a picture of Jesus must evoke worship. It can be used to teach. That doesn’t mean that the name of Jesus shouldn’t be seen as holy or that you shouldn’t worship at His name. It means that every time it’s ever used doesn’t require it directly. Learning about Jesus will result later in worship. This example still keeps the holiness of his name in tact and is not frivolous. There of course must be a good measure of wisdom about how pictures are used—but because that is so doesn’t mean all pictures (even used in worship) are a direct violation of the 2nd commandment. Of course people misuse them, but that doesn’t forbid their use.

    The extent to which he was described in pictorial details was that he was a man, a Jew and a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief and a carpenter—as well as existing in a certain culture in a certain time period. He was also described as a baby who was born in a manger, wrapped in swaddling cloths. There are no specific details, of course but I’m not advocating for one specific image to be used if at all. I’ve seen many different versions. If the main argument is about the resemblance of a picture, would you be ok with a faceless figure hanging on a cross?? Or better yet—a faceless baby in a manger. This recreation is accurate to what we do know. If you see a silhouette of Richard Petty’s hat and face—you know exactly who it is referring to. The use of that picture is not to create a direct, perfect representation of his face, rather it’s to get you to think about the driver. Most art forms are not intentioned for direct recreation—only realism is.

    And just because there have been misuses of something doesn’t make it wrong altogether. Just because millions of people get drunk—doesn’t mean a rule of the bible is to never drink (although that may be wise in some instances). I think it’s fair to say an image should not be used as a medium of worship—but using a teaching tool, as a way to think about Jesus, or having a nativity to remind you of the conditions in which he was born doesn’t take away from Christ and isn’t a way that you are worshiping directly. Thinking about the stable can happen independent of worship, although it might very well lead to it. Nonetheless, there is still a difference.

    Images, of course, aren’t necessary for worship or even teaching—but we’re not talking about the necessity of it—we’re talking about whether it’s something God frowns upon. A sound system isn’t necessary for worship, although it might very well help.

    And I go back to my original point examining the 2nd commandment. If the first part is isolated to make this point (that all recreations of Christ are sinful), then you must also forbid any artistic recreation of anything ever—no photo books, no art hanging on the walls, no pink flamingos in the yard, nothing. They are all violations.

    If having a nativity out for display can be a stumbling block for someone, because they might start worshiping it, then it is probably wise not to put it out. But that’s different than saying having a nativity out will or should cause someone to worship it—or worship God via it. That being said, I guess it comes down to a conscious, food offered to idols issue, where wisdom (via discernment) and love must be implemented without judgment.

  6. DrLidbom says:

    Are these reliably our two major areas of disagreement? (spoken from my point of view):

    1. Images of Christ should produce an element of worship in the viewer, even if you’re not bowing down to them.

    2. Pictures of Christ cannot be accurate, because we are not given enough information about his physical appearance to go on. Even if they were completely physically accurate, they would do nothing to capture him being completely God. Why would I want to use (even as a teaching tool) something that I know contains inaccuracies about God? I can’t think of another area that I would want to slide on and allow facts to be presented that I know can’t be accurate to be presented as an educational tool or in worship. I find the idea of a faceless Christ an interesting step in the direction of getting rid of the inaccuracies.

  7. Stephen says:

    1. Yes–except I would phrase that I don’t agree with the fact that images of Jesus must produce worship directly. I would agree that they can indirectly.

    2. My drawing example and my other examples say that complete accuracy is irrelevant in creating some sort of a schema to think of Christ as fully God and fully man. Those who saw Christ had an accurate picture on which to base their schema–so having a schema of Christ isn’t the problem–although if you asked anyone to picture him in his head they would have different images. So–it’s just a matter of accuracy–which I would argue is irrelevant to having a schema.

    –The images are not created for discussion on what his face looked like or how tall he was. That’s irrelevant to his attributes or simply understanding he was a man. A picture of Lazarus being raised from the dead points to the miracle. Whether he had brown or black hair doesn’t matter. I don’t worship Christ because of how he looks–I worship him for who he is and what he’s done. When I see a picture, I know it represents something–it isn’t itself anything but a representation. Any representation has flaws–any analogy will crumble under certain scrutiny. But they exist to represent something else. They in themselves are not the point at all. Most any artwork fits the category to of “inaccurate facts,” but accuracy isn’t the point of the art. –The “faceless Christ” is an accurate depiction of what we know of Christ–so I brought that up to see if you have a problem with accuracy or just the existence of an image.

    3.–I might add isolating the first part of the 2nd commandment–but haven’t heard your argument on that yet.

  8. DrLidbom says:

    The representations and analogies in scripture do not have flaws or crumble. Scripture has given us all we need to know about Christ, so my point would be why would we add something inaccurate?

  9. Stephen says:

    Analogies are sufficient to the extent of displaying a point. But the parable of the seed doesn’t account for if some of the seed was deformed and couldn’t sprout no matter what type of environment it landed in. What about that seed? It also doesn’t include the temperature of the ground and growing conditions of the area that could affect growing patterns. None of those things were the point of the parable, so they’re irrelevant.

    We shouldn’t add images to understand more than scripture says of course. But having a schema can help (but isn’t necessary) in bringing to the mind an array of attributes. A picture is worth a thousand words. You could of course read the thousand words. I wouldn’t worship the inaccuracy–I would acknowledge it–and also acknowledge that the inaccuracy is irrelevant to the point of the image–which is the accuracy of Christ as described in scripture.

