Reformed Baptists Against Making Images of the Lord

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Matthew Willard Lankford

Puritan Board Freshman
In another discussion, I made the point that it is important for Baptists and those who may not subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith to note that historically Reformed Baptists/Particular Baptists also believed that making purported images of the Lord Jesus Christ is unlawful. Is anyone else aware of any historic Reformed Baptist/Particular Baptist resources which take a stand against making images to represent the Lord? Quotes?

Here are a few historic voices I've found which seem to be against making images to represent the Lord:

Hercules Collins' An Orthodox Catechism (a Baptist adaption of the Heidelberg Catechism Orthodox Catechism - Hercules Collins

Q. 105 What is idolatry?
A. Idolatry is having or inventing something in which one trusts in place of or alongside of the only true God, who has revealed himself in his Word.1

1
1 Chron. 16:26; Gal. 4:8-9; Eph. 5:5; Phil. 3:19

Q. 106. What is the Second Commandment?
A. Thou shalt make to thee no graven Image, nor the Likeness of any thing which is in Heaven above, or in he Earth beneath, nor in the Waters under the Earth: thou shalt not bow down to them,nor worship them, for I the Lord thy God and a jealous God, and visit the sins of the Fathers upon the Children, unto the third and fourth Generation of them that hate me, and shew Mercy to thousands of them which love me, and keep my Commandments.

Q. 107 What is God's will for us in the second commandment?
A. That we in no way make any image of God1 nor worship him in any other way than he has commanded in his Word.2

1
Deut. 4:15-19; Isa. 40:18-25; Acts 17:29; Rom. 1:22-23

2
Lev. 10:1-7; 1 Sam. 15:22-23; John 4:23-24

Q. 108 May we then not make any image at all?
A. God can not and may not be visibly portrayed in any way. Although creatures may be portrayed, yet God forbids making or having such images if one's intention is to worship them or to serve God through them.1

1
Ex. 34:13-14, 17; 2 Kings 18:4-5

Q. 109 But may not images be permitted in the churches as teaching aids for the unlearned?
A. No, we shouldn't try to be wiser than God. He wants his people instructed by the living preaching of his Word—1not by idols that cannot even talk.2

1
Rom. 10:14-15, 17; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:19

2
Jer. 10:8; Hab. 2:18-20

Benjamin Beddome's A Scriptural Exposition of the Baptist Catechism (http://books.google.com/books?id=16c9AAAAYAAJ):

§ Is it a sin to worship the true God by images? Yes. Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves, for ye saw no manner of similitude, Deut. iv. 15, 16. Can we form any image of God in our minds? No. To whom will ye liken God? Isa. xl. 18. Is it impossible then to form it with our hands? Yes. For we must not think that the Godhead is like unto gold or silver, or stone graven by art or man's device, Acts xvii. 29. Do those therefore that attempt it put a great affront upon him? Yes. They change the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like unto corruptible man, Rom. i. 23.

Benjamin Keach's The Progress of SIN, OR THE TRAVELS OF Ungodliness (p. 39 http://books.google.com/books?id=WtkCAAAAQAAJ):

This Seth begat Enos, so he is called in Greek; in Hebrew, Ænosh; that is by Interpretation, sorrowful, sick, miserable; so named 'tis thought, from the Consideration of the woeful State of those Days. For, it seems, that Sin prevailed wonderfully (as worthy Annotationers make report) by profane calling on the Almighty, and by calling Idols by the Name of the Lord, and by making Images and Representations of Him.

John Gill's commentary on Isaiah 40:25:

There is nothing whatever, that is a fit likeness and similitude, by which to represent the Lord.

Charles Spurgeon's sermon Iconoclast Sermon #960 Volume 16 (http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols16-18/chs960.pdf):

THE First Commandment instructs us that there is but one God, who alone is to be worshipped. And the Second Commandment teaches that no attempt is to be made to represent the Lord, neither are we to bow down before any form of sacred similitude.

[Note: There are a number of other comments by Spurgeon relevant to this subject which could be added.]

