|Reformed Perspectives Magazine, Volume 9, Number 20, May 13 to May 19, 2007|
Part 5 of 5
"The Truth About Images of Jesus and the Second Commandment" by Justin Griffin BSW, MAgth
Copyright © 2006 by Justin Griffin. All rights reserved.
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To corroborate this point, let's apply the same flawed belief to the Third Commandment. The flawed belief states that a violation can and cannot exist at the same time for God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The Third Commandment says, "Thou shalt not take the Lord thy God's name in vain." If one ignored the law of non-contradiction then:
A. Misusing God's name violates the 3rd Commandment, but misusing the Holy Spirit's name does not violate the Commandment.
B. One violates this commandment when using God's name irreverently.
However, one does not violate the Commandment when one uses the name of Jesus like a vulgar word or commonplace adjective.
Finally, apply this same flawed belief to the First Commandment. The Commandment says, "You shall have no other gods before Me" (Exodus 20:3). So one can have no other god before God, but one can before Jesus Christ? That would not just be a fallacy; it would be a Biblical absurdity.
In his divine nature, Jesus Christ, God the Son, is fully God. 1 This doctrine of the Trinity applies to the First, Second, and Third commandments. Therefore, since Jesus Christ is fully God, all images of Jesus Christ violate the Second Commandment. They violate the Second Commandment because the first clause of the Second Commandment forbids images of God, and that restriction also applies to images of God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
Historically, the church did not universally accept images of Jesus. As the author understands it, the First Council of Nicea 754 AD makes the following arguments against images of Jesus:
Images cannot accurately portray Christ because they are empty of substance and life. Any accurate image of Christ would have to be exactly like Christ in substance and life. Any true image of Jesus must represent both his divine nature [which is impossible because it cannot be seen nor encompassed] and his human nature [which is impossible since no known accurate representation exists]. By making an image of Jesus, one is either separating or confusing Christ's human and divine natures. Either action is heresy.
Therefore, based upon the facts from Scriptural Commandment, Biblical context, and church history, one would have to conclude that images of Jesus Christ are false images and violate the Second Commandment. Two essential principles, foundation and authority, help establish the strength of the conclusion. The first step in understanding a conclusion is to ask, "Was the foundation that the conclusion was built upon reliable, and was the authority relied upon qualified?"
No matter how well one can argue from foundation to conclusion, a flawed foundation produces a flawed conclusion. In addition, when one relies on unqualified authorities for a conclusion, the conclusion is false. This is just as true for Biblical issues as it is for non-Biblical issues. The beginning of this study established the essential foundation: the Trinity. The Authority base for this study was Scripture, and the understood power of the Holy Bible depends on God, the ultimate inspirer of the Scriptures. 2
As a result, the foundation and authority of this study guarantee the truth of the conclusion. If one believes in the Trinity and believes that God inspired Exodus 20:4-5, then, in light of the facts, one must conclude that images of Jesus are a violation of the Second Commandment.
Reversing the conclusion to say that images of Jesus do not violate the Second Commandment would disregard the facts and imply that either the Scriptures are not inspired by God or the Trinity is false. At this point, some might protest, "Why can't someone just stand in the middle of theological tension and take the middle ground? Why can't one simultaneously declare that images of Jesus do not violate the Second Commandment, the Scriptures are inspired, and the Trinity is true?" In this instance, standing in the middle of theological tension would contradict the Bible by declaring that which is a sin, violating the Second Commandment, is not a sin. Standing in the middle of tension is permissible in some nonessential issues like, "What is the best kind of church carpeting—shag or outdoor?". However, when addressing God's commandments, standing in the middle of theological tension always allows for sin. It allows for sin because it does not take a stand against sin. It is as if a bridge were out, yet someone was standing alongside of the road holding a sign that said, "Caution, please go slow or fast—the bridge may or may not be out." In this example taking the middle ground lets innocent people get hurt. Likewise, taking the middle ground concerning the Second Commandment allows for sin. In essence there is no middle ground; one either stands against sin or one takes the side for sin. In light of the facts that the Trinity is true and God inspired all Scripture, images of Jesus violate the Second Commandment. There is no middle ground.
Since the evidence is quite conclusive that images of Jesus violate the Second Commandment, one must ask "How did some of God's children come to have images that violate the Second Commandment?" In reasoning backwards, one can follow the chain of events from the end result (God's children have images that violate the Second Commandment) to their original causes.
Principal factors causing some to accept images of Jesus Christ include disobedience, apathy, Biblical ignorance, and deception. Biblical ignorance, disobedience, and deception appeared first. Either from ignorance, deception or outright disobedience, some in the 3rd and 4th century church tried to syncretize pagan and Christian beliefs. 3 Heretical Christians (Gnostics) and pagan artisans disobeyed Orthodox Christian beliefs to accommodate pagan ideologies when they created the first images of Jesus Christ.
Centuries later, church history reveals continued disobedience in some instances of dealing with this issue. When some in the church questioned whether or not images of Jesus violate the Second Commandment, the church covered the issue up with Imperial decrees. For example, the Second Council of Nicea in 787 AD decreed excommunication for anyone attempting to discourage the use of these images.
The issue arose again in the Protestant Reformation, but this time, the church could not hide the issue or force people to be quiet. Some in the Protestant Reformation called a sin a sin and required their followers to do away with the images.
The Protestant Reformation greatly wounded the juggernaut of ignorance, disobedience, and deception. However, after a few hundred years of sleep, this sinful monstrosity was resurrected. The same stimulant that revitalized this behemoth of sin also served as an opiate to dope-up and weaken the whole body of Christ. In this case, ignorance and apathy united to triumph over some of God's children.
Even today, many of God's children are both apathetic and uninformed about what the Second Commandment specifically says. Too many children of God are Biblically uninformed about why this issue is important to God, why it should be important to them, and what the Second Commandment actually teaches. Many of God's children either follow a false understanding of the Second Commandment or do not keep the Commandment at all. Some have no idea that they are disobeying the Second Commandment, and they teach their children and their children's children to do likewise.
Many churches don't appear to be concerned about teaching the truth about the Second Commandment. This kind of apathy keeps Biblical ignorance alive and well in the church. Apathy keeps the Biblically uneducated in a stupor of Scriptural ignorance and tells them that it is okay to be there. Apathy keeps those who know they're sinful from repenting and tells them it does not really matter because no one is going to hold them accountable. Apathy misleads pastors to believe that instead of a shepherd to guide the sheep away from sin, churches need a business administrator who will form more programs, ministry teams, task groups, action committees, family clusters, evangelism squads, outreach bands, steering groups, and care teams. Ultimately, apathy breeds lack of concern for God's truth that images of Jesus violate the Second Commandment while cultivating the attitude, "Church is about what I want and the way I want things done—so BACK OFF!"
In summation, as we reason backwards to answer the question, "How did some of God's children come to have images that violate the Second Commandment?" we discover that the principal causes are a combination of ongoing disobedience, apathy, Biblical ignorance, and deception. Unfortunately, these forces seem to still exist and guide some churches today.
The Scriptures clearly teach in (Exodus 20:5) that, "…I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me." God's Word declares that those who violate the Second Commandment hate God. One possible consequence for hating God is merely receiving the blessings that fall upon the just and unjust alike (Matthew 5:45) instead of receiving the full blessings due the children of God. This is a possible consequence since those who violate the Second Commandment hate God. This hatred of God makes them unjust since those consistently violating the Second Commandment could not simultaneously be considered both justified and hating God.
Another possible consequence for violating the Second Commandment by continuous, deliberate, and unashamed disobedience is that God will refuse to hear their supplications and reject their worship of Him (Isaiah 1:1-20). This consequence is also possible since it is God's prerogative not to hear the prayers or receive the worship of those whose actions declare that they are haters of God and refuse to repent.
