Friday, April 03, 2009

The Sort of Evangelical I'm Not

I'm not the sort of Evangelical who thinks that this "gear" (link1 link2 - same guy - two posts on his "gear") is ok. I'm the sort of Reformed believer that thinks that these verses are in the Bible:

Isaiah 44:10 Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing?

Jeremiah 10:14 Every man is brutish in his knowledge: every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them.

Jeremiah 51:17 Every man is brutish by his knowledge; every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them.

Isaiah 44:9 They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed.

Nahum 1:14 And the LORD hath given a commandment concerning thee, that no more of thy name be sown: out of the house of thy gods will I cut off the graven image and the molten image: I will make thy grave; for thou art vile.

Isaiah 44:15 Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto.

Habakkuk 2:18 What profiteth the graven image that the maker thereof hath graven it; the molten image, and a teacher of lies, that the maker of his work trusteth therein, to make dumb idols?

Isaiah 44:17 And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.

Isaiah 45:20 Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save.

Isaiah 48:5 I have even from the beginning declared it to thee; before it came to pass I shewed it thee: lest thou shouldest say, Mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image, hath commanded them.

Exodus 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth:

Leviticus 26:1 Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God.

Deuteronomy 4:15-19
15 Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: 16 Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17 The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, 18 The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: 19 And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.

Deuteronomy 4:23-26
23 Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the LORD thy God hath forbidden thee. 24 For the LORD thy God is a consuming fire, even a jealous God. 25 When thou shalt beget children, and children's children, and ye shall have remained long in the land, and shall corrupt yourselves, and make a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, and shall do evil in the sight of the LORD thy God, to provoke him to anger: 26 I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that ye shall soon utterly perish from off the land whereunto ye go over Jordan to possess it; ye shall not prolong your days upon it, but shall utterly be destroyed.

Deuteronomy 5:8 Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth:

Deuteronomy 27:15 Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image, an abomination unto the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and putteth it in a secret place. And all the people shall answer and say, Amen.

Revelation 9:20 And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:

1 John 5:21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

I know that won't make me overly popular with the kind of Evangelicalism that is currently in collapse according to that same guy (link), but if I wanted to be popular I wouldn't speak out against sin. I'm far less concerned by the appearance that the iMonk is Romanizing (though anyone who stays around my blog will realize that I'm no fan of Rome) and far more concerned that he doesn't take the Scriptural prohibition on idols seriously. If one is going to point to a reason why the brand of Evangelicalism that accepts idols is going to perish, failure to heed God's word in Scripture is (in my view) the number one reason.

No, having idols of Jesus whether in statute, crucifix, or icon form isn't going to turn you into a Roman Catholic - but it does take your eyes away from the divinely sanctioned way in which we see Christ: the Bible and the sacraments. We see Christ in Scriptures, and we remember him and his death not through small metal symbols or statuettes but through the bread and the cup of the Lord's Supper.

-TurretinFan

10 comments:

Aaron said...

Amen an good post

Mike Burgess said...

If memory serves, you subscribe to the Westminster Standards. Yet you say there is "the divinely sanctioned way in which we see Christ: the Bible and the sacraments. We see Christ in Scriptures, and we remember him and his death not through small metal symbols or statuettes but through the bread and the cup of the Lord's Supper."

This appears totally inconsistent with the answer to Q. 109 of the Larger Catechism, and it seems also to border on violating the teaching of WCF XXIX:V. Would you care to explain how it is that you are authorized to "see" Christ in any way whatsoever? How, exactly, do you think of Christ, and if you do think of Him, are you not "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," emphasis mine? And if you are not authorized to "see" Him by any mental means, what is the meaning of your claim of adherence to the doctrine of the Bodily Resurrection and continued abiding of our Lord in His glorified bodily state of existence? Mustn't you necessarily have some image of Him in professing that truth?

Turretinfan said...

Mike:

Nope, it's totally consistent. I was pretty clear in my post, in the part that you quoted, but I'll repeat, with some clarification. We see him in the sacraments and in the Scriptures. It's not representational likeness: there's no facial features, musculature, etc.

Yes our Lord has truly been resurrected and is in heaven. Why on earth one would need a visual image of him to believe that is baffling to me, but for some reason you seem to think so.