    Also–why we would do it and saying that it’s forbidden are 2 separate arguments.

  10. DrLidbom says:

    They’re not real representations of God. They’re false representations. I have a lot of trouble getting past that.

    The parable of the seed is God-breathed, so it needs no justification or qualification. Images of Christ are man-created.

    I’m confused as to the schema that you’ve alluded to several times and the importance that images play in that. What is it that is lacking in the scriptures that make images beneficial? If images “help” us teach things from the scriptures, does that mean they are lacking?

    As I mentioned before, I’m still working through the text in regards to this being a violation of the second commandment.

  11. Stephen says:

    As far as being a false representation–I don’t rely on a artistic expression to be an accurate representation–because it’s accuracy in minute details isn’t necessary for its function which is to think about who Jesus is as a man.

    A song sung in church isn’t God breathed. A drama with a Christian theme isn’t God breathed. Using lights or a sound system isn’t God breathed. A sermon illustration isn’t God breathed. Each one of these is man made–though each can help someone understand something that is God breathed. Each is nothing in itself and should point to perfect truth as revealed in scripture.

    Songs provide rhythm and melodies which can help me memorize scripture. Should I avoid them because the Bible doesn’t say to use songs that way? Should I only sing songs that are direct passages in the Bible? How then, should I discern which melody is God breathed. What about a song that someone wrote about what God has done in their life? The person isn’t perfect nor are the lyrics or melody–but could it not help someone to understand God better?

    Images are not required (I never said they were) because they aren’t the only way in which you can think of something that God wants you to think about. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t help. Their function is unique though in that they can help you think of things via a visual cue–whereas songs can do that with a auditory cue.

    The Bible doesn’t require or list only the things that will help. Care should be taken on their use–just like with songs or dramas or poems or any other “man made” artistic expression.

  12. DrLidbom says:

    You are starting to hit on why people adopt the Regulative Principle of worship (that which is not specifically commanded in Scripture regarding worship is forbidden).
    I am not completely sold on a highly technical application of this, but it truly would answer all of your questions above.

    In regards to your questions about songs sung, sermon illustrations etc., I agree they can be used. But I draw the line at introducing known inaccuracies. I think you would agree that songs that have inaccurate elements to them should be filtered out of our worship. Again, I just apply this to images, which are false representations of Christ.

  13. Stephen says:

    So again–what about images which are true as far as we know–a wood carving in a nativity scene that doesn’t have a face carved in? –Which I’ve seen in more than one nativity….?? A picture from behind the cross..? etc, etc…..??

  14. Stephen says:

    Also–out of curiosity, if we hypothetically had 1 accurate picture, would you be okay with reproducing and using that?? What if we had 1 painting or wood carving by a disciple, would you be okay with using that??

  15. DrLidbom says:

    I would say that they still do not accurately represent Christ. Leaving information out is still a false representation. Jesus as a baby was not faceless.

    In answer to your hypothetical question, at the point I am now, I wouldn’t even want an accurate picture to work with, because that picture wouldn’t BE Christ.

  16. Stephen says:

    What about other “known inaccuracies?” Many churches don’t use wine and the same kind of bread used at the last supper. They use an inaccurate representation by using grape juice and crackers. Is this wrong? It’s a known inaccuracy and it’s used in worship. Even churches that use wine–there no way to know what kind of wine exactly it was–so I would argue all uses are inaccurate.

    Are all dramas used in church wrong? They are known to be inaccurate to the detail but are used to teach. What about a paraphrase of a verse in a sermon. It’s an inaccurate representation of the verse. Is that wrong? Are all uses of the cross in a church wrong??–each one is an inaccurate representation of the actual cross.

    I’m still trying to figure out how much beef you have with the inaccuracy verses the 2nd commandment to not make make a carved image or any likeness (which is irrelevant to accuracy). If accuracy is your only problem–what scripture do you have to back that (and all of my examples of inaccuracies) up?

  17. DrLidbom says:

    I presume you’re trying to help me by exposing an inconsistency between what I’m stating I agree with in this thread and my practical application of it. I admittedly might have some of that. And I’ll try to work through it. Even if that is the case, it doesn’t necessarily make my interpretation incorrect. It could just mean I’m inconsistent (not exactly what I strive for, but a possibility).

    Maybe I’m wrong on the whole thing (I still don’t think I am). I definitely want to remain humble enough for correction if there needs to be some.

    My initial thoughts on your most recent comments are:
    Communion
    First, I don’t know that the parallel stands between the practice of a sacrament and the creation of an image. I have to assume we are given enough in the Scriptures to be able to practice the Lord’s supper without sinning, so maybe I need to revisit the texts that set forth the parameters of it. I do know that the Presbyterian brothers I know do use wine.
    Your logic of not knowing the exact wine therefore being inaccurate isn’t compelling to me. The text says wine, without further description, so wine is used. There are no “gaps” you have to fill in to use wine in the administration of the sacrament. There are gaps you have to fill in to make an image of Christ (which we’re never told to do).

    Dramas:
    Well certainly I don’t like the idea of someone portraying Jesus or God in a drama. And I’ve been attending a church for a few years now that hasn’t done any and I haven’t missed them. Personally I don’t see a need for them or desire for them to be part of my church experience.

    Crosses:
    I would rather crosses not be used in worship either.