Furthermore, one could make a strong argument that the term idolater in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Revelation 21:8 identifies violators of the Second Commandment. 4 In this instance an idol is a Greek word that can be understood to describe a religious image of a false god or God. 5 Having a graven image (idol) of God the Son violates the first clause of the Second Commandment.
The consequences for violating God's Commandment are justly severe. If people profess merely with their mouths that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior but exhibit flagrant, unrepentant and disobedient actions, they are haters of God. God has every right to impose consequences on those who disobey His Commandment. It is His prerogative to restrict their blessings and not hear their prayers or accept their worship. Finally, according to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Revelation 21:8, an idolater will have a place in hell rather than in the kingdom of heaven.
1. Do images of Jesus violate the Second Commandment?
2. What are the facts from the Biblical Commandment section?
3. What are the facts from the Scriptural study section?
4. What are the facts from the church history section?
5. Why should someone not try and "take the middle ground" on this issue?
6. What are the consequences for violating this commandment?
7. How has your opinion about images of Jesus changed after reading this book?
Asking and answering questions further clarifies the truth about images of Jesus Christ. A secular writer has said, "In an investigation, the little things are infinitely the most important." 6 Certain questions may seem insignificant at first, but weighty conclusions depend on their answers. This section includes several representative questions. Although not exhaustive, these questions address the most common inquiries about this issue. 7
1. Q: Do images of Jesus Christ violate the Second Commandment? Some Protestant Evangelicals might respond accordingly:
No, because images of Jesus are just a teaching tool and simply something we use to remember or focus on Christ. We don't bow down before them, worship them, or transfer our worship to the image."
A: In answering this response, it is important to note a fallacy of suppression. This response suppresses the fact that images of Christ violate the first clause of the Second Commandment, which renders all pictures of God the Son a violation. Because images of Jesus will always violate the first clause, justifications that images of Jesus make good teaching tools and focal points do not change the fact that they violate the Second Commandment.
Another problem with the above response is its dependence on a misinterpretation of the Second Commandment. The misinterpretation occurs when one renders the Second Commandment's two clauses together as though they were one clause. In other words, one must worship an image to violate the Second Commandment. According to this false interpretation, simply having an image does not violate the Commandment. One would have to worship an image of Jesus to violate the Commandment.
If God's children are going to rely on a misinterpretation of the Second Commandment, they should consistently use that misinterpretation when evaluating other images. For instance, if one follows this flawed idea, it would be ok to accept images like Mary, the saints, or crucifixes as long as one does not worship them. Likewise, images of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit would also be permissible as long as one does not worship them.
Some may follow a variation of this misinterpretation of the Second Commandment known as "Theological Convenience." In this case, one may consider images of God, Mary, and the saints a violation of the Second Commandment, but not images of God the Son. Following this line of thinking, one can interpret the Second Commandment any way one wants at one's convenience. Another name for theological convenience is situational ethics. If one depends on situational ethics or Theological Convenience to determine whether or not to accept images of Jesus, then one can apply situational ethics to the other Ten Commandments as well. Therefore, in the right situation one could rationalize murder, adultery, stealing, lying or having another god.
2. Q: Does God's command to create objects and symbols such as the Ark of the Covenant with is cherubim and seraphim and the tabernacle with all its ornamentation violate His own commandment? Do these justify the use of images of Jesus?
A: No, because God is the only one with the authority to identify what is worshipful to Him and what is not. During Israel's history, God appointed the making of these objects and specifically identified how the people were to use them. It was God's pleasure to give the people of Israel ceremonial laws that required these symbols. The symbolism of the ceremonial laws prefigured Christ to come. Since Christ has come, all the sacrifices and symbolism associated with the sacrificial system that prefigured Him are abolished. Because Christ the perfect sacrifice remains, it is no longer necessary to sacrifice lambs and goats or use the symbols.
These objects do not justify our use of images of any person of the Godhead. Each of these objects had a very specific and crucial use for the time that God appointed them. In contrast, God did not command His people to make images of Jesus. Therefore, including images of Jesus Christ with these objects would add to Scripture what God never commanded.
3. Q: "If the images we have of Christ aren't true images, then why can't we use them as just a sign, mark, or indicator to identify Christians?"
A: Expecting that one could use an image of Jesus as just a sign without any other significance would ignore hundreds of years of meaning people have supplied to the false images. Furthermore, when God forbids His chosen to indulge in false images, He includes images of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Accepting the false images of Jesus as just a sign, symbol, or identifier of His chosen still violates the Second Commandment.
4. Q: "What harm is there if Christians have images of Christ in their worship to enhance their emotional experience?"
A: This question assumes that the issue of whether or not one should have these images depends more on one's feelings and personal taste than on Scriptural authority. Following this flawed logic, one would rely on emotions and personal taste rather than God's Word to guide one's worship of Him. The Examination of the Second Commandment chapter in this study points out Scriptures that explain that God's Word and not our personal tastes are to direct our worship of God. If we let our personal taste and emotion determine how we are to worship God, we could justify any manner of contrivance, foolishness, confusion, or silliness based on rationalization and popular consensus.
5. Q: Doesn't the Second Commandment apply only to indecent images of God or pagan depictions of false deities?
A: The very phrasing of the Commandment rules out such a limiting description. God says quite categorically, "Thou shalt not make any likeness." Although this categorical statement includes the use of pagan or indecent images, it goes beyond these to include all images. There are no exceptions.
6. Q: "Doesn't the fact that Jesus was a man allow for images of Jesus?"
A: No. The problem with this assumption is that it denies the Trinity. Even though there are three persons in the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, their essence is one. To make an image of Jesus that would not violate the divine essence, one must adhere to one of the following:
a) One could believe that the human and divine natures of Christ were separate from each other so that they were not in contact with one another. This way one could have an image of Jesus without violating the divine essence since the divine essence was separate from the person of Christ. This is the heresy of Nestorianism.
b) One could believe that the Godhead is really three separate gods. This way, the Second Commandment only applies to God the Father, since it refers to Him directly. Therefore, this heresy would allow images of God the Son. This is the heresy of Tritheism.
c) One could believe that there were only two gods: the good god Jesus in the New Testament and the bad god of the Old Testament. This way, the Second Commandment would only apply to the God of the Old Testament and not the God of the New Testament. This is the heresy of Albigenses.
d) One could reject the Trinity altogether and believe that there was only one person in the Godhead, the Father. Jesus, then, was a creation and had no divine essence. Therefore, images of Jesus cannot violate a nonexistent divine essence. This is the heresy of Arianism.
e) One could believe that Christ's human and divine natures were so thoroughly combined and warped together that Jesus was neither truly God nor man. This way, an image of Jesus would not violate the divine essence since Jesus was neither God nor man. This is the heresy of Eutychianism.
f) One could believe that Jesus' two natures combined into a third new, unknown thing so that Christ no longer represented either God or man. Since neither God nor man was represented in Christ, images of Christ would not violate the divine essence. This is the heresy of Monophycitism.
One could use any of the above heresies to try to justify having an image of Jesus Christ. However, all of the above heresies are merely human attempts to put the Triune God in a manageable box and de-deify Jesus Christ. God transcends the greatest human wisdom. God's thoughts are so much higher than human thoughts, that to try to explain in human terms what God has chosen not to explain in human terms is to speak for God. The Trinity is a divine mystery, but it is a mystery about which the Scriptures clearly teach. Scripture declares that there is one God, and that God is a Trinity. To deny any person of the Godhead is to deny God, and His Word tells us that to deny God results in eternal damnation.
7. Q: "If images of Jesus Christ violate the Second Commandment, then don't all images violate the Second Commandment? Images are images, right?"
