Sunday, January 13, 2008

Use of Images

It has been pointed out to me that my use of images depicting Christ could be confusing or even inappropriate. As such, I have replaced the images on my most recent posts.

There are some who believe that any representation of Christ (in a painting, movie, etc.) are prohibited by the second commandment. I am not sure where I stand on this issue, but I would rather err on the side of caution.

I do not approve of most of the Catholic images that I have used in my posts. In fact, the prayer cards depicting mass with the crucifixion floating above the altar turn my stomach, but I have used them to illustrate a point. I apologize if my use has offended anyone.

Great thanks to the people who have advised me in this situation.


The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

I know that this is cliche, and that You've probably addressed this issue a thousand times, but what's Your interpretation of Exodus 25:18, for instance?

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Hi Carrie,

For whatever its worth, I determined (for myself) some time ago that a depiction of Jesus in a children's story book or in a movie was not, in itself, sinful. The intention there is typically to present Jesus in an historical narrative of His life. He did live, after all, as a human being. Other films, of course, are not so well-intentioned, so we must be cautious.

On the other hand, if the purpose of the picture is to aid the person in worship of the true and risen Christ, then I think we're flirting with violating the second commandment. Any depiction falls short in some way regarding His looks and character, robbing Him of glory.

This is to say I don't think God intended us to never paint or draw images of Jesus and His creation, as some groups suggest. I do not believe, however, that we are to use them to help us worship Him.

It's a compromise between the two positions, but I see the whole issue as fraught with difficulty. I did not object to you using the Catholic pictures for the purposes of your posts, but I think you did the right thing by removing them, in consideration of the varying consciences of the broad readership here.

Blessings in Christ,


Saint and Sinner said...

"but what's Your interpretation of Exodus 25:18, for instance?"

The making of statues was not in itself prohibited (obviously from the verse above).

To take another example, Moses made the bronze snake in the wilderness, and anyone who looked upon it was healed of the snakes' venom.

However, later on, the people of Judah started to bow down to the snake image. It was a 'relic' of Divine power, if you will, and they "served" it (though they may have thought it to be a god).

Because of this, one of the good kings, Josiah (I believe), destroyed it, not because it was a statue but because it made the people stumble. Once the thing was turned into an idol that was "served"/"worshipped", it was properly destroyed.

------- Theo ------- said...

"Because of this, one of the good kings, Josiah (I believe), destroyed it, not because it was a statue but because it made the people stumble. Once the thing was turned into an idol that was "served"/"worshipped", it was properly destroyed."

I believe Saint and Sinner makes a very good point that also fits well with scriptural example and Church history. The story is compelling: how God commanded the snake's making for the healing of the people who looked upon it, yet their weakness (not the inherent evil of the image) required its removal.

We also know that God Himself commanded the rendering of images atop the Arc of the Covenant, and that at no time did it ever become necessary to remove them, even up to the time of the Arc's disappearance.

That being said, there is a case for Carrie's removing those images or refraining from using them, based not upon any direct scriptural mandate regarding images, but upon St. Paul's admonition for ministers of the Gospel to be all things to all men. There is a time when yielding to the scruples of one's neighbor is a pious thing to do, even if the neighbor's scruples are unwarranted. The question might then boil down to whose scruples are the ones to be honored?

It appears to be that if we again return to St. Paul's example, so long as obedience to an unwarranted scruple does not contradict the Gospel, the visitor should "eat what is set before him." This argues in favor of accepting the conventions held by the host, lest he become scandalized.

For example, as a life-long Catholic, I do not practice any form of idolatry. I do not give worship to any image of God, or any person or other image. Worship is God's alone. I know full well that the rosary in my pocket is nothing more than one tool to facilitate my own discipline in prayer. I do not worship the crucifix attached to it or the image of Mary inscribed at the junction (or Mary herself). Still, were I to fellowship with my many non-catholic friends in their homes or churches (as I have), I would not produce my rosary and recite formalized prayers. Doing so might cause them to stumble by imagining I am worshiping idols or (as wildly unlikely as it is) tempt them to worship the images themselves.

