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Discussion in 'The Law of God' started by Scott Bushey, Dec 21, 2004.
Are images (pictures) of Christ a break of the 2nd commandment?
Our Standards teach this very clearly:
Rom 1:23 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.
Act 17:29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.
Act 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at;1 but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
I'm simply going to leave it at that.
Thomas Vincent's reasoning on this question seems, to me at least, to be unassailable:
"It is not lawful to have pictures of Jesus Christ, because his divine nature cannot be pictured at all; and because his body, as it is now glorified, cannot be pictured as it is; and because, if it do not stir up devotion, it is in vain"”if it do stir up devotion, it is a worshipping by an image or picture, and so a palpable breach of the second commandment."
Very well put!
I think the 34U says it best:
LORD'S DAY 35
96. Q. What does God require in the second commandment?
A. We are not to make an image of God in any way, nor to worship Him in any other manner than He has commanded in His Word.
 Deut. 4:15-19; Is. 40:18-25; Acts 17:29; Rom. 1:23.  Lev. 10:1-7; Deut. 12:30; I Sam. 15:22, 23; Matt. 15:9; John 4:23, 24.
97. Q. May we then not make any image at all?
A. God cannot and may not be visibly portrayed in any way. Creatures may be portrayed, but God forbids us to make or have any images of them in order to worship them or to serve God through them.
 Ex. 34:13, 14, 17; Num. 33:52; II Kings 18:4, 5; Is. 40:25.
98. Q. But may images not be tolerated in the churches as "books for the laity"?
A. No, for we should not be wiser than God. He wants His people to be taught not by means of dumb images but by the living preaching of His Word.
 Jer. 10:8; Hab. 2:18-20.  Rom. 10:14, 15, 17; II Tim. 3:16, 17
In the church I attend, there is an image of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. I don't even like that.
Could someone critique this article for me: http://snipurl.com/bfjq
I have posted it before, and just heard Nestorian/Heretic or a posting of a section of the confession in response. Something more would be helpful.
My biggest hang up is that when you have various scenes where an actual physical Jesus was there but has now been removed, it seems that one comes close to inadvertentantly denigrating Jesus' full Manhood. For example at the last supper, there was Jesus that one could look at, feel, smell etc (And could do it without sinning). But now he is absent from the paintings as if He was not physically there.
Some help will be appreciated.
First, you have Gentry quoting Calvin in a fashion that Calvin would have hated - Calvin is crystal clear that representations of Christ are idolatrous per se, and a violation of the commandment (Calvin makes the same argument quoted above by Vincent, in a longer and better fashion).
Second, it is Nestorianism. There is no other way around this. You cannot depict a nature. You depict a person. Christ was not a nature, nor even just a body. He was a person. People can say that Nestorianism doesn't apply here - but it does, and that very argument was used unanimously by Reformed divines and Confessions/Creeds until the 20th century.
Third, I have yet to see anyone who claims that the physical person of Christ allows for a representative picture of Christ actually ever deal with the historical evidence. If it were permissible to depict Christ, why are there NO (nada, zip, zilch, none, noway, big donut) pictures of Christ from the early Church? We are talking about: (1) an early Church that was artistic and used pictures to teach in the catecombs; (2) a society that was incredibly familiar with visual representation, that makes our "MTv" generation look like Rhodes scholars; (3) a society in which the Church witnessed that was 99.98% illiterate. Witnessing through books was useless, because almost no one could read. Yep. Almost no one. So why would no one (that's right - no one) in the early Church not get the idea to show pictures of Jesus? Especially as they battled Gnostics and others who denied the incarnation. Does that make any sense? It only does if the early Church believed that pictures of Christ were pictures of God (since Christ is God, not just a hunk of flesh).
Another thought is: what is the purpose of depicting Christ as He is not? He is not just a nature. He is not just a body. Indeed, the significance, especially for Christians, of Christ is the fact that He is God - God in the flesh. Why would I want (or why would God want) Him to be falsely (half-truth) depicted?