A: This question is based on a fallacy of applying a specific rule to other situations it was not intended to cover. For example, stop signs are red and we are to stop at red lights. Therefore we should stop at everything red. Red is red, right? In this instance, the Second Commandment specifically refers to images of the Triune God. The first clause of the Second Commandment does not refer to all images, and the Second Commandment is not addressing every day paintings, statues, and pictures. John Calvin presents it this way, "There is no need of refuting the foolish fancy of some, and that all sculptures and pictures are here condemned by Moses, for he had no other object than to rescue God's glory from all the imaginations which tend to corrupt it." 8
The Second Commandment specifically focuses on legitimate ways to honor, reverence, serve, and represent God. Consider images you may have in your wallet—images of a house, children, your spouse, etc. Do they violate the Second Commandment? Did you create these images to represent either God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, or a false god? Are you using these images to worship God or a false god? No. Therefore, these images do not violate either clause of the Second Commandment.
8. Q: "Aren't pictures of Christ useful teaching tools for the illiterate?"
A: John Calvin addresses this when he writes about crosses:
"Paul declares that by the true preaching of the gospel Christ is portrayed and in a manner crucified before our eyes (Gal. 3:1). Of what use, then, were the erection in churches of so many crosses of wood and stone, silver and gold, if this doctrine were faithfully and honestly preached-viz., Christ died that he might bear our curse upon the tree, that he might expiate our sins by the sacrifice of his body, wash them in his blood, and, in short, reconcile us to God the Father? From this one doctrine, the people would learn more than from a thousand crosses of wood and stone. As for crosses of gold and silver, it may be true that the avaricious give their eyes and minds to them more eagerly than to any heavenly instructor." 9
Images of Jesus offer no explanation or instruction. They are lifeless and inanimate products of someone else's imagination. The more fanciful the false image of Jesus, the more likely the viewer's mind is to be distracted from reverencing, honoring, and serving Jesus Christ. Because God hates sin, sinful images will separate one from God rather than drawing one to God.
9. Q: "Since images can be used to further the kingdom of God by reaching people for Christ, are they not exempt from being considered a violation of the Second Commandment?"
A: This question assumes that it is appropriate to use any means to reach people for Christ. It asserts that any means are justified that reach people with the Gospel message. However, the end does not justify the means, even in evangelism. Some illogically extreme examples that make this point are as follows: Someone kills people unless they confess Christ as their Savior. People confess Christ as their Savior; therefore, this means is justifiable. Another ridiculous example would be the rumored organization "Hookers for Christ." Some confess Christ as their Savior, therefore these means are justifiable. No! The end never justifies the means when the means are wrong. Even though these examples are extreme, they help make the point that to keep one commandment, "Go forth, and make disciples," we should not break other commandments such as, "Thou shalt not murder," and "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Therefore, it would be wrong to believe that one can justify breaking the Second Commandment for the sake of evangelism.
10. Q: "Are there any exceptions for children?"
A: This question is another form of ‘the end justifies the means' philosophy. In this case, one might say violating the Second Commandment is acceptable if kids learn about Jesus. This question assumes that children are somehow excused from needing to keep the Second Commandment. Following this logic, one might ask if there are other exceptions for children. For instance, one could lie to children, telling them that if they believe in Christ, God will give them super powers, or He will give them $1,000,000,000,000,000. One might say lying to children is acceptable if they come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. As stated above, the end does not justify the means. Furthermore, inflicting this type of spiritual confusion on children is contradictory. For example, we teach children that lying is a sin. We also tell children that these are images of Jesus. Later on, we tell children that these are not images of Jesus, and we did not lie.
11. Q: "Why do you use doctrine to explain Biblical truths? We don't need more doctrine. We need Biblical truths!"
A: One must untangle and appropriately address several fallacies to answer this question. First, the question assumes that doctrine is optional. However, an examination of the definition of the word reveals that this is not so. Strictly speaking, doctrine is what one believes. Therefore, to hold to no doctrine is to believe nothing. A person once told me, "Our ministry does not adhere to any doctrine," to which I responded, "So your doctrine is not to adhere to any doctrine? So what does your ministry believe?" Everyone has a doctrine, whether it is written down or not. A doctrine can be fluid or strong, rational or irrational, based on truths or fallacies. The doctrines of the Gospel are the principles or truths Christ and His apostles taught and lived. Because people act on their beliefs, their doctrine is ultimately reflected in how they live their lives. A doctrine is not optional; if you think, then you have a doctrine. If you ever base your actions on rational thoughts, you follow doctrine.
Another error in this question is the assumption that Biblical truths and doctrine are mutually exclusive. Linguistically throughout Scripture, the word ‘doctrine' can be defined as, "doctrine, teaching, taught, belief(s), knowledge, wisdom and truth." In the KJV, the word ‘doctrine' occurs 51 times, the word ‘teach' (taught) occurs 190 times, and the words ‘knowledge,' ‘wisdom' and ‘truth' occur a total of 643 times. These numbers reinforce Scripture's affirmation of the importance of doctrine. 10 Scripture also asserts that right doctrine is essential when it denounces false teachings [false doctrine] and false teachers [promoters of false doctrine]. 11 There are those that say they have the truth, and there are those that actually have the truth. Without examining one's doctrinal beliefs, it would be impossible to differentiate between the two.
A doctrine helps frame what one does and does not believe. A doctrine also helps organize one's beliefs so that one can more easily comprehend what one believes and why. God's children can also use doctrine to examine others' beliefs, opinions, and actions, disregarding those that are ungodly and holding to those that glorify God. Although a doctrine in and of itself is not equal to the Scripture, it does frame one's beliefs about Scripture.
12. Q: "What about all the Scripture passages that refer to Christ—don't they demonstrate that God has licensed images of Christ?"
A: No. Although the Scriptures refer to Christ, they contain no command to create images of Him. Nor do they include any detailed physical description of Him. The only Scriptural reference about Christ's appearance (Isaiah 53:2) is too vague to use to make an image of Christ. Furthermore, no credible sources document Christ sitting for a portrait, sketch, or sculpture. Because no accurate representations of Christ exist, no accurate re-creations of Him could ever be made. Finally, none of the Scripture passages referring to Christ change Exodus 20:4.
13. Q: "Doesn't the book of Revelation describe Jesus Christ? Wouldn't this description allow for creating an image of Christ?"
A: No. Since it is apocalyptic literature, one should not interpret the book of Revelation literally. If we take the book of Revelation literally, we see Jesus in Revelation 19:15 with a sword coming out of His mouth. Are we to believe that Jesus Christ is running around Heaven with a sword hanging out of His mouth? To create an image from the literal description of Jesus in the apocalyptic writings would make an image more like a monster than the Savior. Furthermore, the book of Revelation's figurative description of Jesus does not give us license to negate the Second Commandment and create images of God the Son.
14. Q: "Your arguments are nothing but worthless trash. You're just a throwback to the Protestant Reformation who wants to smash other churches' art works."
A: This was more of a statement than a question, but it does raise some vital points. To begin with, this statement uses the common fallacy ad hominem. This form of argumentation usually occurs when one cannot refute another's views, so he or she instead attacks the person to try and discredit their views. If the arguments, proofs, and facts presented in this study were worthless trash, they could be easily refuted using clear, scriptural facts. Second, to be associated with the Protestant Reformation is a wonderful compliment. Finally, as far as smashing other churches' art works, let me categorically say that nowhere in this study do I tell anyone to break anything.
