Picturing Jesus in our minds

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RTaron

The Grandpa (Affectionately Called)
Please help. I have a friend that has taken exception to the Larger Catechism 109. How would you help him understand his error in thinking?
WLC 109 – “The sins forbidden in the second commandment are…the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever…”
a. I do not think picturing Jesus in our minds is out of accord with the commandments of Scripture. The Catechism at this point seems to me an unnecessary application of the second commandment (Ex 20:4-6; Deut 5:8-10), which is more concerned with carved images that might be used as the object of worship instead of the Lord. Even passages such as Rev. 1 invite the reader into imaginative participation with descriptions of the ascended Christ. This by no means suggests that these images are complete representations or that they should be worshiped in and of themselves. Moreover, I do affirm the original intent of this passage to condemn superstition and idolatry in the use of images.
Thanks in advance.
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
This sounds a lot iike doing "vizualization" that is popular in charasmatic churches, to see and talk to Jesus!
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
I thought this had come up in a recent thread or piece or sermon but am not finding it and it slips my mind; but I don't have time to hunt. We control or should control our thought in regard to the other commandments like the sixth; why is it so hard to understand we should for the second? Probably more to the point is that before the artisan crafts his idol he imagines it in his mind; I think that harboring these kind of images may be more in view than how the mind reacts to Scripture, though we are far more disadvantaged than the Puritans were with our visual age (TV, idolatrous movies, etc.). Hopefully others recall what I'm having trouble remembering. I think this came up perhaps not this specific in a recent Reformed Forum broadcast.
 

Daniel M.

Puritan Board Freshman
Our faith is very far on the right when it comes to anything sourced in men. That includes imagination, tradition, and especially emotions.

Whereas the rest of Christendom (if you can call it that, in the case of a few subsections) sees God through the lens first of their emotions and what their minds can see God being and then the Word of God subordinate to that, we are quite serious when we say Scripture ALONE holds authority.

Add that to the fact that whatever you picture Jesus to look like is very likely entirely wrong and that most of the artistic renditions of Christ today have no basis in fact and are westernizations of Him.

Though it can be hard to separate imagination from our worship, it certainly is worth showing some self-restraint. It is a terrible presumption to think we know anything about God outside of His word.
 

earl40

Puritan Board Professor
I remember I used to think that it was good to visualize what Jesus looked like in many instances, and because of Pastor Strange I realized it was not necessary to do such, and realized I already did such many times (not picturing Jesus) when speaking or reading about Him. Discipline by not practicing such is the key, and likewise repentance when you fail.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Here is a brief audio on the second commandment, the title is a bit misleading as that is the last bit but it has a good general argument why pictures of Jesus are forbidden; does not get into mental images; but if you don't believe the first the second is immaterial. http://www.sermonaudio.com/saplayer/playpopup.asp?SID=12416191271
Here is Ralph Erskine's comment along the topic.
Our Lord charges them with mental adultery, that look on a woman to first after her (Matt. 5:28). This sin may be as really committed, though a woman be not present to be looked at with the bodily eye. If a man shall frame an imaginary idea of a woman in his mind to lust after her, it is mental adultery. Even so it is mental idolatry to form a picture of Christ's human nature in our mind, by an imaginary idea of it; and so to make that the object of faith or worship. To form that picture of His humanity in the mind, is a mental looking to it: And to make that the object of faith and worship is a falling down to that image; and committing mental idolatry with it. Indeed I know not who can justify themselves, and say they are free of this sin in some measure. It is too natural, and, I believe to every saint, as long as he is in the flesh, and hath a body of sin and death carrying about with him. But I think it is possible for true believers, to take up a vast difference between that fancy or imagination of Christ as man, which can lead a person no farther, and that faith that apprehends Him as God-man, and sees the glory of God in His person. The former is nothing but a shadow, and a mishapen apprehension, a notion of something in the head; and yet put in the room of Christ. But here, to anticipate what will further occur: “Can you think of God-man,” says Mr. Robe, “without thinking on Him as man? Is it not necessary in the nature of the thing, that you have an imaginary idea or conception of His being man; otherwise you cannot conceive of His being God-man.” Ans. I think, neither the Godhead nor the manhood of Christ can be rightly conceived, but by faith. It is strange to allege, as if by one means we conceive believingly of His manhood, and by another of His Godhead; as if the one were by an imaginary idea, and the other by faith and spiritual illumination; or as if the imaginary idea, which is a natural act, was helpful to spiritual actings of the soul, when it is rather the quite reverse. The spiritual believing view of Christ as God-man, through the illumination of the Spirit, is the only means for enabling the natural faculties to any right thought or conception of Christ, and without which even His humanity is quite imperceptible, as it is the object of faith. This is one of the things of Christ, which flesh and blood cannot, but our heavenly Father can reveal, and which the Spirit of Christ only can show unto us (John 16:14). The natural man receiveth them not.

The sight of what is corporal, as the object of the imaginary idea is, can never in itself fit and prepare us for seeing what is spiritual; but rather darkens the understanding, and makes it unfit; even as the god of this world does thereby blind the minds of them that believe not. The image of Christ’s natural body in the fancy darkens the view of Christ, as the image of God, by faith. These two images cannot stand together, no more than Dagon and the ark. Dagon must fall, if the ark come into the heart.

Pectora nostra duas non admittentia curas.

