Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Inerrancy and iconography

Liberals says the Gospels contradict one another. And they level the same allegation against other “synoptic” books of the Bible (i.e. Samuel/Kings/Chronicles). Conservatives respond by pointing out that the Gospels are selective histories which don’t pretend to give the whole story. That was never their intention, and that's not a precondition of truth.

In light of this it’s ironic to see some opponents of picturing Jesus claim that a picture of Jesus is false because it fails to fully represent the person of Christ. But if that’s the standard of veracity, then liberal critics of the Gospels were right all along.

22 comments:

  1. Steve,

    The obvious difference here being that the Gospels are inspired, whereas depictions of Jesus aren't.

    Just sayin'

    In Christ,
    CD

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  2. That's irrelevant to the definition of what makes something true or false.

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  3. But even John says there are many things that Jesus said and did that are not written in his book. But he fulfills his purpose as a gospel writter with what was written. But can one depict just the human nature of Jesus? It seems this is impossible due to the union of the natures, whereas you can depict the life of Jesus through the written accounts in the gospels.

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  4. What did the body of Christ depict? What's the difference between the physcial appearance of his body to an observer and, say, a photograph of the same (if such were available)?

    Why are you stuck on this stipulative precondition of what a picture is *supposed* to depict?

    Does the Lord's Supper depict the hypostatic union?

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  5. That is why it is better to say represent than depict. A picture of the Lord's supper shows ordinary bread and wine (grape juice), but it represents the Lord's death. A depiction is an account using a medium, while a representation goes beyond the depiction. We truly feed on Christ in the supper, but we only see the common elements.

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  6. A depiction *is* representational.

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  7. "That's irrelevant to the definition of what makes something true or false."

    Now that's ironic, albeit presumably unintentional since the "something" I referenced was the Word of God in contradistiction to a man-made image.

    In Him,
    CD

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  8. No, that's not ironic. Inspiration is not a definition of truth. If opponents of picturing Christ define truth such that a picture is false in case it fails to fully represent something, then that definition of truth and falsity also falsifies Scripture.

    Invoking the inspiration of Scripture is irrelevant since that does nothing to logically reconcile the inspiration of Scripture with the operating definition of truth and falsehood which opponents of picturing Christ are using. That tension is internal to your own position.

    You're not even trying to keep up with the state of the argument, even when I'm answering you and others on your own terms. Instead, because you don't have a fallback argument, you toss out these pious-sounding decoys to deflect attention away from your ability to deal with the issues.

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  9. I admit that it's difficult for me to keep up with your arguments.

    Perhaps I'm too far down the bell curve from where you're perched, but it seems to me like you're engaging in sophistry in a strenuous effort to defend something that you repeatedly assure your readership that you have almost zero interest in even bothering to discuss.

    For a guy without a dog in the fight you're last comment comes across as pretty testy.

    As far as fall back arguments go, I don't have anything to go on other than what the Bible plainly says about imaging God - Thou shalt not...

    That doesn't seem overly nuanced or difficult to understand from my perspective, although it may come across as pious sounding.

    In Him,
    CD

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  10. CORAM DEO SAID:

    "Perhaps I'm too far down the bell curve from where you're perched, but it seems to me like you're engaging in sophistry..."

    I've presented my exegesis. You offer no exegesis to the contrary. Instead, you retreat into fact-free allegations of "sophistry."

    "As far as fall back arguments go, I don't have anything to go on other than what the Bible plainly says about imaging God - Thou shalt not..."

    Anybody can quote Scripture. Lutherans quote Scripture. Arminians quote Scripture. Iconophiles quote Scripture. Arians quote Scripture. Open theists quote Scripture. Catholics quote Scripture. They all appeal to what the Bible "plainly says."

    That's no substitute for a battle-tested exegetical argument.

    In fact, Exod 20:4 doesn't say thou shalt not image *God." Rather, it says thou shalt not image *anything.* Yet God commands the making of certain images for the tabernacle. So the Bible doesn't "plainly say" what you claim it says.