15. Q: "Isn't Scripture strong enough to stand on its own? Why do you use logic to present Biblical facts?"
A: This question presents an interesting misunderstanding. Yes, the Scripture is strong enough to stand on its own. God inspired all of Scripture; therefore all of it is true. However, try explaining the Trinity or how to receive salvation without using logic. This question is based on the misunderstanding that logic is not part of the Scripture. However, Scripture is logical. The same God of order who inspired the Bible is also the God who logically established the universe. Likewise, God did not create the Bible out of disorder but in a logical unity. To approach the Scripture without thinking logically is to approach the Scripture without thinking. Therefore, Christians should approach the study of Scripture with a mind set to think logically rather than illogically. Studying the scripture with an illogical mind set leaves a mind ripe for Satan to cultivate heresy. Another question asked in conjunction with this question was, "Why did you use quotes from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? Does Sherlock Holmes really have a place in theological writing?" I used quotes from this secular author because he presented logic in a simple to understand, every day approach.
16. Q: "What is wrong with Christians having images of Christ if their intentions are to honor Christ and not worship the image?"
A: This question assumes that one's good intentions matter more than whether or not one violates Scripture. Therefore, good intentions rather than Scriptural Commandment could guide one's worship of God. Furthermore, if God accepted good intentions as keeping the Second Commandment, then God was wrong for getting upset at the Israelite people for making a golden calf. The Israelite people's intentions were obviously good, for they chose a strong image to depict God. Finally, if one follows the thinking that good intentions are enough to keep God's Commandments, then as long as one's sins are not intentional, one would not be guilty of violating God's Commandments. Ultimately, the argument of good intentions is the argument for situational ethics. Good intentions or situational ethics will never vindicate one who has violated God's Commandments.
17. Q: "Aren't your views about images of Jesus just like the Taliban's beliefs about pagan images?"
A: This question is a loaded question that depends heavily on a minor technical causal connection. The use of the word "just" in the above question is what makes the question loaded. A simple yes or no answer to this question would have profound implications. If one were to answer yes, that would indicate that one's beliefs are just like the beliefs of the Taliban. If one were to answer no, the implication would still be that one's beliefs are similar to the Taliban's. However, the views set forth in this study are neither identical to or like the Taliban's beliefs. The minor technical causal connection between the two is the idea that images of God are sinful objects. However, that is as far as one could fraudulently stretch any likeness between this study's ideas and the views of the Taliban.
One can make a minor technical causal connection between just about anything. For example, Jewish people who attend a synagogue have a holy book. Mormons use holy books in their temples. Muslims use a holy book in their mosques, and Presbyterians use a holy book in their churches. If one were to make a minor technical causal connection between these groups, one might say that because they all use holy books in a place of worship, they all worship the Christian God and will all go to the same heaven. This example is obviously an illogical extreme, but it does demonstrate how one makes a minor technical causal connection.
While I would encourage God's children to rid their homes and places of worship of false images that would corrupt their minds and souls, the Taliban would take it upon themselves to destroy images anywhere they found them. Furthermore, unlike the Taliban, if someone desires to keep their images of Jesus, I would not have them and their family executed.
18. Q: "Christ's incarnation changed everything. ‘He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God …' (Colossians 1:15). Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God, therefore God the Son has a likeness, and that likeness is in the form of a man (Philippians 2:7). Therefore, one can depict Christ. For if an image can represent our bodies, an image can represent Christ's body. What's wrong with making an image of the incarnate Christ? Because we can make images of Christ, making images of Him is the most effective way we can confess the reality of the incarnation."
A: Exodus 20:4 clearly states that God's children are not to have images of God. This prohibition includes God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Because the Bible gives us no detailed description of Jesus' appearance, a picture of Jesus comes from people's imaginations and not the incarnate Christ.
Where does the Bible clearly teach that images of Jesus are acceptable? Colossians 1:15 does say that, "He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God …" but it does not teach that God's children have the right to create images of God the Son. Likewise, Philippians. 2:7 does teach that Christ was begotten not created, but it tells one nothing about what that form looked like. Neither does it teach that God's children are to try and create an image of Christ.
Finally, the statement, "Because we can make images of Christ, making images of Him is the most effective way we can confess the reality of the incarnation" is an opinion with no Scriptural foundation. Christ's incarnation changed nothing regarding Exodus 20:4, nor did it alter the sinful status of people-made images of Christ. An image of Christ is an image created from someone's imagination and does not depict the incarnate Christ. A more effective way to confess the reality of the incarnation is for true believers to confess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord and follow-through with obedient actions that reflect this truth.
19. Q: "Your tone seems to be rather strong in some areas of this study. Would it have been better to handle this issue with more compassion? You are more apt to reach people with kindness than with such a strong tone."
A: Strong does not necessarily mean uncompassionate. Who shows more compassion—the person standing at the side of the road jumping up and down screaming, "The bridge is out!" or the person who kindly waves at the cars approaching a fallen bridge? I take a very strong tone in this study because this issue is so important. God considers those who violate the Second Commandment as those who hate Him. Furthermore, those who violate this Commandment may only receive the general blessings that fall on the just and unjust alike. Finally, according to the book of Revelation, those who indulge in such images have their place in hell. Should one stand quietly by as children pick up rat poison to put in their mouths, or, run screaming, "No!" and try to reach them? Obviously, the stronger tone is more compassionate. I take the stronger tone of compassion, for I love my brothers and sisters in Christ and do not want them to be condemned as haters of God.
20. Q: "This subject is very controversial and has the potential to cause divisions among Christians and especially between certain denominations. If it's going to cause divisions, wouldn't it be better to leave this issue alone?"
A: This question assumes that one should not address an issue because it may be controversial and cause divisions. Following this logic, one would need to ask the question, "Are there any other controversial Biblical truths that may cause divisions? If so, then shouldn't we also avoid them?" Some potentially controversial and divisive theological issues are: the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism, end time perspectives, abortion, worship styles, and women pastors. If we follow the logic "if it causes controversy and/or divisions, then don't address it," then we should also avoid these issues. Likewise, this logic would declare Martin Luther wrong for addressing the heresies in the Catholic Church. He should have left well enough alone and kept the truth to himself. The Scripture is God's truth, and to ignore wrongdoing or avoid God's truth because it may cause controversies or divisions is a sin of omission.
In a continuing discourse, the questioner declared, "Christians are to love one another, not fight with one another. It is by that love that people will know we belong to Christ (John 13:34-35). Christians are to be of ‘one mind' (2 Corinthians 13:11). Christians are to work together to unify, not divide." My response to this declaration was, "Many of God's children engage in denominational compromise. For the sake of false unity, they call denominations Christian that by Biblical decrees could not be Christian. When did the followers of Christ become those who:
• Reject the Bible as being inspired by God.
• Believe in a works-based salvation.
• Believe the will of people is more important or stronger than the will of God.
• Have another intermediary other than Christ.
• Deliberately water-down or taint the Gospel and, in effect, preach another gospel.
Your statements give every appearance of following the gods of religious political correctness and denominational tolerance. If true believers were honest with themselves, the kind of denominations some people call Christian are, by Biblical definition, not Christian. Yes, true believers are to love one another and be unified; however, they are not to be united with syncretized, half pagan, apostate religions that call themselves Christian!"
21. Q: "I don't believe that God is going to send people to Hell for keeping their pictures of Jesus."
A: This question essentially asks what sin can one continue in and still enter the kingdom of heaven. One's belief that God is not going to punish sinners does not change the fact that God will punish sinners as He has declared. God says in Revelation 21:8, "But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." This verse calls those who have images idolaters and condemns them to hell. Therefore, the idea that God is not going to send people to hell for keeping their images of Jesus contradicts God's Word.