Of course this works as a two-way street. Should one of my non-Catholic Christian friends fellowship with me at a Mass (as some have) I would not expect them to throw a blanket over the crucifix or shoot paintballs at the stained-glass windows to cover over images of Christ and the Apostles or the Stations of the Cross. Should such a friend be unable to endure the environment without stumbling, he should remove himself and would be better off avoiding the occasion of sin so long as his weakness persists.

Regarding the whole image issue itself, I personally find it silly--with my apologies to those who do not--as such images have been used throughout Church history, especially in times and regions where literacy was uncommon. Images are mere media, as are words. One should never worship an image. One should never worship words. We worship the God whose story can be told in images. We worship the God whose story can be told in words, which usually evoke mental images in us. Who does not picture Christ in His glory when reading the book of Revelation?

We do not worship the image any more than we worship the word--unless that image is Christ indeed who is the perfect image of the Father and the word is the Word made flesh indeed who is the perfect Word of the Father.

Ultimately, who and what we worship is one of those things that God seems particularly interested in and (at the risk of offending those who disbelieve in free will) a matter of choice that God deems crucial. "But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15)

May the Holy Spirit operating in each of us perfect our transformation into the likeness of Jesus Our Lord, I humbly pray as I remain your servant and brother in God the Father,

Rhology said...

I know who that was who talked to you! ;-)
He talked to me too.
He may be right... but I don't think he is. Oh well. Could be way worse.

------- Theo ------- said...

"For whatever its worth, I determined (for myself) some time ago that a depiction of Jesus in a children's story book or in a movie was not, in itself, sinful. The intention there is typically to present Jesus in an historical narrative of His life [...]

On the other hand, if the purpose of the picture is to aid the person in worship of the true and risen Christ, then I think we're flirting with violating the second commandment. Any depiction falls short in some way regarding His looks and character, robbing Him of glory."

P.A. my precious brother in Christ Jesus,

Please bear with me. I don't see how this distinction follows. Any image created for the sole purpose of historical illustration also falls short in some way regarding His looks and character. What then prevents it from robbing Him of Glory? If it is merely the act of combining the image with the act of worship or creating something toward that purpose, I still fail to grasp the source of larceny.

Let's begin by looking at visualization. As you know, any image we hold of Christ we now see at best darkly as through a glass. Are we then to refrain from any visualization of God as we worship? No. In fact we are to do our best to perceive Him anyway and imitate what we can. It is in part our image of God that directs us away from doing evil: "Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God." (3 John 1:11); for Jesus is "the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation." (Col 1:15) But without faith, we are are thwarted, for "the god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." (2 Cor 4:4)

Should we find apprehending a vision of Christ difficult, we may also imitate those that we trust have clearer vision and imitate Him in ways worth copying. (1 Cor 4:14-17)

If we are encouraged by Holy Scripture to imitate mere sinful men whose image of Christ is not only imperfect, but who are themselves still capable of sin, how then should it be unlawful to allow a depiction of Christ, which (being inert) is incapable of sin, help us focus upon the person of Jesus: He who is perfect?

But let's return for a moment to the images you feel are allowable: those that merely serve historical reference or depiction. What then if such an image happens to inspire someone to worship the true God? Is the object now somehow tainted, or has it in fact been an aid to worship and therefore actually added to the glory of God? When we get a glimpse of the Holy in the form of a great hymn, are we to allow it to edify our hearts toward God only if its composer's intent was not to aid in worship?

I think it likely that anything created for the express purpose of pointing men from themselves, and from dead objects and from the prince of this world to the true Lord of lords, Light of lights, true God of all gods, is not sin, and does nott in any way detract from the mandate of God's sacred commandment. Rather, I humbly assert (if one can assert so bold a statement humbly) that it is in concert with this commandment and in part in fulfillment of this commandment that it is done.

One might commit a form of idolatry out of the ignorance that proceeds from the darkness of paganism, but one does not commit idolatry by accident.

