Sacrilege and Blasphemy

"I don’t want to get into the specifics of the incident here, we hope the controversy brought about by the controversy will ultimately produce light rather than the heat of yet another conflagration on the internet. It might help, though, if we understand what sacrilege and blasphemy are." - Don Johnson

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dgszweda's picture

AndyE wrote:

Regarding Isaiah 6, getting a vision of God via revelation is exactly how God wants to be revealed to us.

But could that be said of art?  I would say much religious art is a reflection of what is described in Special Revelation.  There is no doubt art out in the world, that purposedly or even accidentally portrays God in a different light from Scripture, and I think most of us would agree that this would be blasphemous.  A good example of this would be The Chosen video series.  Would we say that a painting, such as the Last Supper would be aligned to the revelation that God provides in Scripture?  For those who could not read, would this be an acceptable way to teach?  Is it blasphemous if it is not intended or sought to be worshiped, but just an extraction of the visual imagery displayed in Scripture.  Would it be akin to a pastor preaching from the pulpit and painting a picture with his words around the text that he was preaching from?

John says in I John, that the Word was something they heard, they saw with their eyes, they looked upon and they touched with their hands.  That they were writing what they saw, touched and was with, in order that our joy was complete.  And they didn't just write in esoteric terms, but with imagery.  So what is written about is revelation, and it is done with imagery that forces us to see it as images.  I am not saying you are wrong and another position is right, just thinking through it.

There is no doubt that we cannot truly display who God is.  But I also think that it could probably be articulated that our language and our mind cannot truly comprehend who God is, but God chose this as a mechanism to convey Himself to us.  It is interesting that Scripture makes no mention of the appearance of Jesus (besides Isaiah's physical description), I don't think that was by accident either.

dgszweda's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Can someone clearly and explicitly tell me and I am sure other readers, what happened or was shown at this fashion show at BJU that is being called blasphemous or sacrilegious? I have no idea. All the veiled references mean nothing to me. This whole thread seems pointless unless you clearly state what happened.

I think there is probably multiple issues, coming from different perspectives depending on where you stand.  Here are the ones that I have heard (and I am afraid I can't articulate all of the issues that everyone has with it):

  • Wearing an image of Christ (from a recognized painting) on the outfit.
  • Wearing a crown of thorns while walking down an aisle during a fashion show
  • Using an piece of fashion to describe what Christ has down for us, appears to be debasing or devaluing the magnificance of what really took place and the reverance that we should have with it.

It doesn't appear to have been much noise on campus about it.  Neither AndyE's children or my child had heard any noise about it.  I hadn't seen anything on the internet or social media about it either.  It appears to have been raised in some manner as enough length to cause Dr. Petit to address it.

Mark_Smith's picture

That helps. Let me ask this, is it simply the fashion show aspect? Or would any t-shirt with a crown of thorns be blasphemous? I myself have such a shirt!

dgszweda's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

That helps. Let me ask this, is it simply the fashion show aspect? Or would any t-shirt with a crown of thorns be blasphemous? I myself have such a shirt!

It all depends on where you fall on the spectrum of this.  If you hold to a more Reformed view that may hold to the WMCF, you would view any image of God or a figure of the Godhead as sinful.  There are others who hold to the fact that using this in a fashion show debases the majesty of what Christ did for us in terms of His death and our subsequent sanctification.  There are probably others that view this type of activity something that should not be portrayed in a fashion show, and probably lastly there are others who took offense to what was written in the program.  There are probably other views here that I didn't capture.  Don's article was obviously in response to this controversy, but was more focused around trying to develop a correct view of blasphemy and sacrilige.  I would probably argue that all of us here would agree that art can and often does become blasphemous and sacriligious.  The challenge is probably where on the spectrum everyone falls.  I would also say that while AndyE states that he holds a minority view, I would argue that we all probably, again, hold to an element of concern around images.  For example, I may not hold the same line as AndyE, but I would not have images of Christ in my house, for this very reason.

