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A Review of The Vanishing Word: The Veneration of Visual Imagery in the Postmodern World

The author writes out of a deep concern that image is replacing word and that this is a real threat to Christianity.

  • Byron Snapp,
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In our culture we are increasingly surrounded by images. In fact, many television commercials are made up of constantly changing images. I find it hard to focus on one before a different image fills the screen briefly, only to be replaced by another image.

The author writes out of a deep concern that image is replacing word and that this is a real threat to Christianity. He writes from the perspective that pagan spirituality is based on image. Christianity, of course, is word based. His thesis must not be understood to mean that all images or the technology that produces them are wrong.

Beginning with the Egyptians, he takes the reader on an excellent historical survey to show the importance of images in pagan societies and how such focus conflicted with and was a threat to the advance of word-based Christianity.

The invention of the printing press provided the avenue for the printing and distribution of the Bible, the Reformation, and ultimately the type of constitutional government established in America. Accessibility to the Bible provided a primary basis for individuals to learn to read and for parents to teach their children to read.

As technology has continued to advance, pictures have become more prominent and words less so. This should be a great cause of concern for Christians. It is difficult to communicate a word-based religion to an image-oriented society.

Alarmingly, rather than leading culture, the church has succumbed to this trend. Worship services in many churches have become mindless. The Word of God has been dumbed down. Focus on reading and exposition of the word has been replaced by entertainment such as a monologue of jokes, dramatic presentations, and even dance performances. This has resulted in congregants seeing little importance in learning or knowing God’s word or teaching the word to the next generation. This opens the door for the rise in paganism and, as Hunt contends, the rule not by the word-based Constitution but by a dictator who is able to rise through creating an acceptable campaign image.

Hunt concludes his volume by pointing out how Christians can actively answer this dilemma. He provides practical help for the individual to employ personally in the home, at church, and in the realm of education.

Hunt draws from a multitude of resources to make his point. His excellent writing style enables him to use his research effectively and in a way that keeps the reader’s attention. There is much in this volume that merits the time and attention of officers and laity.

This volume is part of Crossway’s Focal Point series that is edited by Gene Edward Veith, Jr.

  • Byron Snapp

Byron Snapp is a graduate of King College (B.A.) and Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div.). He was Associate Pastor at Calvary Reformed Presbyterian Church, Hampton, Virginia, from 1994 until his retirement in December 2014. He is a native of Marion, Virginia.  He has had pastorates in Leakesville, Mississippi, and Gaffney, South Carolina.  He served as Assistant Pastor in Cedar Bluff, Virginia prior to his ministry at Calvary Reformed. He has served as editor of the Presbyterian Witness and was a contributor to A Comprehensive Faith and Election Day Sermons. He is currently a member of Westminster Presbytery in the PCA. He and his wife Janey have 3 children and several grandchildren. 

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