Third Rejoinder on Images of the Incarnate Word

Duet5 8Dr Gentry gave a lengthier reply to my second rejoinder. This was very generous of him and though I am grateful for his efforts, I am disappointed at what his reply reveals. Dr Gentry failed to understand or avoided addressing most of my objections and arguments. The result is that he spends much of his article pursing matters that either are not in dispute, or are beside the point.

As Dr Gentry has to move on from this subject, my third rejoinder is intended to be brief and to avoid introducing new arguments. I hope that it will remove confusion and bring greater clarity to the objections and arguments I’ve already made.

I am very thankful that Dr Gentry has taken the valuable time to interact with the critique I offered. Understanding that Dr Gentry intends no further articles on this topic at this time, I do not wish to introduce anything substantially new here, but simply to correct what appear to be some misunderstandings of my objections and very briefly to respond to Dr Gentry’s misunderstandings of the quotation from professor John Murray.

First, Dr Gentry misunderstands my objection regarding the scope of the second commandment. He uses a substantial portion of his reply citing historical evidence from Reformed and Presbyterian sources demonstrating that the second commandment governs worship. However, this matter was never in dispute. Rather, I objected to Dr Gentry’s assertion (repeated here) that in relation to images, the second commandment only forbids the use of them in worship. Earlier Dr Gentry seemed to indicate something more, that all images of the divine persons in relation to their divine nature are forbidden categorically whether in worship or not. Dr Gentry’s position is unclear on this point in his final articles. My comments about the Reformed tradition had to do with this point, namely, that the Reformed tradition has typically understood the second commandment not only to govern worship generally, but also to forbid all images of God whether in worship or not, and in the case of the second Person of the Trinity, this prohibition has traditionally included the physical aspect of His human nature.

Second, Dr Gentry misunderstands my objection in relation to God’s invisibility and what I called “original source material.” It is indeed impossible to portray God in His invisible essence, but that is really beside the point. We’re discussing what can be seen. On multiple occasions God portrayed Himself visibly to the eyes of men, and that prior to the Incarnation, yet men were forbidden to imitate such portrayals. My citation of Turretin was to show his agreement that God’s own portrayals of Himself do not give warrant for men to imitate such portrayals. On that same principle I argue that since Christ is God’s own Image of Himself, the Incarnation does not give warrant for men to imitate this image. I demonstrate this with an exegetical and theological argument from Exodus 24, Deuteronomy 4, and Colossians 1. Dr Gentry fails to deal with this biblical argument in any substantial way, leaving it stand unanswered.

Third, Dr Gentry misunderstands the import of John Murray’s statement which I quoted. Dr Murray is making the classic argument that images of Christ must necessarily break either the second or third commandment. Firstly, Dr Gentry protests that he experiences no worshipful response to the truths about Christ communicated for “educational” purposes by these pretended images of Him. This would appear to be contrary to what is required from us by the third commandment. But if the truths communicated by such images evoke the appropriate response required by the third commandment, then we have necessarily broken the second commandment by being moved to a right reverence of God but by a wrong means, namely that of a man-made image. Secondly, Dr Gentry then offers a reductio ad absurdum which fails by reason of the informal fallacy of weak analogy. The corresponding elements are not the paint and canvas of the image, and the ink and paper of the bible. Rather, the analogy is between the two disparate means of representing the human Image of God. The former means is visual, man-made, and forbidden; the latter is verbal, God-breathed, and commanded.

Again, I am very thankful for Dr Gentry’s generosity in engaging me in this discussion. While we continue to disagree on this important moral issue, I trust that our Lord Christ, whom we both love and serve, will bring us to one mind in His appointed time.