I hope and pray that you continue to grow in and conform to the best possible images you may hold of Christ, whether painted on the canvas of your mind or etched onto the flesh of your heart, demonstrated in the lives of the saints who preceded you and who are around you, and rendered for your consideration whether heard or seen in any medium.

Humbly, I write this to you my dear friend and brother, as your servant in Jesus our Lord,

Saint and Sinner said...

"but one does not commit idolatry by accident."

Actually, there is a passage (I believe) in Judges where one of the judges (as a child) possesses an image of (what he believes to be) YHWH. From the wording given by the writer (it's a historical narrative text and as such usually doesn't condone or condemn things explicitly), there is no little disapproval of this act. Also, in Leviticus, there are such things as sins done in ignorance.

There is a fine line between using an image to make the Biblical characters come to life in order to inspire and idolatry.

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Dear Theo,

You make many good points, as always. Is it true that we all must conjure, to one degree or another, an image of Christ in our minds when we pray? I'm not sure. But you are right in saying that an historical depiction in film is also glory-robbing, certainly.

At this point, I can only be assured of one thing on this issue. It would be sinful for me to use religious statues to aid me in worship. Do I have Biblical authority and warrant to impose this idea on others? I don't think so. Therefore, I must remain content to do it right before God as I think He requires of me. Perhaps I am wrong and someone will make to me a good, solid Biblical case for not using images as an aid to worship. Beyond a clear Biblical mandate, however, I cannot hold anyone's conscience hostage to my way of thinking.

Best as always,


------- Theo ------- said...

Is it true that we all must conjure, to one degree or another, an image of Christ in our minds when we pray? I'm not sure.

I'm not sure that one must conjure an image of God as we pray. I imagine it is not necessary, but merely a bi-product of willfully concentrating on Him; however, I am sure that the Father holds Christ up as an image we are to consider in order to better abhor that which is evil and cleave to that which is good. So it is that we might also better express and practice love for one another without dissimulation. As such, the beatific vision that is Christ is central to Christian living and even if not made part of the act of devotional worship it is a part of the sacrifice of praise that is to be our lives. If this seems like a good bit of hair splitting, it is. :-)

"Therefore, I must remain content to do it right before God as I think He requires of me"

The matter of prudence in salvation and authority is a real consideration that the Church throughout history has recognized. I would not urge anyone to violate what he recognizes is a direct mandate of God relative to salvation. Rather I would seek whether such understanding warrants correction. If I understood such a conviction to be in error, I would encourage one to question such a conviction only with the urgent and clear prompting of the Holy Spirit and then with corroboration from scripture and with consultation of a visible authority in the Church. For in the end, neither I nor any doctor of the Church, nor Pope nor Apostle will stand with you to be judged. Your advocate is infinitely greater and it is to Him that you owe all fealties as best as you know to give them.

In short: if you truly deem it would be sin for you, then it would be sin for you.

To my knowledge (I could be wrong--There is plenty I do not know.) there is no direct mandate of the Holy Spirit by sacred scripture or by sacred tradition that anyone must allow images to aid his devotional worship of God. To my knowledge, there is no sin for a Christian to think of icons as mere graphics and statues as a mere three dimensional objects, no more a part of his worship of God than would be a "Welcome to our church," sign and the placard that holds it.

That being said, I find physical images no more or less doctrinally difficult than non-physical images--and I believe our image of God is part and parcel with our imitation of Him and our practical living out of the Gospel.

As always P.A., I thank God upon every remembrance of you. I find your insight helpful and your own imitation of Christ: the image of Our Lord expressed in your example, well worth imitating.

Respectfully, I remain your humble servant and brother in Christ,

Rhology said...


I skimmed Judges but couldn't find it.
Any idea where?

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

The following goes for all here:

it would be sinful for me to use religious statues to aid me in worship. Do I have Biblical authority and warrant to impose this idea on others? I don't think so.

Really !?? None what-so-ever, huh!?

Therefore, I must remain content to do it right before God as I think He requires of me.

Why do You stubbornly refuse to worship God in the ways that He Himself has prescribed, and childishly choose to "do it your way" ? (Is Your name Sinatra, by any chance?)