The fallacy in the questioner's idea occurs when he tries to nullify the sin by simply declaring that it is not a sin. In this instance, Exodus 20:4 declares any image of God the Son a sin. Here, someone tries to nullify the sin by declaring, "Keeping their picture of Jesus is not a sin." This kind of nullification also occurs with other sins such as adultery, bestiality, and murder. Some will say, "It is not adultery; it is sharing love" or "It is not bestiality; it is an alternative lifestyle" and "It is not murder; it is euthanasia." However, sinful people's attempts to nullify sin do not negate the sin. Since sin cannot dwell in the presence of God, then there is no sin that someone can continue in and enter God's Kingdom. This means all sins, including those that violate the Second Commandment.
22. Q: "Sure, the Bible contains God's truth, but everything in it is not God's truth. The Second Commandment can be helpful to Christians today as a principle or guideline. However, it was more of a Jewish cultural mandate that doesn't really apply to today's Christians."
A: This was more of a declaration than a question, but it does raise one very important error. The fundamental error that, "the Bible contains God's truth, but everything in it is not God's truth" is a fallacy with damnable consequences. 12 This belief demonstrates a flawed understanding of Scripture, and a flawed foundation ultimately results in a flawed conclusion. If the whole Bible is not God's inspired truth, then why keep any of the Commandments since they could all be called guidelines or cultural mandates? Ultimately, for someone to hold the belief that the Bible only contains part of God's truth is to worship a different god. Why? The Bible teaches what Christians are to believe about God and what duties God requires of His elect. However, if the whole Bible does not represent God's truth, how can one know God and His commandments? How would one discern which parts of the Bible are Godly and which parts are not? In the end, people would determine who god is and what that god requires. As people's opinions change, then so, too, would their god and what their god requires. They might call themselves Christians, and they might appear to worship in the same manner as true believers. They might even appear to use the same holy book and titles for their god as true believers. However, their belief about Scripture would mandate that they worship a different god.
Finally, to engage in conversation about this issue with someone who does not hold to the teaching that all Scripture is God-breathed and is therefore true in all its parts would be like having a conversation about fruit and trying to compare apples and grizzly bears. Because the fundamental foundations are so opposite, the discussion is pointless until one establishes a mutual foundation.
23. Q: "What about passages of Scripture like Genesis 1:26-27? Don't they teach that mankind was made in the image of God? If images of God violate the Second Commandment, then everyone we see is a violation of the Second Commandment."
A: No, people are not violations of the Second Commandment. This argument is based on a misunderstanding of Genesis. 1:26-27.
In Genesis 1:26-27, we have the second part of the sixth day's work, the creation of man. In this passage of Scripture, God created man's body the same day as the animals. Like the animals, man's body was made of matter; for he inhabits the earth with them and needs a body that can exist there. Yet man was different from the rest of creation. What other creature did God breathe life into (Genesis 2:7)? Unlike the rest of creation, God breathed His Spirit into man, making him different from the animals. Giving man a soul was the act of God which made man in the image of God. The body is not made in the image of God, for God is a Spirit and has no body. 13 The soul of man bears God's image. The soul is an immortal, thinking and active spirit resembling God, who is a Spirit.
Furthermore, if one misinterprets Genesis 1:26-27 to declare that God does have a body and each human's body represents it, then one could argue that God is dual gendered and has over 8 billion faces, arms, legs, and hands, since all men and women look different. This kind of misinterpretation of the Scripture leads to Biblical absurdity and ultimately, heresies.
Finally, if people follow the argument, "Because mankind was created in the image of God, therefore mankind has the right to create images of God the Son," then they assume a right equal to God. God does not give humankind this right; as a matter of fact, the Second Commandment forbids it. In this case, humankind would give humankind the right to do away with the Second Commandment, and that right assumes a power either equal to or above God. However, the thing made is not equal to its maker. Therefore people have no right to negate the Second Commandment and make God the Son after their own image.
24. Q: "You primarily use Reformed doctrine in this study; why should someone of the Baptist faith care?"
A: Images of Jesus violate the Second Commandment no matter what one's Protestant Evangelical heritage. If one were to remove the doctrinal statements of the Westminster Confession of Faith from this book, images of Jesus Christ would still violate the Second Commandment. In addition, a general review of Baptist history shows that the early Baptists were just as Reformed, in most cases, as the conservative Presbyterian denominations.
25. Q: "I don't understand how the Commandment forbids having images of Jesus. It seems that the Commandment forbids worshiping images of Jesus, not having images of Jesus. I remind you that the Commandment says:
‘Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them ...'
Therefore, if one were to ‘adore' an image of Jesus, it would violate this Commandment. However, having a picture of Jesus does not violate this Commandment."
A: The way the questioner quotes the Scripture indicates a Catholic understanding of the Ten Commandments rather than a Protestant Evangelical understanding. The Catholics combine the First and Second Commandments into one and divide the Tenth into two forms of coveting. Protestant Evangelicals keep the First and Second separate and leave the Tenth alone.
Many of God's children today lack Biblical education about the differences between the Catholic and Protestant Evangelical understanding of the Ten Commandments. Many believers appear either to use the Catholic Ten Commandments or quote the Protestant Evangelical form of the Ten Commandments while interpreting those Commandments along Catholic guidelines. The "Examination of the Second Commandment" section of this book explains why the First and Second Commandments remain distinct from one another and why any images of Jesus violate the Second Commandment (Exodus 20:4).
In addressing the statement, "I don't understand how the Commandment forbids having images of Jesus," it is important to note that the first clause of the Second Commandment prohibits images of God the Son. To have images of God the Son would in fact be to create, to make images of God the Son. God's children should remember that the Ten Commandments are not just physical Commandments. The teachings of Jesus in Matthew 5 demonstrate that one can mentally violate the Commandments just as easily as one can violate them physically. It is a well-known fact that seeing a physical image will create or construct that same image in one's mind.
Consider, then, the images of Jesus that people watch on their television sets or put in their churches and homes. Every time they see a false image of God the Son, viewing it reinforces that image's remembrance with a violation of the Second Commandment.
Consider 1 Corinthians 6:15, 17 —
"Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid …But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit."
In the spirit of Matthew 5 and 1 Corinthians 6:15, 17, shall we carve false images into the minds of the members of Christ? Shall we take those who are one with Christ and put false images into the temple of their hearts, placing them around the throne where Christ is? In the first clause of the Second Commandment, God forbids images of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. 14
26. Q: "The Bible says, ‘Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle' 2 Thessalonians 2:15. Tradition states that the Apostles handed down certain instructions that they did not put in writing. These verbal traditions also assert that the Apostle Luke painted an image of Christ. Don't these verbal traditions give us the correct image of Christ and the right to use them?"
A: No. Who validated that the Apostles are the source of these verbal traditions? One must remember that when one's conclusion depends upon fraudulent authority, the conclusion is wrong. Otherwise, for example, if a doctor of phrenology says that there is a nine-legged cat on Jupiter, we should believe everything he says as infallible truth because he is a doctor. One needs to ask, "Who is the authority that declares that these were the verbal traditions handed down by the Apostles, and what qualifies them as authorities?"
Furthermore, in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, the Apostle speaks only of traditions which he had taught them. There is no suggestion that they were to adhere to any additional extra-Biblical traditions which he did not teach them. Furthermore, without knowing exactly what the verbal instructions were, it would be deceitful to declare what one only assumes they were. It is a fallacy to declare that nothing is known or can be known about a subject and then make an absolute declaration of fact about it. In this instance, we do not definitively know what the verbal instructions were. Therefore it is wrong to declare, "The verbal instructions were to use images of Jesus, and Luke painted an image of Jesus."
Finally, to adhere to verbal traditions that may or may not have been given by the apostles with no definitive way to validate those verbal traditions is more likely to mislead believers than accurately guide them.
