Thursday, January 10, 2008

Equivocating on iconic terminology


That's the theme of our EO-dox friends' latest set of defenses for their practice of praying to dead people.

Orthodox appears to want to put us in a situation where we are to tell God that the distinctions He makes in His revealed Word are to be judged relevant or irrelevant based on a more modern vocabulary.
I'd like to see the argument for that, 1st of all.

The reason that such distinctions are made in the 1st place is to justify the behavior of rendering worshipful actions of religious piety to someone other than the One True God. As a monotheist, it stands to reason that one would need to come up with a reason why such is not prohibited, especially since Exodus 20:5 makes it clear that we are to bow down to no one other than God, and yet here they are bowing down to someone other than God.

Ex 20:5 - you shall not worship (bow down to) them nor serve them.
God discusses His wrath and visiting the iniquity on children, etc.
In Heb, shachah is "worship" or "bow down" and `abad is "to serve".

Yet the LXX translates `abad as latreuo and douleo (out of which come latria and dulia in Latin) both. So here we are forbidden to "`abad" anyone other than God.

Let's see some other psgs where that is the case.

Ex 23:33 - they shall not live in your land... for if you serve their gods, it will be a snare
`abad here is LXX douleo.

Deut 28:64 - there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, etc
`abad here is LXX douleo.

Judg 10:10 - we have served other Baals
`abad here is LXX douleo. Would anyone argue that this is not idolatry?
I can hear it now: "Lord we didn't give latria to the Baals, we just gave them dulia."

In the Heb mindset, you can't worship him whom you don't serve.
You can't separate it out biblically. That's why the LXX doesn't just use latreuo or douleo; the Hebrew term is richer than that.

1 Sam 7:3 - remove the foreign gods... serve Him alone
`abad here is LXX douleo.

1 Kings 9:6 - serve other gods and worship them
Both appear.

Ex 4:23, Ex 12:31, Ex 23:24, Deut 4:19, the list goes on.

The NT likewise shows no hint of the distinction.
Rom 14:18 - does service to Christ not involve worship? douleo
Gal 4:8 - when you did not know God you were slaves to those which by nature were no gods. douleo
So these Galatians were not involved in idolatry? It would've been OK to serve those gods, just not worship them?

Col 3:24 - it is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Is this less than latria?

1 Thess 1:9 - you turned from idols to serve a living and true God. douleo
Is he not saying you turned from idolatry to true worship?


The disturbing part of all this is the attempted separation of what Orthodox is defending and what Scripture teaches is wrong.
I'll illustrate by way of comparison:

Exodus 20:15 - you shall not steal.

In Hebrew, the word is "ganab".
In the LXX, ganab is translated "foneuseis" and these words have a similar usage to "klepto" in Grk, which is often used by the NT to express the same idea.
Several 100s of years after the time of Christ and the time of the writing of the NT, the argument could go like this:
"Yes, the property 'belonged' to a brother in Christ, but you know, we all hold all things in common like the book of Acts says. I didn't steal it from him, you see. He may want it back and accuse me of stealing it from him, and yes, I have it and he never explicitly gave me permission to remove it from his property, but that's OK. We're all free in Christ, and we don't use the word 'steal' the same way anyway."

I'd like to know the difference between the two situations.

As I've said before, when you ask a dead person to pray for you, you light candles, kneel and prostrate yourself before an icon, kiss the icon, burn incense, and pray at the icon. These are worshipful actions. These are actions that God has reserved for Himself in the Old Testament. Is man left up to the task of determining what is right worship before God, or does God determine that for us?
It is simple ad hoc equivocation to say that one can "proskuneo" before an image of a dead person, light candles, burn incense, and pray to them. Prayer is a worshipful action. Bowing down is a worshipful action, as in Exodus 20:5.



It has been argued from 1 Chronicles 29:20 that one can "shachah" King David as well.
The context of the passage is a worshipful action to the LORD Himself. The very next verse says:

"And they sacrificed sacrifices unto the LORD, and offered burnt offerings unto the LORD, on the morrow after that day, [even] a thousand bullocks, a thousand rams, [and] a thousand lambs, with their drink offerings, and sacrifices in abundance for all Israel..."

The LORD is set apart as divine. Bowing down to the king is normal practice for rulers of those times, who were ALIVE. It's just showing honor to him, much like 1 Peter 2:17 tells us to do.
Is there so little separation between the divine and the human?

Orthodox said:
They were smart enough to know which is which, and give each his own due, yet outwardly to the casual bystander couldn't see any difference.

