Friday, July 30, 2010

Building on an old post from Nov 07 - More on icons, part 2

---------------Chat we had later begins-----------

Correspondent: I have sent several e-mails/letters/messages (similar to the one I sent you about idolatry) to ministries and people earlier this week and I'm waiting to hear from them. Perhaps I'll try to follow up in a week or two...
 me: yeah? to what kind of people are you sending them?
  and i'm curious, what are you looking for from them? Helpful info? or more like a statement on where they stand on the questions?
 Correspondent: I'm interested in their understanding of the passages
11:45 AM me: ok cool
 Correspondent: I sent one message to AiG, Albert Mohler, Let US Reason, a local church,
11:46 AM And I sent one to Carrie, the other blogger at Beggars All
 me: there's a good chance that she'll answer you
11:52 AM Correspondent: I was suprised that Mohler had "Christ" images on his website -- after listening to one of his sermons/messages on the 2nd Commandment and reading one of his articles on the matter.
 me: eh, i'm not. it's not a big deal
11:54 AM i don't see why not have images of the incarnate Christ AS LONG AS they're not being worshiped/venerated/prayed to
11:56 AM Correspondent: Well -- images of "Christ" are making God (Christ) in our image; Christ would have left us his visual image. Every portrait that attempts to represent Him is a lie.
 me: well, Christ looked like SOMEthing, right?
 Correspondent: Yes
11:57 AM me: He could be seen with the naked eye
  He had/has a physical body
  has one even now
11:58 AM so i'm not sure what would be wrong with representing Him as long as inappropriate religious activity isn't done towards the IMAGE
 Correspondent: Well He did say that if you have seen me (Christ) you have seen the Father
11:59 AM me: true
12:00 PM now obviously representing the Father in an image would be wrong
  b/c He can't be seen
  but Christ could be seen w/ the naked eye
  He's the representation of the Father
  don't know why not represent Christ then
12:01 PM Correspondent: John 5:23 "That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth no tthe Father which hath sent him."
 me: yes
12:02 PM haha, I like to quote that verse to Jehovah's Witnesses
 Correspondent: Maybe that is the correct use of the verse -- but Christ is God, so people can't represent his Deity -- they are attempting to represent Him without his Deity
12:03 PM I'll have to study that verse more
 me: hmm, how is that?
  how are they representing Him w/o His deity?
  i mean, if it's a rep of Christ and it's obvious, that IS a rep of His deity
  since He was God
  and that's what he kind of looked like
 Correspondent: Because they are representing a person (not Christ)
12:04 PM they simply give the name of Christ to that image
 me: Christ is a person
12:05 PM well, I mean I see what you mean about just giving the name Christ to the image, but the image is OF Christ
 Correspondent: Yes, but he is also the Creator -- not the creation
 me: no one thinks the image IS Christ
  but the Creator clothed Himself in flesh
  flesh that could be seen
  flesh that could be represented
12:06 PMlet me ask you this - if an apostle, one of the 12, had drawn a picture of Christ at the beginning of HIs ministry, and then it was destroyed, say burned, 1 month later, before Christ's death, is that bad?
12:07 PM Correspondent: Is it bad or objectionable that the picture was destroyed? No. Is it bad or objectionable that the picture was made? Yes.
 me: why is it bad if it was made?
12:08 PM Christ was right there in front of the artist
12:09 PM Correspondent: It was still an image of God made by man's device -- that's why it is wrong
 me: it would be an image of CHRIST
  in His incarnation
  Who appeared before the naked eye
12:10 PM Correspondent: "Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."
12:11 PM (John 20:29)
  I'm thankful that I have not seen, yet believed
12:12 PM me: how would a representation of Christ help someone believe and put faith in Christ, to be saved?
  i don't see that
  (no pun intended har har)
12:14 PM Correspondent: (nice no pun) Also, The Incarnation did not occur until God had prepared a people who would not make images of Him (e.g.) Dt. 4:15-16
12:15 PM me: hmm, well i guess that's possible
  not aware of any OT images of YHWH though
  mostly just idols
  of other gods
  calves, asherim, etc
12:16 PM you're right that the Jews of Christ's time had learned not to engage in idolatry anymore
  that's for sure
 Correspondent: Some images were made of cherubims
  and a snake
  but they did not attempt to represent God
 me: yeagh
  right, and those were ordered by God
  but the snake represents Christ!
12:17 PM Christ HImself says so, that He'll be lifted up as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness
  (John 6)

