Thursday, October 1, 2009

Take Thought....

In his blog Pure Church, Thabiti Anyabwile agues for no pictures of God. Period. I agree and am glad to see the post. It is not a popular position. Or, rather, people hardly think about it. But now that we are taking a second look at Calvinism (which had largely gone out of style) lets look again at this issue. J.I. Packer actually quotes John Calvin.

The likeness of things in heaven (sun, moon, stars), and in earth (people, animals, birds, insects), and in the sea (fish, mammals, crustaceans), is precisely not a likeness of their Creator. "A true image of God," wrote Calvin, "is not to be found in all the world; and hence... His glory is defiled, and His truth corrupted by the lie, whenever He is set before our eyes in a visible form.... Therefore, to devise any image of God is itself impious; because by this corruption His majesty is adulterated, and He is figured to be other than He is."

The point here is not just that an image represents God as having a body and parts, whereas in reality he has neither. If this were the only ground of objection to images, representations of Christ would be blameless. But the point really goes much deeper. The heart of the objection to pictures and images is that they inevitably conceal most, if not all, of the truth about the personal nature and character of the divine Being whom they represent.

To illustrate: Aaron made a golden calf (that is, a bull-image). It was meant as a visible symbol of Jehovah, the mighty God who had brought Israel out of Egypt. No doubt the image was thought to honor him, as being a fitting symbol of his great strength. But it is not hard to see that such a symbol in fact insults him, for what idea of his moral character, his righteousness, goodness and patience could one gather from looking at a statue of him as a bull? Thus Aaron's image hid Jehovah's glory.

In a similar way, the pathos of the crucifix obscures the glory of Christ, for it hides the fact of his deity, his victory on the cross, and his present kingdom. It displays his human weakness, but it conceals his divine strength; it depicts the reality of his pain, but keeps out of our sight the reality of his joy and his power. In both these cases, the symbol is unworthy of most of all because of what it fails to display. And so are all other visible representations of deity.

Whatever we may think of religious art from a cultural standpoint, we should not look to pictures of God to show us his glory and move us to worship; for his glory is precisely what such pictures can never show us. And this is why God added to the second commandment a reference to himself as "jealous" to avenge himself on those who disobey him: for God's "jealousy" in the Bible is his zeal to maintain his own glory, which is jeopardized when images are used in worship.

In Isaiah 40:18, after vividly declaring God's immeasurable greatness, the Scripture asks us: "To whom, then, will you compare God? What image will you compare to him?" The question does not expect an answer, only a chastened silence. Its purpose is to remind us that it is as absurd as it is impious to think that an image modeled, as images must be, upon some creature could be an acceptable likeness of the Creator.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Measure not God's love and favor by your own feelings. The sun shines as clearly in the darkest day as it does in the brightest. The difference is not in the sun, but in some clouds which hinder the manifestation of the light thereof.

Sibbes, Richard

Monday, September 28, 2009

When brethren dwell in sweet unity....

Doug Wilson came to speak at the Desiring God Conference in Minneapolis last weekend. Here is his gracious thanks for the invitation.
Thanks in a Bundle

Topic: Shameless Appeals

The Desiring God 2009 conference ended yesterday, and last night a special roundtable discussion on eschatology was held at Bethlehem Baptist. The whole time has been wonderful, and I wanted to state publicly what a privilege it was to be invited to participate, and I wanted to thank John Piper in particular. As you might guess, he took some heat for issuing the invitation, but throughout has been a model of fair-mindedness, an example for how accurate and respectful disagreement should be conducted, and a most gracious host. The other speakers were gracious and kind as well -- Marvin Olasky, Mark Talbot, Sam Storms, Julius Kim -- and Nancy and I enjoyed warm fellowship throughout the conference. Jim Hamilton was the premill representative in the round table discussion last night, and it was a pleasure getting to meet him as well. I urge you to check out their talks at the conference web site. I wanted to thanks some of the Desiring God and Bethlehem people that I met on this trip -- Joe Rigney, Scott Anderson, Tim Tomlinson, and David Mathis. There is a lot going on here, so I am sure you know there are many others that I have to thank in a bundle.

Ian Murray says somewhere, I think in Revival and Revivalism, that one of the hallmarks of a work of God is an evangelical catholicity. That demeanor is very much in evidence here and, as one of the presbyterians involved in it, I also wanted to acknowledge that the leadership in this particular area is coming from the baptists. But of course, thanks to God for all of it.