Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Graven Images Revisited

Continuing thoughts from the last post...

Would you say this view is extreme? A little too close to legalism? Is it simply unrealistic and absurd? I thought so at first, I'll admit. (I’m trying to figure out if I still think so or not.) After all, what harm is there is using art to spur people on to worship? What wrong is there in putting forth some visual that helps the Christ-worshiper focus in on the Object of his or her worship? Plenty, it seems, if that visual is meant as a direct representation of the Lord.

Why? Simply because nothing can directly, accurately represent God except Himself. If an image meant to depict Him is used habitually (or even sporadically) to aid in worship, would we not come to think of Him, pray to Him, relate to Him as the image represents Him? And to the extent that any created image used in worship fails to represent His full glory, to that extent we would fail to worship Him as we should.

John Calvin said, "A true image of God 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."

Packer points out that God-depicting visuals used in worship are misrepresentative not necessarily because of what they show about God, but because of what they fail to show. He uses the imagery of the crucifix as an example: "... 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 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 ... The symbol is unworthy most of all because of what it fails to display. And so are all other visible representations of deity." (p. 46) The image dishonors God, not because of what it shows, but because it obscures His true and full glory. (I would, however, note that this logic could just as easily be directed towards a worship song or a sermon.)

So will I ever create visuals that include Jesus in them again? More than likely. But by His grace, I'll not do it carelessly.

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