12:24 PM Correspondent: 1.) God told the people to make the image of the serpent; it wasn't something they dreamed up. 2.) We know that Jesus was lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness. So, it is saying that Jesus is simply going to be lifted up AS MOSES LIFTED UP the serpent...
12:25 PM Then in later centuries when the people started reverencing the image, Hezekiah destroyed it saying "It is a thing of brass."
 me: but the snake was LIFTED UP, anyone who looked at the snake (as we must look on CHrist with faith) was saved from the snakebite
  it's obviously a foreshadowing of Christ
  now it's of course not the same as a picture of Christ
12:26 PM but it's a re-presentation of the Redeemer, lifted up
  let me ask you another question
  the word "Christ" is 6 images
  that represent God
  C h r i s t
  taht is a representation of God
12:27 PM why is naming His name not wrong?'
12:28 PM Correspondent: "4He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan." (2 Kings 18:4)
 me: no argument there
 Correspondent: So, even if today an artist made a snake image on a cross, and intended it to represent Christ's death for us, it should be destroyed the instant that someone reverenced it thinking he was reverencing Christ.
 me: i agree 100%
12:29 PM but i've specifically said several times that IF nobody does inappropriate action to the image of Christ, I don't see the problem of making and having the image itself
 Correspondent: and the WORD "Christ" is a word
 me: Of course I'd call out venerating an image of ANYTHING as sinful
  that's not God Himseflf
  ok, fair enough
  yeah, that whole "word" thing is not a strong argument
12:30 PM never mind :-D
12:31 PM Correspondent: there has been a muddy definition between words, language, and images -- like with hieroglyphics
  And no problem about the whole word thing
 me: hmm
  that brings up an other question
 Correspondent: The third commandment goes on to say do not take the name of the Lord in vain
 me: Japanese/Chinese has a word/image/kanji that means "Christ"
  can we use it?
12:32 PM Correspondent: I don't know the Japanese language well enough to say; It would make sense to use the word if it means "Christ" though
 me: it's an image
  it's not a combination of letters
  like in English

5 minutes
12:37 PM Correspondent: Again, I don't know the Japanese language -- and how it is constructed. If it is a word I see no problem with it -- just as "Christ" is an "image" -- yet it is a word.
12:38 PM clarification
 me: well it's an image AND a word
  words are images in Chinese
  and most words are images in Japanese
 Correspondent: "Christ" - the word C-h-r-i-s-t
  each individual letter
12:40 PM It doesn't sound, or read, like it attempts to represent Christ as a corruptible man, a four footed beast, or a creeping thing
 me: hmm, who said Christ was a "corruptible" man?
12:41 PM He was recognisable in His body after the resurrection
  but He's not corruptible
  so what if we create an image of that as long as we don't do anything bad to it?
12:42 PM Correspondent: Christ isn't a corruptible man -- He is the uncorruptible God
  "And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things." Romans 1:23
 me: Um, He's both man AND God
 Correspondent: Yes
 me: don't you agree with that?
  and I just said Christ was NOT a corruptible man
  i agree
  but He IS a man
12:43 PM but incorruptible after His resurrection, in His glorified body
  so I don't see how that applies
  the point of Romans 1 is that these people were worshiping things that aren't God
  but Christ is God
  the point is not the image
 Correspondent: Well, we have a lot of agreement there :-)
 me: haha yeah
  this is a tiny thing to disagree about, thta's for sure!
12:48 PM Correspondent: Well, I think it is significant in that if such images are idolatrous, which I believe they are, they shouldn't be made and we shouldn't think of God as a corruptible man, a four-fourfooted beast, or a creeping thing -- graven by art or man's device.
  Thanks for the chat this morning, Alan
12:49 PM It got me thinking about some passages in the Bible that I should study more.

