No Graven Images?


We have spoken before on this subject but a somewhat joking discussion about an “Action Figure Jesus” on the way to a field trip for class yesterday on how the figure was not breaking the second commandment because it was made by “injection-molding and therefore was not graven” and the discussion over at the Heidelblog prompted me to look at some of the Reformed confessions condemnation and explanations for why it is improper for Christians to make any physical representation of Jesus. (In the next post I will argue why it is also not kosher to create images that “sit-in” for the other persons of the Trinity, i.e. -Doves that shadow the Holy Spirit, burning bushes, etc…)

The Second Helvetic Confession, Article 4, says:

IMAGES OF CHRIST. Although Christ assumed human nature, yet he did not on that account assume it in order to provide a model for carvers and painters. He denied that he had come “to abolish the law and the prophets” (Matt. 5:17). But images are forbidden by the law and the prophets” (Deut. 4:15; Isa. 44:9). He denied that his bodily presence would be profitable for the Church, and promised that he would be near us by his Spirit forever (John 16:7). Who, therefore, would believe that a shadow or likeness of his body would contribute any benefit to the pious? (2 Cor. 5:5). Since he abides in us by his Spirit, we are therefore the temple of God (I Cor. 3:16). But “what agreement has the temple of God with idols?” (II Cor. 6:16)

The Heidelberg Catechism, says:

96. What does God require in the Second Commandment?

That we in no wise make any image of God,1 nor worship Him in any other way than He has commanded us in His Word.2

1 Deut 4:15-19. Isa 40:18, 25. Rom 1:22-24. Acts 17:29. 2 1 Sam 15:23. Deut 12:30-32. Matt 15:9. * Deut 4:23, 24.

97. May we not make any image at all?

God may not and cannot be imaged in any way; as for creatures, though they may indeed be imaged, yet God forbids the making or keeping any likeness of them, either to worship them, or to serve God by them.

1Exod 23:24, 25. Exod 34:13,14. Deut 7:5. Deut 12:3. Deut 16:22. 2 Kgs 18:4. John 1:18.

98. But may not pictures be tolerated in churches as books for the people?

No, for we should not be wiser than God, who will not have His people taught by dumb idols,1 but by the lively preaching of His word.2

1Jer 10:8. Hab 2:18,19. 2 2 Pet 1:19. 2 Tim 3:16,17. * Rom 10:17.

Westminster Larger Catechism Q. 109 says:

Q. 109. What sins are forbidden in the Second Commandment?

A. The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and any wise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; the 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; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God hath appointed.

Family Worship

I touched on this subject a little under a year ago in a separate post. However I’d like to take a look at what Westminster has to say about it.

DIRECTIONS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY,CONCERNING SECRET AND PRIVATE WORSHIP, AND MUTUAL EDIFICATION; FOR CHERISHING PIETY, FOR MAINTAINING UNITY, AND AVOIDING SCHISM AND DIVISION.

BESIDES the publick worship in congregations, mercifully established in this land in great purity, it is expedient and necessary that secret worship of each person alone, and private worship of families, be pressed and set up; that, with national reformation, the profession and power of godliness, both personal and domestick, be advanced.

I. And first, for secret worship, it is most necessary, that every one apart, and by themselves, be given to prayer and meditation, the unspeakable benefit whereof is best known to them who are most exercised therein; this being the mean whereby, in a special way, communion with God is entertained, and right preparation for all other duties obtained: and therefore it becometh not only pastors, within their several charges, to press persons of all sorts to perform this duty morning and evening, and at other occasions; but also it is incumbent to the head of every family to have a care, that both themselves, and all within their charge, be daily diligent herein.

II. The ordinary duties comprehended under the exercise of piety which should be in families, when they are convened to that effect, are these: First, Prayer and praises performed with a special reference, as well to the publick condition of the kirk of God and this kingdom, as to the present case of the family, and every member thereof. Next, Reading of the scriptures, with catechising in a plain way, that the understandings of the simpler may be the better enabled to profit under the publick ordinances, and they made more capable to understand the scriptures when they are read; together with godly conferences tending to the edification of all the members in the most holy faith: as also, admonition and rebuke, upon just reasons, from those who have authority in the family.