J.C. Philpot's sermon The Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation in the Knowledge of Christ (sermon found in Volume 8 of Philpot's sermons, available in pdf http://grace-ebooks.com/library/J C Philpot/JCP Philpot Sermons Volume 8.pdf):

We want a Person to be the object of our faith; for faith needs an object, and especially in the matter of worship or service, a personal object. Do you not feel that you want some personal object to believe in, to hope in, to worship, to adore, to love? The feeling of this want has been the source of idolatry. When men had lost the knowledge of the only true God and could not look forward in faith to the Messiah who was to be revealed, they set up a visible idol that they might have a personal object to worship—a visible representation, as they conceived, of invisible Deity. A personal God, then, is an object with us of prime necessity, for we cannot worship what is unknown or wholly invisible. The invisible God therefore has made himself visible in the Person of his dear Son; and when he is pleased to shine into the heart, he makes himself known there in his personal glory, as the apostle beautifully speaks, "For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." (2 Cor. 4:6.) It is in the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, that God is thus seen and known; and when the Lord the Spirit takes the veil of unbelief and ignorance off our heart, then is fulfilled that inward transformation into the same glory of which the apostle testifies: "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Cor. 3:18.) Now it is most necessary for our faith and hope to believe in this glorious gospel which thus makes known the glory of God in the face, or, as the word might be rendered, the Person of Jesus Christ; for we cannot worship or serve God under a sense of his burning displeasure in a broken law. We cannot draw nigh to the Majesty of heaven as a consuming fire, any more than the children of Israel could draw near to Sinai's blazing top. But he has come near to us when we could not come nigh to him. He has come near to us in the face of a Mediator; "for there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."

...

We are not to look for dreams, visions, voices, supernatural appearances, sights in the sky, open and outward views of Christ in his glory, or of Christ hanging upon the cross. We are not to expect or even desire any thing that is visible, something which the eye of sense might almost apprehend or the bodily finger almost touch. I cannot, I dare not, limit the power or the wisdom of God: and I doubt not that some, if not many of the Lord's people, have been so powerfully impressed by what they have seen and heard of and from the Lord, that it was to them as if they had actually seen his bodily shape or heard his spoken voice. But we walk by faith, not by sight, and if we seem to see invisible things, we see them only by the eye of faith, or if we hear gracious words, we hear them only by the ear of faith. God in his word has given no promise to the natural eye or the natural ear; nor are we saved by what our natural eyes see or our natural ears hear. It is by grace we are saved through faith, and not by seeing supernatural sights or hearing audible words. The apostle Paul was indeed caught up to the third heaven, and there heard unspeakable words, and doubtless viewed ravishing sights; but the Holy Ghost has drawn a veil over them, for the apostle says of them, that they were "things not lawful for a man to utter."

...

God does not speak with a new revelation from heaven, nor give us something with his own voice from above, as though he would furnish us with a new Bible, or reveal to us some fresh truth not contained in it. All truth is in the Scripture; but though truth is in the Scripture, there is a veil over the book of God, so that we can neither understand nor believe it until it is removed. But when the Lord the Spirit is pleased to take the veil of unbelief and ignorance from off the mind, and to remove the veil from off the word of truth, and thus gives us power to receive and believe what God has there written, this is a revelation, or an uncovering of the word without, and the heart within; and the Spirit who works this, is a Spirit of revelation; for it is the Lord the Spirit who takes the veil away, as the apostle declares: "Now the Lord is that Spirit." (2 Cor. 3:17.) It is thus that Christ is revealed in the heart, as he is revealed in the word. Do we see by faith his Deity? It is because in the word he is revealed in the Scriptures as God, and the Son of God. Do we see by faith his humanity? It is because he is spoken of in the word as the Son of man. Do we see his complex Person as the God-Man? It is because he is revealed there as Immanuel, God with us. Many of the dear saints of God, when they hear or read of a revelation of Christ, are tempted to look for some supernatural sight or mysterious manifestation which God has never promised to give. He will reveal his dear Son in them and make him known unto them; but it will be in his way, not in theirs, in harmony with his word, and not with the fancies or expectations of their own mind.

From A.W. Pink's Gleanings From Exodus (http://www.pbministries.org/books/pink/Life_of_Faith/faith_06.htm):

Two is the number of witness, and in this second commandment man is forbidden to attempt any visible representation of Deity, whether furnished by the skill of the artist or the sculptor. The first commandment points out the one only object of worship; the second tells us how He is to be worshipped-in spirit and in truth, by faith and not by images which appeal to the senses. The design of this commandment is to draw us away from carnal conceptions of God, and to prevent His worship being profaned by superstitious rites.