Finally, Gentry makes a false dichotomy, as if we can't have Christian art without pictures of Jesus. Huh? How can we have Christian art without pictures of God? Isn't it "some of the greatest historical occurrences of all times" to show God creating Adam (um, Michaelangelo thought so)? How about Jacob and God? How about the Holy Spirit descending on Christ? How about God and Abraham? The only way around this is Nestorianism, to say that it is ok to picture Jesus, so long as you remind people that He is not a person, just a hunk of flesh in the picture. No thanks.
Some that are in favor of pictures of Christ have argued that if the 2nd commandment forbids images of God, it also forbids images of everything else, since the commandment says, "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." As for my take on this issue, this argument has never been answered by anyone to my satisfaction. It just seems like arbitrary logic to say that "you shall not make a graven image" permits a painting of a great white shark swimming in the ocean but a painting of Christ at the Lord's Supper is forbidden.
[Edited on 23-12-2004 by luvroftheWord]
Well here is a question for you who is the man playing God in all the modern and pre-modern Images of Christ?
He looks errilly similar to a certain french bloodline that obssesed about being heirs of Christ?
p.s. You wana see something sick http://www.huggyjesus.com/ if I havent seen the worst puke and garbage in my life this would be it!!
I can beat that nathan!
[Edited on 12-23-2004 by Scott Bushey]
Historically, Muslims have interpreted the Second Commandment to forbid all images of any kind whatsoever, but Jews and Christians have not. It is clear from the context that the Second Commandment has to do specifically with worship. It prohibits any representation of the Godhead or any worship of graven images. God himself expounded the Second Commandment thusly: "Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, the likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: and lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven." Deut. 4.15-19 That is what historic Reformed Confessions and Catechisms teach in their exposition of this Commandment. God himself required the making of certain images in the temple/tabernacle, such as cherubim. The Lord Jesus himself had occasion to observe the image of Caesar on a coin and did not condemn the use of money thereby. Pictures and photographs are lawful as long as they don't violate the Second or the Seventh Commandments. The whole focus of the Second Commandment is worship and any representation of God the Father, God the Son or God the Holy Spirit must inherently violate that commandment because if it does not engender worship it is vain and if it does engender worship it is vain. "Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device." Acts 17.29
[Edited on 23-12-2004 by VirginiaHuguenot]
Fisher's Catechism on the Second Commandment asks and answers many relevant questions.
QUESTION 51. What is forbidden in the Second Commandment?
ANSWER: The Second Commandment forbiddeth the worshipping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.
Q. 1. What are the leading sins forbidden in this commandment?
A. Idolatry and will-worship.
Q. 2. What is the idolatry here condemned?
A. The worshipping of God by images: "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image," &c.
Q. 3. What is an image?
A. It is a statue, picture, or likeness of any creature whatever.
Q. 4. Is it lawful to have images or pictures of mere creatures?
A. Yes, provided they be only for ornament; or the design be merely historical, to transmit the memory of persons and their actions to posterity.
Q. 5. Can any image or representation be made of God?
A. No; it is absolutely impossible; he being an infinite, incomprehensible Spirit, Isa. 40:18 -- "To whom will ye liken God? or, what likeness will ye compare unto him?" If we cannot delineate our own souls, much less the infinite God; Acts 17:29 -- "We ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device."
Q. 6. What judgment should we form of those who have devised images of God, or of the persons of the adorable Trinity?
A. We should adjudge their practice to be both unlawful and abominable.
Q. 7. Why unlawful?
A. Because directly contrary to the express letter of the law in this commandment, and many other scriptures, such as, Jer. 10:14, 15; Hos. 13:2, and particularly Deut. 4:15-19, 23 -- "Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves, (for ye saw NO MANNER of similitude on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb, out of the midst of the fire,) lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female," &c.
Q. 8. How is it abominable?
A. As debasing the Creator of heaven and earth to the rank of his own creatures; and a practical denial of all his infinite perfections, Psalm 50:21.
