Why Do Confessional Presbyterian Churches Use Images Of Christ?

The Westminster Larger Catechism (a constitutional doctrinal standard of the PCA) in answer to question 109 says sins forbidden by the Second Commandment include “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…” Of course, worship of images or worshiping with the aid of images is also forbidden, not just the making of such images. Many elders in the PCA take exception to the quoted portion of the answer to question 109, agreeing that worshiping images or worshiping with the aid of images is forbidden, but asserting that “pedagogical” use is not.

Here great questions arise: Can Christians control how they receive images purported to be of their Savior? Can they keep from worshiping when presented with an image that is supposed to be of the God-Man? Can any picture accurately and creditably portray Jesus, about whom we have so little visual information from our only source of knowledge about Him, the Bible? Can any image of Jesus be anything but a lie? Read more»

Brad Isbell, “Should A Confessional Presbyterian Denomination Use Images of Jesus for Promotional Purposes? Can any picture accurately and creditably portray Jesus, about whom we have so little visual information from our only source of knowledge about Him, the Bible?” (January 26, 2021). NB: Since this editorial was first published, the agency in question has revised their promotional video but the larger question remains.

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6 comments

  1. Why is it still an issue in the church, especially those who claim to be confessional about this point, as shown in Q&A 109 of the WLC?… Continually I have to see this being posted by Christians and when shown and expressed to them its meet with silence or misinformation regarding the text. Thank you for sharing the link and for making this issue to remain in the minds of the church, that any image of the Triune is false and idolatry.

    • There are staff members at the denominational level who are hired because of their professional skills and not for their theological acumen. They may be recent converts or poorly catechized. There are not a few congregations where the laity are not well taught or where the instruction is not materially different from the broader evangelical world. In other words, for too many laity (and even officers) in the NAPARC world the confessions are marginal and do not instruct theology, piety, and practice.

    • The problem is not with young, recently converted, poorly catechized staff members. The problem is with church administrators who mentor and supervise them. I’m far less bothered by the creators of the original video than by the “bosses” who approved it. There is no excuse for anyone in leadership of a confessional denomination to fail like this. In my limited experience, the church “deep state” bureaucracy appears enthusiastic for numbers and dollars, but little concerned with fidelity to our Confession and Catechisms. Of course, by saying this I will be accused of being rigid, nitpicking, doctrinaire, and unloving. After more than fifty years of such response, though, I continue to plead with my brethren, “Just be true to your vows.”

      • Frank,

        You might be surprised by how much that is done without supervision or approval. The new, high-tech workplace is decentralized and unregulated. I don’t know what happened in this case but I do know of multiple cases, in multiple organizations where just this sort of thing has happened.

  2. “either inwardly in our mind”

    Ive always wondering if this was incorrect given that the apostles and first disciples would all have remembered what the Lord looked like and would surely have pictured him in their minds often, and also when praying to him.

    Does this objection have any merit?

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