My wife enjoys Pinterest, the relatively new social photo sharing website. I don't have an account, but it's become quite the craze lately. Most Pinterest users are female (68%), but there are similar sites popping up for men as well.
I suspect these sites are a response to the fact that we live in a highly visual culture. Many people relate to pictures, movies, and drawings better than they do to books or articles. The old adage, "A picture is worth a thousand words" seems to hold true when we consider the popularity of Pinterest.
As a book lover and Bible teacher, though, I admit some initial ambivalence toward image-based communication. After all, the Bible is God's Word, Jesus is the living Word of God, and the Book is full of words. We can't communicate effectively without words most of the time.
This weekend, though, I ran across an interesting quote from Dallas Willard's book Renovation of the Heart that caused me to rethink things a bit:
Jesus...understood the great significance of images and has, indeed become one himself. Intentionally, He also carefully selected an image that brilliantly conveys himself and his message: the cross. The cross presents the lostness of man as well as the sacrifice of God and the abandonment to God that brings redemption. No doubt it is the all-time most powerful image and symbol of human history. Need we say he knew what he was doing in selecting it? He planned it all and is also the Master of images. For their own benefit, his followers need to keep the image of the cross vividly present in their mind (p. 99).
In other words, Jesus not only used images, He is one. "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation" (Colossians 1:15). Jesus is the perfect image, or picture, of the character and essence of God. Our understanding of God is inseparable from the living and breathing image of Jesus Christ.
We're designed not only for language, but for imagery. What does all of this have to do with Pinterest? I'm not totally sure, except to say that images are powerful because we're made for them. The images we use and create and "pin" say something about our character. They tell us something about our priorities. And about how we view God and others. (I think this is why God told the Israelites not to make a graven image of Him or of any god. Our images come to define our reality, and if we represent God as a wooden bird or cow, we'll begin to believe that He actually has the properties of a bird or a cow. As a result, we'll worship a false god altogether).
We shouldn't merely ask what ideas and words fill our minds (although that's important to do), but we should also ask what images and pictures we choose to dwell upon. Do we keep the image of the cross "vividly present in our mind"? Or do we reflect upon images that are dishonoring to God? By that I don't mean only those images that are explicitly immoral (pornography, violent pictures, etc.) but also those images that might lead us in the wrong direction. For example, pictures of somebody else's house might be a problem for me if they stimulate me to envy and covetousness.
So consider the images you view on a regular basis. Are they consistent with God's character? Do they lead you to think about Him and to glorify Him? Do you need to change your relationship with images on the internet, in movies, and in other media? I'm curious to hear your thoughts.
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The discussion surrounding Rob Bell over the past couple of weeks has prompted me to think quite a bit about doctrine. A number of people involved in the discussion have argued that the question of hell is not that critical to the Christian faith. To some it is one peg that can safely be removed without threatening the foundation of our belief system. I disagree with their claim, but this post is less about defending the doctrine of hell and more about the larger subject of doctrine itself.
That claim started me processing -- what beliefs do I consider absolutely essential? There are some beliefs that I hold loosely, and there are others that can not be removed without destroying the fabric of my faith. Our college ministry actually has an Essentials Bible study, the purpose of which is to train believers in those doctrines that are foundational to the faith.
Here are a few of the essentials, in my view (I'm hoping to blog in more detail about each of these in the coming weeks):
- The triune nature of the only God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit)
- The full deity and humanity of Christ
- The authority/inerrancy of Scripture
- The crucifixion and bodily resurrection of Jesus as a substitionary payment for sin
- Eternal life as an absolutely free gift for those who believe in Jesus (apart from works)
- The literal and physical return of Jesus in the future (the timing is much less critical to me than the fact itself)
Of course this is not a comprehensive list of my beliefs, but just the ones that I view as critical to the faith. For example, I happen to hold to a pre-millennial, pre-tribulational view of eschatology, but I don't see it as foundational to all that I hold dear. On the other hand, if you were to remove the deity of Christ or the free gift of eternal life, you'd be removing a supporting beam of Christianity as I see it.
More to come -- I'm on vacation this week, so I might not be blogging as much, but I'd like to hear from you nonetheless.
Question: What do you view as critical to the Christian faith, and why? Do you agree with my list, or would you add or remove anything?