Protestants and Icons

DennyB

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In my disscussions with open-minded Protestants about the Orthodox Faith,the one thing that seems to be a hang-up with them are the use of Icons,I've been disscussing with one,who quotes Early Church Fathers,such as Irenaeus,in such a way as to condemn their use,I've read the quotes and I take from the quotes that He is condemning their mis-use,not an outright condemnation. Any suggestions on how to better explain their use in the Early Church?
 

jayjay

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DennyB

I am no exert on Orthodoxy, nor do I claim to be!!

Being a former Protestant (Baptist, then Fundamentalist, Happy Clapper (Pentecostal), then back and forward, this seminary, then that seminary - you get my drift - when I also started being interested in Orthodoxy, it was when I was given a Russian Icon by my father - a devout Protestant minister, after he went to Russia on a trip.

I too struggled with having an icon, let alone praying before one. There is a great write up in the book "The Law of God", and many others on the internet (type in 'icons/icon corners'). The understanding I have is that they are not idols, and they are not idols we pray to - they are a reminder of the faith of these people, and they are no more an idol than having a photo of a loved one with you, and when you look at it, you say 'I love you'. We don't adore or worship/pray to the piece of wood/plastic, but the image is a reminder of that person (ie Jesus/Mary/a saint), and we use the icon as a symbol! Look, I am no Orthodox theologian, and I may be wrong here, but when I pray in front of an icon, it's not to the icon, but to whom it represents. The icon just makes me feel closer to God, Jesus, and the saints whom I pray to to intercede for me.

Read 'Becoming Orthodox' by Peter Gillquist, an ex Protestant who overcame this and many other "orthodox theologies" and joined the Church.

If I have erred in my understanding, I apologise, and am open to correction.
 

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at its simplest, the idea is that these are pictures of family members, the family of the church.

then explain the difference between worship and veneration.  and how inanimate objects were routinely made sacred in the Bible. 

I am convinced at the power of icons as I watch my nephew, who is not even a year old, be mesmerized by them in church and in our homes. 
 
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On a personal basis, since I became Orthodox I have found the passage in Matthew 2:11 (as the wise men approached the Theotokos & Christ child) to really illuminate my understanding of the icons. "And when they came into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him." The icon of this passage is our most preeminent & it almost seems to instruct us to proper worship & veneration. Since the wise men gentiles knew to worship Him and our Saviour later instructed us to venerate His (& our) mother per John 19:27. St. Paul clarifies that He "Who is the image (icon) of the invisible God,the first born of every creature." (Colossians 1:15) & Christ instructs us knowing & seeing the Father per Him in John 14:7. As a catechism (c. 1949) from the Antiochian OC, then under Met. Antony Bashir, stated, "We are not allowed to pray to the holy Ikons but we may pray before them, that they may serve to remind us of God and increase our devotion to Him."
 

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In teacher terms, all students begin learning in what is called concrete operations. They need the wood blocks to work out simple math problems. Then, as they grow and develop, they no longer need the blocks because they become more adept at abstract thinking. Some end up being supremely skilled at abstract thinking (Einstein), and others always remain somewhat in the concrete stage, and everything in between.

Some people find it easy to remember God, the Saints, and significant events without any assistance. But for others, that real, tangible chunk of wood with a picture makes all the difference in being able to remember and understand God, the saints, and events. It is something like the illustrations in a book. Many books will have an illustration at each chapter heading.
 

Papist

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I don't think the OP is concerned about the theology of the matter. I think he's more concerned with the fact that certain Church Fathers seem to condemn the use of images. Does anyone have a good response to this?
 

Riddikulus

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DennyB said:
In my disscussions with open-minded Protestants about the Orthodox Faith,the one thing that seems to be a hang-up with them are the use of Icons,I've been disscussing with one,who quotes Early Church Fathers,such as Irenaeus,in such a way as to condemn their use,I've read the quotes and I take from the quotes that He is condemning their mis-use,not an outright condemnation. Any suggestions on how to better explain their use in the Early Church?
You are right. St Irenaeus speaks against the Gnostic misuse of icons, not their use. It might pay to get the names of the other Early Church Fathers your friends are quoting and thoroughly check what they are saying. People do have a tendancy to find "proof texts" in the fathers without going into context.

The Catholic Encyclopaedia has an interesting article at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07664a.htm

Hope this helps.
 

