The Presbyterian Churches Reject Images Of Jesus

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.

Q. 110. What are the reasons annexed to the second commandment, the more to enforce it?

A. The reasons annexed to the second commandment, the more to enforce it, contained in these words, For I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments; are, besides God’s sovereignty over us, and propriety in us, his fervent zeal for his own worship, and his revengeful indignation against all false worship, as being a spiritual whoredom; accounting the breakers of this commandment such as hate him, and threatening to punish them unto divers generations; and esteeming the observers of it such as love him and keep his commandments, and promising mercy to them unto many generations.

Westminster larger Catechism


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  1. I have been going to the same nondemon. evangelical church for the past 17yrs. Within the last 10yrs God has been slowly reforming me. Within the last 6mons I began examining the Reformed view on the 2nd Commandment and have become convinced that it is the corrected understanding. In that 6mon time there have been 3 instances where images of Christ have been shown during Sunday morning worship as a visual aid to the sermon. I know of at least one other time that this has occurred but I was not present.

    I have talked with one of my pastors about this twice. The first time was in the context of children’s storybook bibles and whether or not they were a violation of the 2nd Commandment. His response was that I was free to accept or reject these bibles but I should not force my view on others. The second time was specifically about an image he had shown during worship the previous Sunday. His response was that he thought images were helpful but he would keep my opinion in mind for the future. I sent him an email more strongly worded, asked him some followup questions but am still waiting for his response. I hope to meet with him next week.

    My question to you is: Would you leave a church that “infrequently” showed images of Christ during public worship?

    Obviously, there are more issues than just this one (i.e. Calvinism, 4th Commandment, confessionalism, RPW) but I have not specifically brought those up to my pastor. I am still committed to my church, and have not sought a new church yet due to family reasons.

    Thank you for your time. I really do appreciate it.

    • Hi Pete,

      As you say, there are many more issues than the 2nd commandment at play here. It’s probably best to address the underlying issues, namely your paradigm shift. The good news is that you are not alone! Lots of people are going through or have experienced what you are experiencing.

      The typical evangelical non-denominational congregation (e.g., a “Bible church”) has a lot going for it but most of the time they are not Reformed. They read the Bible with the Reformed churches, they do not confess the Reformed faith, which would include the Reformed understanding of the 2nd commandment.

      Most non-denominational churches come out of the Pietist and/or Dispensational traditions. The roots of most Pietist churches are Lutheran, thus they continue to take the confessional Lutheran view of worship and images, i.e., if x is not forbidden, it is permitted. They do not see that images of Christ are specifically forbidden and they see the incarnation as a license for images. In the American setting, often under Dispensational or fundamentalist influence, these congregations became broadly Baptistic in their theology, piety, and practice. The no longer read the Bible the way the confessional Protestants did. They became more individualistic (i.e., more American) and, ironically, less biblical in their theology, piety, and practice.

      The real question is what to do after a paradigm shift? Your first obligation is to your family. They need to see why you’ve gone the direction you have. The next decision is whether to stay or go. To bring Reformation to a congregation or leave? Here are some resources on that:

      It’s hard call. It’s good that you’re discussing these issues with your congregation. The question is whether the leadership is interested. I have seen broader non-denominational congregations become confessionally Reformed. It happens. If the leadership isn’t fully invested and committed, it almost certainly won’t happen. It is a long, slow, difficult process that will cost them families,

      Let’s say that the leadership is not ready for Reformation. In that case you need to find a congregation with the marks of the true church: the pure preaching of the gospel, the pure administration of the sacraments, and the use of church discipline.

      That may be challenging on a number of levels. Here is an attempt to help:

      Yes, from the biblical and Reformed confessional perspective, violations of the 2nd commandment are a serious problem (sin) but they are part of a package of problems and your attention should be focused on the larger picture.

    • Thank you for your response. I will check out those resources you shared. I think one weakness of mine is adequately conveying to others my paradigm shift. That shift was not a “light switch” but more of a “dimmer switch”, gradually coming into the light. My wife is Calvinistic but not Reformed and is struggling with how my Reformed faith is affecting family. I readily admit that I have neglected shepherding my wife and an now dealing with the consequences.

      How would you go about explaining this paradigm shift? How do I explain the ‘root’ from Which these ‘branches’ are growing?

  2. Yes, and thus have the silly Christians flocked, paying their hard-earned cash to view the many Jesus films. Which face does their mind project, every time they pray? A false image.
    There’s a reason no likeness has ever been preserved from Christ’s day. We do not know Jesus after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

  3. Should I be troubled by a large dove immediately behind a pulpit? This is not a theoretical question; I have an actual case in mind. Maybe it just reminds me of Calvary Chapels?

    What about a cross? Crosses are not a representation of God, but I guess some do consider it a problem.

    • Hi Alberto,

      Good questions. The Reformed were opposed to all representations of God, including God the Holy Spirit.

      As far as I know, opinion about crosses has been split but, as far as I know, in contrast to images of God, it is not a matter of confession. I have not opposed them as long as they are unloaded.

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