    Maybe it would help re-focus our discussion if I recanted on something (that’s allowed on the interwebs, right?).
    I’ll take back the part of my discussion where I came down so harshly on ANY inaccuracies. Instead I’ll pose that images of God are in a special category that does not allow inaccuracies (and therefore does not allow images).

    I thought I had been clear about it a few times, but evidently not (sorry I wasn’t more explicit): the reason you are trying to figure out how much of a beef I have with inaccuracy vs. the 2nd commandment is because I am in the midst of studying the 2nd commandment and how it applies to this and I just don’t know the extent to which it does. In other words, you can’t tell where I stand because I’m not sure where I stand.

    As a question to you (just curious):
    The church I grew up in had summer camp every year. One year, we all wrote our “pet sin” (the one we had the most trouble with) on a piece of paper, walked up a hill to a cross, knelt down at the cross, said a prayer to God about the sin, left the paper at the bottom of the cross and went the rest of the way up the hill to the campfire.

    My question: Are you ok with that use of a cross? Why or why not?

  18. Stephen says:

    So–I guess we leave the 2nd commandment on the sidelines for now–and the implication that “no image can be used ever.”

    So now it’s just a discussion of accuracy. But you said even if there were an accurate picture available–you wouldn’t want it to be used (although I don’t know if you think it’s a sin to do so–or if you’re working thru that). So–I guess accuracy isn’t kind of irrelevant too??? I’m not sure what else there is to discuss. My position is that, assuming images are not forbidden—accuracy is irrelevant to the point of an image. Reverence and wisdom are very relevant in their use.

    I do want to make a distinction between what I feel is the best use of something versus what is strictly forbidden by God. I’m not a big fan of dramas either–but I can’t say that every drama is forbidden by God–especially since it is inaccurate.

    As far as your cross question—I don’t think I see it as a sin to use a cross in that way. If I were the leader of the camp, I’d probably choose another way to approach repentance of sin. So–unwise at worst–but not sin at worst. I don’t think you or other campers mistook it for the actual cross where Christ was crucified. It was used as a visual cue for campers to think about what happened at the real cross—which I don’t have a problem with.

  19. Stephen says:

    spell check—I meant to say –I guess accuracy IS (not isn’t) kind of irrelevant too???

  20. Stephen says:

    also–do you have scriptures other than the 2nd commandment in mind that point to images of Jesus being in a special category as you said. Or that images if used must be completely accurate?

  21. DrLidbom says:

    Would you see Acts 17:29 as a reasonable step in an argument against taking artistic liberties (introducing inaccuracies) related to images of Christ:
    “Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.”

    To continue my line of questions to you related to the cross being used at that camp:
    1.
    What if there were a mannequin of Jesus on the cross as I bowed down to it?
    What if there was a member of the youth staff tied to it?
    What if he, posing as Christ, told me he was forgiving my sins?
    Are all those OK?
    2.
    How do you deduce from Scripture your guidelines for what liberties to practice in worship and artistic expression? If there is a “line” we can cross into sin when taking too many liberties with worship, what is it and what Scripture do you have to support it? How is it not completely subjective?

    Thanks.

  22. Stephen says:

    Paul was speaking in Athens–where it was “full of idols” vs 21–The people spent time in “nothing except telling or hearing something new.” And mainly, in vs 23–Paul said, “(I) observed the objects of your worship.” And I agree with vs 29–we should not think that God is like like gold or silver, etc. He was speaking to people who bowed down to idols and worshiped them as though they were God. There’s no indication that these people were believers–just “religious.”

    I’ve never caught myself bowing down to a kids book. I’ve never mistaken all of God’s attributes and his glory for the glory of an image (in itself). There’s a big difference in worshiping an image and using an image to help teach–or help think about something that the image is not. When you worship an image–there’s no distinction about what the image is not. Again–we’re mainly talking about the existence of a nativity (also–something I’ve never bowed down to).

    To answer your questions–
    1. Any image that is used in a way to exchange the glory of God for the glory of a thing is forbidden to be created or used for that intent. You bowing down to a cross doesn’t seem to be making a distinction between the thing and God. –posing as Christ and telling you he forgives sins could certainly create confusion for the youth as to who is the actor and who is the real forgiver–and should be avoided for that reason.–however, a drama where all participants are actors better illustrates the point and keeps the distinction in tact.

    2. In the new covenant, I think the Bible speaks to more positive (things you should do) elements, rather than negative (things you shouldn’t do) elements–as to not create a Pharisaical approach to worship. And because worship is largely a matter of the heart–just following those negative rules wouldn’t be worship to begin with. If we do the things we should–it takes care of most of the things we shouldn’t.
    John 4:32 says to worship in spirit and in truth. Isaiah 29: 13–which Jesus quoted twice said “These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” –worshiping isn’t like doing your taxes–it’s much more a heart issue. There are certain guidelines in place such as having an interpreter if someone speaks in tongues (Which is another topic)–but because worship in an expressive response–we are guided in the way it should happen more so than how it shouldn’t. The church must use a lot of wisdom as to how to direct that.

    As for other scripture that supports how to worship—
    Of the 180+ uses of worship in the Bible–Worship is active, participatory, verbal, and most often involves singing. It can be private, indoors, outdoors, to false Gods or true Gods. Worship in the Bible happens with feet and legs, (Psalm 149:3), standing (Psalm 134:1), using hands (Psalm 28: Psalm 63:4 Psalm 119:48; Psalm 134:2 ), using voices (children of Isreal shouting before walls came down). –Collectively, Godly worship is response to who God is and what he has done based on who we (or other false gods) are not.