Q. 9. May we not have a picture of Christ, who has a true body?
A. By no means; because, though he has a true body and a reasonable soul, John 1:14, yet his human nature subsists in his divine person, which no picture can represent, Psalm 45:2.
Q. 10. Why ought all pictures of Christ to be abominated by Christians?
A. Because they are downright lies, representing no more than the picture of a mere man: whereas, the true Christ is God-man; "Immanuel, God with us," 1 Tim. 3:16; Matt. 1:23.
Q. 11. Is it lawful to form any inward representation of God, or of Christ, upon our fancy, bearing a resemblance to any creature whatever?
A. By no means; because this is the very inlet to gross outward idolatry: for, when once the Heathens "became vain in their imaginations, they presently changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things," Rom. 1:21, 23.
Q. 12. What is it to worship God by images, according to the idolatrous practice of Papists?
A. It is either to make use of images, as pretended helps to devotion; or, to worship God before the images of saints, as intercessors with him.
Q. 13. Can any feigned image of God, or of Christ, be helpful in devotion?
A. No; it is the Spirit only who helpeth our infirmities in all acts of spiritual devotion, Rom. 8:26; and that faith which is necessary for acceptance in duty, fixes upon the word of the living God, as its sole foundation, and not upon dead images, Luke 16:31.
Q. 14. Will it excuse any from the charge of idolatry, that they pretend to worship the true God before images, or by them, as means of worship, and not the very images themselves?
A. Not at all; because this is a mean of worship expressly forbidden in this commandment, which prohibits all bowing down before images, upon whatever pretext it be -- "Thou shalt not BOW DOWN thyself to them, nor serve them."
Q. 15. Do they worship images who bow down before them, even though it be the true God they intend to worship by them?
A. In scripture reckoning they do; Isa. 2:8, 9 -- "Their land is full of idols: they worship the work of their own hands. The mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself."
Q. 16. Was it the ultimate intention of the Israelites in the wilderness to pay divine worship to the golden calf itself; or, to JEHOVAH, by it, and before it?
A. It was undoubtedly their ultimate intention to worship JEHOVAH, the true God, before that image; as appears from Ex. 32:5 -- "When Aaron saw it, he built an altar BEFORE IT; -- and said, "To-morrow is a feast to the Lord," (or JEHOVAH, as it is in the original.) And yet, because they did this, so directly contrary to the very letter of this commandment, they are charged with worshipping the image itself, verse 8:-- "They have made them a golden calf, and have worshipped IT," &c.
Q. 17. Do not they who honour the picture of a prince, honour the prince himself?
A. If the prince forbid the making of his picture, it is a contempt of his authority to have it. God has strictly prohibited all images for religious purposes, and therefore it is impious to have or use them for these ends, Lev. 26:1, 30.
Q. 18. May images be worshipped at all, upon their own account?
A. No; because they are the work of man's hands: far inferior in dignity to man himself, Isa. 45:9-18.
Q. 19. May they be worshipped on account of their ORIGINALS; or those whom they are designed to represent?
A. They may not; whether designed to represent God, or the saints.
Q. 20. Why may they not be worshipped as they are designed to represent God?
A. Because he never put his name in them; but declares his greatest hatred and detestation of them, Jer. 44:2-9.
Q. 21. Why may they not be worshipped as they are designed to represent eminent saints?
A. Because saints, however eminent, are only mere creatures; and therefore cannot be the objects of worship, either in themselves, or by their images, Acts 14:14, 15.
Q. 22. Can saints in heaven be intercessors for sinners on earth?
A. No; because intercession being founded on satisfaction, none but Christ can be the intercessor, as none but he is the propitiation for our sins, 1 John 2:1, 2.
Q. 23. Is it lawful, as some plead, to have images or pictures in churches, though not for worship, yet for instruction, and raising the affections?
A. No; because God has expressly prohibited not only the worshipping but the MAKING of any image whatever on a religious account; and the setting them up in churches, cannot but have a natural tendency to beget a sacred veneration for them; and therefore ought to be abstained from, as having at least an "appearance of evil," Isa. 45:9-18. 1 Thess. 5:22.