---------------His response begins------------------

Calvin on Acts 17:29

29. "Therefore seeing that. He gathereth

that God cannot be figured or resembled by any graven image forasmuch as he would have his image extant in us. For the soul wherein the image of God is properly engraven cannot be painted; therefore it is a thing more absurd to go about to paint God. Now, we see what great injury they do to God which give him a bodily shape; when as man's soul, which doth scarce resemble a small sparkle of the infinite glory of God, cannot be expressed in any bodily shape.

Furthermore, forasmuch as it is certain that Paul doth in this place inveigh against the common superstition of all the Gentiles, because they would worship God under bodily shapes, we must hold this general doctrine that God is falsely and wickedly transfigured, and that his truth is turned into a lie so often as his Majesty is represented by any visible shape ; as the same Paul teacheth in the first chapter to the Romans, (Romans 1:23.) And though the idolaters of all times wanted not their cloaks and colors, yet that was not without cause always objected to them by the prophets which Paul doth now object that God is made like to wood, or stone or gold, when there is any image made to him of dead and corruptible matter. The Gentiles used images that, according to their rudeness, they might better conceive that God was nigh unto them. But seeing that God doth far surpass the capacity of our mind, whosoever attempteth with his mind to comprehend him, he deformeth and disfigureth his glory with a wicked and false imagination. Wherefore, it is wickedness to imagine anything of him according to our own sense. Again, that which worse is, it appeareth plainly that men erect pictures and images to God for no other cause, save only because they conceive some carnal thing of him, wherein he is blasphemed.

The Papists also are at this day no whit more excusable. For what colors soever they invent to paint and color those images, whereby they go about to express God, yet because they be enwrapped in the same error, wherein the men of old time were entangled, they be urged with the of the prophets. And that the heathen did use the same excuses in times past, wherewith the Papists go about to cover themselves at this day, it is well known out of their own books. Therefore, the prophets do not escape the mocks of certain, as if they laid too great grossness to their charge, yea, burthen them with false accusations; but when all things are well weighed, those who will judge rightly shall find, that whatsoever starting holes [evasions] even the most witty men have sought, yet were they taken with this madness, that God is well pleased with the sacrifice done before images. Whereas we, with Erasmus, translate it numen, Luke putteth [θειον] in the neuter gender for divinity or godhead. When Paul denieth that God is like to gold, or silver, or stone, and addeth afterward, graven by cunning or invention of man, he excludeth both matter and form, and doth also condemn all inventions of men, which disfigure the true nature of God." 

--------------My response begins---------------

Yeah totally.

Thing is, "his Majesty is represented by any visible shape"  - I'm not saying we should try to represent His Majesty.  I'm saying it's permissible to represent Christ in His incarnation, not in His glory, and especially not the Father.

See the distinction I'm making?

-----------He emails me a bunch of anti-depiction quotations from:
Epiphanius of Salamis
Synod of Constantinople (Hieria, 753 AD):

Martin Luther
John Calvin
Second Helvetic Confession, Chapter IV - Of Idols or Images of God, Christ and the Saints
Heidelberg Catechism, Images of God
Westminter Larger Catechism
Fisher's Catechism (1765), Selections from Q&A #51

John Owen, The Glory of Christ
Matthew Henry
John Murray
C. S. Lewis and others-----------------

--------------My response begins---------------

No one, certainly not I, is asserting that God has CHANGED.
But Jesus, as I'm sure you would agree, took on flesh IN TIME.  And He has a physical, glorified body to this day and will for all eternity.

What I meant by "in His glory" is the invisible, divine nature of Christ.  It can't be pictured. 
But when He takes on physical flesh, a human nature, why not picture it? 
Is there some reason why NO PERSON should ever be represented in image either?  (Of course, given that the image is not venerated in any way; that's just a given for me and you.)

The only distinction between incarnate on earth and incarnate in glory is that the latter is glorifed and imperishable, but is still physical and is still visible to the human eye.  Why not represent that if you feel like it and have a reason to that's not sinful?

-yet his human nature subsists in his divine person, which no picture can represent, Psalm 45:2.

I'd be careful about saying stuff like that.  It sounds fairly Eutychean, really, the way he says it. 
he probably doesn't MEAN it that way, but it smacks of it. 
And he's confused the categories.  Of COURSE Christ is a person, and yes, He is God, so of course He is a "divine person".  But you don't contrast the "divine person" to the human nature; you must contrast the divine NATURE to the human NATURE.  He's ONE person with TWO natures.