AndyE's picture

dgszweda wrote:
But could that be said of art?  I would say much religious art is a reflection of what is described in Special Revelation.  There is no doubt art out in the world, that purposedly or even accidentally portrays God in a different light from Scripture, and I think most of us would agree that this would be blasphemous.  A good example of this would be The Chosen video series.  Would we say that a painting, such as the Last Supper would be aligned to the revelation that God provides in Scripture?  For those who could not read, would this be an acceptable way to teach?  Is it blasphemous if it is not intended or sought to be worshiped, but just an extraction of the visual imagery displayed in Scripture.  Would it be akin to a pastor preaching from the pulpit and painting a picture with his words around the text that he was preaching from?

Who knew this would be such a popular topic!

The resource that helped me most come to my basic position was a book on the Ten Commandments called Chariots of God by the former pastor of Faith Free Presbyterian in Greenville, Alan Cairns.  I'm not sure if he is still living or not.  At any rate, I found his chapter on the 2nd commandment persuasive. I recommend the entire book as a helpful and challenging treatment of the Ten Commandments and their application to things today.

I certainly get the variety of ways the images of Christ might be used to some profit in the church, like some of the ways you are suggesting.  Flannel graph teaching of children is another one.  All I can say is that God said no images.  Given all that has been discussed so far, we should probably say images or art in the worship of God. If you go back and read Deut 4:12, it seems clear that God intentionally did not give Moses an image of God, but only a voice. I used to work a bus route for a church in the Baltimore area.  We'd go and visit the families and see if their kids were coming to church on Sunday.  We went to inner city row houses  and neighborhoods.  I can't tell you how many homes had a picture of Jesus hanging in their living room in a way that it looked like an idol, or a good-luck charm.  Whoever painted those things probably had good intentions, but people ended up basically worshiping a false image of Jesus rather than the one revealed in God's word.  You see that in Scripture with things like the brazen serpent, Gideon's ephod, the golden calf (which Aaron said represented the god that brought them out of Egypt), etc.  So, I have chosen to be careful in this area and think it best not to do it if I can help it.   

Craig Toliver's picture

Mark_Smith wrote:

Can someone clearly and explicitly tell me and I am sure other readers, what happened or was shown at this fashion show at BJU that is being called blasphemous or sacrilegious? I have no idea. All the veiled references mean nothing to me. This whole thread seems pointless unless you clearly state what happened.

https://baptistnews.com/article/how-a-students-fashion-design-project-up...

http://indefenseofthegospel.blogspot.com/

See photos here https://www.facebook.com/matthew.foxx.319

dgszweda's picture

AndyE wrote:

All I can say is that God said no images.  

I can't find it very quickly right now, but there was an article that I read a few years ago.  I want to say it was from Mohler, but I can't find it.  This person's argument was that since God emptied himself and personified himself as a man, that this view of images as it relates to Christ is not on the same level.  (I know I am butchering this, because I don't have it in front of me).  Obviously the creation of images of God the Father and any image for its purpose of worshipping it, is still sinful.  Probably why a lot of art views God as a light, and not a real image.  But again, we are probably going off topic here, and at the end of the day, I don't think the position you are holding too is necessarily wrong.  It definitely provides a layer of consistency.

josh p's picture

First off let me say that I agree with your position. I'm curious if there were actually pictures of Christ drawn in the early church. 
Also, thanks for the recommendation of the Alan Cairns book. I enjoy listening to him on Sermon Audio. I looked him up a month or so ago and he went to be with the Lord. He died of Covid. 

