(This book review was originally published in 2009. In view of the recent release of “The Son of God,” the book again deserves our attention.)
In Living Color: Images of Christ and the Means of Grace, Daniel R. Hyde, Grandville: Reformed Fellowship Inc., 2009. Paperback, 192 pages, $13.00 USD.
It’s fair to say that the lawfulness of pictures of Christ is virtually taken for granted in many Reformed communities. Especially when it comes to the teaching and discipling of children, almost everyone assumes that a story Bible with pictures (including pictures of the Lord Jesus) is a given. The status quo is that, while we would perhaps never dream of having pictures of the Son of God in our worship services, it is quite acceptable to have them elsewhere especially for educational or evangelistic purposes.
In this book, Daniel Hyde (United Reformed minister in Oceanside, California) challenges the status quo on images of Christ. He does so first of all using the Word of God, but he also brings in the witness of the Reformed confessions and church history. According to Hyde, images of Christ are not lawful and have no place in either our worship services or our daily lives. While God can certainly use crooked means to accomplish his purposes, his will is that we use his means in propagating the Christian faith, whether with our children or with adults.
In the introduction, the author gives the rationale for the book. It emerges from discussions with his parishioners about the evangelistic potential of Mel Gibson’s 2004 movie, the Passion of the Christ. In the first chapter, Hyde surveys what the Scriptures teach about “Man’s Media.” Here he also helpfully interacts with authors who argue for the use of images, such as Jeffrey J. Meyers. The Reformed confessions are also exposited on this point and Hyde concludes that their message is unanimous: “they forbid all images of God, whether they were intended for worship, education, or artistic expression” (86). In the two other chapters, Hyde makes the positive case for “God’s Media”: the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments. He urges Reformed believers to learn contentment with the means of grace that God has appointed.
In Living Color is not long and it’s written at a level which should be accessible to most readers. Speaking personally, I came to this book convinced of its position beforehand. Nevertheless, I do think that Hyde presents the best case against images of Christ that we’ve heard in a long time. This is an excellent book on a neglected subject and I recommend it highly. May it be a tool in God’s hand to create a new status quo!