27. Q: "The honor felt towards an image is, in essence, directed to Christ and not the image as a thing. When one sees an image of Jesus, it brings about a movement of one's heart towards Christ—not the image! Therefore, one feels reverence only because it is an image of Christ. What is wrong with showing reverence to Christ? "
A: The statement that sets the question may at first seem accurate because it is complex and well constructed, but in essence it is the argument, "Reverencing Christ is about how one feels rather than doing what God wants, the way God wants it done." Well-crafted arguments like this that depend more on philosophy and opinion than Biblical facts do not change the Second Commandment. Images of Jesus Christ violate the Second Commandment, and one's ability to articulate intricate questions and statements does not change Scriptural fact. Finally, the question is based on emotional appeal rather than Biblical facts. The images of Christ we have are not images of the true Christ. Therefore, since Christ is sinless and sin cannot dwell in the presence of God, the more people fill their mind with sinful images, the farther their minds move from Christ.
28. Q: "What about the Shroud of Turin? Wouldn't it give us an accurate depiction of Christ?"
A: No, a dirty rag that displays what appears to be a silhouette of the 8th century Anglo-Saxon Jesus gives us no accurate representation of Christ. Furthermore, the source of this rag's origin is dubious. Therefore, to say definitively that it was the wrap that enveloped Jesus' head would be a fallacy. The Shroud of Turin shows us that people will make an idol out of just about anything. The Shroud of Turin has value as a symbol of Christ, but not because God has given it that value. God has forbidden such idolatrous objects in Exodus 20:4.
Consequently, the Shroud of Turin presents an easy dichotomy:
A. The Shroud of Turin has value because people have supplied it with that value.
B. The Shroud of Turin does not have value because God has forbidden such idolatrous objects.
So who is right, God or people? 29. Q: "Why? Why is this issue important? Why should God's children care about a study of the Second Commandment in light of today's personal, family and global issues?"
A: Why add to life's problems by also facing the consequences of being a hater of God? God's children should regard this issue with only as much importance as God Himself does. The standard for what God's children should believe about all things is what God believes about all things. If your god does not believe this issue to be important, then do whatever pleases your god. Yet the God of the Bible has said, " Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me." Exodus 20:4-5.
1. How does using an image of Jesus as a teaching tool violate God's Commandment?
2. How does using an image of Jesus to identify Christians violate God's Commandment?
3. Doesn't the fact that Jesus was human give us the right to have images of Jesus?
4. If images of Jesus Christ violate the Second Commandment, then don't all images violate the Second Commandment?
5. How does the Commandment forbid having images of Jesus?
6. Why is this issue important?
If one interprets the Second Commandment as one clause, then one has to worship an image to violate the Commandment. Think of the Commandment as though it were one light switch. In order to turn the light on, one only needs to flip the one switch. For example:
In order to turn the light on, one has to worship an image. If one follows the one clause Commandment, it would be acceptable to have an image of God or a pagan god or to worship anything other than God. The one clause Commandment only prohibits worshiping an image. It is inaccurate to interpret the Second Commandment as one clause because this ignores the prohibition of images of God in Exodus 20:4.
If one interprets the Second Commandment as two clauses, then one can violate the Commandment by either having an image of God or worshiping anything other than God. Think of the Commandment as though it were two light switches. In order to turn the light on, one could flip either switch or both switches at the same time.
This rendering accurately reflects Exodus 20:4-5 and correctly represents how the Second Commandment was understood throughout the context of Scripture. The Second Commandment has two parts or clauses. In order to violate the Second Commandment one needs to violate either clause individually or both clauses at the same time.
"Definition of the Holy Great and Ecumenical Council, the Second in Nicea"
The holy, great, and Ecumenical Council—convened by the grace of God and by the sanction of our pious kings, those lovers of Christ, Constantine and his mother Irene, for a second time in the magnificent capital of the Incans of the province of the Bithynians, and in the holy church of God, which is named after Wisdom—having followed the tradition of the Catholic Church, has defined the following:
Christ our God, Who granted to us the light of His knowledge and Who delivered us from the darkness of the insanity of the idols, after He betrothed His holy Catholic Church, which is without spot or wrinkle commanded that she may be so preserved. He also gave assurances to his holy disciples, saying, "I am with you always, to the close of the age." He gave this commandment not only to his disciples but also to us who through them have believed in his name.
However, some men, paying no regard to this gift, and encouraged by the deceitful enemy, deviated from right thinking and, after opposing the tradition of the Catholic Church, erred in the perception of the truth. As the word of the Proverbs says, they caused the axles of their own husbandry to go astray and … they gathered barreness [sic] with their hands; for even though they are called priests—without being so—they dared to discredit the decency which dedicated items have, [a decency] proper to God. It is for them that God cries out through the words of the prophecy: Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard and they have defiled my portion. For, having followed men of impiety who put faith in their own minds, they have accused the holy Church, which has been joined to Christ the God, and they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, calling the icon of the Lord and those of his saints with the same name as the wooden symbols of the idols of Satan.
For this reason God the sovereign One, not bearing to see his people destroyed by such a pestilence, through his good will brought us, the leaders of the priesthood, together from all parts, through the divine zeal and inspiration of Constantine and Irene, our most faithful Kings, so that the divine tradition of the Catholic Church may regain its authority by a common vote. Having, therefore, sought most diligently and conferred with each other, and having set as our goal the truth, we neither delete nor add anything, but preserve undiminished everything that is of the Catholic Church. Adhering also to the six holy Ecumenical Councils, first that which convened in the magnificent capital of the Niceans, and also that which convened after this in the Royal City guarded by God,
WE BELIEVE in one God, Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things, visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages; light of light, true God from a true God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father, through Whom all things were made; Who for us men and our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnated by the holy Spirit and the virgin Mary and became man: He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried, and He rose on the third day according to the Scriptures; and He ascended into heaven, where He sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, whose Kingdom shall have no end.
And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of life, who proceeds from the Father, who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified; who spoke through the prophets.
And in one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the age to come. Amen.
However, we despise and anathematize Arius and those of the same opinion with him who shares in his insane misbelief; as well as Macedonius and his adherents, who have rightly been called 'Offenders of the Spirit.' We acknowledge our Lady, the holy Mary, to be properly and truly Theotokos, for having given birth, as far as the flesh is concerned to Christ our God Who is one of the holy Trinity, as it has been taught before by the Council in Ephesus, which expelled from the Church Nestorius, the impious one, and his adherents for introducing a duality of persons. In addition to these we acknowledge the two natures of Him who for us became incarnate from the immaculate Theotokos and ever-virgin Mary, knowing Him to be perfect God and perfect man, as the council in Chalcedon declared, which expelled from the holy court Eutyches and Dioscorus, who had taught blasphemies. With them, we subject [to anathema] Severus, Peter, and those in the same line who are interwoven with them, who have repeatedly pronounced blasphemies. Along with them, we anathematize the myths of Origen, Evagrius, and Didymus, as the fifth council did, which convened in Constantinople. Afterwards we, too, proclaim the two wills and energies in Christ, according to the quality of each nature, just as the Sixth Council in Constantinople pronounced, when it renounced Sergius, Honorius, Cyrus, Pyrrus, and Macarius, who did not like piety, as well as the ones of the same mind with them.
In summary, we preserve all the traditions of the Church, which for our sake have been decreed in written or unwritten form, without introducing an innovation. One of these traditions is the making of iconographic representations—being in accordance with the narrative of the proclamation of the gospel—for the purpose of ascertaining the incarnation of God the Word, which was real, not imaginary, and for being of an equal benefit to us as the gospel narrative. For those which point mutually to each other undoubtedly mutually signify each other.