III. As the charge and office of interpreting the holy scriptures is a part of the ministerial calling, which none (however otherwise qualified) should take upon him in any place, but he that is duly called thereunto by God and his kirk; so in every family where there is any that can read, the holy scriptures should be read ordinarily to the family; and it is commendable, that thereafter they confer, and by way of conference make some good use of what hath been read and heard. As, for example, if any sin be reproved in the word read, use may be made thereof to make all the family circumspect and watchful against the same; or if any judgment be threatened, or mentioned to have been inflicted, in that portion of scripture which is read, use may be made to make all the family fear lest the same or a worse judgment befall them, unless they beware of the sin that procured it: and, finally, if any duty be required, or comfort held forth in a promise, use may be made to stir up themselves to employ Christ for strength to enable them for doing the commanded duty, and to apply the offered comfort. In all which the master of the family is to have the chief hand; and any member of the family may propone a question or doubt for resolution.

IV. The head of the family is to take care that none of the family withdraw himself from any part of family-worship: and, seeing the ordinary performance of all the parts of family-worship belongeth properly to the head of the family, the minister is to stir up such as are lazy, and train up such as are weak, to a fitness to these exercises; it being always free to persons of quality to entertain one approved by the presbytery for performing family-exercise. And in other families, where the head of the family is unfit, that another, constantly residing in the family, approved by the minister and session, may be employed in that service, wherein the minister and session are to be countable to the presbytery. And if a minister, by divine Providence, be brought to any family, it is requisite that at no time he convene a part of the family for worship, secluding the rest, except in singular cases especially concerning these parties, which (in Christian prudence) need not, or ought not, to be imparted to others.

V. Let no idler, who hath no particular calling, or vagrant person under pretence of a calling, be suffered to perform worship in families, to or for the same; seeing persons tainted with errors, or aiming at division, may be ready (after that manner) to creep into houses, and lead captive silly and unstable souls.

VI. At family-worship, a special care is to be had that each family keep by themselves; neither requiring, inviting, nor admitting persons from divers families, unless it be those who are lodged with them, or at meals, or otherwise with them upon some lawful occasion.

VII. Whatsoever have been the effects and fruits of meetings of persons of divers families in the times of corruption or trouble, (in which cases many things are commendable, which otherwise are not tolerable,) yet, when God hath blessed us with peace and purity of the gospel, such meetings of persons of divers families (except in cases mentioned in these Directions) are to be disapproved, as tending to the hinderance of the religious exercise of each family by itself, to the prejudice of the publick ministry, to the rending of the families of particular congregations, and (in progress of time) of the whole kirk. Besides many offences which may come thereby, to the hardening of the hearts of carnal men, and grief of the godly.

VIII. On the Lord’s day, after every one of the family apart, and the whole family together, have sought the Lord (in whose hands the preparation of men’s hearts are) to fit them for the publick worship, and to bless to them the publick ordinances, the master of the family ought to take care that all within his charge repair to the publick worship, that he and they may join with the rest of the congregation: and the publick worship being finished, after prayer, he should take an account what they have heard; and thereafter, to spend the rest of the time which they may spare in catechising, and in spiritual conferences upon the word of God: or else (going apart) they ought to apply themselves to reading, meditation, and secret prayer, that they may confirm and increase their communion with God: that so the profit which they found in the publick ordinances may be cherished and promoved, and they more edified unto eternal life.

