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Images of Jesus: Modern Day Nestorianism

Greg Koukl is an apologist that I’ve always respected and enjoyed. I’ve been listening to him off and on for over 10 years at str.org. However I viewed a video where Koukl defends images of Jesus. Why? Because they depict his humanity and not his deity. This is in part the problem with images of Jesus. Because they only depict one nature. They therefore separate the person of Christ by separating the natures of Christ. This is clearly in the land of Nestorianism. A separation of the natures of Christ is heretical because now we no longer have Christ. 

Objection 1: “If we have an image of Jesus but don’t worship it, it is permissible.” This is not Reformed. This is Lutheran and we would affirm against the Lutherans this conclusion. This is where we collide not only with the Romanists who want to have their images but now also the Lutherans. The Lutherans will defend the making of images as long as they are not worshipped because they are reminders of the events of history.

However, the question has to be focussed here. Because the discussion here is on images of Jesus. Is it lawful to represent God himself and the persons of the Trinity by any image; or a similarity? The Reformed Scholastics deny this for two reasons. First the use of images is unlawful from the precept of the 2nd commandment. Here is condemns the making of images for worship and the worshipping of them.

Second from the nature of God. God is boundless and invisible and can be represented by no image. “To whom will you liken God? Or what likeness” (Is 40:18). Paul refers to this in Acts 17:29 (Being then God’s offspring,  we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.) God sets a law in place that no likeness of himself is to be made, that Christians must understand that they must abstain from every image of him as a thing unlawful, even impossible.

Deut 4:15 “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, Deut 4:16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female,

Hear Plutarch on this topic: “He (Numa) however, forbids any image of God, like man or any animal; nor was there before among them any sculptured or graven representation of God. Indeed during all those preceding 160 years they continually built temples and erected sacred buildings, or shrines; still they made no corporeal representation, judging that it was not holy liken better things to worse, and that God could be apprehended by us in no other way than by the mind alone” (Plutarch’s Lives: Numa 8.7-8)

Herodotus: “The Persians have neither statues nor altars, and think those who make them insane, because they do not (like the Greeks) think the Gods to be the offspring of men” (Herodotus, 1.131)

Turretin: “For men (especially uneducated men prone by nature to superstition) are moved to the worship of them by the very reverence for the place, as experience shows” 2.1.10.VII

But are they free from worship if we just have the images or statues? Again Turretin, “We answer that although they are not expressly worshipped by them (as the papists) by bowing the knee and burning incense to them or offering prayers, still they cannot be said to be free from all worship; if not direct, at least indirect and participative because they hold that by images and the sight of them they conceive holy thoughts concerning God and Christ (which cannot but belong to the worship of God, so that thus they really worship God by images).” 2.1.10.VII

Objection 2:”But Christ was the image of God?” – Yes. Christ was the image of God and that is where it ends. Additionally we see no command in Scripture to make an image of Christ. Neither is there a mention in Scripture of an image of Christ in worship services or in the churches.

Although God has manifested himself in a visible form and in appearances described to us in Scripture, it does not follow that it is lawful to represent him by an image. Because that same God who appeared strongly forbid making him in any image or representation whatsoever. “The ornaments of the churches are the pure preaching of the Word, the lawful administration of the sacraments and holiness of discipline.” 2.1.10.XIV

Calvin was right our hearts are idol factories. It is pointless as Turretin says, to cast out images of the heart by the preaching of the Word unless they are removed also from the sacred places, where they cannot remain without danger of idolatry. And nothing brings out the idolatry in our hearts like watching people fight to defend their images of Jesus.

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