Be this as it may, and continuing along the royal pathway, following both the teaching of our holy Fathers which is inspired by God and the tradition of the Catholic Church—for we know that this tradition is of the holy Spirit dwelling in her—in absolute precision and harmony with the spirit, WE DECLARE that, next to the sign of the precious and life-giving cross, venerable and holy icons—made of colours, pebbles, or any other material that is fit—may be set in the holy churches of God, on holy utensils and vestments, on walls and boards, in houses and in streets. These may be icons of our Lord and God the Savior Jesus Christ, or of our pure Lady the holy Theotokos, or of honorable angels, or of any saint or holy man. For the more, these are kept in view through their iconographic representation, the more those who look at them are lifted up to remember, and have an earnest desire for the prototypes. Also [we declare] that one may render to them the veneration of honour: not the true worship of our faith, which is due only to the divine nature, but the same kind of veneration as is offered to the form of the precious and life-giving cross, to the holy gospels, and to the other holy dedicated items. Also [we declare] that one may honour these by bringing to them incense and light, as was the pious custom of the early [Christians]; for 'the honour to the icon is conveyed to the prototype.' Thus, he who venerates the icon venerates the hypostasis of the person depicted on it. In this way the teaching of our holy Fathers—that is, the tradition of the Catholic Church, which has accepted the gospel from one end of the earth to the other—is strengthened. Thus, we faithfully follow Paul, who spoke in Christ, as well as the entire divine assembly of the Apostles and holy Fathers, holding to the traditions, which we have received. Using the words of the prophet, we repeat loudly to the Church the hymns of victory: Rejoice daughter of Zion: cry aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem; rejoice and delight thyself with all thine heart. The Lord has taken away from thee the iniquities of thine opponents, he has ransomed thee from the land of thine enemies: the Lord, the King is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more, and peace will be unto thee for ever.
Hence those who take the liberty of thinking or teaching otherwise, or—like the accursed heretics—of violating the traditions of the Church and inventing some sort of novelty, or of rejecting some of the things which have been dedicated to the Church—that is the gospel, or the form of the cross, or an iconographic representation, or a holy relic of a martyr—or of contriving crookedly and cunningly to upset any of the legitimate traditions of the Catholic Church, or of using the holy treasures or the venerable monasteries as a common place, if they are bishops or clergymen, WE DIRECT that they be unfrocked; if monks or laymen of the society, that they be excommunicated. (Pages 176-180 in Sahas, Daniel J. Icon and Logos: Sources in Eighth-Century Iconoclasm. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1986.)
Not: lo' / lo (not, no) not (with verb—absolute prohibition.)
Make: taaseh, from asah—"to do, make." This instance is "to make." Particularly here, with the preposition "le," used reflexively, "make for thee." With this preposition, the making is for someone, here "yourself." This implies that idol/image making is intentional, for the purpose of worship. But this does not mean that the commandment permits having idols, making idols or images for someone else, or taking those that someone else has made. 15
Idol: pesel, from pasal—"to hew, hew into shape." Therefore, the word has inherent in it the idea of carved or shaped and its most common translation is "graven image" (14 times out of 31 total occurrences). The Hebrew dictionary places this particular use under the definition "idol." 16
Graven: pasal—(verb)"to cut, hew, hew into shape."
Likeness: temunah "likeness, form," related to miyn "kind, species." 17 In this verse, it refers to the likeness or form of a created being or object, along with Deut 4:16, 23, 25, 5:8. BDB has "likeness, representation." 18
Bow down: tishtachveh, from shachah—"to bow down." It is used of showing reverence or honor to monarchs and superiors, God, and other gods. It is sometimes translated simply "worship," apparently because that is how worship was done in those days. 19
Serve: taabdem, from abad—"to work, serve." It is used for serving God and false gods. In Exodus 23:24, serving other gods is parallel to bowing down to them and doing according to their (the nations') deeds, and in 23:33 serving other gods will surely be a snare to Israel. Here it is "to serve religiously, show devotion to." 20
Pillar: masebah. "A pillar, stump." Personal memorial monument; memorial of divine appearance; sacred stone or pillar with an altar (of both Israelites and pagans). 21 "In Canaanite religion the pillar had so far become identified with deity (particularly male deity) as to be an object of regard it was therefore forbidden to the Israelites, who were to destroy all they found." Pillars were evidently used as a kind of signposts for false gods and markers of special places.
A pencil is a tool used to write one's thoughts without determining the thoughts. Likewise, logic is a tool to express the facts without determining the facts.
This study was not a conglomeration of opinions, guesswork, and conjecture. Rather this study set out to evaluate logically whether or not images of Jesus Christ violate the Second Commandment. Some of the logical tools that this study employed throughout this book were: analytical deductions, logical alphabets, deductive arguments like the Modus Ponens, and the exposing of fallacies like a straw-man argument.
Different logical methods were employed in this book to help get at the Biblical and historical facts concerning images of Jesus Christ and the Second Commandment. For example, the author used the process of reasoning backwards to determine who approved the images of Jesus. The following example of reasoning backwards demonstrates one of the logical tools used in developing this study.
To reason backwards means to take the end result and determine what the steps were that led up to that ending. In other words, one starts at the ending and works backwards to the beginning instead of following a chain of events from beginning to ending. Therefore, when reasoning backwards to solve the problem "how did some of God's children come to have images of Jesus," it is possible to follow the chain of events backwards to determine the original cause.
1. What is the end result? We begin with the end result that some of God's children have images of Jesus.
2. Determine a problem that may have contributed to the end result. The Problem - Someone approved of the images of Jesus.
3. The Situation that facilitates the end result - Someone approved the images of Jesus.
4. The possible sources of approval - The two primary options to fulfill the situation are (A. God) and (B. people). 22
Given the two primary options (A or B), one can form logical arrangements in the following way. For each option, there are two possibilities, either an affirmative or negative. We will represent the affirmative with a capital letter and the negative with a lower case letter. Then, we can express all the possibilities out of these two options by the following four conjunctions.
(AB) - Both God and people approved of the images.
(Ab) - God approved of the images and people did not.
(aB) - People approved of the images and God did not.
(ab) - Neither God nor people approved of the images.
The process of reasoning backwards is eliminative as case specific facts eliminate some of the options. The option that remains after certain options are eliminated is the solution that fulfills the situation. In this instance the Bible provides the case specific facts.
1. (AB and Ab) - Thorough searches of the entire Bible reveal the fact that nowhere in Scripture does God approve images of Jesus. The fact that nowhere in Scripture does God approve of images of Christ rules out God as a possible source of approval. This would eliminate (AB and Ab), since both depend on God as a source for approval.
2. (aB) - The fact that nowhere in Scripture does God approve of images of Christ eliminates God as a possible source of approval but does not eliminate people.
3. (ab) - The fact that people have images of Jesus would eliminate (ab), since without God or people approving of images, people wouldn't have them.
Therefore, out of the four possible options only (aB) presents itself as the possibility that fulfills the situation. The situation was - someone needs to have approved of the images of Jesus. God did not approve of the images; therefore people must have approved the images.
Calvin, John. Commentaries on the Four Last Books of Moses, Arranged in the Form of a Harmony. Vol. 2. trans. Charles William Bingham. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950.
___________. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Translated by Henry Beveridge. Great Books of the Western World, ed. Mortimer J. Adler, vol. 20. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1990.
Hodge, Charles. Systematic theology. .Grand Rapids, MI : Eerdmans, 1970 Reprint. Originally published: 1872.
Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology. New Edition. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996.
A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament. Edited by Francis Brown, with the cooperation of S.R. Driver and Charles A. Briggs. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1906.
Hunt, Arthur W, III. The Vanishing Word: The Veneration of Visual Imagery in the Postmodern World. Focal Point. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2003.