  23. DrLidbom says:

    “Godly worship is response to who God is and what he has done”

    What is the purpose of a nativity other than to evoke a response to what God has done? That’s the reason that I would think most would give. According to your definition, that is worship.

  24. Stephen says:

    Worship is indeed a response, but not the only (appropriate) response. God has created all of nature. When you see a tree on your way to work, is the only appropriate response to worship right then and there? Is that the only purpose of a tree? Surely then, Christian biologists couldn’t get any work done–if they engaged in the normative activities of worship upon every contact of living organisms which God has created (what he has done).

    An appropriate response could be to think about that tree in terms of how it’s roots reflect our spiritual roots–or how many trees bear fruit–just as Christians should bear fruit. Or to say–hey, that’s a pretty tree. Worship directly after seeing a tree is not the only appropriate response to what God has done.

    Likewise–seeing a nativity mustn’t evoke worship directly. You can think about Jesus and the baffling complexity that God took on a human body. How big was the stable?–I wonder what it smelled like? I wonder how Jesus impacted others while he was a kid? –All of these responses are appropriate and are not classified as worship. It’s okay to think about God without engaging directly in worship. –And I classify worship as a specific way in which to glorify God, not the only way. We should glorify God in everything–but we don’t worship him in everything. Worship is a specific act.

    So the point of a nativity could be for people to think about those conditions in which Jesus was born—to direct their attention to the true meaning of Christmas in the midst of a consumerist culture. As a visual cue for a non believer to question why there are pictures of stables when they thought Christmas is just about “giving.” –None of these things are worship directly, although they can certainly lead to worshiping. And none of these activities is worship of the image itself–which is the true sin as described in the passages about idols.

  25. DrLidbom says:

    I think we could go in circles forever. Unless you have any more direct questions for me to try to answer about where I am in thinking through this currently, I’m going to bow out of the conversation at this point and see if anyone else has anything to say.

    Thanks for your thought provoking responses and I can say that I’m still only becoming more solidified in my opinions about this as it moves forward. It has been very good to be challenged. I have more to say about your previous post, but it would only prolong the discussion, and, frankly I need to do more study before I would want to discuss this more in a back and forth format like we’ve been having. Not because I’m nervous about “losing”, but more because I feel that I should have a more in depth understanding of the scriptures that I’m bringing to the table. Those much smarter than us (for hundreds of years) have not come to agreement, and, troubling as that is, I’m going to assume we will not come to agreement shortly either.

    I really do hope to pick this up again.

    Thanks for the exercise in humility as well.

    All of those in the shadows, come on out and speak now.

  26. Stephen says:

    That’s fair–I’ve enjoyed the back and forth! Hopefully iron is sharpening iron.

    I’m interested to see your or anyone’s scripture basis for the claims:
    1. That no creation of images is allowed for any purpose ever. (contrary to what I see–that the sin is the worship of the image–and is the context of those passages)
    2. Accuracy is demanded in the bible for artistic expressions that deal with Jesus (if that’s a special case)–or anything else. Or any example of this.
    3. Looking at an image of Jesus must evoke worship of him (or any example of this)
    4. Any example of Christians being reprimanded or even grouped into passages about the creation of images and the use of them being condemned.

    I would need these claims proved via scripture (not an opinion) to classify the mere existence of an object or image (e.g. a nativity) as sin in and of itself. It wouldn’t take much to get that point across via scripture if were so drastically important. And if it were such a huge deal, why wouldn’t there be a clear example, or anything that made it easy for a Christian to understand—much less those who are much smarter than we are?

    I think that in trying to understand this issue–the bible focuses on other issues that are more important to our sanctification. The bible consistently reiterates the points it wants as clear as day. I of course think it’s important to think through–since I’ve posted so much–but this issue shouldn’t take too much away from main themes of the Bible. I agree it’s time to move on.

  27. Jon says:

    The last time this was discussed (on the curfew 1.0), I fear that I was not as kind as I should have been on the topic. I believe very much that this is an “in-house” discussion. What I submit is done so without thinking I’ve got all the correct answers or assumption that we can do our theology like we do geometric proofs. I do believe that having a consistent and Biblically informed theology is part of studying to show ourselves approved, but I believe our knowledge of truth not only differs from God’s knowledge of truth in the area of “amount” but also in the area of our ability to know it in the same way He does. Because of this I believe our theology is always subject to revision when further understanding of Biblical data is gained.

    This is posted in bullet points, rather than essays, as a summary. I apologize for the length of #2 below.

    Some assertions:

    – The term used in the Second Commandment, “graven image”, is one that denotes “idol” specifically, not merely any carving.

    – The working definition of “idol” I am using is “a human-made, physical representation of deity”.

    – The term used in the Second Commandment, “bow down”, is translated both as a literal “bowing of an individual” as well as simply “worship”.

    – The Second Commandment forbids both the creation of AND bowing down to idols.

    – We cannot legitimately say, “We are not worshipping the image itself, but rather using the image to aid us in worshipping” as this has always been the practice of idolaters, including pagan image-worshippers.

    – God has given us all that is necessary to experience Him in worship through Scripture, whether explicitly revealed or logically deduced. It is through the ordinary means of words, water, bread and wine that we meet God in worship. The mystery of these “ordinary” means is that they are far more than “ordinary” when received by faith. No greater image of God can be conjured beyond that which he has given us objectively in Christ.

