The Movie “Son of God” and the Second Commandment

Joel Osteen is plugging the upcoming movie Son of God, so it’s destined to be a blockbuster. I’ve yet to research the film for biblical, theological or historical accuracy, or its artistic merits, so I can’t provide reliable commentary. But Son of God will likely join Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ as a bona-fide Hollywood film about Jesus’ life and death.

The hoopla surrounding Son of God conjures a visit I made in 2004 to Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. just before The Passion’s release. I asked pastor Mark Dever if he planned on seeing the movie. Because Jesus was being depicted on the big screen in human form he replied no, in deference to obeying the second commandment, i.e. Exodus 20:4-6,

You shall not make for yourself a carved 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. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

In addition, when J.I. Packer’s Knowing God was released as a 20th anniversary edition in 1993, along with a new Preface, Packer commented on chapter 4, “The Only True God,” where he unpacks what it means to adhere to the second commandment in contemporary society. He wrote,

…as soon as the images [of Jesus] are treated as representational rather than symbolic, they begin to corrupt the devotion they trigger. Since it is hard for us humans to avoid this pitfall, wisdom counsels once more that the better, safer way is to learn to do without them. Some risks aren’t worth taking” (p. 56).

The Heidelberg Catechism’s take on the second commandment:

Q & A 96

Q. What is God’s will for us in the second commandment?

A. That we in no way make any image of God, nor worship him in any other way than has been commanded in God’s Word.

Q & A 97

Q. May we then not make any image at all?

A. God can not and may not be visibly portrayed in any way. Although creatures may be portrayed, yet God forbids making or having such images if one’s intention is to worship them or to serve God through them.

So should you see the movie? Consider the above counsel, pray about it, and draw your own conclusions. As for me, Osteen’s glowing endorsement of Son of God notwithstanding (or perhaps because of it?), and in spite of my cultural curiosity, I don’t plan on seeing the film.

Packer’s right: some risks aren’t worth taking.

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