It would also be interesting to find examples of contemporary Reformed Baptist/Particular Baptists voices against making images to represent the Lord. He are a few voices I've found which seem to be against making images to represent the Lord:

Richard Bennett (former Roman Catholic priest and president of Berean Beacon Berean Beacon proclaims the Good News of Salvation, The Gospel of Jesus Christ. The President and founder is Richard Bennett, a former Roman Catholic Priest. - Home):

Audio presentations:


Articles:

"Idolatry in the Evangelical Camp" (co-written with J. Virgil Dunbar): http://media.sermonaudio.com/mediapdf/91506152931.pdf

"Indifference or Ignorance: The Practice of Idolatry Within the Church" (co-written with Randall Paquette): A Puritan's Mind » The Practice of Idolatry Within the Church – by Richard Bennett and Randall Paquette

"The Passion of Christ: Mel Gibson's Vivid Deception" (co-written with J. Virgil Dunbar):
"The Passion of Christ" - Mel Gibson's Vivid Deception

Albert N. Martin on Mel Gibson's idolatrous Passion movie: The Passion Movie: To See or Not To See - SermonAudio.com Transcript: IDOLATRY CONDEMNED: Albert N. Martin Against Celluloid Jesus

[Note: Martin refers people to John Piper's work at the end of his sermon. I would just issue a caution about Piper, since he said "God broke the Second Commandment when he became incarnate" and endorses the use of forbidden images. Source: http://www.puritanboard.com/f15/john-piper-2nd-commandment-36910/ Note the link to the audio is broken on the original discussion, but can still be found here: http://media.desiringgod.org/audio/c...0204_panel.mp3]

Voddie Baucham (http://www.gracefamilybaptist.net/voddie-baucham-ministries/):

The law is sin? By no means! - SermonAudio.com Transcript of the relevant selection from the sermon: IDOLATRY CONDEMNED: Voddie Baucham on Images of Christ in Films

Baucham's paraphrase of the Second Commandment from Culture Wars DVD:

Commandment number two: Don't even make anything that looks like me.

Also see Grace Family Baptist's notes on the 2nd Commandment: http://www.gracefamilybaptist.net/media/filer/2011/11/15/2nd_-_part_1.pdf

Tom Chantry of Christ Reformed Baptist Church has several sermons concerning the Second Commandment in his series on the Ten Commandments: http://crbc.us/series/14-The-Ten-Commandments

James White (Alpha & Omega Ministries http://www.aomin.org/):

True worship must worship God as He exists, not as we wish Him to be. The essence of idolatry is the making of images of God. An image is a shadow, a false representation. We may not bow before a statue or figure, but if we make an image of God in our mind that is not in accord with God’s revelation of Himself, then we are not worshipping in truth. Since sin and rebellion are always pushing us toward false gods and away from the true God, we must seek every day to conform our thinking and our worship to God’s straight-edge standard of truth, revealed so wonderfully in Scripture. We must be willing to love God as He is, and that includes every aspect of His being that might, due to our fallen state, be offensive to us, or beyond our limited capacities to fully comprehend. God is not to be edited to fit our ideas and preconceptions.

(The Forgotten Trinity, p. 18)

If we love Him and worship Him as He deserves, we will not dare to "edit" Him to fit our desires. Instead, we will seek to worship Him in truth.

(Ibid., p. 20)

Uniqueness. Otherness. It is part of the meaning of the word "holy" itself, and God makes it plainly known that He is holy. No images, no likenesses of Him are to be allowed, for such would create a connection that does not exist. He is Creator, everything else is created. He is infinite, everything else is finite. God asks the questions of anyone who would compare Him to anything in the created order:

Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge and informed Him of the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust. Even Lebanon is not enough to burn, nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless. To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare with Him?

(Ibid., p.38)
 
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Matthew Willard Lankford

Puritan Board Freshman
I've seen John Bunyan described as a Baptist/Congregationalist. Bunyan identifies the purpose of the Second Commandment. He applies the commandment to more than outward and visual images, even to peoples' beliefs and concepts of the Triune God. He teaches the importance of having and guarding the biblical knowledge of Him.

If Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost be no otherwise three than as notions, names, or nominal distinctions; then to worship these distinctly, or together, as such, is to commit most gross and horrible idolatry: For albeit we are commanded to fear that great and dreadful name, "The Lord our God;" yet to worship a Father, a Son, and Holy Spirit, in the Godhead, as three, as really three as one, is by this doctrine to imagine falsely of God, and so to break the second commandment: but to worship God under the consideration of Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost, and to believe them as really three as one when I worship, being the sum and substance of the doctrine of the scriptures of God, there is really substantially three in the eternal Godhead.

But to help thee a little in thy study on this deep,

1. Thou must take heed when thou readest, there is in the Godhead, Father and Son, &c. that thou do not imagine about them according to thine own carnal and foolish fancy; for no man can apprehend this doctrine but in the light of the word and Spirit of God: "No man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son; and he to whom the Son will reveal him." If, therefore, thou be destitute of the Spirit of God, thou canst not apprehend the truth of this mystery as it is in itself, but will either by thy darkness be driven to a denial thereof; or if thou own it, thou wilt (that thy acknowledgement notwithstanding) falsely imagine about it.

2. If thou feel thy thoughts begin to wrestle about this truth, and to struggle concerning this, one against another, take heed of admitting of such a question, How can this thing be? for here is no room for reason to make it out; here is only room to believe it is a truth. You find not one of the prophets propounding an argument to prove it, but asserting it; they let it lie, for faith to take it up, and embrace it.

"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen."
~John Bunyan, The works of that eminent servant of Christ, Mr. John Bunyan, Volume 5, pp. 286-287 (link: The works of that eminent servant of Christ, Mr. John Bunyan - John Bunyan - Google Books)
 

Matthew Willard Lankford

Puritan Board Freshman
Albert Mohler has also spoken and written against making images to represent the Lord.

The following is an except from Mohler's book Words from the Fire at the end of chapter two:

We are to make no image of Him. We should paint no pictures of Him. If we were to know the visual image of Christ, He would have left us His visual image. He did not. And every picture or portrait of Him is an invention, and as an invention, it robs Him of His glory. The worship of icons is just wrapped up in the foolishness of the same lie. God does not command or authorize the use of images in order to understand and worship Him. As a matter of fact, God condemns images and leaves no doubt concerning the matter.

Jesus Christ is not a visual image for us---He is so much more than that. And thus this commandment is also for us lest we turn our worship of Christ into another form of idolatry. We preach Christ crucified. We point to Christ in His glory. We preach the cross. We teach and preach all the things concerning the Christ. And we use words.

The second commandment is a clear condemnation of idols and images. We are not to use our creativity in order to fabricate an idol or to worship an image.

Below is an excerpt from Mohler's article "You Are Bringing Strange Things to Our Ears:" Christian Apologetics for a Postmodern Age, Part 3", which points out why Christian apologetic confronts error concerning idolatry (link: www.albertmohler.com/2005/10/12/you...-apologetics-for-a-postmodern-age-part-3-2/):

Sixth, a Christian apologetic confronts error. [Acts 17:29] In this sense, the apologetic task and the polemical task are related. Error must be confronted, heresy must be opposed, and false teachings must be corrected. Paul was bold to correct the Athenians with a firm injunction: “We ought not to think” false thoughts about God.

False theologies abound in the postmodern marketplace of ideas. Americans have revived old heresies and invented new ones. Mormons believe that God is a celestial being with a sex partner. The ecological mystics believe that the world is God–the so-called Gaia Hypothesis. New Age devotees believe that God is infinite empowerment.

The Athenians made idols out of marble and precious metals. Paul rebuked this practice, and proclaimed that the Divine Nature is not like gold or silver or stone. Furthermore, God is not “an image formed by the art and thought of man.”

Our culture is filled with images of gods formed by art and the thought of man. Our confrontation must be bold and biblical. We have no right to make God in our image.