Do You think that the Israelites that worshipped the golden calf were better than You, or fitter than You, for such a commandment ?

What is the difference between the two golden calves, that Aaron build, and the two golden Cherubim ('bulls'), that Moses build ?

Did Moses [as a religious and political leader] corrupt the pure and pristine Abrahamic faith when he gave the directives for golden Cherubs to be placed all over and around the Meeting-Tent ?

Why don't we find any O.T. "Proto-Protestants", raising their voice against Moses for such an alleged corruption ?

Why does Your memory/mind stop at Exodus 20, and not read Exodus 25?

Why do You take pleasure in citing Romans 1:23-25, but shy away from Hebrews 9:5 ?

"But the Catholics ... "

Even if this were true: SO WHAT ? Did we rip out Proverbs 8:22 after Arius ? Did we get rid of Paul's letters after Marcion ? Did we proscribe Matthew's Gospel after the Ebionites ? So: What's YOUR excuse !?

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Lvka said...

Why do You stubbornly refuse to worship God in the ways that He Himself has prescribed, and childishly choose to "do it your way" ?

Keeping in mind that as a Reformed believer I'm zealous to balance my understanding of God's sovereignty in His decrees and what the Scriptures teach regarding human responsibility, I'll try to answer the question from the human responsibility perspective.

The simple answer is, we make choices. Hopefully, these choices are informed, and not those of the lemming. Each of us follows Christ in the way we think He is requiring of us, if we are being sincere in following Him. Everyone does it "his way." It's foolish to argue that it's ever been anything other than that throughout the course of human history. It is true for those who hold Rome to be the final arbiter of faith and practice for the believer, as well as those who hold the Scriptures to be the final arbiter. In both cases the individual willingly submits his will to a higher authority. Even in this voluntary submission we are doing it "our way." By submitting to "God's way," we are, ultimately, doing it "our way."

It's not always clear to me what God's way is. Perhaps this is but one of my many failings. However, this I know: the Spirit of Christ brings to each believer spiritual growth in His own way and in His own time. I think it would be unfair to automatically ascribe nefarious motives to those who are at various stages of sanctification in their walk with Christ, as if everyone who names Christ intuitively knows all truth at all times but refuses to follow it. I say again with conviction that no person will hold my conscience captive to some religious or theological idea, no matter how attractive.

What is the difference between the two golden calves, that Aaron build, and the two golden Cherubim ('bulls'), that Moses build ?

The golden calves were made intentionally by the people for the purpose of false worship, that is, idolatry. The Cherubim, as representations of the ministering spirits of God, were not created to be worshiped.

Blessings in Christ,


------- Theo ------- said...

"Why do You stubbornly refuse to worship God in the ways that He Himself has prescribed, and childishly choose to "do it your way" ? "

Ivka my brother in Christ Our Lord:
I fail to see how PA is behaving childishly. As a man of integrity he plainly said that it is his best understanding of God's revelation that holds him to his conviction in a matter that involves right living before God. Please also note that he specifically acknowledged that he has not found a clear biblical mandate against images--just that given his own convictions, it would be sin for him to use them in support of worship of God.

Frankly, given his thological starting point, what more could anyone ask in terms of an honest and charitable response? As I said before, here is a man whose example in Christ is well worth imitation.

This I humbly submit as your servant and brother in Christ Jesus,

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
------- Theo ------- said...


I think Saint and Sinner might be talking about the idols of Micah which he made from silver that his mother had dedicated to the Lord for that purpose. (Sorry I don't have chapter and verse handy: I'm a bit pressed for time this morning. As I recall, the account is sometime after the Judgeship of Sampson.)

If so, this account describes the objects made as idols, being objects that were themselves to be worshiped. In this case the text does not say whether the objects might have been worshiped as if they were The Lord; it is unclear. However the silver used to make them was "dedicated" to the lord. This might have been an attempt to find a loophole in paganism. The fact that Micah and his mother had multiple idols made strongly hints that they were indeed pagan gods, as were they attempting to make an idol of the one God, they would have fashioned only one idol.