Bert Perry's picture

Depends on how you define "early church", really.  Here is a mosaic of Christ dating from the 300s/ 4th century.  The catacombs of San Sebastian in Rome also feature a degree of ancient artwork.  I'm not sure how old that is.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dgszweda's picture

josh p wrote:

First off let me say that I agree with your position. I'm curious if there were actually pictures of Christ drawn in the early church. 
Also, thanks for the recommendation of the Alan Cairns book. I enjoy listening to him on Sermon Audio. I looked him up a month or so ago and he went to be with the Lord. He died of Covid. 

No.  Prior to 300AD, they only used symbols or a picture such as a shepherd.  It is typically after 300AD, where images start to be displayed.  This could have been because before 300AD, the church was outlawed, and art was viewed differently.  After Constantine, the church had the freedom and liberty to express themselves.  But it could have also been that the early church was converted Jews who held to a very strong understanding of the 2nd Commandment.  It could have also been because not much has been discovered about the church prior to 300AD.  There is a picture of Christ on the cross with a donkey's head that was found, I can't remember where, but it was a Roman carving making fun of a Christian friend I think.

AndyE's picture

dgszweda wrote:
I can't find it very quickly right now, but there was an article that I read a few years ago.  I want to say it was from Mohler, but I can't find it.  This person's argument was that since God emptied himself and personified himself as a man, that this view of images as it relates to Christ is not on the same level.  (I know I am butchering this, because I don't have it in front of me).  Obviously the creation of images of God the Father and any image for its purpose of worshipping it, is still sinful.  Probably why a lot of art views God as a light, and not a real image.  But again, we are probably going off topic here, and at the end of the day, I don't think the position you are holding too is necessarily wrong.  It definitely provides a layer of consistency.

That's the argument of R C Sproul.  He says that since Jesus took on visible human form, it is OK to make images of that human form, or something along those lines.  Of course, no one knows what Jesus actually looked like....

Don Johnson's picture

A couple of observations, and perhaps to help Mark

My article (that opened the thread) was to help define sacrilege and blasphemy. The terms came from Dr. Pettit's press release, and many commenting on it seemed to have no idea what sacrilege and blasphemy were. I tried to define those terms without getting into the actual controversy.

Kevin Schaal followed up with an article on appropriate forms for Christian expression. We might not all fall in the same place on the applications, but I think many conservatives would agree pretty well with his general points.

The issue in question was a fashion show held at BJU in December. I don't know how the photos got into the wild, so to speak, but it drew a lot of reaction. In my opinion, young students can do things that perhaps sober second thought wouldn't do. I am willing to cut the student some slack, but it is disturbing that the adults ... the faculty in the department ... had no objection. The long-standing positions of BJU, the viewpoints of most of it loyal graduates, ought to have at least raised some question. Since the show was allowed to proceed with faculty blessing, it became a matter of alarm to conservative grads.

What was objectionable? For me, two main things.

  1. A man wearing a woman's coat (the "blood-red" coat)
  2. The same man wearing a crown of thorns

This strikes me as blasphemous and ungodly in many ways. The student in question is quoted as saying this (I think it is from his facebook page):

"I … wanted my collection to impact the culture at BJU and help people see that fashion is just as valid and capable of an art form to communicate beauty; beyond the superficial gender-performative box that it’s put in on campus. … I wanted my work to sing with a beauty and intensity that reached the depths of the despair I felt and embodied and resolved that for others to see."

Given the current climate with Critical Race Theory, gender issues, and so on, the bolded words raise questions. What does the student mean by "gender-performative box?" What does he mean by "the despair I felt and embodied?" And even more soberly, what does it mean to put a woman's coat on a man wearing a crown of thorns? 

The link Craig supplied above from Baptist News is written by Rick Pidcock, a fairly frequent critic (my impression) of BJU, a mid-2000s grad. Read his piece with an understanding of his bias. (I readily admit my own biases.)

I think that's all for now.

I think the discussion of what is appropriate and inappropriate in Christian art is valid and a valuable discussion to have.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

josh p's picture

I also believe that Romans 1 comes into play. Since exchanging the glory of the incorruptible God for an image is specifically cited as a sign of depravity, it seems reasonable to me that believers should refrain for doing so even in the case of Christ. Admittedly, the passage refers the God the Father. 