And listen to Mohler's sermon on the Second Commandment (Sermons and Speeches – AlbertMohler.com). Here is my transcription of a selection from the sermon:

We must be very careful that the visual never eclipse the verbal. We must be very careful not to allow things of visual beauty to become the objects of our worship, because they lie. They lie, because they cannot represent the infinite beauty of God. We are to make no image of Him. We should paint no pictures of Him. If we were to know the visual image of Christ, He would have left us His visual image. He did not. And every picture or portrait of Him is a lie and, as a lie, it robs Him of His Glory. The worship of icons—just wrapped up in the foolishness of the same lie. It is not true that the means of connecting with God is through the mediation on the visual. It simply is not true. But it is true that even as we are to avoid icons, we do have an icon. It is true that there is one icon that is the object and focus of our worship—the means of our worship, indeed, and that is the icon that is Jesus Christ. "He[...]", as we read from Colossians Chapter one, is "[...]is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him" And thus Christ is in the Second Commandment; and thus Christ fulfills the Second Commandment, 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. And thus this commandment is also for us; lest we turn our worship of Christ into another form of idolatry, we preach Christ crucified, we point to Christ in His glory, we preach the cross, we teach and preach all the things concerning the Christ, and we use words. Paul says that these things, including all the Law, the Torah, all the writings of the Old Testament are given to us for our good, so that by reading them we may be instructed and encouraged.
 

Matthew Willard Lankford

Puritan Board Freshman
From what I've read, D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones rejected Infant Baptism and practiced Believer's Baptism (see the previous discussion: http://www.puritanboard.com/f57/martyn-lloyd-jones-views-baptism-11033/). In his The Assurance of Our Salvation he also appears to have been against images of the Lord:

The work of the Spirit is to make the Lord Jesus Christ real to us. So do not waste your time trying to picture the Lord Jesus Christ. Do not go and look at portraits of Him that are wholly imaginary. There is a sense, I believe, in which nobody should ever try to paint Him—it is wrong. I do not like these paintings of Christ; they are the efforts of the natural mind.
 

Matthew Willard Lankford

Puritan Board Freshman
I don't prefer images of the Lord but do not think it is unbiblical if not used to show devotion to.

Not looking to have this discussion turn into a debate for others to defend the making of images to represent the Lord or the retaining images made to represent the Lord, so long as such images aren't used to show devotion. But I would invite you to consider this question asked by Dr. Alan Cairns:

Should a Christian ever be invited to think of Christ apart from any context of worship?
...
When you have a representation of Jesus Christ, you have an object, not only the statement of a man's opinion, but you have an object that is deliberately intended to bring your mind into the channels of worship. And, in this connection, God has said, no matter what the logic of man says, no matter what the value of the artwork may be, God says, 'Thou shalt not make unto thee any image, male or female, in heaven, earth, or under the earth.' Any image! No images, pictures, or icons, of any place in the public or private worship of the people of God.

And as Puritan Thomas Vincent observed:

​​
Why may we not make use of images for a help in our worship of God? Because God has absolutely forbidden it.
...
Is it not lawful to have images or pictures of God by us, so we do not worship them, nor God by them? The images or pictures of God are an abomination, and utterly unlawful, because they do debase God, and may be a cause of idolatrous worship. Is it not lawful to have pictures of Jesus Christ, he being a man as well as God? 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 stir up devotion, it is a worshipping by an image or picture, and so a palpable breach of the second commandment.

I created this discussion to see if anyone else knew of Calvinistic or Reformed Baptists (historic or contemporary) who have taught against making images of the Lord. I would like to keep the discussion focused on that.
 
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Matthew Willard Lankford

Puritan Board Freshman
As far as I know Paul Washer hasn't spoken specifically about man-made images of Christ, but I'd appreciate if someone could let me know if he has. Washer has several relevant observations:

Paul Washer's The Gospel's Power and Message, p. 121​:

FALLEN MAN CANNOT LOVE GOD

Most men, even the irreligious, claim some degree of love or affection toward God. Nevertheless, the Scriptures testify that fallen man cannot love God. In fact, the Scriptures teach that, prior to conversion, all of Adam's race hates God and lives at war against Him. This hostility exists because a morally corrupt creature simply cannot tolerate a holy and righteous God or bear to submit to His will.

It is important to note that most who claim a genuine love for God know very little about His attributes and works as Scripture describes them. Therefore, the god they love is nothing more than a figment of their own imagination. They have made a god in their own image, and they love what they have made. As God declares through the psalmist, "You thought that I was altogether like you; but I will rebuke you."

If most men, even those who consider themselves religious, were to investigate the Scriptures, they would most certainly find a God much different from the god they claim as the object of their affections. If they took at face value the Scripture's teaching on such divine attributes as holiness, justice, sovereignty, and wrath, they would most likely respond in disgust and declare, "My God's not like that!" or, "I could never love a God like that!" Thus, we would quickly see that when fallen man meets the God of the Scriptures, his only reaction is repulsion and rejection. What is the reason for this adverse reaction? Again, it has to do with who man is at the very core of his nature. If man were holy and righteous by nature, then he could easily love a holy and righteous God. However, man is by nature depraved, and therefore he cannot.