Whether or not the idols were worshiped as the Lord or as other gods, the account ends with the common description in Judges that these things were done because they had no King, implying that evil was done in the name of good because there was no authority to direct the people in the correct execution of the law of Moses.

If this is the passage Saint and Sinner had in mind, I do not see it as a case of practicing idolatry accidentally. Anyone who worshipped the dead idols made of silver would have known they were not God and that they were mere items, just as today, anyone who would worship a painting of Jesus rather than Jesus himself would know that it is a dead canvas he worships.

If on the other hand, one actually thought God was the hunk of metal believing wrongly as did the pagans that these objects were in living beings, then what? Then, we could see one committing idolatry in the darkness of pagan ignorance. As I said, one might commit a form of idolatry out of the ignorance that proceeds from the darkness of paganism, but one does not commit idolatry by accident.

Humbly submitted for your consideration, I remain by grace your servant and brother in Christ

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

OK, if You don't understand, then read my first comment (which is also the first on this thread). God gave us some pretty precise and un-negotiable instructions on how to worship Him. You [Protestants, in general] say that we, who simply follow THEM (and not our own opinions), are doing the devil's work, bowing down to idols, etc. Can You now see the utter madness and blasphemy implicitely involved in Your less-than-Biblical opinions, which are "carved" in *Your* image, and who don't resemble God's likeness, which is to be found in Scriptures?

------- Theo ------- said...

Ivika, I am a life-long, practicing Catholic. Yes, I do see that those who attack us for obeying God are joining with the force that would prevail against the Church Jesus founded; however, I also know that Jesus commands us to nurture all good things and to whatever degree anyone seeks to do His will, to that degree they should be encouraged and corrected as the Holy Spirit leads.

This is not a matter of compromise or sloppy-agape ecumenism. When I defend my friend, PA, I do so based upon honest observation of his witness, and I find no guile in him. I understand that his theology can be off while his witness and walk are as much on target as we flawed creaters manage.

Our Lord prayed for his own unrepentant murderers without qualification, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do;" what then should we do when mistakenly attacked by those who believe they do God's will?

I shall always do my best to stand up for and defend all of our ancient Christian Catholic faith-- including those aspects that are uncomfortable and / or humbling and require us to recognize that even the churches born of the Reformation are being used by God as vehicles of salvation and bearers of the Gospel.

I know of no other way to advance the Kingdom of God than to be a servant. When a servant corrects another, he must do so with the confidence that he does his master's will while at the same time recognizing it is his master, not the servant himself, who shall judge both the recipient of the message and the humble messenger himself.

Yes, I too understand that those who attack the Church align themselves with darkness. But what then should be our attitude? Shall we abandon them to judgment, or provoke them to even greater opposition to the truth, or shall we attempt the model of the messiah who a bruised reed he shall not break and a smoldering wick he shall not put out?

What are we to do when dealing with Christians who are not like minded? “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than (you) yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but he made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:4-11)

There comes a time when one must shake off the dust and move on. I have hope that that time shall not come until all avenues of grace are willfully cut off. So long as any of our separated brethren are wiling to communicate rather than merely debate; so long as any attack out of ignorance that is not willful, I hold on to it.

Humbly submitted,
You servant and brother in Christ,

Pilgrimsarbour said...

Ivka said...

God gave us some pretty precise and un-negotiable instructions on how to worship Him.


First, sorry for previously calling you Lvka--just a visual confusion on my part, and not intentional.

Those who have read my comments or my blog have had occasion to consider that I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed. If you would be so kind as to state specifically what these requirements for worship are in relation to the making of images, I would greatly appreciate it.

I regret that so far I have not been able to follow your argument, other than a general sense that "Protestants just get it wrong." It seems to me that you are saying that making the golden calves is no different than God's instructions to make, for example, the cherubim and other adornments for the ark of the covenant. Am I understanding you rightly? If so, the differences between these things, in my view, is a vast gulf.