AndyE's picture

josh p wrote:

First off let me say that I agree with your position. I'm curious if there were actually pictures of Christ drawn in the early church. 
Also, thanks for the recommendation of the Alan Cairns book. I enjoy listening to him on Sermon Audio. I looked him up a month or so ago and he went to be with the Lord. He died of Covid. 

Well, that is sad news. Thanks for letting me know.  My wife went to that church some, when she was a student at BJU.  

Bert Perry's picture

The red coat is something of a coat-dress that is taken in at the waist for a woman's physique, and the one that I joked was mixed with a Hefty bag is also designed for a woman--you can tell because the right side goes over the left, where with a men's coat, the left overlaps the right.  It is said to have something to do with men dressing themselves in the Middle Ages, while women were dressed by others.

I guess we can ask reasonably whether the Mosaic prohibition of a man wearing that which pertains to a woman applies, but from my perspective, it's sufficient to say that it simply does not fit a man's body.  So it fails one of the most basic tests of fashion, IMO.

And back to what I noted earlier, if BJU wants to interact with the fashion world, wonderful, but one of the key things they need to do is to make sure that the garment actually fits the person for whom it's designed.  All too often in secular fashion, I get the impression that the designer really, really did not like the models, and that's his way of inflicting pain on them.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Don Johnson's picture

Craig Toliver wrote:

 

Don Johnson wrote:
what does it mean to put a woman's coat?

 

 

 

The coat looked to me what Clint Eastwood wore in Westerns

This

https://media.gq-magazine.co.uk/photos/5ece8b1c3939aa76e28cf7ee/master/w...

only the color is the same. In addition to what Bert noted, there are some tell-tale seams on the top that aren't found in men's coats.

Given the comments of the student designer, all I am saying is it raises serious questions.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

B Hawkins's picture

Sorry to hear that. I knew Dr Cairns and heard him preach in Va. Beach a few times. I have some of his books including "Charriots of God"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bob

"A bulldog can whip a skunk anytime but it just ain't worth it"

Bert Perry's picture

Don, it could mean some degree of effeminacy, some rejection of gender stereotypes, or it could mean simply that (this is my best guess) this is what the fashion student found at the resale/thrift shop.  Most of what I see does appear to be thrift shop finds with a bit of bling stitched to it, so I don't know how much we can say from this, since about 90% of what you'll find in a typical thrift shop is women's clothing.  You'll see about the same dynamic in most garage sales.  I remember seeing one garage sale to benefit a church in Compton CA, where there were literally hundreds of pairs of womens' shoes, but only two for men.  

A key issue,, really,, is that those who want to interact with fashion really need to understand the basics of how a garment is constructed, starting with how to sew straight seams, how to do tucks & set a sleeve, and the like.  Once you start to learn the couturer's and tailor's art, you'll be far less likely to mistake a man's garment for a woman's and vice versa.

 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Larry's picture

Moderator

saying "a music form born of irreverence...." does amount to a guilt by association fallacy--you can look it up

If you actually look it up you will see it is probably more of a genetic fallacy (born of) rather than guilt by association (associated with). The point being made was not that it was merely associated with something but that it grew out of it.

Of course, the problem continues to be that these charges of fallacies are thrown around too easily. Referring to association or genesis may be a fallacy but it is not always. It may be the shorthand of a longer argument that is being made (and in fact, in this discussion it usually is). 

For instance whether or not the "born of irreverence" is a good argument, I imagine the point is that the music was chosen or developed because it expressed the irreverence in a way that something else did not. In other words, the argument is not that it is bad simply because it was born of irreverence but that it is bad because it expressed that irreverence. That is the argument that must be dealt with. Charging people with fallacies here seems sometimes a way to avoid actual argumentation and evaluation.

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