    Requests for basis:

    1. Exodus 20:4, Leviticus 26:1, Deuteronomy 4:16, Deuteronomy 4:23, Deuteronomy 4:25, Deuteronomy 5:8-10 Psalm 97:7, Habakkuk 2:18 – It is very safe to say, God clearly prohibits the use of images in worship. I agree that Godly worship is response to who God is and what he has done. This response is both a matter of the heart (our “attitude”) and a matter of physical action (what we do).

    2. God has commanded us to worship Him in Spirit and in truth, emphasis on both. It is not correct to speak of the older administrations of the covenant to be different from the New Covenant in this regard. The truth that is proclaimed through the worship of God must be consistent with the truth found in his direct revelation (otherwise, Marcus Borg’s vision of the historical Jesus would have as much a legitimate place in our worship as the reading of Hebrews). David’s artistic expressions in the Psalms as the worship book of Israel were artistic expressions in Spirit and in Truth. I do not believe this point needs to be labored in this context, but it seems that ANY expression that deals with Jesus must be accurate to Biblical data. The true God is not to be worshipped by false means. One can break the first and second commandments together, or one can break the second commandment all by itself. In the latter case, the true God is worshipped through a lying image. There is, I think, a Biblical difference between a Buddhist idol (violation of the 1st and 2nd) and the images we are discussing here (violation of only the 2nd).

    3. I do not think a response to this is necessary. I have humbly submitted that even without the “must” it is in principle a violation of the Second Commandment to fashion a representation of deity.

    4. See #1

  28. Stephen says:

    Thanks for stoking the fire Jon!!

    Most of your scriptures exist in context of bowing down to an idol, or bowing down and serving it. The Deuteronomy 4 passages don’t directly, but they reference passages where the creation of an image is forbidden—where those commands are clearly in the context of bowing down to them or serving them. It also says in those passages that God is a jealous God—meaning the exchange of glory given has taken place. The Habakkuk passage is speaking to God as the Creator, not us—not so much the use of an image in worship (I don’t think that a nativity has any merit, much less breath of it’s own—so that passage is irrelevant to our disagreement).

    I agree that idolatry is wrong. Idolatry consists of creating an image and worshiping it—whereby the glory of God is exchanged for the glory of the object. Idolatry as defined in your passages includes both acts—not just the first. Context, context, context.

    I don’t worship nativities or a picture in a kid’s book. They hold no value and steal none of my glory to God.

    I agree that God gave all that is necessary to worship Him and haven’t once argued against that. I’ve mainly argued for the use of images in teaching or thinking about Christ—not necessarily in worshiping, per se—or using an image as a way to worship.

    As to the accuracy of images—
    I don’t worship any attribute of Christ that the picture misrepresents, therefore the picture’s inaccuracies would not create inaccuracies in my worship, much less create inaccuracies in thinking about who Christ is as a man (insofar as that which is important in worship), via the picture.

    The picture accurately represents what is appropriate to think about or teach. He was a man; he was born in a manger. Now if someone is teaching about his facial structure based on a picture—then clearly there’s an inconsistency (but the teacher shouldn’t be focusing on that in the first place). The picture correctly represents that He is a man—so I think about that. Let’s say the picture has a mole on his left cheek when in fact he doesn’t. That has absolutely no impact on why I worship Christ. It’s irrelevant to why he should be worshiped. And again, in the admission that the image isn’t perfectly accurate to how he looked, I don’t think that only one image should be used. –Because the whole point is to not focus on how he looked, but to think on who he was.

    If we were to think about his shoe size, the color of his hair, his height, his weight or his facial structure as we worship—then I would agree 100% that the image used (if at all) must be a perfect representation. But that’s not the case. There is no glory exchanged in the creation and common use of a nativity (or picture in a kids book).

  29. Jon says:

    So you are, in essence, in disagreement with my first four assertions?

  30. Jon says:

    edit: First five.

  31. Stephen says:

    Some yes, some—no

    The 1st: Kind of agree—The The 2nd commandment says not create 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. –So taken literally and out of context, I would disagree, which is why I don’t think the 2nd commandment just forbids the creation of art (more specifically a nativity)—but in context I agree he’s talking about the creation of “idols”—which leads me to your 2nd assertion.

    The 2nd: I think I disagree with this one—at least in only having this working definition. Idols are idols because they are worshiped. This link is made in all your scripture references and can’t be separated out. I would say some idols are created and seen as deity themselves—not merely representations. And some are created as representations—but with the intent to worship the deity by worshiping the idol. Both acts classify as idolatry (creating and worshiping something) and are wrong.

    The 3rd: I agree

    The 4rd: I agree. I also see these at not mutually exclusive to the definition of idolatry. To extract the first voids context. The second assumes the first has already happened.

    The 5th: Kind of disagree here too—but that depends on your definition of worship. I don’t believe that using an image in teaching or thinking about Christ is worship. Also—I don’t know to what extent of “using the image” to aid in worship you mean here. Clearly bowing down to the idol is forbidden, or worshiping any attribute of an image is forbidden. I don’t that there is a single think holy about a nativity. I don’t take my shoes off when I’m around it. I take it for what it is—an artistic representation of the scene in the stable. Worshiping is an act of the worshiper directed towards God. So in this sense, I agree that worship should not be directed in any way towards the image. That’s very different than a kid learning about parables from a picture book.

