Famed cartoonist R. Crumb has illustrated the entire book of Genesis and already the biblical comic book is getting tons of attention. Although I am not opposed to the use of images in some spiritually related contexts, I have become increasingly wary of their use to aid in our understanding of God, especially in the context of worship. This quote from Albert Mohler is helpful:
“For one thing, Crumb’s work reminds us that God gave us words,
not images, as His means of revelation. The prohibition against images
is not just a divine preference, it is a command. Looking at Crumb’s
work makes the force of this prohibition all the more clear. Crumb
interprets (or misinterprets) with every image and characterization.
His style dominates the narrative — which is precisely the danger. And
Crumb insists that he tried his best to restrain himself. “I’m not
ridiculing it, just illustrating the exact words that are there.”
2 Replies to “Genesis Illustrated”
Of course, the authors (or scriveners if you prefer) also have styles of writing that impact the narrative, and you assume God’s message came through as he wanted. Mohler’s comment makes it sound as if the message could not have come as images, but I don’t know how he makes the distinction between a divine preference and a command. After all, I assume he would agree that if the divine preference (or command) had been for images, God could have made the message come through in that manner as well. I’m not disputing the point of how it was delivered–words as opposed to images (and what the valid reasons for that may have been), I just think his comment goes beyond that point and then gets a little muddled. I guess the bottom line to me is the more valid point is: “attempting to modify the manner in which the message was delivered is a mistake” and leave it at that. Again, assuming arguendo that what he says about images it true (it is a “worse” format and therefore shouldn’t be used), what about the flip side of that situation where a “better” format is found? Does that mean that should be the new format instead of words? If not or if no better format if possible (which I think you would argue)….then my comment above seems to be correct.
Hey Rex, thanks for responding.
Mohler is able to make the distinction because Scripture speaks specifically of God’s command for the biblical authors to “write” the words of the Lord, something he Himself models by writing the Ten Commandments with His own finger (Deuteronomy 9:10). This is then further supported by God’s prohibition of idols (images) in the form of anything (Exodus 20:4). It is in that context that I find myself concerned – when we become dependent on anything of an image nature, including a cross hanging in the sanctuary, then we find ourselves on dangerous ground. I don’t worry so much about a comic book or children’s stories that show images, although I do recognize their shortcomings and potential for creating problems.
God refuses images because they fall woefully short of even a shallow representation of Himself. For example, the cover of Crumb’s comic book shows God in the typical long beard, old guy imagery. What a stupid concept, but how else do you draw God? God chose to reveal himself through words and we do well to honor God’s choosing. As you have probably noticed, I do not have pictures of Jesus, God, etc, in my home or office. I don’t think they are “bad” to own but I personally find it better to avoid the potential for problems.
One more thing. I can’t read Sherlock Holmes novels now without seeing Jeremy Brett as Holmes. Most people can’t read Harry Potter without seeing Daniel Radcliffe. Our ability to grapple with the infinite, huge, awesome God becomes limited when our minds are attached to certain imagery. So, I’m certainly not dogmatic on this issue, but our people really don’t pay it much mind. It is something we need to at least be thinking about, especially in our worship.