    Likewise, when Deut 4 gives a rationale (indeed, two of them) for the prohibition, then taking Scripture seriously means that you also take seriously the underlying rationale. It also means you take that into account if you attempt to transplant that passage to a different situation where the rationale may no longer be applicable.

    That isn't "sophistry." That's making a good faith effort to honor Scripture by ascertaining the intended scope of a command according to textual clues.

    What you're doing doesn't honor the word of God. What you're doing is just a lazy co-out.

    If you're seriously about obedience to Scripture, then you need to get some dirt under your manicured fingernails by doing the exegetical spadework.

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  11. Where does the Bible say "Thou shalt not image God"? It says that you shall not make any "graven image" (literally, carving or sculpture) or any likeness at all of anything on earth, above it or below it (which seems exhaustive). In other words, Exodus 20:4 tells you not to make any image of any thing. Anything. God is not singled out for mention. But v. 5 then goes on to say that you must not worship or serve such images. Is it possible that the only real prohibition here is on the latter? That v. 5 is a qualification on v.4? The translators of the very literal NASB seem to think so when they translate "graven image" as "idol".

    I would like to know if I'm missing something, because I'm pretty sure those who keep talking about "imaging/depicting/representing God" have forgotten what the second commandment is actually talking about (as in, images of fishes, birds and cattle).

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  12. CD:

    Let's assume you're right about what the 2nd Commandment prohibits. That doesn't mean "a picture of Jesus is false because it fails to fully represent the person of Christ."

    Steve's point is pretty simple--if "failing to fully represent reality" means that something is false, then Scripture is also false.

    Result: If the 2nd Commandment does prohibit all depictions of Jesus, it's not because those depictions fail to fully represent him.

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  13. Steve,

    I have heretofore been unsuccessful in getting anyone to address this question I've asked several times now. I was hoping maybe you could weigh in on it and offer some thoughts. Maybe you think it's a stupid statement/question, but that's o.k.; at least I'll get some kind of reaction:

    Since Jesus did appear on earth to men by the will of Him who sent Him, I do not think God intended us to understand the second commandment in application to His Christ. Men saw him, men remembered what He looked like. Men undoubtedly recalled His Holy visage as they thought about Him, as they prayed, as they ministered. Were they sinning when they did that? Why or why not? Please explain. (cf. WLC Q109)

    Thanks and blessings,

    Pilgrimsarbour

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  14. Apparently some have a Christology where Christ assumed little more than a meat-suit.

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  15. Anybody can quote Scripture. Lutherans quote Scripture. Arminians quote Scripture. Iconophiles quote Scripture. Arians quote Scripture. Open theists quote Scripture. Catholics quote Scripture. They all appeal to what the Bible "plainly says."

    This sounds more like a Roman Catholic retreat than anything I've seen so far in the discussion.

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  16. Steve - A depiction *is* representational.

    Vytautas - Yes, but it is like a sign and the thing signified. A sign has signification, but we are not to confuse the sign and the thing signified.

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  17. CRAIG FRENCH SAID:

    "Apparently some have a Christology where Christ assumed little more than a meat-suit."

    That doesn't represent an honest effort to interact with the arguments which we've presented.

    "This sounds more like a Roman Catholic retreat than anything I've seen so far in the discussion."

    Once again, that doesn't represent an honest effort to engage the counterarguments.

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  18. Vytautas said...

    "Yes, but it is like a sign and the thing signified. A sign has signification, but we are not to confuse the sign and the thing signified."

    In that case you can't say pictures of Jesus violate the 2nd commandment by picturing *God*.

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  19. BTW, although I don't agree with Vytautas on this issue, at least he (and TFan) are attempting to deal with the arguments, unlike some other commenters.

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  21. Craig said:

    "This sounds more like a Roman Catholic retreat than anything I've seen so far in the discussion."

    Yes, if Steve had stopped there but he didn't. You totally ignored the follow up statement by Steve which went on to say:

    "That's no substitute for a battle-tested exegetical argument."

    Does that sound Roman Catholic to you?

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  22. A compilation of most if not all our posts on the topic of graven images and the second commandment can be found here.

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