Saturday, February 28, 2004

Are you committing idolatry?

Tonight I heard a concern about the movie "The Passion of Christ". It was the first time I personally encountered someone having this issue in regard to that movie, but in retrospect , considering who it was voicing this "concern" I am not surprised.

The objection, for that is what it really is, comes from an application of the second commandment regarding graven images or idols. The pastors of this particular church believe that commandment prohibits any specific picture or imaging of Jesus, especially His face. (Please do not ask me by what convoluted process of pseudo-scholasticism they make an issue of the portrayal of Jesus’ face.) The bottom line is that in some minds, to have any kind of picture or portrayal of a Jesus as human being is considered the making of an image and therefore a violation of the commandment.

In response to these friends, I assert it is exactly that view and interpretation of the second commandment that puts people in a position of breaking the commandment. Here is what I mean.

Evangelical and Orthodox Christians hold to the truth that Jesus Christ was and continues to be in His incarnation, fully God and fully man. As a man He had and continues to have a human body, and thus while on earth He had a human form. To deny His humanity is as much a breaking of the second commandment as denying His Deity.

Part of the human form that Jesus had and continues to have includes a human face. To picture any human as faceless is to have an incomplete picture of that person’s human-ness. We dare not picture in our minds or in art an image of Jesus that doesn’t show all of His humanity. To do so makes that image less then what Jesus was and is as a human.

We are now in a "catch 22" situation. By nature, as God has created us, we are psychological beings. It is part of the way God has made us that we think visual images in our mind. The words of the story of Christ's life paint a picture in our mind in the form of a human image. Those of us who have physical sight picture the images in our mind that the story suggests. We do that instinctively and automatically because that is how God has made us. Each of us has in our mind an image of what we think Jesus may have looked like. We know we have no idea what He actually looked like, and we know the picture in our mind may not be accurate in detail, but we also sense it is accurate on the most important detail, that Jesus was a man with the body and appearance of a man including a human face.

To not picture Jesus at all in picture or other art forms puts us in danger of minimizing His humanity, and thus breaking the second commandment our friends are so concerned about. Our prayer and worship is not based on what particular image of Jesus as a man we may have in our minds, but those prayers and worship are based on the promises and truths of God's Word.

As of this date, I have not seen the Passion movie. I do plan on seeing it. When I do, I will be responsible for how I react to what I see on the screen. Neither Mel Gibson or anyone else will be responsible for how I react. Nor will I be responsible for how others may react to the movie. They will be responsible for and have to answer to God for themselves.

If I have a concern about the movie, it is that some will go to see it with expectations that are not in line with Gibson's focus and purpose. Some may expect more, positively, out of the movie then Gibson intended. Those people will be disappointed, but it will be their fault, not Gibson’s.

~ The Billy Goat ~

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