In Living Color

Danny Hyde has written an excellent little book on the second commandment. Ministers commonly take exceptions to the standards with regard to the second commandment, and this little book should give everyone pause who does so. It is a very helpful, clear, and concise laying out of the arguments why the confessions are correct to prohibit all images of Christ.

Probably the most helpful thing about this book is its conscious focus on the means of grace. Preaching and the Sacraments actually receive half of the entire book. The reason this is important is that Rev. Hyde wants to scratch where we really itch. The desire to have images comes from a desire to have grace given to us. Therefore, it is necessary to prove that the means of grace that we actually have are indeed sufficient. The timeliness of the book can hardly be greater, as many Reformed folk are asking questions about this issue. Furthermore, this is not an unimportant issue, since we are asking the question about the correct interpretation of God’s law.

Rev. Hyde notes (with Neil Postman) that our culture has gone visual (p. 41). This already makes the confessional position difficult for modern man. After expositing this aspect of culture, Rev. Hyde goes to scripture (the second commandment itself, Deuteronomy 4, Psalm 115, Isaiah 40, 46, Jeremiah 10, and, most importantly, Acts 17). The argument from Acts 17 is not only an open and shut case, but it is surprising how few people seem to make the connection. Here is the relevant passage (Acts 17:29): “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.” The context of this statement is so important, and it leads me to my one minor criticism (an easily fixable thing in a second edition): Rev. Hyde has omitted one key argument against images of God. In the context of Acts 17, there is a reason why we should not make any images of God. That reason is that we are to BE the image of God. Notice the beginning of verse 29: “being His offspring.” The reason we ought to know that God cannot be imaged in stone or gold or silver is that God has already made images of Himself: us, His offspring! I was longing for Rev. Hyde to make this point in his book, and I never saw it. Nevertheless, this is a small criticism, since I agreed with everything he actually did write. He certainly connects Acts 17 with the arguments that Jeff Meyers (among others) have used in favor of making images of Christ for artistic and educational purposes. I believe that the passage quite effectively dismantles Meyers’s position.

I would also recommend his chapters on preaching and the sacraments, which are both outstanding, and show why it is that those means of grace are sufficient for us. In short, this book is well worth the read for anyone who takes the exception as a biblical, exegetical, and confessional challenge to that exception, and also for those who are examining the argument one way or the other. Tolle lege! For your information, Rev. Hyde has done a video interview about his book here.

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47 Comments

  1. Todd G said,

    June 19, 2009 at 9:43 am

    I’m currently taking ordination exams in the PCA, and I just received this book in the mail yesterday. I’ve read through the intro this morning and skimmed the rest. It seems like it will prove helpful in thinking through my position on the Second Commandment.

    Do you know of anything else written recently on this issue? I’ve read most of the Reformers/Puritans and am wondering if anyone else has written about images of Jesus, particularly the argument for/against using images for pedagogical purposes.

    Thanks for confirming that I made a good purchase!

  2. greenbaggins said,

    June 19, 2009 at 9:55 am

    Well, the main recent defense of using images has been written by John Frame in his Doctrine of the Christian Life. That would probably be sufficient to get you all the major arguments on one side and the other.

  3. Todd G said,

    June 19, 2009 at 9:57 am

    I didn’t realize that Frame was in favor of images. I’ll check that out. Thanks!

  4. June 19, 2009 at 10:01 am

    FYI. David VanDrunen will have, D.V., an article on Westminster Larger Catechism 109 and the broader Reformed view of such images in the forthcoming 2009 issue of The Confessional Presbyterian journal.

  5. Todd G said,

    June 19, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Thanks, Chris. I’ll check that out when it is published.

  6. greenbaggins said,

    June 19, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Yes, and I am fairly certain that Van Drunen has access to Hyde’s book, so it will be thoroughly up to date.

  7. Todd G said,

    June 19, 2009 at 10:22 am

    That will be great. When is the next issue of CPJ due to be published?

  8. greenbaggins said,

    June 19, 2009 at 10:27 am

    It will be sometime this Fall, Lord-willing.

  9. June 19, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Lane will agree I think that trying to get all the authors to turn in is like herding rabbits.:)

  10. June 19, 2009 at 10:37 am

    JI Packer talks about this in one of the chapters of Knowing God. It sounds like Hyde’s position is similar to Packer’s.

    Reading Packer had a significant impact on me in college. I recall urging the various campus ministries not to rent out theaters for Mel Gibson’s Passion. I saw it as something aiding in people putting faith in something other than God as he presents himself in Scripture, etc. I was unsuccessful in my urgings. My arguments from Deuteronomy 4, Ps 115, Acts 17, and the Second Commandment were met with charges that I was just not filled with the Spirit.

  11. Danny Hyde said,

    June 19, 2009 at 10:49 am

    Thank you for the good word, Lane!

    As for what else is out there, Frame is in favor of images and his treatment of them in his latest book is paltry as it is only a few pages.

    VanDrunen has the review essay Chris mentions above, as well as an academic essay he wrote several years ago in The International Journal of Systematic Theology. I received permission to post it on my blog here: http://dannyhyde.squarespace.com/storage/Van%20Drunen%20Iconoclasm.pdf

    Danny

  12. greenbaggins said,

    June 19, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Cats, Chris, cats!

  13. Todd G said,

    June 19, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Thanks, Rev. Hyde. I went ahead and printed VanDrunen’s article. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of your book this weekend.

  14. Richard said,

    June 19, 2009 at 11:58 am

    I found it to be an excellent presentation of the case against images. Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” and being baptised into him we too image God to the World for we are being renewed in knowledge, righteousness and true holiness.