Aristocles

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Hey, Brother DennyB
Seems the folks on that "other forum" are a bit testy:
Dear Aristokles,

You have received a warning at CARM.ORG - Christian Discussion Forums.

Reason:
-------
Signature, Link or Image Rule Violation: 20 Points Within 30 days Results in Suspension

Link to RCC dogma
-------

Original Post:
Link removed to conform to OUR rules
Quote:
DennyB,
To quote Han Solo, "Let the wooki win". It matters not.
However, for YOU, see: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis...us-images.html

Log off, read it, say your prayers, and go to sleep secure.

Αριστοκλἠς
Warnings serve as a reminder to you of the forum's rules, which you are expected to understand and follow.

All the best,
CARM.ORG - Christian Discussion Forums
Ain't that a hoot! CAFism is spreading. Link to RCC dogma...clueless.
 

Aristocles

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Schultz said:
Hang on here.  At that forum you can't even link to an explanation of your position if it's at a Roman Catholic site?
The site is neither EO nor RC. I guess the content police are involved.





{Edited before our grammar marms notice}
 

SolEX01

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The Protestant issues towards icons stem from the use of 3D images by the Catholic Church.  No Orthodox icon is 3D; hence, not a solid image.  Orthodox icons depict saints who lived and continue to live in the eternal kingdom.

Some Catholics are slowly reintroducing 2D icons vs. 3D statues.
 

Schultz

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Regardless of its official or unofficial religious affiliation, how the heckfire are you supposed to have discourse on a topic if you can't put forth an explanation for your position by providing a link to information that might explain your position better than you could?
 
 

Schultz

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SolEX01 said:
The Protestant issues towards icons stem from the use of 3D images by the Catholic Church.  No Orthodox icon is 3D; hence, not a solid image.  Orthodox icons depict saints who lived and continue to live in the eternal kingdom.

Some Catholics are slowly reintroducing 2D icons vs. 3D statues.
Why are you trying to frame this as a Catholic vs. Orthodox concept?  Protestant opposition to iconography transcends East vs. West/statues vs. icons.  It's the depiction itself, 3D or 2D, that gives them the willies and makes them think of God's proscription against graven images.
 

SolEX01

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Schultz said:
Why are you trying to frame this as a Catholic vs. Orthodox concept?  Protestant opposition to iconography transcends East vs. West/statues vs. icons.  It's the depiction itself, 3D or 2D, that gives them the willies and makes them think of God's proscription against graven images.
The lack of icons in Protestant churches is counter to the restoration of icons by the 7th Ecumenical Council - which the Protestants (along with Holy Tradition and everything else) threw out with their Reformation.  Simple answer.
 

Schultz

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SolEX01 said:
The lack of icons in Protestant churches is counter to the restoration of icons by the 7th Ecumenical Council - which the Protestants (along with Holy Tradition and everything else) threw out with their Reformation.  Simple answer.
True, but your post made it sound as if Western Catholicism used more 2d images instead of 3d images then Protestant iconoclasm would never have happened. 
 

Aristocles

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Schultz said:
Regardless of its official or unofficial religious affiliation, how the heckfire are you supposed to have discourse on a topic if you can't put forth an explanation for your position by providing a link to information that might explain your position better than you could?
 
Exactly. I guess a 43 page refutation of iconoclasm by our saint doesn't qualify as fair?
 

Schultz

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Αριστοκλής said:
Exactly. I guess a 43 page refutation of iconoclasm by our saint doesn't qualify as fair?
I suppose they want you to use up their bandwidth with the ol' cut & paste (so long as you cite it properly)! ;)
 

Aristocles

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Oh yes
Here's the link they minced:

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/johndamascus-images.html


Dangerous stuff  ::)
 

SolEX01

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Schultz said:
True, but your post made it sound as if Western Catholicism used more 2d images instead of 3d images then Protestant iconoclasm would never have happened. 
I forget that the Internet could fog the intent of speech unless one elaborates thoroughly on the point.  I thought that what I initially wrote was pretty good given that the Catholics were already using 3D statues by the Reformation and that the Protestants revolted against the use of such "heresy" in addition to revolting against all the other corruptions of the Catholic church.  I hope that I explained myself better.  :)
 

Schultz

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SolEX01 said:
I forget that the Internet could fog the intent of speech unless one elaborates thoroughly on the point.  I thought that what I initially wrote was pretty good given that the Catholics were already using 3D statues by the Reformation and that the Protestants revolted against the use of such "heresy" in addition to revolting against all the other corruptions of the Catholic church.  I hope that I explained myself better.  :)
Gotcha :)  I, as a Catholic, may be a bit oversensitive at times, as well.  Please forgive any exasperation I may have caused you in regards to this.
 

lubeltri

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Αριστοκλής said:
Oh yes
Here's the link they minced:

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/johndamascus-images.html


Dangerous stuff  ::)
That's Paul Halsall's site. It is a staple for most medieval history/Western Civ courses across the world. Many a student and professor have benefited from this resource.
 

