Making Children Idolaters with Their Picture Books

You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments (Deut. 5:8-10).

I have an unusual conviction that likes to come out and be extensively trampled upon two times during the year, namely at Christmas and Easter. My conviction is this: any depiction–any visual representation of God, be it the Father, Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit, is a breaking of the second of the ten commandments. So, whenever Christmas and Easter roll around, I have the great joy of beholding what I view as idols laying in feeding troughs and hanging to wooden crosses.

I have had this conviction for quite some time, and I was forced to revisit it a few days ago when I was talking with some friends who, though younger than I, surpass me in grace and wisdom. I am not quite sure whether or not we reached accord on the subject, but it did bring up some good talking points, which I will share with you.

The Second Commandment Only Addresses the Making of Images that are Expressly for Worship
In the two records of the ten commandments in the Pentateuch (viz. Ex. 20; Deut. 5), both express the second commandment as two distinct commands. The first command is “You shall not make any likeness, etc.” and the second is, “You shall not bow down to them, etc.” One of the points we addressed in our conversation was the creation of images that are not for worship, e.g. the question, “Is it okay to have pictures that depict Jesus Christ as long as we do not use them for worship?” If we truly believe that Jesus Christ is Divine and that he is presently at the right hand of the Father in Heaven, when the commandment says, “You shall not make for yourself any carved image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above,” I think that if we are honest with ourselves we would see very easily that all our images of Jesus Christ is a violation of that command.

Jesus Christ Annulled the Second Commandment with the Incarnation
I have heard some say, quite heretically, that Jesus Christ broke the second commandment with the Incarnation. Jesus Christ is indeed the image of the invisible God, but he is the Image of the invisible God. Idolatry is not sinful because of its attempt to physically portray God, it is sinful because it always misrepresents God with its images. Jesus Christ, though he took on flesh and was the image of God on Earth, did not break the second commandment because he was and is the perfect physical manifestation of God. When the magi fell down and worshiped Jesus Christ, they worshiped the God of the universe not an idol.

Though God became flesh and dwelt among men and was seen by tens of thousands while he was here on Earth, and though we have four books that tell of his life and his works while he was here, none of them give a physical description of him. None. And though we do know that Christ had a beard that was to be plucked out and that he had no appearance that would draw us to him (Isaiah 50:6; 53:2), we have no other descriptions by which to sketch him. The writers of the New Testament seemed not to merely neglect describing the appearance of Jesus Christ, but they seemed to avoid it at all costs. They knew that they walked and talked with God and that any attempt to describe his physical appearance would lead to idolatry.

There is also no indication that the second commandment was annulled in the New Testament. A funny thing is (well, actually it is not funny at all), the same people who have nativities all over their homes are quite likely the same ones who are diehard about Sunday being the new Sabbath, though if any of the ten commandments were annulled in the New Testament it was the observance of the Sabbath, but that is another day’s post.

Pictures of Jesus Help Visual Learners, Especially Children
To be honest, I am not hip to all the latest psychological breakthroughs. I am convinced that the majority of those diagnosed with A.D.D. and those who classify themselves as “visual learners” suffer not from psychological disorders but from a lack of discipline. Also, I could care less about the “ends justifies the means” mentality with regards to teaching children about Jesus Christ. I am sure that putting a bullet in someone’s head in front of a child would teach them about death better than a description, but that does not justify it. Perhaps if we read Scripture to children instead of throwing them in front of a television and giving them picture books they might actually be able to listen and pay attention when they get older. What a concept.

At the end of the day, Christians’ and non-Christians’ disobedience concerning the second commandment does not come from ignorance but from utter defiance and disregard concerning the holiness of God. We think we are honoring God with our nativities and with our merry Christmases, but what we are really showing is that we do not give a rip about God with our total neglect of his commands.

But still, you do not care. Even if you are convicted by this now, you are still going to put up your nativity next year and you are still going to keep up your pictures of some guy you call “Jesus” in your churches. Why? I honestly do not know why. I honestly cannot fathom why those who are redeemed by God would even take a chance on spitting on God’s holiness by misrepresenting him unless they are not actually redeemed by God. But keep on treading on God’s holy ground with your filthy shoes; you will not answer to me on Judgment Day.

Categories: Theology

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2 replies

  1. 1. Please be careful whom you blame for excuses for laziness. Psychological science and related sciences do indeed show that some have a harder time with certain things than do others, and depending on the ailment, certain treatments (e.g. medication to correct chemical imbalance, or behavioral strategies for overcoming, avoiding, or compensating for the ailment) can indeed help remedy such problems. Separately, some have misunderstood and/or misapplied real psychology and made excuses for all those who have a hard time paying attention, especially when it comes to the oft-misunderstood ADD.

    Also, since when is visual learning used as an excuse or described as a handicap? I thought it was merely a combination of strengths and weaknesses equal to that of audible and kinesthetic (sp) learning.

    That said, very good discussion on the precise meaning of the Second Commandment. Indeed, I shall think this o'er. Hurrah!


  2. I'm sorry, I did not mean to make this an attack on psychological disorders. I do indeed acknowledge that people are different and learn things differently. I also acknowledge that there are ample psychological disorders that affect people on different levels. I'm sorry that I worded it the way that I did. I should have been more considerate with my words.

    That said, I do believe that many people are misdiagnosed and are unnecessarily drugged because they are children and act like children. My parents' medicine for me was a belt.

    Thanks for your comments.


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