  15. Joe Brancaleone said,

    June 19, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    Hi Danny, I’ll be sure to pick it up at some point but in the meantime I’m wondering if in your book you address a certain question I’ve always had about this issue: How do we consider the 2nd commandment to be prohibitive of reproducing the visual human traits of Christ (a flesh and blood “body”) in both the pictorial imagination and visual media, while at the same time escaping some sort of implied Eutychianism?

    Christ is the image of the invisible God, but that is not speaking of his visually representable attributes (physical appearance) right?

    thanks,
    joe

  16. Dave Bonnema said,

    June 19, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    I am almost finished with Rev Hyde’s book “With Heart and Mouth,” and about to start “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” I plan on reading “In Living Color” after this. I can remember his article in Christian Renewal about this matter, and I could not have agreed with him more! I never thought one should make images of Christ, because who here knows what He looks like? There is no physical description of Him in Scripture. Plus, how do we know that these portraits are really Him?

  17. Dave Bonnema said,

    June 19, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    How does one picture someone who is both human AND divine at the same time? How does one picture One who was sinless? How can one picture someone who was in his state of humiliation? How can ANYONE picture this?

  18. greenbaggins said,

    June 20, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Dave, you echo many of the arguments that Danny made in the book.

  19. s.e. hoffmeister said,

    June 20, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    Yes, I have seen this before at presbytery. Men coming up and taking the exception to the second commandment. Maybe they should read Thomas Vincent in his book on the Confession states on this that “if we have an image of God and it brings us to worship it is idolatry, if we have an image and it does not bring us to worship it is vanity.” Also I would really like to hear how they would answer to the Heidelberg where it asks about images and the answer is “are we smarter than God?” no so why should we use the image. It also deals with using said image in teaching.
    So the result is an answer is given by the man for examination an elder nods and they just keep going like it is of little if any concern… so really why bother? Either be confessional or do not , but please do not pretend to be “One of Us”.
    s.e. hoffmeister

  20. David Bayly said,

    June 20, 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Jeff Meyers has published a booklet defending the pedagogical use of pictures of Christ. It’s available in PDF form here: http://www.prpc-stl.org/auto_images/1077769417Vere_Homo.pdf

  21. Dave Bonnema said,

    June 20, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Actually, Heidelberg says that we are not to be WISER than God, not smarter.

  22. s.e. hoffmeister said,

    June 20, 2009 at 7:38 pm

    Sorry Dave, at the moment I forgot that I was paraphrasing, but you are right.I also wanted to include my usual quote from R.L. Dabney in vol 5 of his discussions in the section on Westminster Confession he asks “Should the new men claim , and the older presbyters bestow, the prerogative of rejecting and disputing the very system of truths to which they are solemnly covenanted, we know not which would be greater, the faithlessness of the ordainers to their trust or the impudent dishonesty of the candidates in seeking the trust that they may betray it.”

    s.e. hoffmeister

  23. greenbaggins said,

    June 21, 2009 at 9:57 am

    David Bayly, Danny Hyde interacts with Meyers’s piece defending the pedagogical use of images. In my opinion (and Danny Hyde argues this), Acts 17 does a pretty good job of taking care of that argument.

  24. David Bayly said,

    June 21, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    Glad to hear it. I didn’t know if he was aware of Jeff’s piece. I haven’t seen any reference to it elsewhere and I don’t know who published it.

  25. Grover Gunn said,

    June 22, 2009 at 8:56 am

    No visual image of anything should be used as an aid to worship, and no one should make an effort to visualize the invisible essence of God which no creature has seen nor can see. See the proof texts for WC 109. Yet this statement about what is clearly prohibited in the second commandment does not address a number of questions about the humanity of Jesus. Did the disciples form mental images of Jesus when they looked upon Him in His humanity? What was the moral status of their memories of these mental images? Could the disciples morally have looked upon a reflection of the historical Jesus in the water? Do the saints in glory today look upon the resurrected Jesus? Will we look upon Him on the new earth?

    Does the Bible describe scenes which people were able to look upon at the time without sinning but which no one can visualize in their minds without sinning? For example, is it an abomination to visualize in one’s mind a scene from a distance of Jesus walking on the water and reaching out His hand to Peter? Is Rembrandt’s “Adoration of the Shepherds” (1646) an abomination? Here is a link to this painting, which was painted at the time of the Westminster Assembly:

    http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/cgi-bin/WebObjects.dll/CollectionPublisher.woa/wa/largeImage?workNumber=NG47&collectionPublisherSection=work

    If the second commandment applies to any effort to make an artistic visual representation of any scene described in the Bible which involves the historical Jesus, then would not this painting be just as much an abomination as a speculative portrait or statue which would have little use other than to function as an aid to worship?

    In my opinion, WLC 109, which forbids mental images of God the Son, does not address questions such as these about the humanity of Jesus.

    I have not seen the Mel Gibson film nor the Jesus film nor a passion play. I prefer a dignified but plain place of worship, such as the chapel at RTS in Jackson, MS. As to educational material, I would prefer depictions of Biblical scenes which do not have a detailed representation of Jesus’ face because that would be more easily misused as an aid to worship. Pictures involving Jesus’ back or pictures from a distance or outlines such as used in the TEV would be better. Yet I think some visual representation in educational material would help make clear that we do not have a docetic understanding of Jesus’ humanity and that people were able to look upon the historical Jesus.

