Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"When your culture is biblically illiterate, anything can pass for Jesus"

"When your culture is biblically illiterate, anything can pass for Jesus"

- Ben Witherington, author of "What Have They Done to Jesus?
New Testament professor at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Ky.

I saw this quote a while back and it struck me. How well do we know the Christ of the Bible versus the Jesus we have made up in our minds; because despite what the Winfrey and Tolle crowd try to convince us, God is not a state of mind. After all, He is, "I AM". How much more definitive can He get than that?

But because my brain can jump from one topic to another without missing a beat, the quote immediately caused another thought; what about images of Christ? This is a well worn path I know, as many have tread this conversational road before.

I grew up in a Southern Baptist/ Methodist family (I know that sounds almost like an oxymoron) and we had images of Christ everywhere. On collectible plates, portraits of the last supper, Christ's image beaming out from the pages of my children's Bible and always a tiny infant Jesus Christ laying in the creche. It never really bothered me until I was studying more on the Mosaic Law.

The obvious one for this topic is, "You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth". (Exodus 20:4)

In my mind that simply meant that I should not bow to these images or make them holier than the Most High, but that is quite easy to do without much effort. I grew up with a plate that my Grandmother gave me with a painting of Christ on it that hung over my bedroom door. I loved that plate and I would stare at His image for hours. I prayed toward that plate in almost a comforting way. It gave me something to focus on. It was not just any old plate. It was special because it had an image of my Savior on it. I started to focus on an image of a God that was painted by a man whom had never seen His face. My friend the Tutor in a similar discussion pointed out once that perhaps God in His infinite knowledge sent the Savior to a time of no known portraits or paintings (and obviously no cameras) for that very reason.

Imagine if there were a photograph of Christ Jesus. I bet we would be entranced by it, as we lowly humans tend to be visual creatures. We would never fix our eyes on the King of the Universe and His teachings, because we would be too fixated on the photo. Dare I say obsessed?

Heather at Stepping Heavenward posted this a while ago and it gave me much pause. I was quite convicted reading it, yet I still have that plate as well as my well worn nativity creche. I am just wondering what the future of these things may be in our family.

This is one of those topics that have no bearing on our salvation, but one that I have batted around for a long time. We absolutely will not be condemned to damnation for possessing a baby Jesus figurine, nor will we gain access to eternal salvation by denouncing it and although we may be under a New Covenant, it's hard to ignore what the Lord commands. Old Testament or not.

I'd love to hear your thoughts...


Mrs. Sam said...

hhhhhhmmmmmmmm great comments. I need to mull this a bit, being Catholic we're loaded with graven images and other such stuff. Which is one of the things that attracts me to the church in the first place because I'm visual. Let me think on this and I'll respond (kindly and lovingly...because I so totally respect you...)at my blog. I love these conversations, because they make me go deeper. Why do I believe what I do. Well, give me a few, and I'll let you know. Thanks for a great converstation starter!!!

Aduladi' said...


I can't wait for your post! Thanks for being such a great and kind blog friend!!


Heather said...

Hi there!

An interesting article that I came across just today is at:

I think the conclusion is particularly on topic.

I guess my comment specifically about graven images is that the LORD has commanded us not to make them. He has commanded us not to worship Him in that way. Not only in His Ten Commandments, but in many other places in the Bible. (Deut. 12:3-4, 30-31, for example). Many times when you read about Israel falling into idolatry in the OT, they weren't worshiping pagan gods -- they were attempting the worship the LORD through idols!

Gal. 5:19-21 "Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Your sister in Christ,