Monday, October 10, 2011

Isaiah 53:2, the Danger of Images

"For He grew up before Him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him."

The picture here shows an iconostasis, which is the display of images in an Orthodox Church. Unlike the Church of Rome, the Orthodox hold that the Second Commandment forbids carved images, but not
painted. Thus, no statues. However, I would contend that their distinction has no biblical foundation. As the Commandment (Exodus 20:4) says, "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth" [emphasis mine]. Notice that it clearly states "carved" or "any likeness."

But, other than the sin of disobedience (I John 3:4), where is the harm? That is the most-frequent question asked by today's latitudinarian Christian. That great Puritan preacher John Owen, suggests a good answer: "[M]en who are complete strangers to seeing the person and glory of Christ by faith have turned to images, pictures, and music to help them in their worship." Owen's position was that we walk by faith in this life, in preparation for the life of sight that we will enjoy in the eternal state (I Corinthians 13:12, I John 3:2, II Corinthians 4:18, 5:7, Hebrews 11:1). Therefore, images enter the religion of the individual or church which does not know Christ by faith. It is a sort of short-circuit, and fools that person into believing that he is in a spiritual condition that he does not truly have. That is why I used the Isaiah text at the top: it precisely makes the point that the experience we need to have with Jesus, the Suffering Servant, is not found in looking upon His likeness.

That is the danger: that images would create a spiritual complacency in a person which blinds him to his real need for the Gospel. To use an analogy, it is like filling the stomach with sand, creating a false sense of fullness, while the person is actually starving to death.

No comments: