The Picture of Christ….
We recently received a publication which we had never seen before. It is called Bible Christianity. In glancing through its pages we are informed that it is a monthly journal “for the furtherance of the doctrines of the Bible” and is issued by ministers of “The Presbyterian Church in Canada”. Under the title which appears above we found the following editorial, which we have taken the freedom to condense and reprint. We like the note which it strikes as well as the fact that it gives us food for thought. What do you think?
“Pictures of Christ are becoming increasingly popular in Protestant circles. Plaques of the face of Christ and framed pictures can now be seen in many homes. We noticed a news item that on the desks of increasing numbers of business men and women in a certain city is a small plaque of the face of Christ. One woman’s reaction to having such a plaque is expressed in her words: ‘It sure helps me keep my redheaded temper.’ And a business man stated: ‘No one has cursed in my office since the picture has been on my desk’.
“Recently, in a folder from a firm selling such pictures and plaques we were informed that these things help to create a spiritual atmosphere in the home; such things are an aid to prayer and reflection. It is an aid to devotion and worship.
“Now all this may seem very innocent and of benefit to the Church. However, it is time that the Church considers the question whether or not such pictures of Christ meet with the approval of God. What appeals to the popular mind may not meet the approval and blessing of God . . .
“The first thing to consider is that the Gospels or the Epistles nowhere give us a description of the physical appearance of Christ. This is most remarkable. . . No one writing a biography of a famous person would forget to give a pen description of this person. That there is such an omission in the Gospels is startling. It is evident that God did not want a physical description of Christ.
“When man seeks to supply what he thinks is a Jack in teaching and worship, he sets himself above God … He will make up for this deficiency of God and supply a picture of Christ. What God neglected to do man will supply.
“Of course, since no description has been given of Christ, every picture is false. No one has any idea what Jesus actually looked like and any picture may be far from any likeness to Him. . .
“But can we not teach a great deal about Christ through pictures? That leads to another question. Can truth be taught by that which is false? Can we use false means to teach truth? The Roman Catholic Church thinks that truth can be taught through means of pictures, images, crosses, and crucifixes. Slowly but surely we are beginning to follow the example of the Roman Catholic Church.
“All this is in direct transgression of the second commandment. It reads: ‘Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or 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. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them’.
“It will be pointed out that Protestants do not bow down before pictures and plaques nor do they serve them. But that is not all that is forbidden. It is forbidden to makeany likeness of anything in heaven, earth, or the water. Making a likeness of Christ is in direct transgression of the second commandment.
“It is a question, however, whether Protestants do not venerate pictures and plaques of Christ. They do attach a certain holiness to them when they do not swear or lose their tempers in front of a picture of Christ. When holiness is attached to a material thing it is spiritual adultery. Greater power is attached to a material object than the ever present God. That is a sin and a transgression of the second commandment.
“God does not want us to fall in love with any physical likeness of Christ . . . The beauty of Christ is seen in His virtues and in His love for God . . . That is the beauty which we must behold and adore.
“There are those who call it very narrow to object to any picture of Christ. But actually they are the ones who are narrow. They would narrow Christ to a picture and a false picture. How can anyone receive the proper view of Christ in all His power, majesty, and glory by a human artist’s conception of Christ? No human picture can possibly do justice to the Son of God. Christ is not only man but God. One cannot narrow God to a picture!”
Report on Europe….
Our next item of interest is self-explanatory and needs no introduction. It is taken from The Presbyterian Guardian of September 25, 1947. We will merely add a brief comment.
“The fourteen clergymen who made a tour of Europe under the auspices of the United States Secretary of War returned to this country about the end of July, and the reports of their trip are being published in various religious periodicals.
“Since it appears that the Rev. Harold J. Ockenga of the National Association of Evangelicals and the Rev. W. O. H. Garmon of the American Council of Christian Churches were more particularly intended to represent American evangelicals, we have perused with interest their reports, published respectively in UEA and the Christian Beacon.
“Certain things stand out in both of these accounts. First is the terrible destruction wrought in many of the cities of Europe, destruction so terrible that it seems fifty years would be required to repair the damage. Berlin in particular is described as a mass of rubble. People live in the midst of the rubble, in any hole they are able to find.
The second point emphasized is the tragic need of the people themselves, physically, and also spiritually. Even in countries where destruction such as that mentioned above is not the rule, the people are terribly destitute. The black market flourishes in some places. Russia is draining off to the east food raised in countries under her domination. Clothing is’ scarce and the poorest sort. Italy, Germany, Austria are nations dependent to a very large extent upon the generosity of those in other countries who send gifts of clothing and food through recognized relief agencies. The indications are that in general these agencies are doing a wonderful piece of work.
It also appears that Russia is taking away to slave labor camps many of the more able-bodied men, especially of Germany. Young men in good health and sound in body and limb are scarce in the Russian zone.
“Then there is the tragedy of the displaced persons. These are people who are not welcome in what was once their homeland, because the present powers in control do not consider them acceptable. Because of general conditions, they cannot find a place to live anywhere else. They wander about, trying to discover some area in the great continent where they will not be too unwelcome, and where they may find a little hope. But the word hope does not loom large in the European vocabulary these days.
“In addition to this suffering incident upon the results of the war, there is the tragedy of persecution. That religious persecution exists cannot be questioned. And perhaps the group which suffers most from this persecution is the Protestant group in lands such as Italy, Austria, and similar areas. For the Protestants are so few in numbers in these parts, that they do not loom large in the overall picture and so receive little attention. They are persecuted alike by the Communists and the Catholics. If there is any semblance of religious liberty, it is liberty to practice one’s Protestantism in secret.
“An illustration comes from Rome. The group of clergymen met with the Protestants in that Catholic city. The Protestant ministers reported their condition and Ockenga declares that he and his companions “were vividly reminded that the Vatican has not ceased its persecution of Protestants in any way”. Garman goes more into detail, and reports that these Italian Protestants asked the clergy commission, or the Protestants in it, not to make the scheduled visit to the Pope. Garman himself refused to go to the Vatican, and thus was the only “Protestant” on the trip, in the opinion of the American Council. The Roman Catholic members of the Commission refused to go to the headquarters of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, a distinctly Protestant movement.
“Since the Communists are fighting the Catholics, and the Catholics are fighting the Communists, and yet both are oppressing the Protestants, especially evangelicals, the lot of the latter is particularly desperate.
“The final thing that stands out in the picture these men present is the ever present menace throughout Europe of Russian Communism. From our own reading of American newspapers this menace is clearly in existence. But the clergy commission encountered it in the person of many individual citizens who seriously fear Russia. Because of the situation, it is emphasized that America must not only talk “tough” to Russia, but must be prepared to back up that talk with force. Garman goes so far as to support “universal military training, under certain restrictions”. The withdrawal of American troops from European countries, it is said, will but open the way for the entrance of the Russians, for the native population is in no position to protect itself, and will not be for many years.”
These things cry out to us of “Revelation”, The “four horsemen” are riding fast and furiously! The “Beast” and the “False Prophet” are raising their heads everywhere! Babylon becomes great and Jerusalem is made desolate. The “time” is at hand; watch and pray! Behold, I come quickly!