Sunday, July 18, 2010

Back from Vacation

We just came back from a brief family vacation to Washington DC on Friday, and our little man turned 7 yesterday. I haven't had too many deep theological thoughts in my head this past week, beyond the fact that I finished Jay Adams' "Is All Truth God's Truth?" in the hotel room (for the biblical counseling course I am waaay behind in, due to revisions on my own book).

Speaking of hotel rooms, don't you just love cable TV? (That was irony there). I saw a guy down 50 hot chicken wings in 15 minutes ("Man vs. Food") and several PhDs defending the oh-so-plausible theory that life on earth came from aliens of another galaxy, who systematically programmed their DNA into the embryonic human race. (I swear I am not making this up.) Wouldn't it make more sense to just believe in God, and oh...I don't know....take the Bible at face-value? We did have a good laugh, though. The Smithsonian museums were great fun. The kids enjoyed "neanderthal-ing" themselves on a computer-generated imaging screen, and the flight simulator at the Air and Space museum.

Wednesday night, the Comfort Inn where we stayed had a BBQ for guests, so we enjoyed some hot dogs - and karaoke night outside in the garden. Man, those peeps down South sure do like their bluegrass and country music! Funny stuff. Our three younger kids got into the action with a rousing rendition of "Old Macdonald Had a Farm". Loud cheering ensued. (I am not making this up, either. Even the Southerners get sick of Travis after a while.)

Well, when I get back to writing for pleasure (and hopefully the glory of God), here's a topic on my mind of late: does the source of religious artwork defile it? Strange way of wording the question, I know. What I mean is this - think of an image of the Lord Jesus Christ that you rather like. Now suppose you discover it was produced by a cult. What, if anything, does this change in your mind or view of the image? Does this affect whether or not you think it's wrong to even MAKE or have images of Christ, either symbollic or representational?

I know what I think, but I'm interested in what you all think. There's a reason behind this topic. More to come later this week.


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Hi Marie,

I think there are two issues here. The easy one is this: Good artwork can be done by unbelievers, and Mormons have some good artwork, including supposed representations of Jesus.

The other issue is this: any depiction of Christ will be erroneous and therefore an image of a false god. We don't know what Jesus looked like - no photographs - so anyone can speculate as to his appearance whether believers or unbelievers. But people say, "It represents Christ." Hmm. What if I were to carry a photo of a model in my wallet and tell people it represents my wife? Would my wife appreciate that? Would she not be jealous? So does Christ, God in the flesh, appreciate false images of him being represented as him? I think any depiction of Christ is idolatry.

Your thoughts?

Marie said...

Bingo! Glenn, I knew I could count on you to weigh in. And yes; the famous Mormon depiction is one of the ones I'm thinking about in particular.

I'm probably less dogmatic than many Reformed folks about the "all artwork is idolatrous" standpoint, for reasons I'll explain in my next post, but more and more I'm leaning towards that POV when it comes to "portraits" or images that are supposed to be representational of Jesus (for reasons you just touched on).

There are a couple of sides to this issue; will explain more fully why I'm thinking about this in a bit - we're going to be late for church if I don't stop typing now...

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

My understanding is that when Christians in the first couple centuries used artwork to depict Jesus, the apostles, Mary, etc, it was for telling the stories. Many Bible stories were depicted in their artwork. In that regard, depicting Jesus as a man is like kids doing stick figures to tell a story.

The problem is that in the 4th century the Christians coming out of the pagan society around them looked to the images much the same way as their old idols, and there were bishops who were concerned about them going into idolatry, which is really what happened when they went from using pictures for telling stories to actually venerating - a nice word for "worshiping" - the icons. That crossed the line into making images for worship and bowing down to them.

My experience is that many protestants today sort of venerate depictions of Christ. I have been told by people that it helps them visualize who they are praying to, yet it is a false representation of who they are praying to!

Marie said...

You're absolutely right Glenn; and gettin' ahead of me. I have to split what I'm thinking here into two separate postings - I'm in an LDS artwork gallery right now, wanting to find the image I was thinking of, and there are SO many depictions of Christ that are the same artwork used in Christian galleries! I don't know who is stealing from whom. That fact alone is making me think realistic depictions are a bad idea, it leads essentially to people praying to a false image.