    Regarding some of my earlier questions, I think there was nothing immoral about a reflection of Jesus in the water, but no one should have directed his worship of Jesus to that reflection. Also, the original disciples after Jesus ascended into heaven should have directed their worship to Jesus at the right hand of God the Father and not directed their worship to mental images in their memory. Yet I don’t think these memories, apart from such misuse, were a violation of the second commandment.

    Grover Gunn

  26. s.e. hoffmeister said,

    June 22, 2009 at 11:52 pm

    Grover,

    To speak to your “questions” ,oh and by the way I knew this one would come up sooner or later ,because it always does, I will deal with them here:
    1. Are we getting our ideas mixed up? One How did Christ become man? The Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary. SO God made the human form of Christ not man.When the disciples or anyone else came to the realization of WHO HE IS they did What? Worship Him..So far so good. How about those that did not? Like all the rest they will be judged and harsher for the more knowledge they are responsible for. The disciples “memories” are what GOD intended for them to see so how would this be any violation or problem I see none.
    2. The problem is when MAN makes the image,likeness, in any form like gold,silver,wood,stone,paint with brush,draw with pencil ect.film,or DPI(dots per inch) via modern technology. This is what the command is speaking to any likeness is forbidden, why? Because God said so, He is the only one allowed and knowledgeable enough to reveal Himself as He sees fit.

    So I do not need a finger or hand or outline or far off in the distance figure a back or side top or bottom, why,because man is making it and as I have stated before, “if it brings us to worship it is idolatry, if not vanity”.

    We have the Bread(symbol of the flesh), wine (symbol of the blood) these are given and approved by God for His people.This is enough, oh and by the way the blessing to those that “have not seen yet believe”, why would I want to give that up, for some picture,drawing , outline whatever? Why do I want to give up the “glory of the incorruptible God into the image of corruptible man”?

    I also think that believing this way, in no way makes me out to be, docetic in any way.

    3. Yes, if Rembrandt painting shows Christ in any way it is a very real problem. Thats what is stated in scripture.

    4. Why do you think Christ depicted in the Scriptures are so vague?Humm
    All the descriptions of being man, the walking,speaking,touching,seeing,weeping,tired,sleeping,sweating,bleeding,hungering ect are enough for me to see the humanity of the real historical Jesus as written and witnessed by the disciples and God Himself.

    5. I also believe that when I do “see Him as HE is” it will far exceed,surpass all and anything that,even if I tried real hard could even imagine in any way
    and it is my hope that before I die I may see “Him Standing at the right hand of God” waiting ever so faithfully for me to take me to glory and to spend eternity with Him.

    s.e. hoffmeister

  27. Grover Gunn said,

    June 23, 2009 at 11:27 am

    Thank you for the interaction.

    WLC 109 forbids mental images of God the Son. If this was intended to apply to the humanity of Jesus, it would make a visible and public Incarnation impossible. I understand you to agree that WLC 109 does not apply to the humanity of Christ at least in regard to the mental images within the minds of those who actually saw Him as long as they did not use these mental images as aids to worship.

    I believe the second commandment forbids any effort to visualize the invisible essence of God which no man has seen nor can see and forbids the use of any image as an aid to worship. One could argue that it is impossible for any visual representation of the humanity of Christ not to be misused as an aid to worship. This argument would forbid all visual representations of the humanity of Jesus without contradicting a visible and public Incarnation.

    God does veil Himself in order to appear in redemptive history in forms which creatures can look upon and live. Is it immoral to try to make an artistic representation of these events as they are described in Scripture? For example, God’s appearing to Moses in the burning bush? The Incarnation was also a visitation of the divine which creatures could look upon and live.

    Christ in His humiliation was able to blend into a crowd (John 5:13). Even the resurrected Christ could be inconspicuous (Luke 24:15). Yes, the glorified Christ at His return will indeed be glorious beyond what we can imagine.

    The Bible gives very little specific information about the appearance of Adam, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, etc. Is this an argument from silence that no one should depict any of them in an artistic representation of a scene described in Scripture?

    Let’s consider a painting of a hand nailed to a cross which is meant to represent the crucifixion of Christ. I have two concerns. First, does this painting imply anything which contradicts what we know from Scripture? For example, I would object if the hand were depicted as a woman’s hand. Second, is the painting being used as an aid to worship, as was the bronze serpent in the time of Hezekiah? Those are my concerns, and I must consider them on a case by case basis. I would not view the painting as a forbidden effort to portray the invisible essence of God which no creature has seen nor can see, nor would I regard its misuse as an aid to worship to be inevitable before examining it.

    May God bless!
    Grover Gunn

  28. David Strain said,

    June 25, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    Grover,
    We’ve been around this block a few times already between us to my great enouragement and edification, so I will be content for the most part to sit back and watch others interact on it with you.

    My major response to you, as before, however, remains the language of LC109 itself. The Catechism forbids the making of images of any of the *persons* of the Godhead.

    The two natures of Christ are united in the one Person. The humanity does not become deity, nor is vice versa true. Yet we cannot divorce the human nature from the one Person. It is not possible to depict the nature without portraying the Person whose nature it is. You repeatedly insist that LC109 means that we are forbidden to depict the divine essence. It does, but surely you will agree that it does considerably more than that. It forbids the depiction of any of the Persons of the Godhead. The Second Person is God and man in two distinct natures and one Person forever. There is no possibility of depicting either of Christ’s natures divorced from his Person. That means that to depict the humanity is to depict the Person and to fall foul of LC109’s prohibition.