SolEX01

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Schultz said:
Gotcha :)  I, as a Catholic, may be a bit oversensitive at times, as well.  Please forgive any exasperation I may have caused you in regards to this.
No exasperation - just a little more work required to explain something which was mutually understood.  :D
 

Ebor

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Αριστοκλής said:
Oh yes
Here's the link they minced:

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/johndamascus-images.html


Dangerous stuff  ::)
Good gravy!  That real primary documents are a threat somehow and that Halsall's site is counter to their rules appalls me.  Posting someones real words, the truth of what he said isn't allowed?!?  ??? ::) :(

Not good.

Ebor
 

yochanan

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The Old Testament showed the use of icons:

"And make two cherubim out of hammered gold at the ends of the cover. Make one cherub on one end and the second cherub on the other; make the cherubim of one piece with the cover, at the two ends. The cherubim are to have their wings spread upward, overshadowing the cover with them. The cherubim are to face each other, looking toward the cover." (Exodus 25:18-20)

Icon veneration was never idolatry and was never intended for that purpose. It was intended for the unlearned that though words may not make them understand, the colors of the icon may give to them comprehension about the life of our Lord and Savior and His saints. It also gives glory to the True Incarnation of our Lord in the world. For how could we make a picture of Him if He did no truly come?

"Woe to the iconoclasts! (i.e. icon-breakers) It is the worst of heresies, as it subverts the incarnation of our Saviour." Council of Nice

8)
and besides, it makes us feel like were in heaven when were in Church.
;)
 

Marc1152

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Here is a great book about the 7th Ecumenical Council where the issue was finally decided:

Images of the Divine: The Theology of Icons at the Seventh Ecumenical Council - Revised Edition (Studies in the History of Christian Thought) by Ambrosios Giakalis and Henry Chadwick (Hardcover - Jun 30, 2005)

It's a bit pricey but it goes through the entire debate both pro and con.
 

ialmisry

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Papist said:
I don't think the OP is concerned about the theology of the matter. I think he's more concerned with the fact that certain Church Fathers seem to condemn the use of images. Does anyone have a good response to this?
Interesting how the sola scripturist is worried about what the Church Fathers say (or allegedly say).

saint John should suffice.
 

GammaRay

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Indeed. In fact, some people say that there's nothing John of Damascus can't answer! ::)
 

Andrew21091

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Indeed. I always like to point out that veneration was also done in ancient Judaism. Jews have always kissed the Scriptures in reverence and many Jews will kiss a Mezuzah (a case which contains a parchment of verses from the Torah) which is fixed outside the doors of homes. Are they worshiping these things? No. Many Protestants will say that the honor of Saints takes away from the worship of God but I would disagree and would say that it brings us closer to God. Remembering the Saints helps remind us of the mercy of God. Icons in the churches and at home remind us of this mercy that God has shown us. Early on, icons were used for teaching the faith for those who could not read but even for us who are able to read the Scriptures and the Fathers, they still serve as a reminder of God's presence here on earth. The Ark of the Covenant was an image of God's mercy shown to the Israelites of old and reverence was shown to it since no one would dare touch it. The Ark was no idol, just as icons aren't either. They are physical images that show us God's love and mercy to us. Icons remind us of the reality that God became incarnate as a man and died for our sake and then rose from the dead and death was thereby destroyed and showing the icons of the Saints remind us that they are not just pictures of dead people but through God's promise, they are alive though Christ's Resurrection.

Howdydave made a good point that the reason why Protestants get all hung up on icons is that they think we worship and pray to the icons. As you can see, this is a very terrible misunderstanding. We pray in front of icons since as I said, they are a reminder of God’s mercy to us and they bring us closer to God. When we ask a Saint to pray for us, this also helps us draw closer to God since through the Resurrection, they are alive in Christ.
 