Paul Washer's sermon, "Ten Indictments Against the Modern Church":

Sunday morning is the greatest hour of idolatry in the entire week of America because people are not worshipping the one true God—the great mass at least—but are worshipping a god formed out of their own hearts by their own flesh, satanic devices and worldly intelligence. They have made a god just like themselves and he looks more like Santa Claus than he does Yahweh.

Paul Washer's The One True God: A Biblical study of the Doctrine of God:
God is not visible and therefore should never be degraded with images made by men.
 

Matthew Willard Lankford

Puritan Board Freshman
I've read that Alistair Begg is a Baptist influenced by Reformed theology. The quotes below are from Begg's book Pathway to Freedom: How God's Law Guides Our Lives (his sermon on the same subject is here: Graven Mistakes - Resource Center - Truth For Life)

God alone is to be worshipped and without any visual symbols of Himself.

(Pathway to Freedom: How God's Law Guides Our Lives, p.64)

Calvin said, "Because God does not speak to us every day from the heavens, there are only the scriptures in which He has willed that His truth should be published." This commandment offers no loopholes. God is opposed to any representation of Himself. His people are not to make an idol "in the form of anything." "Don't look for me in shrines or paintings or statues," the Lord might say, "I'm not there. Look for me in my Word."

Calvin has a section in the Institutes where he argues that as long as doctrine was pure and strong the church rejected images. If we look around the contemporary scene, it will quickly become apparent that where there is an absence of gospel preaching there is a greater likelihood of finding superstitious rituals. I recall standing in a church building in Chicago and watching people kneeling before material representations of deity. I don't for a moment question their motivation, but it made me wonder whether they did not imagine that some power of divinity was present there. Again Calvin observes, "when you prostrate yourself in veneration, representing to yourself in an image either a god or a creature, you are already ensared in some superstition. This is foolish in the extreme."

Isaiah asks, "To whom, then, will you compare God? What image will you compare him to?" (Isaiah 40:18). Since all things were created by God and are subject to Him, it makes no sense at all to think of fashioning anything that could ever represent the Creator of the universe. When we set aside this commandment by tolerating images in worship, our understanding of God is inevitably distorted. The individuals whom I observed kneeling in Chicago were bowed before a crucifix. Jesus on the cross speaks to us of His suffering, which it is clearly right for us to ponder. But a Jesus on a cross is limited to the pathos of all that scene represents. It conveys nothing of His power, victory, and glory. He is now having completed the work of redemption seated at the right hand of the Father on high. So a static image of Christ on the cross is a distortion of the total picture.

Imagination is a wonderful gift, but when we use it to conjure up our own image of God it leads us astray. It is quite common to hear people say, "I like to think of God as..." and then add whatever picture they have in mind. The problem is that our view of God is to be defined by His revelation of Himself in the Bible, and when we conceive of Him apart from that, it will be misleading at best. Anything we imagine will be inevitably less then God, and when that which is less than God is used to portray God, we are led quickly to blasphemy and idolatry.

Exodus 32 contains the record of the fashioning of the golden calf. "We don't know what's happened to Moses" they tell Aaron. He's somewhere out there talking with God but we want to know that God is present with us so make us gods who may go before us." Instead of admonishing them for their impatience, unbelief, and disobedience, Aaron took their gold and fashioned it into a calf.

Upon completion he hears the people exclaiming, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt" (v. 4).

Upon hearing that, we might have expected him to melt the whole project down, realizing that he'd made a dreadful mistake. Instead, he compounds the problem by building an altar in front of the calf and announcing plans for a festival to the Lord. He was naive at best. Did he think that this solid gold calf would remind the people that Yahweh was powerful? The golden calf did nothing to display God's glory and everything to distort it. The result was revelry and chaos. When we get the worship wrong, chaos ensues. Paul described the process in Romans 1:24. To exchange the truth of God for a lie: to exchange the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles is to become susceptible to the sinful desires of the human heart issuing in adultery, homosexuality and every kind of wickedness.