The Bible doesn't provide us with any real physical description of Jesus, except (negatively) that he was not handsome and that he was Jewish. And, of course, the Bible was not provided with illustrations.

Thus, while belief in the resurrection is a core belief of Christianity, we can recognize that it is totally unnecessary to have a picture of the physical appearance of Jesus (either in stone or in our heads) to hold such a view.

Perhaps a counter-illustration will suffice to show that this is possible:

Do you believe that Enoch was translated? Scripture says so. You ought to believe it. Yet, whether or not one believes that one has any reliable pictures of Jesus' humanity, certainly no one has reliable pictures of Enoch and if someone foolishly tries to picture what Enoch might have looked like, his completely speculative imagery is plainly unnecessary to the belief that Enoch walked with God and was translated.

-TurretinFan

natamllc said...

From where I sit and "think", I believe the objects presented distort the imagination of those who possess such objects enough to bring a distortion to one's carnal mind, sufficient enough to distract the handlers and sellers and creators of such objects from "knowing the Only True God and Jesus Christ, Whom He sent. So one has a "double" weakening of knowing Them, both the creator of the object and the retainer of the object created in violation of the Scriptures and the Oral instructions, already cited, given by God to His messenger to teach us prescriptions for living with God on earth, accordingly:

Joh 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

When I partake of the Sacraments, my mind immediately is lucid and goes to "thinking" about Him, the real person who did suffer my chastisements and died a tortuous death on my behalf. I cannot say that about these objects. I immediately start thinking about the craft and quality of the object and who made such a thing! This object becomes a distraction from knowing Them and weakens my relationship with God, the very thing the object, supposedly was not created for.

When I read the Scriptures, my mind actually is enveloped with His Mind and Presence.

I guess God could be a God of "just" evangelical relics and symbols telling the story of Christ the Redeemer. He can communicate however He wills the evangelical story of the Gospel and the Law. With God, all things are possible.

However, that is not the record in the Scriptures directly from God in Heaven nor from the records of the eyewitnesses accounts of what the Son of Man prescribed directly to them. The True Sent One established at the Last Supper a means to be done in His rememberance. These objects were not included. It seems insane to me to believe Jesus would come and contradict Himself, i.e. Ex. 20:4!

He could have had too, for instance, in contradiction to Himself, prescribe that humanly crafted and carved images of Himself were to follow the Supper in every generation afterwards as a remembrance of the redemption and sacramental events. I didn't.

Scripture does record what He did prescribe as the event to follow the Last Supper, i.e., the Sacramental remembering of the subsequent events, "do this" in rememberance of Me.

I would argue that God seems to have a better handle on His creatures and how the mind "thinks" and works through the revelation of His bodily presentation and how we are to be established in the Truth. And any attempts at doing it contrary to God is then, in my view, a direct act of rebellion against His gracious will!

It seems to me what God establishes is sufficient enough. It means to me, according to the teachings of Scripture, I really cannot admire God by any lessor evangelical expression of His Life, His death on the Cross, that punishment we should have born particularly ourselves for our sins, His resurrection and Life, and now my forensic ability in knowing His New Life by baptism into His death, which is another symbolic attribute and by the Sacramental events that are done routinely throughout the world. There seems, from God's point of view, that His way prescribed by Scripture and Orally, to gain a better understanding of His Life on earth is the safest way of experiencing the rememberance of Him in this life.

I hasten to say that there really is nothing "routine" about Baptism or partaking of the Sacraments when gathered together as the Holy Christian Church doing that evangelical work prescribed in the Scriptures to follow, after our own, singular and personal admission into Everlasting and Eternal Life!

natamllc said...

I would like to amend my comments at one paragraph:

"....He could have had too, for instance, in contradiction to Himself, prescribe that humanly crafted and carved images of Himself were to follow the Supper in every generation afterwards as a remembrance of the redemption and sacramental events. I didn't...."

The edited and amended version:

He would have had too, for instance, in contradiction to Himself, prescribe that humanly crafted and carved images of Himself were to follow the Supper in every generation afterwards as a remembrance of the redemption and sacramental events. He didn't.

Hasty makes for some strange word thoughts!

Accept my apologies, please?

Mike Burgess said...

Your bread and wine remain bread and wine; you see Christ in those representations; yet you would have us believe that this is not a representational likeness.

