Taylor Sexton

Puritan Board Senior
This morning as I was reading the Larger Catechism's exposition of the second commandment, I came across this:

"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, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever" (WLC 109).​

I have often wondered about there being in churches images of doves and lambs (representing the Spirit and Son, respectively). Would these be a violation of the second commandment? I had always been bothered by them, simply because it felt inconsistent, for example, to forbid images of Jesus but then set up a stained glass window that has a lamb in it. This answer in the WLC seems to concur.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Durham says the below which I think is the consistent puritan position and likely find similar in other expositions of the catechism or commandments.
(2) All representing of the persons as distinct, as to set out the Father (personally considered) by the image of an old man, as if he were a creature; the Son under the image of a lamb or young man; the Holy Ghost under the image of a dove: all which wrongs the Godhead exceedingly.​
Here is one of I think probably many old threads: https://www.puritanboard.com/threads/huguenot-cross-and-the-2nd-commandment.43329/
 

retroGRAD3

Puritan Board Sophomore
I didn't jump the link (no time); but a bare cross I think comes under other scripture rules; how it is used; if superstitiously used, etc., I think there are old threads on this too.
If you have a chance to read the Q&A and give an evaluation, I would love to hear the feedback. It does talk about how a cross is used. I would agree that if the cross is being used superstitiously that is wrong. I find that sometimes though, when just worn, it can be a good opener to sharing the gospel.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Junior
find that sometimes though, when just worn, it can be a good opener to sharing the gospel.

I have two T-shirts that I wore all summer that I called my uniforms. Both from missionalwear.com. One of them says, "Man's chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever." The other shirt has the first part of Romans 1:16 in Greek letters, "I am not ashamed of the gospel."

They both have been conversation starters. I had a particularly interesting interaction with the Romans 1 t-shirt in a Greek restaurant. I walked in the door and the owner read my shirt out loud and translated it.:)
 

retroGRAD3

Puritan Board Sophomore
I guess one comment I would add, is I wonder if there are categories here? God himself uses a lot of symbolism. The cross and the dove are ones that are present in the Bible versus images/symbols that are man made (like the onslaught of all the baby pictures around Christmas that we are told are Jesus).

Can a distinction be made between symbols vs. images? For symbols present in the Bible, could those considered ok (barring the worship of those symbols). I tend to agree with the OPC article above. I think it is a balanced take.
 

Taylor Sexton

Puritan Board Senior
I guess one comment I would add, is I wonder if there are categories here? God himself uses a lot of symbolism. The cross and the dove are ones that are present in the Bible versus images/symbols that are man made (like the onslaught of all the baby pictures around Christmas that we are told are Jesus).

Can a distinction be made between symbols vs. images? For symbols present in the Bible, could those considered ok (barring the worship of those symbols). I tend to agree with the OPC article above. I think it is a balanced take.
I guess it depends. For example, I asked a question here a year or two ago about Van Til's representing the Creator-creature distinction using two circles. Dr. Strange assured me that was fine. No problem there. However, I think Johnathon above is right: the cross is a challenge. Yes, the cross is a symbol used in Scripture for the suffering death of Christ. But is it ever presented in Scripture as an object of devotion? And therein lies the complication. I can not thing of a single instance, ever, of anyone today wearing, making, or viewing a cross without at least some amount of devotion, however minuscule. So, while the cross does not break the second commandment in that it is a supposed image of deity, I think the question remains as to whether it is still an idol.
 

83r17h

Puritan Board Freshman
I guess one comment I would add, is I wonder if there are categories here? God himself uses a lot of symbolism. The cross and the dove are ones that are present in the Bible versus images/symbols that are man made (like the onslaught of all the baby pictures around Christmas that we are told are Jesus).

Can a distinction be made between symbols vs. images? For symbols present in the Bible, could those considered ok (barring the worship of those symbols). I tend to agree with the OPC article above. I think it is a balanced take.

I think the dove at the very least is going to be a question of if it is okay to make an image of a theophany. And I'd guess that the answer is no. It is a representation of a person of the Godhead. We don't have access to that direct vision, but to the words which reveal.