(Ibid., p. 66-68)

If we are to escape the corruption that accompanies all attempts at worshipping God by means of likenesses, pictures, and imaginings, then we must focus on the Lord Jesus Himself, who is "the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15).

(Ibid., p. 69)

Since the second commandment forbids the use of images as we worship God, and the New Testament reveals that God has provided the only true and worthy image of Himself in the Lord Jesus, who is "the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15); then our worship as we gather is to be framed by biblical principles.

(Ibid., pp. 72-73)
 

Rich Koster

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
*I'm not an extensive reader, but I hold on to this as a positive action response to the Second Commandment.

1 Peter 1:8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, *9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
 

Matthew Willard Lankford

Puritan Board Freshman
*I'm not an extensive reader, but I hold on to this as a positive action response to the Second Commandment.

1 Peter 1:8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, *9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

One of my favorite verses!
 

Matthew Willard Lankford

Puritan Board Freshman
Pastor Nicholas Kennicott of Ephesus Church (which adheres to the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith) has a series of posts starting with Christmas and Christianity, Part 1 | The Decablog. Putting the Christmas discussion aside for the current discussion, here is the relevant selection indicating Kennicott's stance against images of Christ:

I’m not sure if every pastor out there gets the same questions I do, but one that seems to come up pretty regularly this time of year is all about Christmas…

While Christians often debate this issue, I am convinced that the 2nd commandment forbids the making of images of Christ in every respect. I oppose the ikons of Eastern Orthodoxy depicting the members of the Trinity, and just as strongly oppose the myriad of attempts at depicting Jesus in art of various forms (film, paintings, sculptures, crucifixes, etc.). God has said quite categorically, “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” (Exodus 20:4). So the nativity scenes of Christmas depicting Jesus as a baby are a violation of the 2nd commandment, and while well intentioned, should not be displayed by Christians.
 

JohnGill

Puritan Board Senior
John Gill's A Body of Practical Divinity. (Think Westminster Standards for Reformed Baptists.) Page 5, 2a.

First, all idols of whatsoever kind are excluded, not only images of things in heaven or in earth, or in the sea, and the idols of gold and silver, the work of men's hands, forbidden by the second command; but also the idols set up in a man's heart, to which such respect is paid as is due to God only; of such may be read in Ezekiel 14:4 and which God promises to cleanse his people from by his Spirit and grace (Ezek. 36:25), and which when converted they declare they will have no more to do with, in the manner they have, who before conversion served divers lusts and pleasures (Hosea 14:8; Titus 3:3), and these perhaps are the idols the apostle John warns the children of God to keep themselves from (1 John 5:21). The idol the worldling is enamoured with, and in which he places his trust and confidence, is gold and silver; hence covetousness is called idolatry, and such a man is said to be an idolater (Eph. 5:5; Col. 3:5), nor can the true God and this idol mammon be served and worshipped by the same (Matthew 6:24). The epicure, or voluptuous person, his god is his belly, which he serves, and in which he places all his happiness, and cannot be said to serve the Lord and worship him (Phil. 3:19; Rom. 16:18). The self-righteous man makes an idol of his righteousness, he sets it up and endeavors to make it stand, and to establish it, and then falls down to it and worships it, putting his trust and confidence in it (Luke 18:9).
 

Matthew Willard Lankford

Puritan Board Freshman
Currently reading Steven Lawson's book Made in Our Image. There are more than a few quotable parts of the book that are relevant to the discussion. I think this selection summarizes Lawson's belief:

THE SECOND COMMANDMENT

In the generations after the first couple's reimaging of God, man's perceptions of Him were further assailed by the influences of false religions and idolatry, which were literally perfected to an art form. That is why when God gave the Ten Commandments, first and foremost He established what was most important to us-the true knowledge of Himself.

It is no coincidence that the revered law of Moses begins with the imperative to protect our thoughts of God and to keep them worthy of Him. Revealing His holy character, God commanded, "You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth" (Exodus 20:3-4).

In these first two commandments, God revealed what is most important to us; namely, our supreme commitment to the true knowledge of who He is. They are like interconnecting links in an unbreakable chain. In the first commandment, God prohibits us from worshipping other gods; in the second, He forbids us to distort the true picture of God by any physical or mental representations of Him.