    A slightly different issue from the correctness or otherwise of making images of Jesus’ human nature is whether candidates ought to declare an exception to the standards if they take your view. I understand you to say that they do not need to take any such exception, since in your view the Standards do not forbid such images for pedagogical purposes at all. I disagree. That is a different thing entirely from arguing that the Bible permits such images.

    So as I see it there are two related but different issues: 1. Is it lawful, sc,ripturally, to make such images? 2. Does LC109 forbid them? As I read you, much of your argument runs like this: ‘Logic dictates that such images cannot be wrong, therefore LC109 cannot be read to forbid them’. I would argue that you are wrong on both counts. Not only does logic forbid the making of suhc images, LC109 does too.

    I doubt we will get much further here than we did before, but I will enjoy watching the attempts on all sides nonetheless.

    Blessing brother
    David

  29. s.e. hoffmeister said,

    July 1, 2009 at 4:36 am

    Grover, really don’t know where to start. You have several problems in your above statement and I think you have contradicted yourself in at least one or more. So I humbly ask if you say “I believe the second commandment forbids any effort to visualize the invisible essence of God which no man has seen nor can see and forbids the use of any image as an aid to worship. One could argue that it is impossible for any visual representation of the humanity of Christ not to be misused as an aid to worship.” and then “I would not view the painting as a forbidden effort to portray the invisible essence of God which no creature has seen nor can see, nor would I regard its misuse as an aid to worship to be inevitable before examining it.” Well the painting either is or is not portraying this. If it is you disagree with yourself, if it is not (who determines by the way not just YOU,see Holy Catholic Church) it is vanity.

    The second is this one “The Bible gives very little specific information about the appearance of Adam, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, etc. Is this an argument from silence that no one should depict any of them in an artistic representation of a scene described in Scripture?” Well as far as I know we are still dealing with the second commandment and I do not remember anything about Adam or Moses or whoever, I do remember that it is speaking to images made to be a god. This is what we are dealing with and Christ in human form not Moses or Adam or Gideon. So if you want to paint,draw,color,film,DPI them go right ahead, I see no warrant to stop you except for maybe true likeness of the image, or maybe artistic ability to do a proper job.

    So the Bible says “No,none,do not make for yourself,ANY ” so on. So what is the hold up of the real issue here I am unsure? What question are you really trying to ask?

    Thomas wanted to “SEE” and Christ was merciful, but it is plain in the text by Thomas in his action and Christ giving the blessing to those that do not “SEE” that he really did not “need” to. You may have a Thomas issue. You must see to believe. I gave other accounts of Christ and His humanity that are plain and helpful enough to “Show” me His humanity. I could go to Hebrews and deal with the issue of “Christ is not a Highpriest that does not know all our humanity… except sin” a bit paraphrased there.

    Also as you have stated even when it is not desired, example Gideon ephod of gold, or as you have stated the bronze serpent, or even how about Uzziah and his touching the Ark? These things bring problems, if not now later that are well, in keeping with the examples death.

    God prescribes do and live do not and suffer/die no argument,question or any logic will work you out of that one.

    I see it pretty cut and dry. No examples are needed anything else is a misunderstanding or worse sin and you need to stop. Candidates should not be allowed to take such exceptions( this is another pet problem,how is an candidate smarter than the great host that came before them is beyond me) it is wrong unlawful not in the bible, our confession and the others of the same time period say NO none do not make any for any use. I think they would know best considering most if not all came right from ROME.

    This is not a new issue Grover, man has a problem and wants to get back to see Gods face. It is in a great part of Scripture, while this is not a sin , it is when we are doing it out of Gods revealed will as written in the Old and New Testaments.

    We will “see Him as He is” when it is our due time no sooner or later..I can wait thank you.

    s.e. hoffmeister

  30. Grover Gunn said,

    July 1, 2009 at 10:01 pm

    Thank you for the questions.

    I said one _could_ argue that no one can look at any possible artistic portrayal of a Biblical scene involving Jesus without misusing it as an aid to worship. I did not say that was my position, but I suspect it has been the position of many who have argued against all such representations. That is a milder argument than the argument that every possible representation of the historical Jesus is intrinsically a forbidden visualization of the divine.

    If it is valid to make artistic representations of Adam, Moses, etc, even though the Bible gives very little description of them, then the lack of specific detail about the appearance of any historical person in redemptive history is not a compelling argument against all artistic efforts to portray a scene described in Scripture which involves that person.

    The second commandment does say not to make any likeness of anything in the heaven above or in the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. The context is a prohibition of the misuse of any image of anything as an aid to worship. The prohibition of any effort to make an image of the unseen essence of God is found in Deuteronomy 4:15ff, one of the proof texts used in WLC 109.

    The simpler position isn’t always the correct position. For example, the position that there is no possible valid reason for a divorce is simple, but that doesn’t make it correct. When I deal with a painting of a hand nailed to a cross or a TEV outline or Rembrant’s “Adoration of the Shepherds” or a painting from the distance of Jesus walking on the water, I do have many factors to consider in making an ethical evaluation. Does it contradict any Biblical data? Is it overly speculative? Does it encourage misuse as a means of worship? Is it in good taste? Etc. That is admittedly more complex than the position that all such artistic efforts are equally idolatrous.

    I prefer a simple and dignified place of worship without any visual images. I seldom encounter any artistic representations such as Rembrandt’s “Adoration of the Shepherds” in everyday life. Yet when I do, such as on a Christmas card, I don’t regard it as an idol which should be destroyed.

    Thanks for the discussion. May God bless!
    Grover

  31. Grover Gunn said,

    July 1, 2009 at 10:18 pm

    David, I didn’t see your comment at first. Our private interaction was very helpful to me. Thank you. My response to your points above would be to repeat what I have already said about WLC 109’s prohibition of mental images. If that applies to the humanity of Jesus, then WLC 109 contradicts a visible and public incarnation which involves mental images and visual reflections of the humanity of Jesus. Using _modus tollens_, I conclude that WLC 109 is there not referring to the humanity of Jesus but to the divine essence of God the Son. One cannot look upon the latter and live.

    May God bless!
    Grover

  32. greenbaggins said,

    July 2, 2009 at 7:50 am

    Grover, you say this: “If it is valid to make artistic representations of Adam, Moses, etc, even though the Bible gives very little description of them, then the lack of specific detail about the appearance of any historical person in redemptive history is not a compelling argument against all artistic efforts to portray a scene described in Scripture which involves that person.”

    In the interests of full disclosure, I agree with the Standards on this. Let me ask you a question. If our Christology requires us to say that anything we say about the humanity of Christ is also something that we say about the Person of Christ, then doesn’t that make a difference between Jesus and all other historical figures, of whom we have no historical description? This is where I have difficulties: the Christology of those who advocate images of some sort seems to assume that the humanity of Christ can be separated from His entire person. However, the humanity of Christ only exists in hypostatic union with the Divine Person. Now of course, this does not mutate the humanity of Christ into a tertium quid. However, it does mean that what we say about His humanity is something that we are also saying about the entire Person. If that is so, then we cannot say that any representation of the humanity of Christ is an accurate representation of His Person.

  33. Grover Gunn said,

    July 2, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    I was responding to a statement made in another person’s comment that the lack of detail in Scripture about the appearance of Jesus is an argument against the morality of any possible artistic representation of a scene described in the Bible involving the historical Jesus. We seem to agree that this is not a helpful argument.

    When Nathaniel first looked upon the historical Jesus and heard Him say, “Behold an Israelite indeed in whom there is no guile,” could he truthfully say that the visual image he experienced was “an accurate representation of His Person”? Yes, of course. I think what is more to the point is that the visual image which Nathaniel experienced was a veiled manifestation of the divine. No man has ever seen or can see unveiled deity. A manifestation can be veiled and also accurate.

    These three statements are all true: 1) No one can look upon God and live. 2) People looked upon Jesus and lived. 3) Jesus is God. If there is an apparent contradiction, it is because of equivocation. I can use more precise terms and the appearance of contradiction disappears: 1) No one can look upon the unveiled _Logos asarkos_ or the unveiled Pre-Incarnate Christ or the unveiled divine nature of God the Son and live. 2) People looked upon Jesus and lived. 3) Jesus is the _Logos ensarkos_ or God Incarnate or the Theanthropos.

    There are things which are true of the _Logos ensarkos_ which are not true of the _Logos asarkos_. As the _Logos ensarkos_, Jesus learned and grew in wisdom. He hungered and thirsted. He tired and suffered. People could look upon Him and live. People could look upon a visual image of Him in a reflection without violating the second commandment. People could have in their memories a mental image of Him without violating the second commandment.

    Through the mystery of the Incarnation, these experiences were the experiences of the Person of God the Son through His human nature. Yet one cannot say that these experiences were also the direct experiences of the divine nature of God the Son. People who looked upon Jesus in His humanity were not looking directly at an unveiled manifestation of the divine.

    Of course, we can worship the Person of God the Son as revealed through His humanity, and this is directly experienced by the divine nature of God the Son.

    Here is the next question. Does the Bible ever describe scenes which people at the time could look upon without sinning and yet which we today cannot mentally visualize based on those description without sinning? A person reads the gospel account of Jesus walking on the water. This person sees in his mind a visual image of a man in the distance walking on water in a storm and approaching a fishing boat. Has this person violated the second commandment through a forbidden visualization of the divine?

    If one can visualize this in his mind without sinning, then can he morally try to represent it artistically? I think the answer is yes. Can he sin in his effort by misrepresenting Biblical data or by being overly speculative or in any number of ways? Yes, just as any preacher can sin in any number of ways in his verbal descriptions in a sermon preached on the same historical scene.

    There are problems with many artistic representations of the historical Jesus, but I don’t think that the problem is that they are forbidden visualizations of the divine. Where there are problems, they are due to secondary issues such as their being used as aids to worship or their having problems analogous to the problems with a bad sermon on Jesus.

    May God bless!
    Grover

  34. July 2, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    The RPCES report on LC109 concluded the historical context requires understanding LC109 as follows: “In any event, it is clear that pictures of Christ for whatever purposes–worship or instruction or “ornamentation”–were clearly prohibited by L.C. 109.” They disagreed with Westminster and if a merger with the PCA had not taken place possibly would have revised the wording of LC109. The RPCES report is online at the PCA Historical Center website.

    http://www.pcahistory.org/findingaids/rpces/docsynod/332.html

  35. Grover Gunn said,

    July 2, 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Thanks for the reminder, Chris.

    I agree with the following prohibition and wouldn’t want to change the wording: “the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it.” I disagree with interpretations of this wording which read it to prohibit all mental representations of the outward appearance of the humanity of Jesus. I think mental representations of the outward appearance of the humanity of Jesus were a necessary consequence of a public and visible Incarnation.