I wouldn't use a cross for the reason that the OPC article lists - the third commandment. It has always irritated me to see people wearing cross necklaces and proceeding to do and say all manner of sin, with that cross being worn in plain view. Knowing that I'm prone to sin makes me reluctant on that matter. I've wrestled with the question of if the cross symbol is an idol. I don't think that it is by default, but it can certainly become one. I think the only places I've seen a cross used without devotion towards the particular cross object, is in architecture in churches.

I will say on a humorous note, I am currently sharing an apartment with a former Roman Catholic, who has 3 crucifixes and 1 cross. He's also got a dog. The dog clearly knows natural law, as it has attempted to repeatedly destroy each of the crucifixes, but has never touched the cross.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
The longer I walk in the faith, the more I become convinced worship in the new covenant is free of symbolism. The ornamentation of the temple has been replaced by the reality of Jesus' incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension.
 

My Pilgrim Way

Puritan Board Freshman
I don’t understand why anyone would want to wear a horrible, tortuous instrument of death. That is what it symbolizes. Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.

Edit: "torturous"
 
Last edited:

Andrew35

Puritan Board Sophomore
I don’t understand why anyone would want to wear a horrible, tortuous instrument of death. That is what it symbolizes. Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.
"But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." -Galatians 6:14

That's why I wear one, and have no problem with it. What was to the world "a horrible, torturous instrument of death" became the scene of Christ's triumph: the world lifted him up in shame, but unbeknownst to them, they were really lifting him up in honor -- against their own wishes. The crowning and enthronement they meant as mockery, God made reality. And it's a visual reminder to me personally of these words of Paul.

Interestingly enough, I first started wearing one in Far Eastern contexts because it's very useful for potential identification of fellow-believers. Can perform the same function as the fish once did.
 
Last edited:

koenig

Puritan Board Freshman
The longer I walk in the faith, the more I become convinced worship in the new covenant is free of symbolism. The ornamentation of the temple has been replaced by the reality of Jesus' incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension.
God was pleased to give us as small handful of culturally-universal symbols—a bowl of water, a cup of wine, and a loaf of common bread.

We’re different from Islam that tries to impose seventh-century Arab culture on the world. Our church is so simple that I could walk into a Presbyterian church in Uganda or China and recognize everything they’re doing.
 

jwithnell

Moderator
Staff member
God was pleased to give us as small handful of culturally-universal symbols—a bowl of water, a cup of wine, and a loaf of common bread.

We’re different from Islam that tries to impose seventh-century Arab culture on the world. Our church is so simple that I could walk into a Presbyterian church in Uganda or China and recognize everything they’re doing.
I'm not sure the sacraments are mere symbolism. They are commanded and means of grace. Art in most churches leans toward sentimentality, second commandment violations or wrongly isolate aspects of Jesus' redemptive work. None of this contributes to the preaching of the word or sacraments.
 

koenig

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm not sure the sacraments are mere symbolism. They are commanded and means of grace. Art in most churches leans toward sentimentality, second commandment violations or wrongly isolate aspects of Jesus' redemptive work. None of this contributes to the preaching of the word or sacraments.
Agreed wholeheartedly. I wouldn’t call them *mere* symbols by any means, and the confessions are right to steer away from images of Christ even for the purpose of education.
 

My Pilgrim Way

Puritan Board Freshman
"But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." -Galatians 6:14

That's why I wear one, and have no problem with it. What was to the world "a horrible, torturous instrument of death" became the scene of Christ's triumph: the world lifted him up in shame, but unbeknownst to them, they were really lifting him up in honor -- against their own wishes. The crowning and enthronement they meant as mockery, God made reality. And it's a visual reminder to me personally of these words of Paul.

Interestingly enough, I first started wearing one in Far Eastern contexts because it's very useful for potential identification of fellow-believers. Can perform the same function as the fish once did.
Yes, I agree about the doctrine of salvation by a crucified Redeemer....what the cross effectually accomplished for the elect.

I doubt the cross of Christ looked anything like the symmetrical ones typically portrayed. I also believe His spiritual suffering far outweighs the physical He endured.
 
Top