Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Some folks get pretty upset when preachers use over-the-top rhetoric and graphic imagery or language to illustrate theological points. I get that. I respect their concerns.

But remember a few months ago when a bunch of reformed-type blogs (even those that criticize sensationalist preaching) linked to a video of a lamb being sacrificed as an illustration of the price of a bloody substitutionary atonement? (I'm not going to link to it. I'm sure you can find it if you want. I don't recommend that you do.)

For some weeks now I've been wondering whether we need to watch the graphic death of a lamb to grow in our appreciation for Christ's sacrifice. I remember hearing people caution, back when Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ was released, against portraying Jesus' ordeal more graphically than it's presented in Scripture.

I didn't get it so well then. I think I'm beginning to now. Let's not use cheap tricks to jerk around our emotions so that we can convince ourselves we're spiritually sensitive and growing in holiness.


Josh said...

ben, thought-provoking because the method of communication should match the message or the message can be overshadowed and lost. at the same time, the Lord himself instituted the killing of lambs to picture substitutionary atonement. now one could argue that Jesus is better than those sacrifices and that believers now live under the new covenant in which animal sacrifice is unnecessary and inferior. the bread and the cup are the tangible expressions of substitutionary atonement which are scripturally mandated, but does that forbid repeating a formerly divinely-mandated practice?

or have we become so sensitive, as westerners, to violence (paradoxically, in spite of the glut of gore we consume as entertainment) that we find it squeamish to watch an event that for hundreds of years God's people saw and were supposed to be instructed about Messiah from?

more questions than answers i confess, and i admit that i watched merely a portion of the same/a similar video. but could it really be classified as sensational at its core?


Scott Aniol said...

Wow, Ben. We're agreeing with each other a lot lately. Scary. :)

I'm right with you. I had the same response on good Friday when I watched the service at Mars Hill.

People fail to realize the fundamental difference between the written/spoken WORD and drama and other visual stimuli. Entirely different things happen to us as we participate in these kinds of media.

Christianity is a religion of words, not images (other than the two prescribed dramas of baptism and the Lord's Table).

This is where I think the Regulative Principle protects worship. If we limit ourselves only to those elements that God prescribes for Church worship in the NT, we don't even have to wonder if we should show videos or do drama. They're just not there.

In answer to Josh, I think the end of provides the answer. As Christians, we have not come to that kind of worship any longer; worship that is sensory, physical, and visual. We have come to the Heavenly Jerusalem; worship that is immaterial, spiritual, and predominantly non-sensory.

As I see it, the admittedly "sensational" rituals of OT worship were pictures needed by children to understand abstract truths that were not yet realities.

Now that such truths have become realities in the death of Christ, we no longer need such teaching aids.

I make this point in the article, "Worship That Cannot Be Touched."

Ben said...


What Scott said.


I'm with you on RPW, but that's not what I'm driving at here. No church member is compelled to attend a Good Friday service or watch a bloody video on a blog. They would be compelled to attend a church's Sunday service, which is where I understand the RPW to apply most clearly.

So I agree on your conclusion, but I think there are more pertinent ways of getting there in light of these sorts of dramas and videos.

I actually had that Good Friday service in mind. I'd saved some macabre screen shots from the broadcast but chose not to post them.

Joshua said...

We should strive to make the crucifixion as real and present as possible, to remember. But focusing on the purely physical is the wrong way to do it. Nobody say at the cross saying, "Look at all the blood! I am repulsed!"

Far more likely was the mother showing her child the suffering Christ, and telling the child, "Never do what that idiot did, or you'll end up like him! He didn't even get any personal benefit for his crimes!" And so on.