Thou shalt not make an idol (Is films an idolatrous image?)

I was recently reading a book on the second commandment by Daniel Hyde, an URC pastor in Oceanside, California entitled In Living Color: Images of Christ and the Means of Grace.  Here are some quotes worthy of reflecting on:

1. Concerning why idols are not to be made: “for since the minds of men and all their senses sink far below the loftiness of God, when they try to bring Him down to the measure of their own weak capacity, they travesty Him.” (p.36)   In short, any image, either physical or visual we try to manufacture is a far cry from the glory God exhibits and when we settle for less than he is, we demean God and cheat ourselves.
2. “A picture of Christ, if it serves any useful purpose, must evoke some thought or feeling respecting him and, in view of what he is, this thought or feeling will be worshipful.  We cannot avoid making the picture a medium of worship.  But since the materials for this medium of worship are not derived from the only revelation we possess respecting Jesus, namely, Scripture, the worship is constrained by a creation of the human mind that has no revelatory warrant.  This is will worship.” (p.56 quoting John Murray)  In short, any image we view either on the canvas or in the stone will bring about some desire in us to worship, but unfortunately this desire betrays itself for it is not the unseen God we worship, but the emotion or movement the image arouses in us.  But God alone wants to be worshipped not for what he does for us, but for who he alone is.
3. “in the history of the church, as the ministry of the Word decreased, teh medium of images increased…Images were introduced, according to [John] Owen, because the people of God lost their experience with Christ in the preaching of the gospel.” (p.95)  As I reflect on this, I wonder if this is why we are seeing such a fascination with film in the post-modern world.  I myself am guilty of this proclivity.  But has Jesus preaching been lost to such an extent that the church can no longer see Christ in the text and so it must turn to the screen?  If this is so, then “Preaching must point to Christ, then, who is like bread, meat, and satisfying water; preaching must do as Jesus did, grabbing the attention of the hearers by speaking very vividly and metaphorically of Christ.” (p. 99)  Furthermore, “preaching is not merely the voice of the minister, but the voice of Christ through the voice of the minister to grant faith in order to embrace Christ by faith alone.” (p.102)  William Perkins a great English Puritan one wrote, “To preach in the demonstration of God’s Spirit is to preach with such plainess, and yet with such power, that even the least intellectually gifted recognize that it is not man but God himself who is teaching them.  Yet at the same time, the conscience of the mightiest may feel not man but God reproving them through the power of the Spirit.” (p. 105) And “Because the Word and Spirit are so linked together, the Word can be said to be the external form of the Spirit, and the Spirit the internal power of the Word.” (p.116)
I am challenged to continue to strive for Christ centered preaching and reflection in all I say, do and read.  Christ is the key to keeping the mind focused God and off of idols.
4. On the Sacraments, the Synod of Constantinople (754) decreed, “The only admissable figure of the humanity of Christ, however, is bread and wine in the holy Supper. This and no other form, this and no other type, has he chosen to represent his Incarnation.” (p137)  “By baptism, we are regenerated; by the Supper we are nourished unto eternal life; by that we are received into the covenant, and by this we are kept in it.” (p143 quoting Francis Turretin).
What a wonderful statement of the beauty of the sacraments.  God gave us visual images so that we would never need to turn elsewhere.  These images are the washing of water and the bread and cup of life.  These are our images for worship.  These are the images we must present to our body daily, weekly, hourly.  Might this be why the great reformers desired weekly celebration of the sacraments?
The final points below are my condensing of numerous points made by the author about how to participate in the sacraments each and every day.
5. How can we participate in baptism every day? (p149-150)
1. By serious reflecting on what it means and the gifts it grants.
2. By allowing ourselves to be humbled for the need we have of being cleansed.
3. By lettting it assure us of our salvation
4. By living out our death as sinners and our life as redeemed
5. By loving all other baptized people the same way we have been loved
6. How can we participate in communion daily? (p158-159)
1. By being attentive to the ordinance when it is celebrated.
2. By diligently observing it regularly
3. By recognizing the Lord’s headship over his people each day
4. By showing God love for what he has done
5. By daily judging ourselves and seeking Christ’s redemption
6. By hungering more for JEsus each day and growing in our understanding of all he has done
7. By living in the renewe life communicated to us through the Spirit of God

About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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