This past Lord’s Day we read part of The Big Picture Story Bible, one of the newest children’s picture bibles. It is based on Graeme Goldsworthy’s biblical theology writings, primarily The Goldsworthy Trilogy: (Gospel and Kingdom, Gospel and Wisdom, The Gospel in Revelation). If you haven’t read Goldsworthy’s little book, you must. He shows how the whole Bible is united to tell the story of God establishing a people for Himself, in His place, under His rule. And The Big Picture Storybook Bible does the same thing, using Goldsworthy’s very language. Another recent children’s Bible based on the teachings of a modern pastor is The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name, based on the teaching of Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. If you want to teach your children the unity and Christ-centeredness of the Bible, these two children’s Bibles are a great place to start. Of course, both violate the second commandment’s prohibition of images of God. Many evangelical, even Reformed, Christians believe that there is a place for the “didactic use of images.” I don’t. Neither does Great Commission Publications, the Sunday School curriculum publisher of the PCA and the OPC. So what is a parent who believes that pictures of Jesus are disallowed by the second commandment to do?
The only children’s Bibles that I’ve seen that don’t have pictures of Jesus are those published by Christian Focus, and I’m very thankful for these Bibles. But the wonderful written content of Bibles like The Big Picture Storybook Bible and The Jesus Storybook Bible is exactly what I want my children to be learning. I could cut out all the pictures of Jesus, but right now this is how I handle the problem: I often remind my children that we don’t know what Jesus looked like, and that God tells us not to make pictures of Jesus (as they get older, I’ll start telling them why: the tendency of the human heart to worship images; the fact that every image is a lie, in that not only do we not know what he looked like, but no image can depict the divinity of Jesus; the fact that Paul never once commended, commanded or used pictures or dramas of Jesus, even though he lived in the Greco-Roman empire, a time famous for dramas; etc.). There are times when I feel like a hypocrite, but in this fallen world I’m surrounded by violations of the second commandment everywhere, and have decided for now that I can live with this “compromise.” One day I might change my mind, as my conscience is instructed and informed. I’d love to hear your comments on this issue, my struggle and my practice. (In this article a libertarian teaching at a state university has to deal with a similar struggle.)