Second Commandment and a Children's Book

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Puritan Board Graduate
At the school at which I became principal this past year, I have recently had to have a conversation about the second commandment with my teachers. They are just "regular old Baptists" who have ever even heard that images of Christ—or any Person of the Godhead—is forbidden by the second commandment. I am thankful to say that they received my concern with grace and support.

Anyway, after this conversation, my Kindergarten teacher gave me a book, wanting me to verify that it doesn't violate the second commandment. It is called "A Picture of God: 3 in 1." It was published by Concordia Publishing House in 1973. Now, the very title is troubling, for sure. However, I looked through the book, and what the book seeks to do is teach the doctrine of the Trinity using the illustration of an apple. Of course, we all know that all illustrations of the Trinity fall short by their very nature. But the doctrine taught in the book is solid.

My concern, though, is not the apple. Rather, my concern is the fact that some of the pages teach the doctrine of the Trinity using circles, sometimes concentric, each labeled "Father," "Son," and "Holy Spirit," all in order to teach unity in trinity and trinity in unity.

Are these second commandment violations? Is there a biblical difference between an illustration and an image or likeness? Would this be permissible? This question has been puzzling me for a few days now.

(Please note, I am well aware of the faultiness of illustrations when it comes to explaining the Trinity. I know that they all fall into some sort of heresy when broken down. I am not interested in discussing that. I am specifically asking about the illustrations drawn in the book.)


Puritan Board Junior
I heard Van Til used to start every class drawing circles on the board, one of which was labeled "God", to emphasize the Creator-Creature distinction.

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
I understand why some people might want to use an abundance of caution and avoid any illustrations when explaining God. But the Bible never says we may not use geometric illustrations to explain God. Rather, when the reasons behind the command are given in Deuteronomy 4:11-18, they focus on God being formless. The command is about God's appearance. The point is that we avoid saying or thinking, "God looks like that."

I doubt anyone will look at those circles and think, "Oh, that's what God looks like." They are an geometric illustration of a theological point, not an image of God.
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