I know of no Protestant who thinks God violated His own commands by instructing His people to adorn the ark with images. As I said earlier, these adornments were not to be worshiped, so no idolatry was involved--unless individuals took it upon themselves to worship the images God had commanded them to make.

Now the issue is, what is God's purpose for commanding the making of these images? If we say that they were created for the purpose of aiding His people in worship of the One True God, then the dialogue can really take off from this point. At the very least we can say with certainty that the cherubim images were not created as visual representations of God, in the way that the sinful golden calves were supposed to be.

At any rate, I would be pleased to have this cleared up for me.



The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

sorry for previously calling you Lvka

:-))) Actually, Lvka is correct ...

I have not been able to follow your argument

Actually, You seem to be doing just fine. My point was that there's a huge, vast, fundamental, heaven-to-earth difference between the two golden calves, and the two golden 'bulls' (Cherubs) ... yet, it seems like Protestantism, in its convoluted logic, does not allow for such an obvious distinction to exist in the first place, therefore not rightly dividing the word of truth.

The "Mercy Seat", as it was called, consisted of the two golden Cherubs situated on top of the Ark's cover. God rests on top of the Cherubim in Heaven, so he commanded for two Cherubim of gold, a representation of those in Heaven, to be made by the hands of skilled artificers. HE (or, better said, His "Glory") also came to rest on the two Cherubs on top of the Ark; ... and WHEN it did that, there was only one bodily position that the man sitting in front of it [Moses, Aaron, and any High-Priest after him] could adopt: bent over with his head in the floor, covering his face. So, ... the Cherubim were being bowed-down-to ... and incensed (at least on Yom Kippur).

Exodus 25:22 shows us the very reason for the construction of the two Cherubs: communication with GOD, Whose Glory [Which for us Orthodox Christians is very important, since It is nothing else (no-One else) but the pre-incarnational Jesus Christ, the visible Face of the unseen God] came to rest between them and to comunicate to men His divine will.

The reason why I mention this to You is because I see Protestants usually reacting to our arguments thusly: "they were just meant to be mere symbols, communicating certain hidden truths, whose full meaning was restricted to the Priestly calss alone, blah-blah-blah" --> but that's hardly what the Bible [which we Orthodox don't read to much anyway, `cause our big, bad Priests forbid us to do so] tells us: what the Bible DOES tell us is that they were build for the dialogue with the Divine: and this is precisely what we see in the foundational verses for the Ark of the Covenant.

Another typical Protestant response goes along the line: "the two Cherubs were "lucky" not to be destroyed, because they were hidden away from the sight of mere mortals, and thus not usually beheld by anyone else's eyes, save those of the Priests, who knew how to interpret them ... otherwise they would have had the same faith as the Serpent which Moses lifted up in the wilderness" --> the sheer stupidity of such an argument *COMING FROM PROTESTANTS* is simply incredible: it is *precisely* the Protestants who unceasingly raise their tireless voices against the "priests and popes" who destroyed the "universal priesthood of all believers": in other words, they want everybody to be a Priest, but they themselves say that "the masses are stupid", and only very bad things were to happen were this "universal priesthood" to actually be implemented ... :-|

The same argument of the "utter stupidity of the uninformed masses who abide to a paganized Christianity" is a perpetual leit-motive in Protestant Apologetic (so I thought it's worthwhile to bring it up here, since it fits nicely into the larger picture).

Paul Hoffer said...

Hi Carrie, in doing research for the great "Luther quote" hunt, I came across a wood carving depicting Martin Luther praying to a crucifix here:

The woodcarving is part of the Jena collection of the writings of reformers at Emory University.

1. Was Martin Luther engaging in idolatry when he prayed to the crucifix?

2. Did Emory University commit idolatry by publishing the picture in its annual report or by posting it on their website?

3. What should be done with the woodcarving? Should it be destroyed? Should it be mulched? Burnt?

4. Or is your disdain for the image of Christ due to a disdain of all things that smacks of Catholicism~the notion that if Catholics do it, it must be bad?

