Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Will you see "The Passion of the Christ"?

Here's a question for all you theologians, and particularly officers of churches that prescribe to the Wesminster Confession and Shorter and Larger Catechisms: Will you go see "The Passion of the Christ"? If so, have you lodged your disagreement with the Larger Catechism with the leadership of your church?

I can hear the cries of "I BEG your pardon!" already. But seriously, this came up at a meeting of the deacons of my church last night. As a reminder, question 109 of the Larger Catechism states the following (emphasis mine):

Question 109: What are the sins forbidden in the second commandment?

Answer: The sins forbidden in the second commandment are, all devising, counseling, commanding, using, and anywise approving, any religious worship not instituted by God himself; tolerating a false religion; the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever; all worshiping of it, or God in it or by it; the making of any representation of feigned deities, and all worship of them, or service belonging to them; all superstitious devices, corrupting the worship of God, adding to it, or taking from it, whether invented and taken up of ourselves, or received by tradition from others, though under the title of antiquity, custom, devotion, good intent, or any other pretense: Whatsoever; simony; sacrilege; all neglect, contempt, hindering, and opposing the worship and ordinances which God has appointed.

You may disagree with the absolute language of this statement, indeed many do, but it remains a standard of the PCA and other denominations. As such, if an officer takes exception to it, they have to inform their session and/or presbytery (depending on the office they hold) of said exception, no? After all, BCO 24-5 cites the following as a question asked during ordination:

2. Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; and do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will, on your own initiative, make known to your Session the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow?

Leave me feedback with your thoughts!


Liz Joe said...

Rollin, I don't think that anybody who goes to see "The Passion' will think that the actor who is playing Christ is really Christ Himself. That's why for years the PCA church has allowed pictures to be used in children's ministry etc. To help illustrate. As long as the movie doesn't become an object of worship doesn't it just point us to Christ and make us think more about his sacrifices??

tODD said...

(and not the actor or the film or any other thing) doesn't seem to be a problem.

Of course, this explains in part why I'm not a member of a church that subscribes to said Confession — because I don't agree with it (in part, at least).

But I'm wondering what you did about this. Have you avoided the movie, or did you inform someone of your disagreement?

Rollin said...

For those (like Todd) who are wondering, my take on the movie is not that it is wrong to see it (though some respected teachers and theologians in the PCA certainly do take that stance), merely that it conflicts with what I interpret the Westminster Catechism to say. I would not argue against seeing it, but I find myself thinking that the Catechism, on this point, either goes too far in its language, or does not mean what I think it means. My response has been to discuss this with my elders and let them know that I do not see viewing the movie as a conflict with the second commandment, and if it does conflict with the wording of the catechism, then I am in disagreement with the catechism. I word it like that because several of those I have spoken to believe the writers of the catechism had in view meanings of the word "representation" and "image" that go beyond what we think of today when we consider a picture, etc.

At any rate, I do plan to see the movie, though Amy and I have not yet picked a time. I expect it to be anything but light fare, though, so I will wait until I have the time and energy to watch it and give it the attention it deserves.

As a side note to Liz, there are many in the PCA who do indeed argue against using pictures or drawings of Christ in all publications, including children's publications. I have been told that Great Commission, a publisher of a great deal of literature used in educating children, will not use such pictures, sketches, etc.