    The 6th: Just to be complete–I agree and affirmed this directly earlier (as you know). I don’t believe an image gives us any extra information about Christ. My argument this whole time is that it can help organize information that we do have. It causes me (at least) to think on the attributes that are perfectly laid out in scripture.

  32. Jon says:

    1. Granted. I’m not at a point where I can fully detail the nuances of the Hebrew “Pecel”

    2. Same as 1

    3. Comes from similar nuances found in the Hebrew that is causing me to make the first assertion

    4. You agree with your clarification of the term “idol”. I see consistency in that

    5. I’m using the definition of worship you gave us.

  33. Stephen says:

    Just to be clear–as to #5, I stated worship is a response (yet not the only one) to who God is and what he has done. I later clarified that it is an observably normative participatory action which ascribes glory to God (or a false god). Neither learning nor thinking about God are worship in themselves, although both can very well lead to it–or for many, not lead to it. I never advocated using an idol as an “aid” in worship as I defined it (your 5th assertion).

  34. Jon says:

    5. I think my point may still stand even with the clarifications. I’m agreeing with your definition of worship (and think its a rather good one) except that I do believe learning about God and thinking about what he is done is part of worship, albeit not necessarily coterminous, and that while there is a specific time of corporate gathering for worship, our primary purpose in all of life is to glorify God. (I don’t think you disagree)

    I’ll try to get to the Hebrew soon.

  35. Jon says:

    The Hebrew term used in the Second Commandment and its reiterations is one that denotes “idol” specifically, not merely a carving (else the Old Testament would be in violation of its own record in the construction of the furniture for the Tabernacle and the Temple) This term, “pecel”, occurs 31 times throughout Old Testament in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Judges, 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Psalms, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Nahum and Habakkuk and has its root the verb “pacal” which simply means “to cut, hew, hew into shape”. The point I am attempting to make about the second commandment from this term has links to the working definition I have provided and is what causes me to say that the second commandment forbids the fashioning of a representation of deity (even if it is the one true Deity) as well as the use of these images for worship.

    The commandment is not forbidding the creation of any sort of human-made representation of anything, but the creation of any sort of human-made representation of deity. This can be known merely through the term used for “graven image”.

    The working definition of “idol” I am using is “a human-made, physical representation of deity”. I’ll grant that the image may be worshipped, but do not believe our (“our”) interaction with the object determines its nature. You said that “idols are idols because they are worshipped”. I would say that idols are idols because they are representations of deity and it is because they are representations of deity that they are worshipped.

    Which brings me to a reassertion of 5. Aaron made the calf and declared to Israel, “Here is the God who brought you out of Egypt”, all the while the smoke and thunderous happenings on the top of Sinai were close at hand. It is with this in mind that Deuteronomy reiterates the second commandment. I’m not sure how else to say that pagan cultures saw their images as representations of their respective deities, and while there has always existed an element towards the image being a talisman of sorts, it would be readily acknowledged that the god/goddess it represented was much more than their icon would encompass.

  36. Stephen says:

    Who says a calf is a representation of deity? Are all calf images representations of deity? Should I run away at the site of a calf because it is intrinsically an idol?

    I would argue that the declaration that the calf is God is the sin. The creation of the calf for that purpose is sin. Could not any creation of anything be turned into an idol with the declaration “here is God”…?? Someone could turn to a chair and declare “this is God.” Anything created could represent deity–if that’s the working definition.

    The value of an idol and the deity that is assigned to it is relative to the person worshiping the idol. God is not jealous at the mere existence of a chair, a tree, a calf, or a nativity. He is jealous of the glory that is given to said objects. And again, I would never say about a nativity, “Here is the God that was born, let’s worship it.” I don’t think a nativity embodies an ounce of deity. It means nothing in and of itself. Would they say the same about the calf? Did they not see something “special” or “holy” about the calf?? Surely you see the difference in worshiping something directly and using it a tool for teaching or thinking. They are two different things entirely.

    Which leads me to your previous post to this last one. I agree that our primary purpose in life is to glorify God. I do not believe though that this can only be accomplished through worship. When I wash my car–I’m not necessarily worshiping, although I can do it in a way that glorifies God. A nonbeliever can learn about God–even the demons learn about God and think about him–yet they do not worship him. Worship is the appropriate response to learning about God. Worship is defined as a specific directed response to God.

    You can learn about how to cook all day–and while it prepares you to cook, it doesn’t mean you are actually cooking while you learn. Cooking is a specific action unto itself. learning about God can prepare you to worship, but it isn’t a part of your response–your worship. Worship/bowing down is a specific action unto itself.

  37. Jon says:

    I am interested to read your response to the first three paragraphs I wrote as you’ve only indirectly addressed the point of my final paragraph.

    Once I’ve read that I’m fairly convinced that both sides will have aired their positions sufficiently and that we’ll likely need no further discussion. I am very interested in your thoughts, however, so please do respond.

  38. Stephen says:

    I concur with your research. I also agree that the Bible forbids the fashioning of certain objects—but I would say intent has everything to do with why it would be forbidden–based on the context of scripture. I would say it forbids the fashioning of objects that are assigned deity. Because naturally, no object fashioned has any and is not worthy of worship.

    In your 2nd paragraph you said “The commandment is not forbidding the creation of any sort of human-made representation of anything, but the creation of any sort of human-made representation of deity.” My argument was, can’t anything be fashioned to be a representation of deity? A calf, a chair, etc. And isn’t anything that is already fashioned able to be turned in to an object of worship–defined by someone worshiping the object??? Isn’t the fact that a calf was used, rather than a statue of a burning bush etc proof that anything is game?