I am not trying to be flippant here. I am trying to understand your reticence towards the image of Our Lord. I am interested in understanding our thought processes. I would understand your position if you believed that you have a weakness of character that would give you an occasion to sin and allow Satan to tempt you into committing the sin of idolatry (cf. Mt. 5:27-30). But from my very brief acquaintence with you in this forum, I do not believe that is the case.

Thank you in advance for considering my questions?

Pilgrimsarbour said...


Thanks for linking to the Luther picture. Forgive me for butting in here, but if I may interject a thought:

I can see how the wood carving could be interpreted as Luther praying before a crucifix. But upon closer examination, I think another explanation is more plausible.

Although the proportions are a bit odd to our eyes, the wood carving appears to me to depict Luther and Friedrich kneeling before Christ on the cross at the time of His crucifixion, as if they were bodily present at that great event in history. I get this impression from the background which looks like they are outside kneeling on mountaintops, perhaps symbolic of the law of Sinai being fulfilled in the passive obedience of Christ.

It may be that the picture is meant to convey that Luther is bringing Friedrich to the cross that he might become saved. If so, this imagery is reminiscent of John Bunyan, so beautifully portrayed in The Pilgrim's Progress about a century later. I am speculating, of course, but this is how I interpret the carving. Here's where some art history knowledge would come in handy.

This is a very good article by J. Gresham Machen on the active and passive obedience of Christ, if you're interested.

Greatest blessings in Christ,


Paul Hoffer said...

Hi pilgrimsarbour,

Thank you for your thoughts on the picture. The description you gave was beautiful. Everytime I see a crucifix, I am moved in a similar way by the sacrifice that Our Lord, Jesus Christ, made for our salvation through His suffering and death on the cross.

I read some of your other comments as well and I understand a little better the concerns expressed by the readers here. I am reminded of the last time I was in Memphis some years ago, I got creeped out when I saw a little stand on the side of some road that I was on at a gas station complete with a little shrine to Elvis Presley with a larger than life portrait of the King and enumerable pictures from his life festooned on the walls, candles burning and incense going, twinkle lights and "Love Me Tender" playing in the background. To me that seems a bit more clear cut example of idolatry than anything I have seen in 48 years as a practicing Catholic.

When I pray, I pray before a crucifix, I do not pray to it. My worship, my reverence, and my praise alone goes to the same God we both know and love, not to an image that is depicted on it. There is a difference.

However, the real incongruity that I see in Carrie's position and the struggle I have in trying to understand her viewpoint is that we are called upon to become holy as Christ Himself is holy. We are to be imitators of Him. If we are truly holy, if we are truly His saints, we will see Jesus in everyone we meet and if we are truly Christians, people should see Jesus in us (cf. Mt. 25:34-46).

And again, where two or three are gathered in His name, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, is present. When I am at Mass, I do not pretend that some statuary or icon takes the place of Our Lord who is present in the midst of the congregation.

Also, if one doesn't believe in the Real Presence of Christ at the Lord's Supper, how does one square Carrie's view with St. Paul's words that to partake of the bread and wine in an unworthy manner is profaning Jesus Himself? (see, 1 Cor. 11:27) Is Paul exhorting the Corinthians to engage in idolatry by according the same level of respect for bread and wine as they would for Jesus Himself?

In short, Carrie's argument, to me any way, boiled down to its essence denies the truths expressed in the above scripture passages.

I will also take a look at the link you gave. When I came across the picture of Martin Luther and the elector of Saxony kneeling in prayer before a crucifix, I thought it would be helpful to the discussion here. I realize, given the views you have expressed in your other comments here, that you may not share the same difficulties that Carrie would have in seeing that picture, but the symbolism in that picture, in my mind, is no different than that shown in the prayer cards that she objected to.

The prayer cards illustrate a prayer St. Patrick of Ireland wrote:

"Christ as a light; illumine and guide me! Christ as a shield; o'ershadow and cover me! Christ be under me! Christ be over me! Christ be beside me on the left hand and right! Christ be before me, behind me, above me; Christ this day be within and without me!"

May God bless you also!

Quod vult Deus!