GregoryLA

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This year when I went home for Christmas, I had a few encounters with "protestants and icons."  My entire family is protestant and my father is a baptist minister.  I brought an icon of Christ home for my 91 year old grandmother who's in the nursing home and she was quite happy to receive it.  (She's presbyterian, by the way).  Before that, when my dad came and picked me and my girlfriend up from the airport, he took us by his office (the Georgia Baptist headquarters) and inside there was a giant mural on the ceiling of God the Father, the Holy Spirit and Christ.  There was also statues of St. Peter (or just "Peter" as the statue said at the bottom) and Christ with the children.  Also, there was another mural on the ceiling with many faces of people and Christ.  Lastly, my other grandmother (raised Church of God and later started attending a Baptist Church), has had a large painting of Christ as the good shepherd at the foot of her bed since as long as I can remember.

However, when my dad went to an Orthodox Church with me and my girlfriend and I was telling him about what to expect at one point he said, "I'm not kissing any icons."  However, he had no objection to me doing so.  He didn't kiss the cross at the end either, but just walked up and shaked the priest's hand.
 

ialmisry

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GammaRay said:
Indeed. In fact, some people say that there's nothing John of Damascus can't answer! ::)
Then there is that catacomb problem.


Gee, wonder what they are doing with their armed raised.
"We not only lift up our hands, but spread them out, modelling them after the Lord's passion." (Tertullian)
and then that pre-Constantine (a century before Nicea I) Church in Dura Europos



next to the synagogue



 

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I find icons difficult. I don't think I'm missing the theology though; I just don't find it illuminates the practice much for me. I just don't really get it.
 

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Liz said:
I find icons difficult. I don't think I'm missing the theology though; I just don't find it illuminates the practice much for me. I just don't really get it.
Its interesting how our different experiences color our understanding of the faith. As a Catholic I couldn't imagine practicing the faith without icons and images. The lack of such would feel very manicheean to me.
 

yochanan

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Liz said:
I find icons difficult. I don't think I'm missing the theology though; I just don't find it illuminates the practice much for me. I just don't really get it.
Hey! Doesn't the Anglican Church have icons too? Your Anglican right?
 

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Protestantism, especially the more radical forms of it, is iconoclastic, suspicious of any sense but that of hearing, taking too literally the verse that says "Faith cometh by hearing," and equally mistaking the Word of God for a book, when it is, in fact, a Person (see John 1:1-3).
 

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Is it OK though Isa? I once saw a first century catacomb depiction of either Jesus or Peter where the artist just copied an apollo statue and substituted something the idol was carrying for a lamb (Christian symbol) to make it more "kosher". The whole thing about idolatry is that it "degrades" God. You make God conform to what you want him to be when you draw a picture of him.

Oh and here's something on John Damascus which caught my eye:

Abbot Theodore Aeliotes told of a holy hermit on the Mount of Olives, who was much troubled by the demon of fornication. One day when he was sorely tempted, the old man began to complain bitterly. "When will you let me alone?" he said to the devil "be gone from me! you and I have grown old together." The devil appeared to him, saying, [91] "Swear to me that you will keep what I am about to tell you to yourself, and I will not trouble you any longer." And the old man swore it. Then the devil said to him, "Do not worship this image, and I will not harass you." The image in question represented Our Lady, the holy Mother of God, bearing in her arms our Lord Jesus Christ. You see what those who forbid the worship of images hate in reality, and whose instruments they are. The demon of fornication strove to prevent the worship of Our Lady's image rather than to tempt the old man to impurity. He knew that the former evil was greater than fornication.
So let me see...a demon tormented a monk with lustful thoughts, then the monk said "stop bothering me" and the demon replied "if you worship the icon I will stop bothering you" and this is a great "proof" that its ok to worship icons? That a demon told a man that if he worshipped an icon he would be ok? Plus this "holy monk" sweared and broke his word.


Oh, and that "synagogue" you showed as proof for icons was built by samaritans.
 

ozgeorge

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Rafa999 said:
Is it OK though Isa? I once saw a first century catacomb depiction of either Jesus or Peter where the artist just copied an apollo statue and substituted something the idol was carrying for a lamb (Christian symbol) to make it more "kosher". The whole thing about idolatry is that it "degrades" God. You make God conform to what you want him to be when you draw a picture of him.
So even the first century Church was in error? We are all doomed! :D
Seriously though, the Church "baptised" many practices- both Jewish and Pagan. It doesn't mean they are not Christian practices.
 
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