Again, let a man have an imaginary idea of Christ’s human nature, now exalted to heaven, and sitting at the right hand of God, and on the throne of God; he forms the idea of a man, and the idea of a throne on which he sits. I would ask, whether the idea he hath of a man, be any better than the idea he hath of a throne; or if any of these ideas give the least help or assistance to his faith; or rather, if they do not cloud his mind, and contribute to make him have a gross, carnal, and unworthy notion of Christ? Can he in that glass see anything of the invisible glory of God in Christ, as the image of the invisible God?

Peter Martyr, loc. com. p. 155, speaking of images of Christ, says, “If the bodily presence of Christ was a hindrance to the apostles, and the sight of His human nature an impediment, unfitting them from receiving the Spirit, till once He went away in that respect from them (John 16:7), how much more will images of Christ prove impediments.[”]

We have no other glass to see Christ in, but the gospel; no other eye to see Him by, but faith. If the eye of sense and imagination come between, there is no seeing of Christ by faith, till that eye of sense be shut.

Again, to conceive of Christ as man, is carnal worship and idolatry, when this imaginary idea of Him as man is brought in, as helpful and necessary to faith or worship. Which two I mention together, because faith is a special leading part of divine worship....

Ralph Erskine, Faith no fancy: or, A treatise of mental images, discovering the vain philosophy and vile divinity of a late pamphlet intitled, Mr. Robe's fourth letter to Mr. Fisher: and shewing that an imaginary idea of Christ as man, (when supposed to belong to saving faith, whether in its act or object), imports nothing but ignorance, atheism, idolatry, great falsehood, and gross delusion (Philadelphia, 1805), 64–65.
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
We had a vizualization class where we were suppossed to see us there by Jesus while He taught us, and to journal His thoughts to us... VERY much new age!
 

Toasty

Puritan Board Sophomore
We had a vizualization class where we were suppossed to see us there by Jesus while He taught us, and to journal His thoughts to us... VERY much new age!

We should be meditating on what the Bible teaches, not doing what was taught in that class.
 

RTaron

The Grandpa (Affectionately Called)
Chris, thank you very much for pulling those quotes out of Faith no fancy, they are spot on to the point.
I think the other thread that you were remembering was the one on teaching children with images of Christ.
 

RTaron

The Grandpa (Affectionately Called)
When my friend approves these images to be formed in our imagination, and argues that we are not making an image of the deity but the humanity of Christ, how much of this can be said to be of the Nestorian Heresy?
 

johnny

Puritan Board Sophomore
I suspect your friend is possibly sincere in his belief that this practice of visualising Christ helps to aid his inner prayer life, so you may find it difficult to make inroads here, as he would consider it a private matter between himself and God.

A few years ago when I first joined the PCA, I once came to church and metioned that I had had a dream which seemed to myself to be slightly prophetic, the next week I received a large manuscript from one of the concerned members of the congregation, explaining why I should never trust dreams.

Praise our great God that in his providence, He has made visualising Christ an impossibility for us.
Perhaps you could ask your friend what he perceives Christ to look like, or does accuracy not matter.
 

Gforce9

Puritan Board Junior
I keep seeing these pictures of Dan Fogelberg and Gregg Allman all over the place.......
 

Ask Mr. Religion

Flatly Unflappable
I thought this had come up in a recent thread or piece or sermon but am not finding it and it slips my mind; but I don't have time to hunt. We control or should control our thought in regard to the other commandments like the sixth; why is it so hard to understand we should for the second? Probably more to the point is that before the artisan crafts his idol he imagines it in his mind; I think that harboring these kind of images may be more in view than how the mind reacts to Scripture, though we are far more disadvantaged than the Puritans were with our visual age (TV, idolatrous movies, etc.). Hopefully others recall what I'm having trouble remembering. I think this came up perhaps not this specific in a recent Reformed Forum broadcast.
This might be the one:

http://www.puritanboard.com/showthread.php/91050-An-article-defending-pictures-of-Christ

Later in the thread the topic of mental images is discussed.
 
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Rev. Todd Ruddell

Puritan Board Junior
The imagery of John's vision in Reveltion 1 is not intended to be picturesque, inciting the imagination, but symbolic, teaching truths about Christ. Any good commentary of that chapter will reveal the propositional truth concerning Christ that each of those physical descriptions are supposed to communicate. Visions are not "visuals to be remembered", but signs to be interpreted.

Let us also remember that ability is no definition for morality. Many discussions along these lines disagreeing with LC109 tend toward the impossibility of avoiding mental images while reading passages such as Revelation 1. The ability or disability to obey the Scripture requirement does not affect the standard. I have listened to lectures by certain theologians who claimed that their minds worked apart from any "images" of this sort. But for those who do form imges, when this image stirs up devotion, it becomes a means of worship, and is forbidden by the commandment.
 
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NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Yes; thanks Patrick; that's the one I was not able to find for some reason.
I thought this had come up in a recent thread or piece or sermon but am not finding it and it slips my mind; but I don't have time to hunt. We control or should control our thought in regard to the other commandments like the sixth; why is it so hard to understand we should for the second? Probably more to the point is that before the artisan crafts his idol he imagines it in his mind; I think that harboring these kind of images may be more in view than how the mind reacts to Scripture, though we are far more disadvantaged than the Puritans were with our visual age (TV, idolatrous movies, etc.). Hopefully others recall what I'm having trouble remembering. I think this came up perhaps not this specific in a recent Reformed Forum broadcast.
This might be the one:

http://www.puritanboard.com/showthread.php/91050-An-article-defending-pictures-of-Christ

Later in the thread the topic of mental images is discussed.
 

RTaron

The Grandpa (Affectionately Called)
Thanks everyone for your responses. The Puritan Board is a great place to meet up and be encouraged.
Have a great Lord's Day.
Rick.
 
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