    I believe our (”our”) interaction with the object determines our “nature” (God’s concern)–not the object’s. No object is anything worthy of praise. If “we” worship an idol, we prove that we think it is worthy of praise. “We” are mistaken, not the object. Again, God wasn’t jealous of the calf. He was jealous of people worshiping the calf and hated the intent that was used to fashion the item to accomplish that end. Big difference. If they had created that exact same calf for fun–for art—same object, but now it’s no big deal–no sin involved. The object doesn’t change. What changed is the people’s intent in the object’s creation and their interaction with the object. That’s the issue at heart with idolatry. In all cases of idolatry, the glory of God is exchanged for the glory of anything that is not God. That’s why I’m ok with a nativity. No exchange has taken place. There’s no reason for God to be jealous of my interaction with a nativity–because I see it as nothing divine or set apart in and of itself. It’s existence doesn’t dilute my worship and thinking on the divine characteristics of God.

  39. DrLidbom says:

    It’s discussions like this that I have again and again with others and they sort of “fizzle out” without any sort of resolution. By resolution I don’t mean we agree, but that there is a point at which we can concisely pin down the disagreement. In hopes of that, I have condensed my thoughts on this so far into short “logical” (in the sense of the discipline and the common vernacular hopefully) syllogisms.

    That should make pointing out problems with my premises or reaching my conclusions straightforward.

    First:
    I. Worship is a response to who God is and what he has done.
    II. Our response to who God is and what He has done is based on our knowledge of Him (who He is and what He has done).
    III. The sole source of completely accurate information regarding God who God and what He has done is Scripture.
    IV. Any images of Christ/God are inaccurate at best or false at worst in the information they provide about who God is and what He has done.
    V. The wisest worship is accurate worship.

    Conclusion:
    In desiring the WISEST worship, images should not be used in worship OR in learning about God (which provides information to be used later in worship).

    Second:
    I. Everything we need to know for all good works and needed discernment is in Scripture. (II Timothy 3:16-17)
    II. We are given very little physical description of Christ in Scripture, and definitely not enough to make an accurate representation of Him.
    Conclusion:
    Images of Christ are not necessary to live a life pleasing to God.

  40. Stephen says:

    I 100% agree with your ultimate conclusion that images aren’t necessary. I don’t think that is the ultimate disagreement–in fact I know it’s not because I agree. I think I’ve argued what my disagreements are as much as I can–as to inaccuracies, the definition of worship, etc. I have some questions that may help better pinpoint the disagreement.

    Now, here are my questions that I hope both of you will answer. How hard do you or Jon come down on the use of a nativity? Do either of you see it as a sin? Should you legitimately approach me as a Christian brother to repent if I have one in my house? Seriously, is the existence or use of a nativity in any way shape or form a sin against God? Are there any exceptions? I’m not asking if you think it’s the wisest thing to do–is it forbidden or is it not forbidden??

    Also–is it idolatry to have a nativity in your house?
    Is including a picture of Jesus in church (whether in service or teaching kids) encouraging idolatry? Should the church follow church discipline on those who will not change their view on this issue (as it should with other sin issues)??

    My arguments have been far on the side of the allowance of such images (meaning they’re not forbidden). I also haven’t really touched much on the wisest use of them. To that end, we’d probably agree more than we’d disagree. I feel like I’m arguing for the exception while you two are arguing for the general use.

    In practical use, I feel there are many things unwise about creating and using nativities or carvings of Jesus–especially when you put capitalism (T-shirts and jewelry) into play. I agree if images are overused they could have ill effect. As a worship leader, I generally steer clear to their use in worship for many reasons. I would say that it is wise to not present images as though they are necessary–or to depend on them. It is wise not to use one specific image–reinforcing its importance. It is wise to be reverent in their use and clear that they serve no importance in themselves. It is not wise to be flippant about their use or not give a second thought in their use.

    But, I have no problem with the ownership of a nativity, the use in a kids book, or the occasional use in a video in church to highlight a theme other than the importance of the image itself. That to me is a matter of wisdom. I believe to bow down to an idol and worship it is completely forbidden–no exceptions. Again, my question is if you see the existence and or use of a nativity in the realm of wisdom or strictly sin.

  41. Jon says:

    “My question is if you see the existence and or use of a nativity in the realm of wisdom or strictly sin.”

    I view it as a violation of God’s law, and since I define sin as any lack of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God, it would follow that I see the existence and/or use of a nativity as sin.

  42. DrLidbom says:

    I am not yet convinced that every image of God breaks the second commandment.

    Other responses to your questions/comments:
    “Is including a picture of Jesus in church (whether in service or teaching kids) encouraging idolatry?”
    I think so. I think our tendency to create God in our image is known by Him and that’s why we are discouraged from trying to represent him in an image (Acts 17:29 – “we ought not to think that the divine being is like…an image formed by the art and imagination of man”).

    “In practical use, I feel there are many things unwise about creating and using nativities or carvings of Jesus”
    What is there wise about it? What do you disagree with about my first argument above that brings in exceptions to the rule about wisdom excluding images?

    “But, I have no problem with the ownership of a nativity…That to me is a matter of wisdom.”
    Agreed, and as I set forth, wisdom would preclude the use of images, even as educational, because the information you use in learning about God is what your worship is based upon.

