Sunday, March 4, 2012

Wayne Grudem On Graven Images - Is It Wrong To Have Pictures Of Jesus?

       Robert and I are working for awhile in Arizona again on another mural project and this morning we had the privilege of attending Wayne Grudem’s Christian Essentials  class where he’s been teaching a series on the Ten Commandments at Scottsdale Bible Church.
      We love the Lord’s timing by allowing us to sit in on this particular study because Robert,  having been a pastor and also  an artist by trade,  has had to deal with misconceptions regarding what making “graven images” means.     So  this lively interactive  class was both interesting and amusing to us  as we felt completely “validated” after listening to Dr. Grudem’s clear teaching on the subject. 

      Here’s a summary of today's lesson on the 2nd Commandment:  

Commandment 2:   No carved images

“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.  (Exodus 20:4-6 ESV)

A.       This does not prohibit all images of anything in creation.    See Exodus 25:18; 25:31-33  regarding instructions to make cherubim of gold, almond blossoms, flowers, etc.    THEREFORE: The commandment means “You shall not make a carved order to bow down to them, or to portray me with them.”
B.       Images of FALSE GODS are prohibited  (these would be “other gods” in terms of first commandment)     The idols of the nations  are silver and gold, the work of human hands..”    Psalm 135: 15-18    2 Chronicles 33:3
C.      And any image of the TRUE GOD are prohibited:
See accounts of Aaron as he instructed the Israelites to make a golden calf.     Exodus 32: 2-5.     Dr. Grudem made the interesting point that although Aaron did such a horrible thing, dishonoring God by making the image of a cow to worship,   his priesthood was not removed from him.  (Wow,  this made me marvel at what a gracious God we serve!)
D.      Reason:   God’s jealousy   (Ex. 20:5  “for I the LORD you God am a jealous God”).
Any physical form dishonors God.       See Deuteronomy 4:15-19)

      Grudem:  Therefore, I do not agree with paintings of GOD THE FATHER (ie.  Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling – you can appreciate the artistic skill and intent of art work without thinking that the painting is right to create)

E.       What about mental images, pictures of God?

1.       Compare Jesus’ teaching about attitudes of the heart in Matt. 5:21-30:  murder/anger, adultery/lust
2.       We should keep all the commandments in our hearts and minds, not just with our actions.    (I Sam 16:7)
3.       Therefore we should not think of God [THE FATHER]  as having any kind of PHYSCIAL FORM.
4.       Then how should you think about God when you pray?
(answer, think of God the Father as Spirit, omniscient,  omnipresent, ect – NOT like an old man with a long white beard -   I’m thinking in class of John  4 “God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth”)

F.       What about pictures of Christ?

1.        Thinking of Christ in human form DOES NOT MISREPRESENT HIM.
2.       The explanation in Deut 4:15-19   (“since you saw no form”)  does NOT apply to Christ as a man:   people DID SEE HIM IN HUMAN FORM.

CONCLUSION:    It is not wrong to portray Christ as a man:   ie:  Paintings, sculptures, films, Christmas plays,  children’s books.


A.      Be careful not to think that Christ is IN the picture or statue.   DON’T   PRAY TO IT!
B.      In movies, drama, be careful not to portray Christ as SINNING in any way:   (films, drama need much care).

      There’s no prohibition about making images of Jesus as   Christ was a living three dimensional person who we cannot help but visualize as we read the accounts of His life in Scripture.     Making an artistic impression of Him is not sinful as long as it is not intended as an object of worship or of a means to which communicate.    
   We’re looking forward to the next lesson

Third Commandment:  You Shall Not Take The Lord's Name In Vain

Swearing, cursing, obscene language
Drama, Films, TV
Oaths and vows

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Trisha said...

Very, very helpful post, Diane! And it's wonderful to see a picture of you and Robert. Arizona? Maybe you're not THAT far from me? :)

pilgrimscottage said...

Food for thought, indeed. Although I have never believed in making any images, paintings or otherwise of God, I have also been uncomfortable with the portraying of God as Christ in images, movies and such. We who live now, do not know what He really looked like and we tend to picture the Lord Christ as we have seen Him depicted in pictures. Because Christ was sinless, too often man depicts Him in a light that is too human and not as all God, also. Does that make sense? Therefore, in my mind, I do not try to imagine the Lord Christ as any particular human form. I am looking eagerly to see Him face to face and as He is!

Ma said...

Very interesting, and I think I agree, for the most part. I tend to change my mind about this alot.

Thanks Diane.

Persis said...

Very interesting. I admit to being rather uncomfortable with images of Jesus. Perhaps because He seems to change ethnicity depending on the artist. However, I have never seen an Asian Jesus, thank goodness!

Diane said...

I have considered that thought too PC. He made an interesting point about an early church heresy docetism. Which promoted the idea that Christ was God but never truly existed in human form so we should be on guard of that and remember that. Scripture. In many places describes. Christs physical appearance and condition. Wish I had recorded it as I'm not able to do the lesson justice. I appreciate your thoughts and have gone back and forth myself.

Diane said...

The weather is gorgeous Trisha. Come on over!:)

Diane said...

Laughing Persis because there was a funny discussion about ethnic Last. Supper Paintings including Asian. The condenses was sweet saying. The intention was to show that Christ came in human form. for all men- to which Dr Grudem joked about painting a picture of a Norweigen Jesus. I appreciated the grace extended without compromising Truth.

Petra said...

Hubby and I were just pondering how 'most' images of Christ do not line up with Isaiah 53:2. They seem to represent a people's need/want more than the Son of Man as portrayed in His Word. Some images tend to romanticize/humanize/distort the truth too much to be helpful. I think that is why I am uncomfortable with most of them. And that's just my two cents' worth. :-) Blessings!

rebecca said...

Love the photo!

Diane said...

Thx :)

Diane said...

West think most of them look like skateboarders from Malibu Petra .ha.

Diane said...

Smart phone typing not so smart? ((

Barbara Thayer said...

This was a great post Diane. I found it very helpful. As we were studying the Westminster Catechism in Sunday school we discussed the issue of whether it was okay to have a picture of Christ hanging on the wall. This makes it even clearer. I really appreciate you sharing this! It was a blessing!

rosemary said...

At Christmas time I always had a question about the nativity set that has a representation of Jesus, but a few years ago I came to the same conclusion as Wayne Grudem. Helpful post, Diane.

Diane said...

He did mention either WC or Heidlelberg as being prohibitive. Blessings Barbara.

Diane said...

Rosemary If I had a nickel for every time we put up and took down our favorite painting of Christ I'd be rich.ha!

Diane said...

You're not alone Alice :)

Christina said...

This is a topic thatI I have studied very little yet wanted to know more about. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful notes. This is very helpful. And wow! What a great picture of you guys! So glad you had a chance to attend!

Diana Lovegrove said...

Oh boy, this is a topic I had much much heartache over about 18 months ago, when I was friends with a lady who was about to enter a convent. I'd been quite against any images of Christ in church, but through talking with her I began to soften on this, and started to accept that it was ok to have images of Christ in a church eg stained glass windows, and even became comfortable kneeling before a stained glass window picture of Jesus whilst receiving communion - which is certainly pushing the boundaries of worshipping images...further discussions got me into more theological error which you were privy to...all to say I don't have a problem so much with reading children's books with pictures of Jesus, or artwork in a non-church setting, but it's definitely different when you're worshipping and there are pictures and images around.

Great photo of you :)

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