You conceive of Christ in necessarily created images (a human person with two arms, hair, eyes, etc., etc.), whether with discernible or describable features or not; you adhere to the doctrine of His retention of a physical body while claimimg it cannot be represented; you hold these created mental images and yet claim it is totally consistent with the WLC admonition prohibiting (again) "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...."

That about sum it up?

Turretinfan said...

Burgess wrote: "Your bread and wine remain bread and wine;"

Yours too, for though you irrationally accept your church's view on transubstantiation (contrary to the testimony of your senses) the fact remains that the substance of bread and wine remains, even after the consecration.

Burgess again: "you see Christ in those representations; yet you would have us believe that this is not a representational likeness."

I realize this may be a difficult concept for you, but there is a difference between a representation and a likeness. The animal sacrifices represented Christ, but they did not look like him. The brass serpent was a representation of Christ, but looked nothing like Him (though it had to be destroyed on account of the idolatrous reverence it received).

Burgess some more: "You conceive of Christ in necessarily created images (a human person with two arms, hair, eyes, etc., etc.), whether with discernible or describable features or not;"

So you claim, but I conceive of Christ as the Scriptures portray him, as God and man in two distinct natures and one person. Your foolish statues and paintings depict him as though he were merely a man.

Burgess continued: "you adhere to the doctrine of His retention of a physical body while [claiming] it cannot be represented;"

Oh, his physical body not just can but often is represented. The right way to represent it is in the Lord's Supper, through symbols not through likenesses.

But, of course, some people try to make likenesses of his body: a most impious practice that is contrary to Scripture.

Burgess still further: "you hold these created mental images and yet claim it is totally consistent with the WLC admonition prohibiting (again) "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....""

I've already explained how one does not need to have any mental images that are likenesses. I have to suspect that your imagination that the WLC was intending to prohibit us from recognizing that Christ is fully human is based simply on a wish to find a contradiction in Reformed teachings rather than on a legitimate belief that the writers of the WLC thought that we could not recognize that Christ was both truly God and truly man.

In the event that you legitimately believed that the WLC meant what you have tried to suggest it means, I direct you to Question/Answer 36:

Q. 36. Who is the Mediator of the covenant of grace?

A. The only Mediator of the covenant of grace is the Lord Jesus Christ,[137] who, being the eternal Son of God, of one substance and equal with the Father,[138] in the fulness of time became man,[139] and so was and continues to be God and man, in two entire distinct natures, and one person, forever.[140]

[137] 1 Timothy 2:5. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

[138] John 1:1, 14. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John 10:30. I and my Father are one. Philippians 2:6. Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.

[139] Galatians 4:4. But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.

[140] Luke 1:35. And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. Romans 9:5. Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. Colossians 2:9. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. Hebrews 7:24-25. But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

Burgess concluded: "That about sum it up?"

I don't know ... it's your criticism.

-TurretinFan

Mike Burgess said...

TF said, “[T]here is a difference between a representation and a likeness.”

This may be. But your standards say you are not to make “any representation… in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever.” You seem convicted by your own words of violating this; the bronze serpent, the animal sacrifices, and the Lord’s Supper are, to you, representations. Yet they are representations of God in the likeness of created things. Furthermore, you also intimated (no; you actually stated it outright) that you “see” Christ in the Bible: “… it does take your eyes away from the divinely sanctioned way in which we see Christ: the Bible and the sacraments. We see Christ in Scriptures, and we remember him and his death not through small metal symbols or statuettes but through the bread and the cup of the Lord's Supper.”

So, it would appear that you are letting your senses deceive you: those Bibles are paper and ink, perhaps with leather covers, perhaps not, but they are not the One Person with two distinct natures. Those sacramental elements are, as I pointed out, bread and wine, and your standards make that explicit. Yet you appear to be letting “your eyes” be taken away from the Christ, Who is a Person of divine and human natures, not wood pulp and jet, not wheat bread and vintage.

