There’s a plethora of teaching out there begging us to visualize our way to a higher plane, a deeper self-knowledge, or a lofty goal—regardless of whether it is covered up in Christianese or bold secular lingo. However, I must confess to you that I’ve encountered a surprising hindrance to God’s design for what my experience with His infallible Word is supposed to be. I’m sure I’m confusing you at this point so allow me to be more concrete…..
Right now, my pastor, Jeff Noblit, is preaching through the Gospel of Luke. As he expounds chapter one, I find myself distracted….Not with his hermeneutics nor his homiletics. It’s this: as he references Mary and Elizabeth and Zachariah, etc., I most often see, in my mind’s eye, depictions of these biblical characters in paintings that I’ve seen rather than the real people (which God’s word WILL depict).
It’s not as if I have clearly grotesque or macabre images or sexually provocative scenes in my mind. So, I’m not trying to say that these thoughts are overtly sinful. What it has me wondering is this: are these thoughts getting in the way of important facts about the historical/redemptive narrative in Luke’s Gospel? Is a Rembrandt-like image of Mary, the earthly mother of Christ standing in the way of what Luke really tells me about her? Am I missing the Gloriously Common for the Falsely Romanticized?
When I go to the Incarnation in my mind, am I seeing a Renaissance painting version of the Nativity rather than the truly humble, lowly estate in which the King of Glory entered time and space as a Child?
This poses additional questions: Is the use of art treated too flippantly? Are visual arts incorrectly included as an aid to worship? When God commanded that no graven image be made (Exodus 20:4-6) was He warning against thinking too lowly of His Person, Work, and Redemption? Are these images of art shortchanging the glorious effectual work of sanctification as I hear God’s word preached? As I worship God with my mind, as I study it with my heart and let God’s Word give me a higher experience within a sanctified imagination (assuming CORRECT interpretation!!) am I not being more biblical?
Here’s another set of questions in regards to corporate worship: Is the use of images behind our song lyrics truly beneficial? Are we, as Music Ministers, getting in a congregation’s way by throwing artwork of a “jesus” on a cross when the truth of a song’s lyrics based on the gospel is sufficient? Are we catering to flesh by giving aid in a way that contradicts God’s plan?
I have to tell you that I wish I didn’t receive the Gospel of Luke’s first few chapters with any (visual) artistic assistance. Please forgive me if you are a visual artist. I praise God for your giftedness but I’m not sure I need your help in gaining a true understanding of the scriptures. Please bear with me as I continue to struggle in this area!
P.S. If you think I am a bit obsessive, tell me the last time you read the book of Exodus without imagining Charlton Heston….
For a closely related post click here