Q. 24. May they not be placed in churches for beauty and ornament?
A. No; the proper ornament of churches is the sound preaching of the gospel, and the pure dispensation of the sacraments, and other ordinances of divine institution.
Q. 25. Were not the images of the cherubims placed in the tabernacle and temple, by the command of God himself?
A. Yes; but out of all hazard of any abuse, being placed in the holy of holies, where none of the people ever came: they were instituted by God himself, which images are not; and they belonged to the typical and ceremonial worship, which is now quite abolished.
Q. 26. Are our forefathers to be blamed for pulling down altars, images, and other monuments of idolatry, from places of public worship at the Reformation?
A. No; they had Scripture precept and warrant for what they did, Num. 33:52, and Deut. 7:5 -- "Ye shall destroy their altars, and break down their images, and cut down their groves, and burn their graven images with fire."
Q. 27. What do you understand by will-worship, the other leading sin forbidden in this command?
A. It is the worshipping God in any other way not appointed in his word.
Q. 28. Should there be an express appointment in the word for every part of divine worship in which we engage?
A. Undoubtedly there should; otherwise we are guilty of innovating upon the worship of God, and prescribing rules to the Almighty, which is both displeasing to him, and unprofitable to ourselves, Matt. 15:9.
Q. 29. Who are they that are guilty of innovating upon the worship of God?
A. All they who presumptuously annex their own superstitious inventions to the divine institutions, under pretence of their being teaching significant ceremonies; as they of the Popish and Episcopal persuasions do.
Q. 30. What are these significant ceremonies which they add to the instituted ordinances of God's worship?
A. The sign of the cross in baptism; kneeling at receiving the sacrament of the supper; erecting altars in churches; and bowing at the name of Jesus, are a few of many.
Q. 31. Why may not such ceremonies be used, when they are designed for exciting devotion, and beautifying the worship of God?
A. Because God has expressly forbidden the least addition to or abatement from the order and directions he himself has given in his word concerning his own worship, Deut. 12:30-32 -- "What thing soever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not ADD thereunto, nor DIMINISH from it."
Q. 32. Were there not significant ceremonies in the Jewish worship, under the Old Testament?
A. Yes; but they were of express divine appointment; and by the same appointment abolished in the death and resurrection of Christ, Heb. 9:1-15.
Q. 33. May not significant ceremonies be founded on 1 Cor. 14:40 -- "Let all things be done decently and in order?"
A. No; because that text speaks only of the decent and orderly observance of the ordinances of God already instituted, and not in the least of any thing new to be added as a part of worship.
Q. 34. Is reading of sermons or discourses from the pulpit an ordinance of God appointed in his word?
A. So far from it, that we find the contrary practised by our Lord while he was here upon earth, Luke 4:16, 23; where, after reading his text out of the prophet Esaias, it is said, he CLOSED the book, and "began to say unto them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears," &c.
Q. 35. How may we be further guilty of a breach of his commandment, than by idolatry and will-worship?
A. When we neglect, Heb. 10:25, contemn, Matt. 22:5, hinder, chap. 23:13, or oppose the worship and ordinances which God has appointed in his word, 1 Thess. 2:16; or tolerate those who publish and maintain erroneous opinions or practices, Rev. 2:14, 15, 20.
Q. 36. What is the doctrine of our Confession concerning the tolerating of those who publish and maintain erroneous opinions or practices?
A. That "for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or the known principles of Christianity, whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation, or to the power of godliness, they may lawfully be called to account, and proceeded against by the censures of the church, and by the power of the civil magistrates."
 See Confession of Faith, chapter 20 Â§ 4, and the Scriptures there quoted.
How do you know it's Jesus? There weren't any cameras in 1st century Palestine.