Earlier you said, “Thus, while belief in the resurrection is a core belief of Christianity, we can recognize that it is totally unnecessary to have a picture of the physical appearance of Jesus (either in stone or in our heads) to hold such a view.” Perhaps you can explain to me how to go about not thinking of green elephants once presented with the concept. I presume you’re familiar with that children’s game. You must necessarily utilize created imagery in order to properly think of Jesus since the Incarnation occurred in history. Or did God directly implant the Platonic form “Jesus” in your head? I didn’t say you had to have an accurate portrait of Jesus; I said you necessarily have to utilize created imagery to accurately conceive of Him. Such conception violates WLC 109. There isn’t any way around that, and your ad hoc distinction between “representation” and “likeness” doesn’t help you, as I pointed out above. Now, if you wish to engage in some higher-level semiotics, I’ll be happy to take a look at what you mean by “The right way to represent it is in the Lord's Supper, through symbols not through likenesses.” Here’s a fun little question just as a thought experiment for you: are you authorized to use Jesus-shaped communion bread for your Lord’s Supper? It’s the symbol that matters, apparently, right?

You're right; it was my criticism, but it was a recapitulation of your position, so I was asking to make sure I hadn't misrepresented you. I haven't, have I?

Mike Burgess said...

I also added comments on the parallel thread at my site, with some follow up questions for you, when and if you have the time.

Turretinfan said...

Mike Burgess wrote: "But your standards say you are not to make “any representation… in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever.” You seem convicted by your own words of violating this; the bronze serpent, the animal sacrifices, and the Lord’s Supper are, to you, representations. Yet they are representations of God in the likeness of created things. Furthermore, you also intimated (no; you actually stated it outright) that you “see” Christ in the Bible: “… it does take your eyes away from the divinely sanctioned way in which we see Christ: the Bible and the sacraments. We see Christ in Scriptures, and we remember him and his death not through small metal symbols or statuettes but through the bread and the cup of the Lord's Supper.”"

I don't see what is confusing you Mike. The representations that we are not to make are alleged likenesses. This is really not a hard concept to grasp, so I'm having trouble figuring out what about it stumping you. I really don't see what further clarification from my side could help, if you are sincerely confused.

Burgess continued: "So, it would appear that you are letting your senses deceive you: those Bibles are paper and ink, perhaps with leather covers, perhaps not, but they are not the One Person with two distinct natures. Those sacramental elements are, as I pointed out, bread and wine, and your standards make that explicit. Yet you appear to be letting “your eyes” be taken away from the Christ, Who is a Person of divine and human natures, not wood pulp and jet, not wheat bread and vintage."

Again, this sort of misunderstanding on your part is rather odd. Obviously, the Bible doesn't look like Christ's humanity, nor does it resemble the hypostatic union. That was never the claim. You're not making any sense.

Burgess continued: "Earlier you said, “Thus, while belief in the resurrection is a core belief of Christianity, we can recognize that it is totally unnecessary to have a picture of the physical appearance of Jesus (either in stone or in our heads) to hold such a view.” Perhaps you can explain to me how to go about not thinking of green elephants once presented with the concept. I presume you’re familiar with that children’s game. You must necessarily utilize created imagery in order to properly think of Jesus since the Incarnation occurred in history. Or did God directly implant the Platonic form “Jesus” in your head? I didn’t say you had to have an accurate portrait of Jesus; I said you necessarily have to utilize created imagery to accurately conceive of Him. Such conception violates WLC 109. There isn’t any way around that, and your ad hoc distinction between “representation” and “likeness” doesn’t help you, as I pointed out above. Now, if you wish to engage in some higher-level semiotics, I’ll be happy to take a look at what you mean by “The right way to represent it is in the Lord's Supper, through symbols not through likenesses.” Here’s a fun little question just as a thought experiment for you: are you authorized to use Jesus-shaped communion bread for your Lord’s Supper? It’s the symbol that matters, apparently, right?"

Again, as I pointed out, we can believe that Enoch was translated without having any mental image of him, and we can also believe that Christ was fully God and fully man without trying to create any mental image of what Christ's humanity looked like. Why this surpasses your understanding is hard to fathom.

Burgess: "You're right; it was my criticism, but it was a recapitulation of your position, so I was asking to make sure I hadn't misrepresented you. I haven't, have I?"

You've misrepresented me and the Westminster standards quite a number of times - I hope it was simply an innocent mistake on your part, but room for that interpretation is shrinking with each comment you are providing.

I have not seen the comments on the thread on your post. I do try to read the posts on your blog, but I rarely make time for the comments box (perhaps this is something I should re-think).

-TurretinFan