Given Heb 13:8 and the fact that Christ has a glorified human nature at the time of writing Hebrews, we can be sure that taking on flesh doesn't mean He "changed". 
Heb 11:, 2 Cor 4:18, 2 Cor 5:7, and Rom 8:24 are irrelevant.  We're not talking about seeing "proof" from God as opposed to believing that He is, that He will save those who repent, and that He will provide as He wills in this conversation.  That's what those psgs are saying.
We're talking about whether a man can be represented in an image. 
Would it be wrong to represent the Apostle Peter in an image, then?

Epiphanius - I dig that quote! 
Let's remember that this curtain he tore down was probably used in veneration and worship - churches from that time aren't huge cathedrals and they don't have tons of room that's not devoted to worship. 

(The somehow NOT "Ecumenical")(according to the Eastern O-dox Church anyway) Council of Hieria said:
-When, however, they are blamed for undertaking to depict the divine nature of Christ,

Which I'm not suggesting that it's OK to do.  I'm suggesting an image of the INCARNATE Christ is permissible.

-How could it now be separated and represented apart?

Not suggesting we represent them APART.  But the incarnate Christ was and is a man.

-How will these fools...represent it by itself as the image of a mere man?

B/c that's how it looked to the human eye for ~33 years.
That's how it looked after He rose. 
That's how it looks now and for eternity.

-since they separate the flesh from the Godhead, ascribe to it a subsistence of its own, a personality of its own, which they depict, and thus introduce a fourth person into the Trinity.

Well, he might have a point about the iconodules (though I'd argue a far more serious error is the denial of the human nature found in the doctrine of transsubstantiation), but again I don't see why what I'm suggesting would lead logically to that conclusion.

-Martin Luther (1483-1546):

Here we must admit that we may have images and make images, but we must not worship them, and if they are worshipped, they should be put away and destroyed
Agreed 150%!

-Without doubt he wanted to show that outward things could do no harm to faith, if only the heart does not cleave to them or put its trust in them.

Seems to be a point in favor of my position, don't you think?

Calvin said:
-as if it were allowable to make a visible image of God, provided it be not adored; but the expositions which will follow will easily refute their error.

Not suggesting we do that.  I'm suggesting that an image of the visibly incarnate Christ is permissible.

-The Lord, however, not only forbids any image of himself to be erected by a statuary, but to be formed by any artist whatever, because every such image is sinful and insulting to his majesty.

But this image wouldn't be of His "majesty."  It would be of His humility, His condescension to take on human flesh.  For which we continue to praise Jesus even today even as we celebrate His godhood and resurrection!

2nd Helvetic Confession said:
-Although Christ assumed human nature, yet he did not on that account assume it in order to provide a model for carvers and painters. He denied that he had come "to abolish the law and the prophets" (Matt. 5:17). But images are forbidden by the law and the prophets (Deut. 4:15; Isa. 44:9). He denied that his bodily presence would be profitable for the Church, and promised that he would be near us by his Spirit forever (John 16:7). Who, therefore, would believe that a shadow or likeness of his body would contribute any benefit to the pious?

Now THAT is a good point. 
I'll have to think more about that one.  Consider my mind possibly nearly changed in favor of your position.

-Moreover, he instituted sacraments, but nowhere did he set up images.

Also a good point but still an argument from silence.

-Q.98: But may not pictures be tolerated in churches as books for the laity?

Answer: No; for we should not be wiser than God, who will not have his people taught by dumb idols, but by the lively preaching of the Word.
That makes sense, yes.

-The true beauty and amiableness of the person of Christ, which is the formal object and cause of divine love, is so far from being represented herein, as that the mind is thereby wholly diverted from the contemplation of it.

Too poor a tool, then.  I can see that, yes.  But ANY material thing is too poor a tool to communicate the fulness of God. 
Text can't, the ark of the covenant can't, the glorious Jerusalem Temple of Solomon can't.

-Can his condescension, his love, his grace, his power, his compassion, his offices, his fitness and ability to save sinners, be deciphered on a tablet, or engraven on wood or stone?