  43. Stephen says:

    So, we’ve pinned down the disagreement a bit more, no? Jon thinks it’s sin, you’re not convinced it is sin (yet??), and I think it is allowable, which means it’s a question of wisdom–at least between you, Derek, and me.

    So I guess my argument now will change from convincing you that it is allowable (since the acts passage is full of the context of idolatry of nonbelievers) to how it could be used wisely–as to not encourage idolatry (which is the sin).

    My argument on the use of a schema is that it organizes information–not replaces any perfect information. When I see a “tasteful” image of Jesus in a video, I begin to think of what Christ has done or the pain he went through, etc. I do not think–oh, he must have had a beard, etc. In a video for example, a schema can be used to quickly provoke appropriate thoughts about Jesus–so in that since it is wise (completely neutral at worst) although not necessary. At the least, I think that it isn’t unwise to do so. It doesn’t promote idolatry. We’re not worshiping the image.

    To your last point, I don’t learn about God from the image. I can use an image to bring to mind what I have learned from scripture. i.e. an image can be used to teach what is in scripture or it can be used to provoke thought about what has already been learned.

    I may be opening up a can of worms I don’t mean to, but just to illustrate a point about wisdom–is it wise in to drink alcohol? –What is the sin is to get drunk–or to cause a brother to stumble. So a solid argument could be that it is wisest in every case to not drink–because you would prevent the sins from happening. So, should every christian acting in wisdom never drink?? Is it not allowed for that reason?? Another example is meat offered to idols–was it wrong for people to do it? Is it wise not to have a Christmas tree–in case I might mix up the meaning of Christmas???

    Again, to me it’s not rocket science. The sin is idolatry. The exchange of glory. Images should not be used for that purpose or to encourage that end (or as mocking, etc). Other uses are not a problem.

  44. DrLidbom says:

    1.
    I think the context of the Acts passage doesn’t do anything to change its meaning that we should not think God is like images made by man. Please explain how context negates/changes that statement.

    2.
    I wasn’t saying you were worshiping an image. I said churches might encourage idolatry through having images.

    3.
    I’m still trying to figure out which of the premises of my first argument you disagree with (or if you think the conclusion cannot be arrived at from the premises).

    4.
    Every (EVERY) reference to images of God (that I’ve found so far) in Scripture is spoken of in the negative.
    Just a thought.

  45. Stephen says:

    1. I agree with the Acts passage. I don’t think of God in that way–and I’m okay with a nativity. The context says that Paul is addressing people who worshiped idols–and there were many of idols. If I thought an image was like God, I would worship it–as they were doing. God is holy–and the image is nothing–so I don’t fit that category–those people do. He was addressing the problem of idolatry to people engaged in idolatry. If a nativity compels someone to worship it, then they should get rid of it. I don’t struggle with that. The existence of a nativity doesn’t necessarily mean that I think God is like a nativity. The existence of alcohol doesn’t mean that I will abuse it. In fact me drinking alcohol doesn’t mean I will abuse it.

    2. I don’t see how merely including an image encourages people to worship it–especially when that’s not the intent of its use. In fact I don’t know of anyone in over 10 years of leading worship who have fallen in that way. Do you?

    3. I. Worship is a reponse, but not the only response.
    II. I agree
    III. I agree
    IV. Agree–but would add that their inaccuracy does not distort any information that is important in worshiping God–so it’s irrelevant.
    V. I think it’s an odd way to put it. –do you mean as opposed to inaccurate worship? What is defined as an inaccurate response to who God is and what he has done?? An inaccurate response is a fabricated one–so in that sense I agree. If the information about God is inaccurate, then I guess you could say the response is not what it should be–but again, I don’t see images playing a role in that, unless they are worshiped. They hold no information in and of themselves valuable to worship. They only bring to mind what is already known.

    4. Every time Jesus spoke of tithing, it was spoken of in the negative. Does that mean tithing was wrong? Images were addressed where they were abused–just as tithing was addressed where it was abused. That’s why context is very important. He was correcting those who strained a gnat and swallowed a camel–making a really big deal out of something that wasn’t. I’m not saying you’re swallowing a camel, but if no idolatry is taking place, no exchange of glory is taking place, as was the case with every mention of images–I can’t help but wonder if this falls into the gnat category.

    I don’t see God being extremely disappointed with a faithful servant who loves him, loves other people, gives generously, serves faithfully in the church and worships Christ alone because he brings out a nativity at Christmas. That’s not the man being addressed about the misuse of images. That’s not the man engaged in idolatry.

  46. DrLidbom says:

    I’ve put forth my arguments, and it seems that what we will go round and round about ad infinitum is if the inaccuracy of images matters. I say it does, because it will be used later in worship, and you say it doesn’t because the images aren’t worshiped.

    I think you are really really stretching it comparing texts universally prohibiting images with texts reforming tithing practices.

    I agree to disagree at this point.

    Please feel free to clarify if I have misrepresented you (I already know I oversimplified both of our positions in the statement above).

  47. Stephen says:

    I was highlighting the importance of context and the reason that just because things are addressed in a negative context doesn’t necessarily point to anything–not comparing the subject matter directly. I used the subject matter about gnats and camels to provide some perspective to the discussion–especially in being careful to highlight the things that the Bible highlights as important–which we agree on much more so than we disagree. I’m cool with agreeing to disagree at this point too–mainly since I know I am right:) (just kidding…………or am I?………..)……I’ve enjoyed the exchange.

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