Any man-made likeness of God inevitably falls short of His infinite perfection, and so distorts His glorious being. Anything man makes to represent God, whether it is an inanimate idol or other visual representation of deity, will always defile the true knowledge of God. A departure from these commandments-truly the pivotal, watershed commandments-only leads down the destructive path of dishonoring God.

THE HEART OF THE MATTER

This sin of creating man-made likenesses of God is not limited to making physical idols or representations of Him. It also includes the ones we can so easily and sometimes unknowingly set up in our hearts and minds. We can violate the second commandment not only with our hands, but worse, with our hearts and minds.

This is true with each of the Ten Commandments. God tells us through the Scriptures that the inner life-the condition of our hearts- is more important than the outer life. The Bible tells us:

Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life.

PROVERBS 4:23​

The heart is most important because it controls everything about us.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stated that each of the Ten Commandments was menat to be a matter of our hearts (Matthew 5:21-30). The Lord taught that murder can be committed not only by taking another life, but also by hating another person (vv.21-24). Likewise, He pointed out that adultery can be committed not only through unlawful overt sexual activity, but also within one's own heart (vv. 27-30).

In similar fashion, while the second commandment directly prohibits fabricating a physical idol with one's hands, it also prohibits crafting unworthy thoughts of God in our hearts and minds. The former implies the latter, and the external implies the internal. Therefore, whenever we think untrue thoughts of God, whenever we allow unscriptural pictures of God to hang in our hearts, we forge idols on the anvils of our minds, resulting in demeaning caricatures of the divine.

Low thoughts of God are as blasphemous as wooden, man-made idols. They are deadly poison to our faith and destroy our true knowledge of God. The distorting of the true deity is a serious sin, so serious in the Old Testament economy that it brought God's curse (Deuteronomy 27:15).

THE "NEW" IDOLATRY

This sin is not one that is limited to the Old Testament times. In fact, I believe we see the second commandment violated in many ways today. As God's people, it is our job to safeguard the true knowledge of Him; but in many ways we have let down our guard and allowed wrong views of God to be hung in the corridors of our minds. Instead of protecting our hearts and minds, we have allowed every influence imaginable to alter our picture of God, resulting in distorted, dishonoring images of Him. This has a devastating effect on the church today.

(Steven Lawson, Made in Our Image: The Fallacy of the User-Friendly God, Chapter 3, Reducing the Irreducible: The Distortion of God, Part 2, pp. 47-49)
 
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Matthew Willard Lankford

Puritan Board Freshman
From John Gill's sermon "A Sermon at the Ordination of the Rev. Mr. John Davis":

First, That these were not emblems of the divine persons in the Godhead. It is a fancy that some of late have embraced, and are greatly elated with it, as a wonderful discovery; that the cherubim are an hieroglyphic, the three faces of the ox, lion, and eagle, of the Trinity of persons in the Deity, and the face of a man joined to them, of the incarnation of the Son of God; and would have the word cherubim pronounced ce-rubbim, and translated as the mighty ones; but this is a mere fancy and false notion: For,

[...]

4. If the cherubim were an hieroglyphic of the Trinity, this would give a similitude of the divine Being, and of that in him which is the most incomprehensible to us, a Trinity of persons in the Deity, and would furnish with an answer to such a question, suggested as unanswerable, To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare with him? Isai. xl. 18, 25. and xlvi. 5. for then it might be replied, To the cherubim: but there is no likeness of God, nor any to be made of him; though the Son of God often appeared in an human form, and in the fulness of time became incarnate; and the Holy Ghost once descended as a dove; yet the Father's shape was never seen at any time, John v. 37. This notion also is repugnant to the second command, which forbids the making any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, Exod. xx. 4. and then most certainly forbids the making of any likeness of the divine Being. Supposing the cherubim at the garden of Eden were made by God himself, as those in the tabernacle and temple were made by his order; yet he would never make nor order to be made such as he forbid, which he must, if they bore the similitude of him; but the truth is, the cherubim were not a likeness of any thing above in heaven, nor of any thing on earth; there never having been seen nor known by any man on earth, as Josephus affirms, any such creature whom they describe; and a certain Jewish writer observes, the making of them came not under the interdict or prohibition of the second command; which if made in the likeness of God it would.

Source: A Collection of Sermons and Tracts ...: To which are Prefixed, Memoirs of ... - John Gill - Google Books, p.

Happy New Year!
 
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