Since Jeremy Tate (from Called to Communion) decided to pop up here and offer guidance to we Protestants on Rome’s views of sainthood, I decided to take a wee peek at his posts. And I ran across a fairly amazing one. It may give the blame-Escondido-firsters pause. Tate’s post is about images of Jesus and he notes that both Tim Keller and John Frame were not exactly ardent defenders of Reformed Protestant interpretations of the second commandment:
It would be an understatement to say I was incredibly excited to see Dr. Keller preach in person. Even to this day, I have the highest respect for the man. As I walked into the Redeemer service, however, I was shocked by the church bulletin I was handed. A gory painting of Jesus, dead on the cross, covered the entire front cover of the bulletin. Having been schooled by “truly reformed” folk in the Deep South I could hardly believe my eyes. The leading church in my denomination was openly violating the Second Commandment! I was so disturbed I could hardly listen to a word of the sermon.
In seminary, however, I came to reconsider what the Bible actually teaches about images. My reason for re-examining the issue had nothing to do with Catholic influences, but rather the teaching of an RTS Professor, John Frame. In Frame’s massive book, The Doctrine of the Christian Life, he takes exception to the historic rejection of images of Christ by Reformed Churches. He makes the argument that having no images of Jesus can lead to practical “Docetism,” the ancient church heresy which claimed Jesus had no physical body. Frame concludes his argument by writing, “So I know of no reason to forbid pictures of Jesus… And there are positive reasons to use pictures of Jesus in the church’s pedagogy.”
Tate concludes with a charitable reading of Keller and Frame:
Here we have two men, both of whom are among the most influential leaders in the Presbyterian Church in America, rejecting the traditional Reformed understanding of 2nd Commandment. These men have not rejected the historic understanding of this commandment in order to stir up trouble in their denomination. Instead, they believe that Christians are actually being deprived of something when images are forbidden. Frame specifically references and affirms the 2nd Council of Nicaea in 787, which affirmed the beneficial use of images in places of worship. These men have been bold in standing against the majority opinion in their denomination in order to affirm what the Catholic Church has always believed. Images are good. Gazing at a crucifix has the effect of freeing us from our habitual skepticism as we see the concreteness of our Savior.
Everyone makes decisions for a variety of reasons, including those who leave Protestantism for Rome. But the reasons for leaving Protestantism are harder to find when know that justification, sola Scriptura, the regulative principle, and Presbyterian ecclesiology matter to being a Reformed Protestant. If you are looking for reasons to denounce the theological scholars who teach and write in Escondido, defending the hallmarks of Reformed Protestantism would not be one of them.