More Reformed expositions of the Second Commandment, all of which agree that images of Christ are thereby prohibited (including, for example, Calvin, Henry, Flavel, Ridgeley, Boettner, Williamson, Murray and Rushdoony), one of which deals specifically with the Nestorian error (the 753 Synod of Constantinople):
Been through this before. All of a sudden, when this issue comes up, everyone becomes a Fundamentalist proof-texter, and nothing from Confessions or theologians counts. Of course, if we were to talk about Scripture, or sanctification, or justification, or just about anything else (sorry, save the other commandment that modern Reformed hate - the 4th) then your citations would be worth something. But the unanimous holdings of the Reformed confessions and Creeds is of no effet here.
Why is it that the second and fourth commandments are always a point of contention with people. No one will question any of the other eight. Are there only eight that are still binding? I have searched and searched, and can't find anywhere in scripture that says two and four are no longer binding.
[Edited on 23-12-2004 by Irishcat922]
[Edited on 23-12-2004 by Irishcat922]
It's too bad if folks won't listen to the wisdom of godly men who have gone before us and considered these same issues. We need not rehash ancient controversies that have been well settled by the Reformed Church, except to the extent that with every generation there is a tendency to fall away. May God deliver us from all idolatry, including the idolatry in all of our hearts.
Yes, Paul. That is why the 2nd commandment is about visual representations, not descriptions in God's Word. By your argument, we should be able to make a physical representation of God the Father, and use it to worship Him, since that is what we do with both the Bible and theologians. You know, they describe God and His attributes to assist us in knowing and worshipping Him. And no (yes, none, nobody) of the Systematic Theologians have described an attribute of Christ - like His love, and put it front of people and said "this is Jesus." But that is EXACTLY what those who picture Him do so. So at the VERY least, one who pictures Jesus should say: "This does not look like Jesus. And even if it did, it is not Jesus, but rather a hunk of flesh. It cannot be Jesus, because the PERSON of Jesus is God, and we are not showing God, so this is only a part of Jesus." But that would be ridiculous, so no one does that. What they say is: "this is Jesus." And that is a lie.
Nestorianism is the belief that you can separate the Natures of Christ from His Person. It is a denial of the communicatio idomatum. Images of Christ are a denial of the communicatio idomatum, because unlike verbal descriptions of His attributes, the image purports to show Jesus Christ (not a hunk of flesh). Further the very fact that supporters of this position desire that such images be used to teach about Jesus Christ, shows that the attempt is made to represent Christ and not simply a hunk of flesh. Again, we have that nasty Church teaching. The Reformed view is unanimously (yep, Calvin, Knox, the Puritans, the Methodists, the Baptists) that any visual depiction of Christ that claims it is a depiction ONLY of His humanity, and IN NO WAY a depiction of His Deity is Nestorianism.
Um, please show me a depiction of a nature. Yes, it's that nasty burden of proof again. You see, you are the one going against the Church's declaration of what the Scripture says. Rebuttable presumption in effect here (see thread on theological traditionalism)
Uhh.. go to your systematic and look at communicatio idomatum. Pretty standard stuff that makes your argument go away.
I'll pull some quotes arguing that it was Nestorian and post them.
Actually it is not. Would you be for pictures of God the Father if we found a painting from 97 AD of God the Father? This is more than an argument from silence. It takes into account the culture of the time. There has probably never been a more visual culture than 1st century Rome. The theatre, the Colossium, the architecture used to make political statements, the fact that you have a world-wide (as it then was) Empire with world-wide communication and still no one could read. And then you have the greatest spread of evangelism the world has ever seen, and there is NOT ONE picture? Come on.
Again. Communicatio idomatum. Something denied by Nestorianism, and also those who want to depict a Nature apart from a Person.
