Is there a difference between the first and second commandments? This is an old thing I wrote a couple of years ago... but thought I would start my blog life by putting it on my site. Don't bother responding if you think it's "yesterday."
Shakespeare teaches us that a rose is a rose... not because we call it one, but because it simply is a rose. Even if we called it a "dog," it would still be a rose.
Christian culture is in a tizzy over the movie, "The Passion." The discussion so far has centered around whether or not the film is anti-Semitic in its portrayal of the reasons for Christ’s crucifixion. Recent reviews have appealed to Evangelicals to view the movie because of producer/writer/director Mel Gibson’s purported adherence to Scripture, his good intention of making the story of the crucifixion more real to viewers, and his cleansing of the film making process via his mass-attendance and Catholicity.
But perhaps we have overlooked a more ominous and dangerous side to this film.
Imagine a Hebrew settled in Canaan just after the time of Joshua. He knows God’s revealed Word (probably having memorized the Torah) and endeavors to live according to Its principles and standards.
Nearby live some Gibeonites... unfortunately still living in Canaan. They worship a selection of gods usually described in Scripture as "Baal." And their worship is wonderfully articulate. They worship through singing, meditating, sermons (yes, sermons!) And artwork. Statues and pictures and friezes all evoking important emotional responses from all who observe them. Those Baalites have a worship that is full; it is physical, emotional, and religious.
Of course it is also completely bogus.
But across the backyard fence, our Hebrew is discussing "worship" with the Canaanite. The Canaanite claims that the Hebrew is missing out on something. If the Hebrew starting using statues, pictures, and evoking art in his worship, he would have a better understanding of his God, says the Canaanite. If the Hebrew starting picturing what his God looked like, sounded like, smelled like and felt like, he would have a better understanding of his God, says the Canaanite. If the Hebrew started having more physical signs with which to relate to his non-physical God, he would have a better understanding of his God, says the Canaanite.
And the Hebrew thinks about it... and then remembers the second commandment.
That Hebrew would be less likely than we are to break that commandment, it seems.
Jesus is a mysterious phenomenon. He is fully God and fully man. Completely divine and completely human. A mixture that is hard to comprehend. Hard to explain. Hard to relay to others.
In the 1940's and 1950's churches began displaying a blue-eyed light brown haired picture of Jesus in their sanctuaries. It was done to help us relate more to our Savior. But it was a lie.
Strong words, I know. But let me explain. Whatever Jesus looked like, he was probably not a blue eyed Anglo-Saxon. So a picture of Him in that form is inaccurate. It isn’t Him. It’s wrong.
On a more philosophical level, our society struggles to accept the dual natures of Christ. A physical picture of Jesus emphasizes the human nature of Christ, and ignores the divine. (The halo doesn’t really help, does it?) Using such a picture reinforces our culture’s view that Jesus was, "a really good man." In our attempt to help ourselves "relate" to Christ... we actually force a bigger void between who He is, and how we understand Him.
There is nothing wrong with art. Quite the opposite, in fact. But the decalogue seems to prohibit physical art from representing God. From describing the Spiritual in a purely physical form. From saying, "this is God!" When He is so much more.
God’s commandment prohibiting images of Himself was given for just that reason. It is so easy for us to pull God from His throne by using physical representations of Him.
Intentions don’t matter. The Israelites had good intentions when they made the golden calf. The Canaanites had good intentions when they convinced the Israelites to worship Baal and Asteroth.
I am glad that The Passion does not present Anti-Semitism. I am glad that Mel Gibson is faithful to his principles. I am glad that Scripture Alone can be used as a text for a movie.
But I wish that The Passion didn’t break the 2nd Commandment. Because that is a pretty good reason to stay away from it.