The Mel Gibson Film and the Presbyterian Church in
The apostle John, at the very end of his first
epistle writes, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen" (I
John 5:21). With all the hype over the film, "The Passion of The
Christ," we need to ask ourselves, Do Irish Presbyterians keep
themselves from idols?
It used to be that Protestant and Reformed churches
(the Presbyterian Church in Ireland [PCI] claims to a Reformed church)
abhorred visual representations of God. Those days, it seems, have gone.
The review of the aforementioned movie in the PCI's Presbyterian
Herald (March 2004) states that ''all our clergy'' recommend that
people see this film. Deplorable! Whatever happened to the second
Our Westminster Larger Catechism Answer 109
explains that the second commandment forbids (among other things)
''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.'' Thus any attempt to make a picture of Jesus is
idolatry. That is what the Catechism teaches.
Deuteronomy 4:15-19 warns us that we are to make ''no
likeness'' at all of God. Why then should we support a moving picture of
Jesus Christ? Why do we tolerate stained glass windows with Jesus
depicted on them in Presbyterian meeting houses? Why do we have Sunday
Schools using books containing pictures of Jesus? Why do we have
"Nativity Scenes" with little idols, or even "Nativity Plays" where we
encourage our children to use a doll to represent the infant Christ? Why
do we use "The Jesus film" to evangelise? Our Presbyterian forefathers
would be appalled.
"The Passion" movie and the supposedly "evangelical"
"The Jesus film" are idolatry. The Passion movie is a live-action
crucifix. Just as we wouldn't have a dumb crucifix in our homes, so we
don't need a movie (a moving and speaking crucifix) to teach us the
sufferings of Jesus.
What we need is the preaching of the Gospel—clear
expository preaching. We need to be told through preaching that
Jesus Christ was made "sin for us who knew no sin" (II Cor. 5:21). We
need Him to be "evidently set forth crucified among" us (Gal. 3:1), not
by a film but through "the hearing of faith" (Gal. 3:2). We need to know
that He made a particular, effectual atonement for all the sins of His
elect and them only. We need to have explained to us from the Bible that
Jesus is a true and complete Saviour.
We need to cease from "the wisdom of this world" (I
Cor. 1:20) and trust in the wisdom of God, for "it pleased God by the
foolishness of preaching [not plays, or movies] to save them that
believe" (I Cor. 1:21). Remember, the apostles were not accompanied by a
travelling "Passion Play." They simply preached! Preaching is "the power
of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Rom. 1:16). The
church has no need for idolatrous movies!
It grieves me how many church leaders have applauded
the movie and failed to warn the sheep. Where has their discernment
gone? From first to last, Mel Gibson dares to add to the Word of God
(Rev. 22:18-19), and the evangelical world as a whole applauds him for
it. In this movie, the apostles call Mary "Mother," and Peter confesses
his sin of denying Christ to Mary. In the film, Jesus is tempted by the
devil in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:43 tells a different story)
and many other errors are added. This film may appeal to our emotions
(yet see Luke 23:28) but it cannot produce repentance or faith; it
cannot justify, sanctify or educate us; and God forbid that we should be
entertained by the sufferings of Christ!
It is time
that Presbyterians examine themselves and cry out to God, "Lord, have
mercy upon me, an idolater!" (cf. Luke 18:13).