[Edited on 12/23/2004 by fredtgreco]
Here's a relevant excerpt from James Durham's exposition of the Second Commandment:
What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If the commandment forbids any and all images of God, then it forbids any and all images of anything. Saying that the commandment is about worship doesn't solve the problem, because, first, I agree that nobody should make images and use them as mediums for worshipping God, whether it be an image of God or an animal. But second, that would also mean that an image of, say, Jesus and the woman at the well that is intended for the purpose of instruction would be fine, since it is not for the purpose of worship. Yeah I know, this isn't the Reformed position, and people like Calvin and all the Puritans would string me up by my toenails for saying such a thing, but that's fine. I know some very qualified and intelligent theologians who disagree with them. Westminster doesn't have a monopoly on the market, you know. Perhaps if I am ordained one day I will change my position.
But having said all that, I wouldn't flinch an inch if suddenly every church in America did away with all pictures of God (Jesus movies, picture books, etc.). They are certainly not something that is necessary, and perhaps we would all be better off without them, so as to save controversy in the church. But I do not believe I'm sinning every time I admire Da Vinci's Last Supper. But I guess that just shows how much those dirty Anglicans have corrupted me.
Would all agree that the dove symbol featured on a lot of bumpers and some churches is sin? It is trying to represent the Holy Spirit. That would be creating an image of a bird in the air to represent the person who has no physical nature. I don't see how anyone can say this is not in violation even those who hold to pedagoical uses of Jesus...
Actually, no. It is impossible to interpret the commandment as forbidding all art or images, because that makes God a sinner. Such a thought should not even cross the minds of Christians. After all, God commanded that various representations be made (e.g. the bronze serpent).
Second, it has always been the Reformed contention, best expressed by Calvin, that it is impossible to contemplate God (God, not anything else) and not worship. Either we worship God falsely through images (being drawn thereunto by our nature and the image) or else we do not worship God, and violate the 1st commandment.
There are only two choices for the user of images:
(1) Construct a dulia/latria disctinction (per Rome)
(2) Deny the filioque (per EO)
The problem is that modern evangelicals prefer to be inconsistent and ignore the issue, because they "like pictures of Jesus." And why they would like to look at a sissy, Swedish representation with some kind of star war ring over his head that looks nothing like the real Jesus, I'll never know. Oh, that's right - Calvin said something about man fashioning God in his own image...
A clear violation from the classic reformed perspective. But I can't see how Paul could argue against it, since it is merely a depiction of an attribute of the Spirit.
Surely the way it descended is an attribute. That was the point in describing it in the way it was described-no?
Craig, if God forbids any images of Himself, how does it follow that God forbids any images of anything else? That only follows if these things are also God, and I know you're not saying that.
Furthermore, if God forbids any visual representations of Himself and Jesus is God, then doesn't Jesus forbid any representations of Himself?
What kind of a dove was it?
Paul is right to call me on my ill-worded comment. I meant attribute in the way that the Spirit is described. Accidentally, if you will (to use the Aristotlean term). The Spirit is described in how He comes to Christ (i.e. descends) as a dove. It is not the shape or form of a dove, but the manner in which He descends. Thus in all three accounts:
w`sei. peristera.n "like a dove"
w`j peristera.n "like/as a dove"
w`j peristera.n "like/as a dove"
w`j peristera.n "like/as a dove"
with w`j and w`sei. each being adverbial conjunctions, generally describing the manner in which something is done.
So my point is that if it describes a manner or attribute of the Spirit's action (i.e His pouring out on man) then it could be depicted according to Paul's test. Not trying to use that as an argument against Paul, just pointing it out.
[Edited on 12/23/2004 by fredtgreco]
Thanks for the legwork, Fred. It might pass Paul's test but what about mine? IF we wanted to grant a picture for teaching purposes and IF it showed Christ and a dove descending...(not sure if this is even valid...how do we picture the Spirit descending like a dove?...) wouldn't it still be a breaking of the 2nd commandment to put a dove symbol on the bumper or church wall? At that point the symbol represents the Holy Spirit does it not? I'm sure people are wanting to give the appearance of being Spirit filled or the like rather than merely stating that the Spirit descended "like" a dove.
How many people when thinking of the Holy Spirit picture a dove nowadays?
Wouldn't the Israelites picture a golden calf at one point?
(Fred, I'm sure you agree but just using your post to draw out more distinctions...)