IX. So many as can conceive prayer, ought to make use of that gift of God; albeit those who are rude and weaker may begin at a set form of prayer, but so as they be not sluggish in stirring up in themselves (according to their daily necessities) the spirit of prayer, which is given to all the children of God in some measure: to which effect, they ought to be more fervent and frequent in secret prayer to God, for enabling of their hearts to conceive, and their tongues to express, convenient desires to God for their family. And, in the meantime, for their greater encouragement, let these materials of prayer be meditated upon, and made use of, as followeth.
“Let them confess to God how unworthy they are to come in his presence, and how unfit to worship his Majesty; and therefore earnestly ask of God the spirit of prayer.
“They are to confess their sins, and the sins of the family; accusing, judging, and condemning themselves for them, till they bring their souls to some measure of true humiliation.
“They are to pour out their souls to God, in the name of Christ, by the Spirit, for forgiveness of sins; for grace to repent, to believe, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly; and that they may serve God with joy and delight, walking before him.
“They are to give thanks to God for his many mercies to his people, and to themselves, and especially for his love in Christ, and for the light of the gospel.
“They are to pray for such particular benefits, spiritual and temporal, as they stand in need of for the time, (whether it be morning or evening,) as anent health or sickness, prosperity or adversity.
“They ought to pray for the kirk of Christ in general, for all the reformed kirks, and for this kirk in particular, and for all that suffer for the name of Christ; for all our superiors, the king’s majesty, the queen, and their children; for the magistrates, ministers, and whole body of the congregation whereof they are members, as well for their neighbours absent in their lawful affairs, as for those that are at home.
“The prayer may be closed with an earnest desire that God may be glorified in the coming of the kingdom of his Son, and in doing of his will, and with assurance that themselves are accepted, and what they have asked according to his will shall be done.”

X. These exercises ought to be performed in great sincerity, without delay, laying aside all exercises of worldly business or hinderances, not withstanding the mockings of atheists and profane men; in respect of the great mercies of God to this land, and of his severe corrections wherewith lately he hath exercised us. And, to this effect, persons of eminency (and all elders of the kirk) not only ought to stir up themselves and families to diligence herein, but also to concur effectually, that in all other families, where they have power and charge, the said exercises be conscionably performed.

XI. Besides the ordinary duties in families, which are above mentioned, extraordinary duties, both of humiliation and thanksgiving, are to be carefully performed in families, when the Lord, by extraordinary occasions, (private or publick,) calleth for them.

XII. Seeing the word of God requireth that we should consider one another, to provoke unto love and good works; therefore, at all times, and specially in this time, wherein profanity abounds, and mockers, walking after their own lusts, think it strange that others run not with them to the same excess of riot; every member of this kirk ought to stir up themselves, and one another, to the duties of mutual edification, by instruction, admonition, rebuke; exhorting one another to manifest the grace of God in denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and in living godly, soberly and righteously in this present world; by comforting the feeble-minded, and praying with or for one another. Which duties respectively are to be performed upon special occasions offered by Divine Providence; as, namely, when under any calamity, cross, or great difficulty, counsel or comfort is sought; or when an offender is to be reclaimed by private admonition, and if that be not effectual, by joining one or two more in the admonition, according to the rule of Christ, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

XIII. And, because it is not given to every one to speak a word in season to a wearied or distressed conscience, it is expedient, that a person (in that case,) finding no ease, after the use of all ordinary means, private and publick, have their address to their own pastor, or some experienced Christian: but if the person troubled in conscience be of that condition, or of that sex, that discretion, modesty, or fear of scandal, requireth a godly, grave, and secret friend to be present with them in their said address, it is expedient that such a friend be present.

XIV. When persons of divers families are brought together by Divine Providence, being abroad upon their particular vocations, or any necessary occasions; as they would have the Lord their God with them whithersoever they go, they ought to walk with God, and not neglect the duties of prayer and thanksgiving, but take care that the same be performed by such as the company shall judge fittest. And that they likewise take heed that no corrupt communication proceed out of their mouths, but that which is good, to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers.
The drift and scope of all these Directions is no other, but that, upon the one part, the power and practice of godliness, amongst all the ministers and members of this kirk, according to their several places and vocations, may be cherished and advanced, and all impiety and mocking of religious exercises suppressed: and, upon the other part, that, under the name and pretext of religious exercises, no such meetings or practices be allowed, as are apt to breed error, scandal, schism, contempt, or misregard of the publick ordinances and ministers, or neglect of the duties of particular callings, or such other evils as are the works, not of the Spirit, but of the flesh, and are contrary to truth and peace.
A. Ker.