    When Nathanael looked upon Jesus, the humanity which Nathanael saw was in hypostatic union with the divine nature and person of God the Son. Do we agree that the subjective visual representation in Nathanael’s mind, which would later be a memory, was not in hypostatic union with the divine? Do we agree that the mental image was strictly an inward visualization of that which his eyes had seen, and that was the outward appearance of the humanity of Jesus? Nathanael had directed to the person of Jesus the words, “You are the Son of God.” Do we agree that it would not have been appropriate for Nathanael to have addressed those same words to the mental image of Jesus in his memory? Do we agree that Nathanael recognized the deity of Jesus when Jesus said the words, “An Israelite indeed in whom there is no guile” and “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you”? Do we agree that the manifestation of Jesus’ deity to Nathanael was through this revelation of divine truth and not through the visual appearance of His physical body?

    May God bless!
    Grover

  36. July 3, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Grover,
    I trust you have taken an exception or at least a scruple to WLC109 as the intent is pretty clear.

    As to Nathaniel. The divines are not talking about memories limited to his generation. But I’m not going to go into this further as it seems you have been around on it with others; I’ll simply refer you to the aforementioned forthcoming article by David VanDrunen in CPJ 5 (the 2009 issue) who will be canvasing the reformed view and WLC 109.

  37. Grover Gunn said,

    July 3, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Chris,

    I look forward to receiving the 2009 edition. I appreciate your work. Relevant quotations should be helpful to all. Especially relevant would be a Puritan comment on the work of someone such as Rembrandt or a Puritan statement that a picture is not only overly speculative or an aid to worship but also a forbidden image of the divine.

    I have discussed WLC 109 on the floor of presbytery both some years ago and recently. If presbytery regarded me as having an exception to what WLC 109 actually says, I would respectfully disagree.

    WLC 109 forbids representations of deity “either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image.” I appreciate your acknowledgment that the “inwardly in our minds” prohibition does not apply to representations of the humanity of Jesus among those who saw Him. This would mean that a mental image of a hand nailed to a cross could have a significantly different moral status depending on whether one had or had not witnessed the crucifixion.

    There is also the question of whether the “outwardly in any kind” prohibition applies to representations of the humanity of Jesus among those who saw Him. If any such representations were made by eyewitnesses, I am grateful they did not survive because I think many would be tempted to use them as aids to worship. Yet I don’t think such a representation would be a forbidden image of unveiled deity any more than would their inward mental representations of the same.

    May God bless!
    Grover

  38. July 3, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Grover, If I am understanding, I just think one has to distinguish between the generation that had memories and everyone else who only can fabricate an image in their mind. In any event, while possible, I would be surprised if one can find any Puritan discussing the merits of Rembrandt or a particular artist who painted a picture of Christ. In 1645 the Westminster Assembly debated what sins should debar from the Lord’s supper and they reported to the Parliament. Specifically in June 1645 the Assembly debated pictures of Christ. Nothing but the fact is noted; no discussion is recorded; see Mitchell & Struthers, 101. Mitchell notes that “Pictures of Christ” per se do not appear in the Parliament’s list of scandalous sins, but it seems clear this was later subsumed under the general head of images of the Trinity. Only a month later in Parliament, they were handling some matters regarding Ireland and the pictures at York House. The Parliament ordered That all such Pictures there, as have the Representation of the Second Person in Trinity upon them, shall be forthwith burnt. “House of Commons Journal Volume 4: 23 July 1645,” Journal of the House of Commons: volume 4: 1644-1646 (1802), pp. 215-216. Subsequently in October Parliament passed the public ordinance detailing the scandalous sins. Included were: all Worshippers of Images, Crosses, Crucifixes, or Reliques; all that shall make any Images of the Trinity, or of any Person thereof. “House of Commons Journal Volume 4: 15 October 1645,” Journal of the House of Commons: volume 4: 1644-1646 (1802), pp. 308-310.

  39. July 3, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    I guess I did say some more.:) With “that” I refer readers to the forthcoming article by Dr. VanDrunen.

  40. Grover Gunn said,

    July 3, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Thanks, Chris. I don’t know of anyone who can match your knowledge of Puritan source material.

    Discussions of the mental images in the minds of those who saw Jesus involve all the moral issues regarding mental images except speculation.

    May God bless!
    Grover

  41. Groer Gunn said,

    July 4, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    This has been a very challenging discussion. I believe that the friendly interaction has helped me to clarify the issues in my own mind.

    I responded too quickly to Lane’s observation: ” … we cannot say that any representation of the humanity of Christ is an accurate representation of His Person.” See # 32 above. The context of Lane’s full paragraph indicates that he is referring to an accurate representation in the sense of a full representation of the Person of Jesus, both His humanity and His deity. Yet the word “accurate” also can imply a representation of the outward appearance of Jesus that is factually accurate and totally non-speculative. I think these are two issues which need to be discussed separately.

    We all agree that the mental images of Jesus in the minds of those who saw Him were valid and moral. They were factually accurate representations, but they were not full representations of His Person. They visually represented only the outward appearance of His humanity, not His invisible human mind or soul and not His deity. These mental images demonstrate that a partial representation of Jesus’ Person, one limited to the outward appearance of His humanity, can be moral and legitimate.

    WLC 109 forbids visual representations of deity. A visual representation of the outward appearance of Jesus’ humanity, such as a mental image in the mind of one who saw Him, does not represent the deity of the Second Person of the Godhead nor that invisible subsistence which brings personal existence to Jesus’ human nature. How else could these mental images in the minds of those who saw Jesus be moral?

    That leaves the issue of factual accuracy. Those who had seen Jesus could have reproduced artistically their factually accurate mental images. Subsequent generations must speculate to some degree in order to represent artistically scenes described in the Bible. This is true of all scenes described in the Bible and not just those involving Jesus.