Well no, but no one's claiming that.
Can an image, a photograph, capture even a fraction of the fulness of the essence of even a regular mortal? No, but I don't see anyone condemning that.

-It also forbids us to make images of God in our fancies, as if he were a man as we are.

Jesus *IS* a man as we are.  Not ONLY a man, but a man as we are. 

-The Bible presents no information whatever about the personal appearance of Jesus Christ, but it does teach that we are not to think of him as he may have appeared "in the days of his flesh," but as he is today in heavenly glory, in his estate of exaltation (2 Cor. 5:46).

I don't know where it says that.
And 2 Cor 5:46 doesn't exist. is [not] a mere accident that speaking about God is commanded hundreds of times in the Bible but setting up images of God is forbidden and barred expressis verbis.

Yes, that's a good point too.

OK, well you've given me some things to think about. 

--------His response begins-----------

The blogger quoted Luther because some of what Luther said had the general thrust of the other Protestants; not that Luther agreed 100% with the other writers. And, Luther's teaching on Idolatry was contrary to Scripture anyways "Thou shalt not make..." But we have disagreed about that -- as we already know.
Thanks very much for reading all of those writings and responding to all of them. I noticed several errors in some of the statements as well; however, as you pointed out they might have meant something else that what we think. Thanks for your discernment though. Anyways, it was quite a read! 
Here are even more commentaries (and some of the same)! ). 
I haven't finished reading that commentary yet; however, I'm planning on getting around to it today... Also, if I think of something else germane to the topic/subject I'll try to send you another e-mail.
I'm going to be busy -- because I'm also e-mailing a pastor who said I was "throwing rocks" (as if I was stoning them!) for sending him and another pastor an e-mail earlier in the week about idolatry and another this morning wondering if they had gotten my e-mail or if it was lost in spam -- along with the first commentaries I sent you (and yes, he pointed out Luther's comment too -- to which we both know Luther is not the author or finisher of the faith either).
Of course, I was not trying to sharply rebuke older men, but exhort them as a fathers; which is what I was trying to do in the light of what God's word says (1 Tim 5:1). Also,  "Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." (Proverbs 27:5-6) And... "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." (Proverbs 27:17).
If they didn't want to be, as he put it, "hassled and badgered," they probably could have blocked my e-mail. 
Here is the sermon Albert Mohler gave concerning the Second Commandment... I'm not sure if it helps.
 ---------------My response begins----------------

I have a bit of a problem with framing the issue in these terms:

-And every picture or portrait of Him is a lie. And as a lie it robs Him of His glory.
ISTM that this is an overstatement.  A lie is an intentional attempt to deceive, and an image of Christ is not necessarily that.  It *could* be but it's not necessarily. 
ANY picture or portrait of ANYONE, even if a detailed photograph, is a "lie" in these terms, ie it does not present the whole picture of someone.  It doesn't give their personality, their character, their stated purpose. Heck, it doesn't even show them in 3 dimensions!  That's why it's called an 'image'.  Everyone knows this is a representation, a reflection, a poor copy of the person himself.  How much more a painting from times before photography? How much more a primitive painting? How  much more a stick figure drawn by my own hand (I stink at drawing)?
Why would we have a problem with imaging Christ in this way if we don't have a problem imaging other people that way?  Here, I'm talking about images just in general, not in a church context.

-The worship of icons is just wrapped in the foolishness of the same lie.

Of course, I agree 150% with any condemnation of the worship/veneration of idols/icons.
I understand - most every sermon or commentary that one will find will deal with these questions in the context of refuting the idea that worshiping/venerating them is OK.  the discussion you and I are having is probably not too common.  ;-)  And that's OK - SOMEone has to break ground. 

-He, as we read from Colossians Chapter One, is the image of the invisible God
This would seem to support MY position, I should think.  There's the invisible God (the Father) and there's the Son Who is the karacter, the copy, the representation, of His nature.  Heck, the word "image" is eikon in Greek. 

-Because He, the image of the invisible God, is the icon whom we ponder; but even as that icon, He is not a visual image for us; He is so much more than that.
Of course He is so much more than that!  No one would argue such a thing.
In the same way a regular mortal man is so much more than even a detailed photograph.


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