A Final Word on the Pope/Anti-Christ Controversy


I like to get y’all fired up and really question what it is that you believe and I also like the opportunity to plug books that have made an impact on the way I look at things now from a more Reformed Orthodox position. Well the book that I think speaks directly to this current flap is a book by White Horse Inn contributer Dr. Kim Riddlebarger. This work is entitled “Man of Sin” and can be found nearly anywhere fine books are sold.

From the Description:

What should Christians believe about the Antichrist?

Christians have always been fascinated with the Antichrist, but recently the interest seems to have reached an all-time high, with pop culture depictions and speculation leaving many people confused or even frightened. But what does the Bible really say? What have Christians throughout history believed about the Antichrist? Should we fear the Antichrist or such things as the mark of the Beast? Have some end-times prophecies already been fulfilled?

Pastor and professor Kim Riddlebarger carefully untangles the confusion surrounding this biblical doctrine. He considers common beliefs about the Antichrist and end times, closely examines the relevant scriptural passages, and explains how these passages have been interpreted historically by the church.

Pastors, professors, and concerned Christians seeking trustworthy guidance on the doctrine of the Antichrist will appreciate Riddlebarger’s sound biblical approach.

A Word From John Calvin On This Issue

Seeing as the issue of me calling the Pope a/the Anti-Christ has caused quite the consternation for some folks I thought I would let John Calvin have a word. I also commend the whole of Book IV, Chapters 2, 18, and 19 concerning this topic.

Institutes of the Christian Religion
by John Calvin

BOOK IV CHAPTER 2 SECTION 12

Daniel and Paul foretold that Antichrist would sit in the temple of God (Dan. 9:27; 2 Thess. 2:4); we regard the Roman Pontiff as the leader and standard-bearer of that wicked and abominable kingdom. By placing his seat in the temple of God, it is intimated that his kingdom would not be such as to destroy the name either of Christ or of his Church. Hence, then, it is obvious that we do not at all deny that churches remain under his tyranny; churches, however, which by sacrilegious impiety he has profaned, by cruel domination has oppressed, by evil and deadly doctrines like poisoned potions has corrupted and almost slain; churches where Christ lies half-buried, the gospel is suppressed, piety is put to flight, and the worship of God almost abolished; where, in short, all things are in such disorder as to present the appearance of Babylon rather than the holy city of God. In one word, I call them churches, inasmuch as the Lord there wondrously preserves some remains of his people, though miserably torn and scattered, and inasmuch as some symbols of the Church still remain—symbols especially whose efficacy neither the craft of the devil nor human depravity can destroy.

BOOK IV CHAPTER 18 SECTION 1

1. By these and similar inventions, Satan has attempted to adulterate and envelop the sacred Supper of Christ as with thick darkness, that its purity might not be preserved in the Church. But the head of this horrid abomination was, when he raised a sign by which it was not only obscured and perverted, but altogether obliterated and abolished, vanished away and disappeared from the memory of man—namely, when, with most pestilential error, he blinded almost the whole world into the belief that the Mass was a sacrifice and oblation for obtaining the remission of sins. I say nothing as to the way in which the sounder Schoolmen at first received this dogma. leave them with their puzzling subtleties, which, however they may be defended by cavilling, are to be repudiated by all good men, because, all they do is to envelop the brightness of the Supper in great darkness. Bidding adieu to them, therefore, let my readers understand that I am here combating that opinion with which the Roman Antichrist and his prophets have imbued the whole world— viz. that the mass is a work by which the priest who offers Christ, and the others who in the oblation receive him, gain merit with God, or that it is an expiatory victim by which they regain the favour of God. And this is not merely the common opinion of the vulgar, but the very act has been so arranged as to be a kind of propitiation, by which satisfaction is made to God for the living and the dead. This is also expressed by the words employed, and the same thing may be inferred from daily practice. I am aware how deeply this plague has struck its roots; under what a semblance of good it conceals its true character, bearing the name of Christ before it, and making many believe that under the single name of Mass is comprehended the whole sum of faith. But when it shall have been most clearly proved by the word of God, that this mass, however glossed and splendid, offers the greatest insult to Christ, suppresses and buries his cross, consigns his death to oblivion, takes away the benefit which it was designed to convey, enervates and dissipates the sacrament, by which the remembrance of his death was retained, will its roots be so deep that this most powerful axe, the word of God, will not cut it down and destroy it? Will any semblance be so specious that this light will not expose the lurking evil?

