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............."Oh, the gallant fisher's life, It is the best of any 'Tis full of pleasure, void of strife, And 'tis beloved of many." ..........[Piscator's Song, "The Compleat Angler" by Izaak Walton] "The fishers also shall mourn,and all they that cast angle into the brooks shall lament, and they that spread nets upon the waters shall languish." [Isaiah XIX:8]

Friday, March 26, 2010

Of the Cross and Images

A recent inquirer asked:

I have seen some people praying while kneeling before the image of the cross in the church. Is this a practice of disobeying the Second Commandment?

My answer follows:

The Orthodox Presbyterian Church is committed to what is known as the regulative principle of worship. It is summarized in the following statement from the Westminster Confession of Faith (Chapter 21, Section 1), to which the OPC subscribes:

"The acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture."

We believe that this is a proper interpretation of the second commandment:

"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments" (Exodus 20:4-6).

The second commandment clearly forbids the worshiping of God by images, or any other way not appointed in his word.

Further, the Confession of Faith also states (Chapter 21, Section 6):

"Neither prayer, nor any other part of religious worship, is now, under the gospel, either tied unto, or made more acceptable by any place in which it is performed, or towards which it is directed: but God is to be worshiped everywhere, in spirit and truth; as, in private families daily, and in secret, each one by himself; so, more solemnly in the public assemblies, which are not carelessly or willfully to be neglected, or forsaken, when God, by his Word or providence, calleth thereunto."

Praying is neither tied to nor made more acceptable at the foot of the image of a cross. In fact, as summarized in the second commandment, to make worship depend on such an image is superstition and idolatry.

Surely, the death of Christ on the cross is an historical reality with deep theological and religious meaning. The Word of God certainly teaches that the Lord Jesus Christ has saved His people from their sin by His death on the cross, wherein He bore the curse due to them that they might be blessed.

Thus, the apostle Paul says the word of the cross is "the power of God and the wisdom of God" (I Corinthians 1:24, cf. I Cor. 1:18); and he was determined to preach "Jesus Christ and Him crucified" (I Corinthians 2:2).

Further, as Christians we are commanded to take up our cross and follow Jesus (Matthew 10:38 and 16:24), which means a life of humility and suffering service and of denying oneself in submission to the will of God.

Nevertheless, the Scriptures nowhere teach us to erect the symbol of a cross as an aid to prayer or as a help to worshiping God. Thus, we should not make a cross as an object of worship or even as a means of worship, and we certainly should not bow down to such a graven image.


R. Daniel Knox


Of the Casting of Lots

A friend wrote,
I have a theological question:

Was casting lots an acceptable practice in the Bible, or was it just another sinful habit of God's people? If it was acceptable, is casting lots a practice that the modern Church would accept under certain situations. We are reading thru Acts for morning instruction and inquiring minds want to know.The Urim and the Thummim, which were placed in the ephod of the high priest, are generally considered to have been lots to be cast to learn the will of God for Israel.

My short answer follows:

The Urim and the Thummim, which were placed in the ephod of the high priest, are generally considered to have been lots to be cast to learn the will of God for Israel.

In Leviticus 16:8, the scape goat was to be selected by the casting of lots, according to God’s command.

In a certain sense, the casting of ballots is akin to the practice of casting lots, wherein we choose persons for office, committees, etc. The overriding principle is that the people of God who vote are expressing the discernment of the Spirit given to them.

Proverbs 16:33 tells us that the lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. In other words, God governs what we call “chance” outcomes.

It is conceivable to me that the casting of lots could still be used (without sinning, i. e. gambling) to make a decision where a choice is made between two or more equal alternatives on a matter.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Of the Holy Scriptures

I first saw this poem more than thirty years ago hanging on the wall of the shop of Hazen Sumney, a real old-time blacksmith in Eighty-Four, Pennsylvania.

"The Hammer and The Anvil"

Last eve I passed a blacksmith's door
And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
When looking in, I saw upon the floor,
Old hammers worn with beating years of time.

"How many anvils have you had,' said I,
"To wear and batter all these hammers so?"
"Just one," said he, then said with twinkling eye,
"The anvil wears the hammers out you know."

And so, I thought, the anvil of God's word
For ages skeptics blows have beat upon;
Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
The anvil is unharmed--the hammers gone!