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Sahas, Daniel J. Icon and Logos: Sources in Eighth Century Iconoclasm. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1986.
Firth, Raymond. Symbols: Public and Private. Symbol, Myth, and Ritual Series, ed. Victor Turner. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1973.
Gutmann, Joseph, ed. The Image and the Word: Confrontations in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. American Academy of Religion, Society of Biblical Literature, Religion and the Arts, ed. Anthony Yu and Joseph Gutmann, no. 4. Missoula, Mont.: Scholars Press for The American Academy of Religion and The Society of Biblical Literature, 1977.
Martin, Edward James. A History of the Iconoclastic Controversy. London, Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1930. Reprint, New York: AMS Press, 1978.
Stafford, Thomas Albert. Christian Symbolism in the Evangelical Churches. New York: Abingdon, 1942.
Webber, F.R. Church Symbolism: An Explanation of the More Important Symbols of the Old and New Testament, the Primitive, the Mediaeval and the Modern Church. 2d ed., rev. Detroit: Omnigraphics, 1992.
Johnston, Michael A. "Seeing the Word." Anglican Theological Review 82, no. 3 (Summer 2000): 565-569.
Sider, J. Alexander. "Image, Likeness, and the Ethics of Memory." Scottish Journal of Theology 54, no. 4 (2001): 528-547.
Goetz, Ronald. "Making the Invisible Visible: A Protestant Encounter with Icons." Christian Century 110, no. 32 (10 November 1993): 1120-1122.
Rosell, Garth M. The History of the Church to the Reformation, Lectures 15, 16. Outreach, Inc., 1991. Cassette.
Aquinas, Thomas. IIIa Q.25 a.3 Resp. "Thomas Aquinas's Conception of Image in Summa Theologica." Cited 7 May 2003. Online: http://www.nd.edu/Departments/Maritain/ti/chamming.htm.
Christian Iconography. Jesus Christ. Cited 3 January 2004. Online: http://www.aug.edu/augusta/iconography/index.html
Medieval Sourcebook: The Second Council of Nicea, 787. Cited 12 November 2004. http://www.fordham.edu
A time-line of Christianity and Judaism http: http://www.scaruffi.com
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___________. Irene. Cited 13 November 2004. http://www.encyclopedia.com/
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___________. Nicaea, Second Council of. Cited 13 November 2004. http://www.encyclopedia.com/
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McDaniel, Chip. Interview by author, 7 April 2003.
There is an infinite contrast between worldly reality based in total depravity and Godly truth based on the sovereignty of God. Images of Jesus are involved in that infinite contrast. Some people are tempted to confuse worldly reality with Godly truth. Countless so-called followers of Christ seem to conduct their lives in shades of gray, trying to mix bad and good. God's Word seems to be just another shade of gray. For these Christians, the Bible seems to be opinion without truth. It appears to be used either because it is a traditional church tool or because it encourages positive feelings, not necessarily because it is believed as God's truth and should be obeyed.
For these self-attesting Christians, obedience to God's Word is optional. For them, whether or not one obeys Scripture depends on how you look at it. They would tell us that the Second Commandment is not being violated, and that there is nothing wrong with having images of Jesus because they can't hurt anyone. These man-made Christians are hostile to clear statements about what God's Word affirms and what God's Word denies. If you prove how images of Jesus violate the Second Commandment and spiritually impair those who indulge in them, they would scold you, telling you that one should be impartial and not engage in controversy over disagreements. They would reprimand you, telling you to stop focusing attention on differences between theological beliefs. However, if we follow their direction, we shall have to lock the Bible shut, abandoning its teachings and sacrificing Godly truth to the pagan goddesses of denominational tolerance and religious political correctness.
When Godly men and women take a stand against error and put down their golden calf images of Jesus Christ, God is celebrated, served, honored, and glorified. The decision is simple, and there is no middle ground. Either obey God or disobey God. If God's children truly love God and show their love by keeping His Commandments, then they will put away the false images of Jesus Christ.
According to the Second Commandment, if people choose to disobey God and keep the false images of Jesus Christ, they will be condemned as haters of God. As haters of God, they will merely receive the general blessings that fall on the just and the unjust and not God's full blessings for His obedient children. (Matthew. 5:45). Furthermore, according to the book of Revelation, those who unrepentantly indulge in their false images of God will have their place in hell.
Many of God's children live in ignorance of this Commandment and its consequences; however, ignorance is no excuse for breaking God's Commandments.
You can help stop the ignorance. You do not have to be a theologian, pastor, evangelist, or missionary. All you need to do is share the truth. You can encourage someone to buy this book, or you can buy this book and give it to someone as a gift. You can encourage your Sunday school class, Bible study group, church, or reading club to examine this book. You can stand on a street corner and hand this book out to those who will take it. Do you know people who call themselves Christian? Is your mom, dad, brother, sister pastor, coworker, friend, or acquaintance a follower of Christ? Then I implore you please get them this book and spread the truth.
1. John 1:1; Titus. 2:13; 2 Peter. 1:1 Jesus has the entire attributes like omniscience and omnipotence, making Jesus equal to the persons of the Father and of the Holy Spirit in infinite knowledge and power.
2. 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy. 3:16; 2 Peter. 1:19, 1:21; 1 John 5:9
3. To syncretize pagan and Christian beliefs means to attempt to morph together belief systems or doctrines that are diametrically opposed to one another. In essence, a syncretized Christian is by Biblical definition not a true follower of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures plainly teach one cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24).
4. The term idolater is not found in the Old Testament. The term idolater is a Greek term for one who has and/or uses idols. Idols are graven images of the Triune God or pagan gods. While the term idolater is not used in the Old Testament the understanding of someone who has or uses idols is identified throughout the Old Testament. (1 Kings 15: 13-16; 2 Chronicles 33:7, 15; Isaiah 48:5). The book of Acts identifies the golden calf incident by the use of the term idol, "And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifice unto the idol, and rejoiced in the works of their own hands" Acts 7:41.
5. An idol is a graven image of God. One can have pagan idols, images of false gods, but since there is no other god than God, then all pagan images -- idols are an attempt at depicting the only true God.
6. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, A Case of Identity, n.p. [Accessed 7 May 2003]. Online: http://www.221bakerstreet.org/.
7. These questions and statements represent different conversations that the author has had throughout the development of this study. The questions and statements have been reconstructed to the best of the author's recollection.
8. Calvin, 108.
9. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge, Great Books of the Western World, ed. Mortimer J. Adler, vol. 20 (Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1990), 35.
10. Deuteronomy 32:2; Pro 4:2; Isaiah 28:9 ; Matthew 7:28; John 7:16; Romans 6:17
11. Jer 14:14; 23:32, Zech 10:2, Mat 7:15; 24:11, 2Pe 2:1
12. 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9
13. John 4:24; 2 Corinthians 3:17; 1 Timothy 1:17
14. If one were to limit the violating of the first clause of the Second Commandment to only making images of God, then God was wrong for being upset with the Israelite people for the golden calf incident. Only the goldsmiths violated the first clause of the second Commandment and not all the Israelites. In continuing to follow this flawed thinking the Israelite nation could have bought images of God from pagan nations without violating the first clause of the Second Commandment. However, a historical understanding of the Israelite history would dictate that creating or having people-made images of God displeased God.
15. This explanation supplied by Andrew Morrison, M.A. student (Old Testament), Columbia Biblical Seminary.
16. Brown 820.
17. Ibid. 568.
20. Ibid. He writes, "It is best to translate it 'serve,' not distinguishing whether this means practical obedience or purely religious activity, because when it is one of these, the other is implied by the sense of the word."
21. Brown 663.
22. God and people are the only viable options, since animals, vegetables; inanimate objects, etc. could not have approved of images of Jesus.
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