Update: Found a couple more good readings on the subject by others.

Francis Turretin, “7th Disputation: On Whether it Can be Proven that the Pope of the Rome is the Anti-Christ”

William Whitaker, “The Roman Pontiff is the Anti-Christ Whose Presence Scripture Prophesied”

A Nice Little Controversial Post

With all the hoopla surrounding the visit of Pope Benedict XVI to America and all the words I hear in Reformed and Evangelical circles of “being glad the Pope is Catholic again” I wonder how many of us Reformed and Evangelical folk would be willing to agree with the 25th Chapter of the WCF where it says:

VI. There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalts himself, in the Church, against Christ and all that is called God.

Well I do. What say you?

The Insufficiency of a Mainline Seminary

Rod Stewart sung a song that he placed on an album ca.1998 by the name of “Ooh La La”, (This rendition is with The Corrs, who are awesome by the way) which contains the eminently applicable phrase “I wish that I knew what I know now when I was younger…”. Well I think I can say with confidence this is utterly true of my choice of Seminary. Now friends of PTS do not take what I am about to say the wrong way for this is not directly a critique of your own journey but certainly a self-critique and the issues I bring up you may want to take a look at yourself from your own perspective (wow that sounds Pomo). However with that all said I want to give a little background to this conversation. First I came to this Seminary for all the wrong reasons. I came thinking that the purpose of Seminary was primarily to prepare me for the work of the Pastorate and to develop an academic mind that could withstand the rigors of unbelief and fulfill the challenge of Peter to the aliens scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia in the face of persecution and questioning to be able to:

…always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence… — 1 Peter 3:15

However what this mainline Seminary has done is provide plenty of questions without supplying any semblance of an answer to its students, it has made the mortal mistake of believing that its students come here already “converted” to the Gospel and that it is the duty of the local church and the student’s own studies (which I agree should be true) to have an a priori knowledge of this hope that Peter speaks. In other words it is not the mission of the seminary to prepare the students to preach the Gospel (and to teach what that Gospel is) but to preach of the “Gospel” to an already converted congregation. There is no focus in our primary coursework on reaching the lost, directing the equipping of the Saints, or expositing the Word of God to the People of God. Only on how to deconstruct the Word of God, skim over the ignorance of those who came before, wisely plucking the wheat from the chaff nary an eye shall see the “Pastoral Heart” of Westminster, the Puritans, or even the late John Gerstner who taught at this institution less than a generation ago.

Catch my drift?

Today as part of our “Church and Society: Local” course (which I think has been very beneficial) we went and visited the Allegheny County Jail to meet and listen to inmates who work through a chaplain’s program while incarcerated. Through the words of these unlearned prisoners I heard the doctrines of Providence, Total Depravity, Assurance, 3 Works of the Law, Justification, and Perseverance (and gasp!!! Innerency!!!) elucidated in a way I have never heard from a Ph.D. at Pittsburgh Seminary. I heard men beaten by life speak the Gospel as if it were REAL!!! As if it was truly transformational and life-changing. I was asked recently by a friend if I thought there were unconverted people in the room with me as I sit through classes at PTS and I sadly answered with a yes, thinking only the words of Christ in Matthew 7:21-23 and what the Confession speaks in Chapter 10, Section 4 which says:

IV. Others not elected, although they may be called by the ministry of the word,p and may have some common operations of the Spirit,q yet they never truly come unto Christ, and therefore cannot be saved:r much less can men not professing the Christian religion be saved in any other way whatsoever, be they ever so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, and the law of that religion they do profess;s and to assert and maintain that they may, is very pernicious, and to be detested.t

p Matt. 22:14.
q Matt. 7:22; Matt. 13:20-21; Heb. 6:4-5.
r John 6:64-66; John 8:24.
s Acts 4:12; John 14:6; Eph. 2:12; John 4:22; John 17:3.
t II John 9-11; I Cor. 16:22; Gal. 1:6-8.