Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to question from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question: “Dear Dave and T.A., As a former Roman Catholic and now a Bible-believing, born-again Christian, I’m having trouble sorting some things out that I rejected after leaving the Catholic Church, but now I see accepted by my evangelical brothers and sisters in Christ. My life as a Catholic was filled with statues, icons, and images of Christ, Mary, and the Saints. Having searched the Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, I am of the opinion that making images of Christ is forbidden. Am I over-reacting here because of the excess of my former church, or are my evangelical friends not being true to the Scriptures?”
Tom: Dave, there’s a number of scriptures. Let’s take a couple here and then….
Dave: See, I’m not entirely clear what he’s talking about. Images of Jesus?
Tom: Yeah. That’s—
Dave: What does he find wrong?
Tom: He says, “I am of the opinion that making images of Christ is forbidden.” Well, we found that certainly in the Catholic Church. I mean, we have statues all over the place, icons.
Dave: But now he says he’s finding images among his evangelicals?
Dave: What kind of images? Where’s…? (simultaneously with Tom) Pictures of Jesus hanging on the wall? Oh, wow.
Tom: Pictures of Jesus, here, there, we’ve got films, we’ve got all kinds of passion plays, images are certainly—he doesn’t have to look too far.
Dave: Men pretending to be Jesus on the screen, or whatever.
Tom: Yeah, so let’s look at—because he’s trying to take this to the Scriptures, I’d like to go over a few, and you tell me if they’re applicable, Dave.
First of all, Exodus:20:4: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above.”
We have Deuteronomy 4…
Dave: Tom, let me interrupt right there. “Not make any image…” that means to worship it, to look to it as deity.
Dave: You could draw a picture. We could take a photograph. There’s some people, you travel in some lands, they don’t want you to…
Dave: They don’t want you to….
Tom: For the sake of, yeah, for the sake of worshiping. It’s a good qualification. Deuteronomy:4:15-16: “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 the midst of the fire, lest ye corrupt yourselves and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female.”
Isaiah:46:5: “To whom will ye liken me and make me equal and compare me that we may be like?”
How about some New Testament? Acts:17:29: “For as much, then, as we are of the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the godhead is like unto gold or silver or stone, graven by art and man’s device.”
And then, lastly, Romans:1:22-23: “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man….”
Now do any of these apply today? Are they a warning or are they….
Dave: “Image like to corruptible man….”
Tom: Well, that’s what it says. I’ve run past that verse too many times. I’d never thought about it in this context. But I think it might have application.
Dave, before you go, and then I’m just going to let you talk. Somebody said—made a statement—I can’t remember who it was, but it was a…you know, a pretty famous Christian writer, I just can’t remember…he said, “Idolatry is not just creating images of false gods, but creating images of the true God.”
Dave: Well, of course, that’s what the Bible says. You’re not to try to make an image of God. You’re not to try to depict God. That’s what every idol is, is an attempt to depict God. So now, Tom, we, wow! We really… come here saying things that are quite contradictory to much that we’re hearing today. Now I don’t want to lose all my friends—you know, I do like to have a few friends out there. But I’ve been saying for many years, I think a picture of Christ on the wall is an abomination. Some people like a macho Christ. Some people like a more effeminate Christ. Some people have long beard, short beard, long hair, shorter hair. None of them are Christ. And people look at this—if this does not depict Christ, who He really is and what He looked like, what is the point of having it there?
And you know my old illustration. I pull out my wallet, and I say, “Oh you want to see a picture of my wife? Here she is.”
And you look at it and you say, “That’s Marilyn Monroe!”
“Well, I mean it’s a female—what does it matter?” Do you think Jesus might be a little bit offended that we have pictures of Him that are not valid?
And then secondly, so to whatever extent that is not right, you are being deceived.
Secondly, Paul says, “Though we have known Christ after the flesh….” You may have been His intimate friend. You knew Him when He walked the dusty roads of the Galilee. We don’t know Him any more. He doesn’t look like that any more, so any picture of Jesus is outdated. It’s like these Messianic Gentiles trying to go back to a shadow. But He looks like John saw Him in heaven and fell at His feet as dead.
Okay, that’s a picture on the wall. But, Tom, what about a man pretending to be Jesus— pretending to be God manifest in the flesh? You know, Cecil B. DeMille didn’t dare to do that. He only showed you the back of his head or the back of his hand. And now we have someone face on. And I was just talking to someone—a missionary in New Guinea—the other day and I asked him about the Jesus Film, and again, I don’t want to offend people, but he said it has wrought havoc in New Guinea because the animists, the pagans, they see this man portraying Jesus on the screen. That’s just another spirit that they pray to now, but they don’t really know who he is. And it has really brought a lot of confusion. And people when they’re praying to Jesus, they’re talking about Jesus, they see that actor. And this is not Jesus. I think it’s a problem, Tom.
Tom: Dave, you know, my background as you know, I have a degree in art and also in film, and so, we’re right here where my training—you know, we’re in a day in the state of the church that certainly I can bring some of my education to bear on it. But I studied the classics. When you see image—you know of course, then having a Roman Catholic background—images of Christ through major art works… But one of the things that I’ve come to understand, and I’m as guilty about some of these things as a lot of people out there not thinking about it. Not thinking it through, not searching the Scriptures—but basically, if you show an image of Christ, you still wouldn’t capture Jesus because it was the glory of God upon Him. You’re only capturing the fleshly side, the physical side, and not Christ himself. So it’s misleading. It’s, I hate to say this, but it’s true—it’s a lie at best.