    Visual representations of the outward appearance of the humanity of Jesus are not then forbidden visualizations of the divine. If they were, they would all be equally abominable violations of the second commandment. Instead the issues are lesser issue which vary from case to case: conformity to biblical data, degree of speculation, misuse as an aid to worship, and quality of art. Those are all the issues I can think of at this moment but there are probably others. Thus there is a significant moral difference between a highly speculative and sentimental portrait designed to inspire adoration and a TEV outline sketch of a biblical scene involving Jesus or a painting of a biblical scene involving Jesus represented from a distance or with Jesus’ back to the viewer. Even if one rejects all art based on scenes described in the Bible because of the need for some degree of speculation or even if one regards all visual representations of the outward appearance of Jesus’ humanity as inevitable aids to worship, these are lesser issues than the forbidden visualizations of the divine prohibited by WLC 109.

    Again, I appreciate the thoughtful interaction.

    May God bless!
    Grover

  42. David Strain said,

    July 6, 2009 at 11:40 am

    With all due respect, Grover, I think your persistence in asserting that LC109 prohbits images of deity is simply wrong.

    The langauge of the Catechism is unambiguous. It forbids the making images of any of the *Persons* of the Trinity. That cannot be narrowed to exclude any constituent nature beloning to one of those Persons. To forbid the making of an image of any of the persons of the Trinity, in the case of the Father and the Spirit, of neccessity means that images of deity is forbidden. In the case of Christ an image of his *Person* must prohibit any image of both natures. Do you deny that an image of Christ’s humanity is an image of Christ’s person? Or do you think that Christ’s personhood resides only in his deity?

    As for mental recollections of having actually seen the incarnate Jesus, LC109 forbids the *making* of images, not the recollection of the actual appearance of Jesus. When I remmber soemthgin I catually saw, I am not making an image. I am remembering a fact.

    You say, “If that applies to the humanity of Jesus, then WLC 109 contradicts a visible and public incarnation which involves mental images and visual reflections of the humanity of Jesus. Using _modus tollens_, I conclude that WLC 109 is there not referring to the humanity of Jesus but to the divine essence of God the Son. One cannot look upon the latter and live.”

    I reject your premise. By denying the validity of making an image of any of the Persons, LC109 does not deny the validity of *remembering* the actual appearance of the God-man, it denies making such an image for ourselves.

    Even if you were correct, and my interpretation of LC109 does lead to a contradictory exclusion of the very possibility of Incarnation, I do not think you can make the language of the Catechism mean divine nature, when it says *Person* of the Trinity. “Person” simply cannot be made to mean ‘divine nature”.

    I would argue that if you are correct then you must seek a revision of LC109’s langauge from ‘Person’ lingo to narrower ‘divine nature or essence’ langauge, or seek an exception from the standrads.

    Blessing brother,
    David

  43. Grover Gunn said,

    July 6, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    I thought I was at that point where I could not say anything more without repeating myself. Then a friend e-mailed me privately and asked my position on pictures of Jesus in stained glass windows. I have mentioned previously that I prefer a simple and dignified place of worship with no visual images to distract from focusing on the worship of the Person of Jesus or to tempt people to use an aid to worship. I gave as an example the chapel at the RTS campus in Jackson, MS.

    I would suggest the following possible views on such images in a place of worship:

    1) Any possible visualization of the outward appearance of the humanity of Jesus is a representation of His Person. His deity and humanity are inseparable in His Person, and so any possible visualization, no matter how vague or in what context, is a forbidden visualization of the divine and thus a moral abomination.

    2) One can have a visualization limited to the humanity of Jesus, but because of His special and unique identity, no one should attempt such even in one’s mind because speculation is involved in any effort to visually represent the outward appearance of His humanity except for that generation which actually saw Him.

    3) One can have a visualization limited to the humanity of Jesus, but no fallen sinner could look upon one without misusing it as a aid to worship or without directing worship to it, and therefore all should be avoided in all contexts.

    4) One can have a visualization limited to the humanity of Jesus, but to have any such representation in a place intended for corporate worship would be an undesirable distraction to worship and a temptation to its misuse as an aid to worship.

    5) One can have a visualization limited to the humanity of Jesus, but some pictures are much greater temptations for misuse as aids to worship than others, especially portraits, and therefore there should be no portraits of Jesus or pictures with detailed facial features in a place of worship.

    6) One can have a visualization limited to the humanity of Jesus and its misuse as an aid to worship is no more likely than any other visual image and so there is no reason not to have one in a sanctuary.

    7) Visual aids to worship are good, and so these visualizations are desirable in places of worship.

    My position is #4.

    Some holders of positions 1 and 7 could be in agreement that the inseparability principle of the hypostatic union applies to visual images of the outward appearance of the humanity of Jesus. I believe that the inseparability principle of the hypostatic union applies only to the actual humanity of Jesus and not to visual representations of the outward appearance of His humanity.

    May God bless!
    Grover

  44. Paige Britton said,

    July 6, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    I will be interested to read Danny Hyde’s interaction with Postman re. the culture of images that we live in and its effect on our consideration of / obedience to the 2nd commandment. It sounds almost Pelagian to say this, but when the Westminster Divines wrote that one should not even make “inwardly in our mind” a representation of any of the Persons of the Godhead, they probably assumed it was possible for a person not to do so. I frankly wonder whether it is maybe less possible now, because in our day we have been so trained to think of stories as potential TV shows. So that even if one sincerely wishes to avoid this error re. the God-Man Jesus, off goes the imagination again, doing the sets and the lighting and the casting for the feeding of the 5,000. Practically and pastorally speaking, might it not make sense to differentiate between deliberate, idolatrous internal image-making, and the imaginative visualizing that is part of our culture’s interaction with Story?

  45. Paige Britton said,

    July 8, 2009 at 5:05 am

    Here is one other thought re. the LC’s prohibition against making mental images of any member of the Trinity: What to do with those passages of Scripture that report a vision or an eyewitness account, with the intention of conveying a picture of the Lord? I can think of three, probably (from a NT p.o.v.) all depicting the Son: Ezekiel 1 (the bright man on the throne), Rev. 19 (Rider on white horse), and the Transfiguration.

    In all three cases, details are given in order to evoke a mental image of a manifestation of this Divine Person in the reader or hearer. (I don’t think that even the Westminster divines, in their pre-visual-media day, could have avoided the intent of the language in these passages! To NOT imagine what is described here would be as difficult as not thinking about pink elephants when someone forbids you to do so!) Granted, we do not get details as specific as facial features or proportions or hairstyle. There are still unknowns. But to the extent that the picture is filled in for us – the shape of a man, the brightness, the erect posture of a military commander on a charger – we can “see” what is being described.

    So…Do we avoid these passages? Try not to meditate on them or remember them? Obviously, these options are neither biblical nor reasonable (nor, perhaps, possible!). Could we acknowledge that these things are in the same category as the personal memories of those who had been with Jesus in the flesh? That is, the disciples’ mental pictures of the God-Man Jesus are safe images of the Son, because they were given directly by God through the historical reality of the Incarnation. Here are three passages (there may be more that I have forgotten) that are for us as later readers safe images to hold in our minds, because they are also given to us directly by God through the inspired Word and the illumination of the Spirit.

    Our caution here would simply be to remember not to fill in the details we are not given.

    Does this make sense? I wonder if Danny Hyde touches on this idea, too. I do look forward to reading the book.

    thoughtfully,
    Paige

  46. Paige Britton said,

    July 8, 2009 at 6:52 am

    Re. #45 — Oops, I ought to have qualified the Westminster divines’ era more carefully — perhaps we could say they lived in a “pre-visual-MASS-media day,” because of course they were no strangers to the troubling phenomena of iconography, oil paintings and statuary. Though they did live post- Gutenberg…so I guess the difference between their mass-media and ours is really one of degree, not of kind. Hopefully you got the gist of what I meant, though.

  47. Paige Britton said,

    July 15, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    Well, now I have read Danny’s fine book (it was a good companion on our cross-country flight this week), and I can begin to answer a couple of my own questions above. I will write my observations here in case they would be helpful to anyone else.

    First off, I can affirm Lane’s excellent summary of the book, in that Danny provides a depth of engagement with various Reformed catechisms & Scriptures, and a lovely apologetic for the Sacraments as the antidote to the idolatrous image-making of fallen human culture. I would think that Reformed pastors (and others) with a lively knowledge of the catechism material would find this book a helpful review and summary, the newest content being for them Danny’s interaction with recent publications from the opposing point of view & maybe some contributions from the early church fathers. For those pastors & laity who are not up to speed on these things, though, Danny’s overview and arguments will likely be more formative and challenging.

    Two things Danny did not choose to do in this book are a) offer many specific, practical, pastoral suggestions for the steep upward climb of changing church practice regarding the use of images of the Son; and b) explore the tricky issue of those inner mental images mentioned by the WLC. His goal here was certainly to change minds, and to leave the practical workings-out to the readers (or to later publications?). More on these choices below:

    a) Regarding pastoral suggestions, two concrete examples that Danny offers for the reader’s generalization are his own experience communicating these things to his congregation when the Passion movie was big, and an anecdote about Epiphanius and a curtain, from which he extrapolates “a pastoral strategy to follow in our day with stained glass windows or any other representations in our places of worship” (see pp.81-83). (Basically the strategy is, remove the offensive object, use the raw materials to provide for the poor, and replace it with a similar but plain object. Not sure how this applies directly to, for example, illustrated children’s Bibles and felt-board cutouts, but at least Epiphanius offers a pious trajectory to follow.)

    b) Regarding inner images and our image-trained minds (ideas I raised above in previous posts), Danny addresses these indirectly in his discussion of Gal. 3:1. On the one hand, the preached information about Christ’s death is more sufficient for us than any pictorial representation; on the other, when the story of Christ is told, “the Spirit uses these common aspects of our understanding not to create a mental picture of Jesus hanging upon a cross, but to give us a sense of what is happening” (113). This sounds as if Danny means the words themselves don’t (or shouldn’t) evoke a picture in our heads – but I think he was saying that they don’t give a DETAILED picture of the God-Man Jesus, just a general picture of a man being crucified. I say this because on the same page he writes, “We may not know the details of the story, who was there, or what Jesus was wearing, but we can imagine a first century Jewish rabbi, standing in a crowd, picking up a little child who has been playing in the dirt all day” (113f.). So if that’s an okay picture to imagine (would the Westminster divines have agreed?), then there must be a difference between acceptable and unacceptable inner image-making. That might be a worthwhile thing to unpack for conscientious souls.

    I’m grateful for Danny Hyde’s offering in this book – it gives me much to think about.

    BTW, I don’t know about GB protocol re.introducing ourselves, but I am (obviously) neither TE nor RE, but Reformed (PCA) and a writer.


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