Of course they knew the difference. But why didn't they just go ahead and sacrifice bulls and calves to the king as well? Why didn't they build an altar to the king as well and sprinkle it with the blood of sacrifices, and offer burnt offerings to him as well? I mean, they would've known the difference, right?

Orthodox said:
Gen. 25:23 "And the older shall serve(dulia) the younger.”

Is the context the worship of God vs idolatry in Genesis 25?

How is it relevant that the king is alive?

B/c it is customary to honor the king like that.
The Bible leaves no room to doing the same to DEAD PEOPLE. The only way dead people can be "contacted", it is thought, it spiritually. Yet spiritually is where God wants our devotion and has delineated the limits for spiritual activity. Why not just follow those limits?

-Do you ask Christians to pray for you, wasting time that could have been spent praying to God directly?
-What about "Brother Fred, please pray that God provides for my family"?
-Of course the word "pray" is simply the English word for a request.
-"Alan, I entreat you to make intercession for me". "Alan, I pray that you make intercession for me". "Alan, I pray that you pray for me".
-There, I just prayed to you, and no worship was involved. Oh, and I did it silently by candlelight.
-I think Alan WAS praying to a living saint, as he wrote this. We are living saints, and he prayed to us.


This is a brilliant set of equivocations from our EO-dox friends.
The issue is clear and you're playing word games with the word "pray".
The question is: Do you do ALL OF the things to another human who is LIVING that you do to DEAD humans? I know you don't, please don't insult my intelligence. Why don't you do all of these things to LIVING members of your church?

I ascribe non-human abilities to my dog. It doesn't mean I worship my dog.

More equivocation. As if ascribing less than human abilities is the same as ascribing MORE than human abilities.

I turn on lights all the time. Doesn't mean I'm worshipping something.

More equivocation.
I think the savvy reader can see what's happening here. Is flipping a light switch in your home comparable to going to church, bowing before an icon of a dead person, lighting a candle, and praying inaudibly to them, expecting them to hear?

The priest burns incense for the living all the time.

That's not what I said, though. I said "burning incense TO them", not "for" them.

RHOLOGY: 3) From your perspective, what changed after Christ's coming, that people began to be able to intercede for others though dead?

ORTHODOX: As Hebrews says when speaking of the Old Testament Saints, "And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us" (Hebrews 11:39-40). In Hebrews 12, it goes on to contrast the nature of the Old Covenant (12:18ff) with that of the New (12:22ff)—and among the distinctions he makes, he says that in the New Covenant we "are come unto... the spirits of just men made perfect (12:22-23). In Matt. 27:52 "The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised".


I'll leave it to the reader to decide how relevant that is.
Did no one rise from the dead in the OT?



David Bryan offered his thoughts as well:
there's no way to kill an innocent man honorably.

I think we've seen that there's no way to give worshipful action to anyone other than God in a religious context honorably as well.
That was the point.

There's no way to worship a false god righteously.

I'd really like to know this: Why not?

intention plays no part because the action itself is always sinful.

But what if I intend good by murdering or by worshiping the false god?
(I'm not trying to be a jerk here, I really do think this is relevant b/c assertions like these beg the question of whether dulia-ing dead people is sinful or not.)

We just happen to be using a tool (and that's all it is) to help us to do this bodily.

That's not all, though.
I have a real problem with your arguments, b/c the main part of the problem with bowing down to dead people is the CONTEXT in which you do it. Removing the context from it to argue that it's OK doesn't really address the question.

R: Could an OT Israelite have used this same defense?

DB: No, because the mercy seat in the Temple was empty.


Hmm, but only the priests could see that.

God was invisible

God the Father is still invisible - 1 Tim 6:16.
And I'm not talking about icons of CHRIST here, I'm talking about icons of DEAD PEOPLE.
Your explanation misses the point, I'm afraid.

this is not what we do when we honor beloved members of Christ's body

You never ask for insight from any dead person? Seriously?

If he sees this image as being in and of itself worthy of worship as a divine thing, or of Moses as worthy of worship as a divine person in and of himself, he needs to be condemned.

The OT doesn't make the distinction you make, though.

Nor is there one in my icon corner.

There are quite a few in your churches.

But at least acknowledge that there's a difference between intercessory prayer and tearing down the enmity between God and man in your very flesh and blood…

OK, point taken. This point may be more relevant to a RC, who believes in the thesaurus meritorium and Mary as Co-Redemptrix and such.

But, again, that's a one-sided conversation; it's not like they're going to start prophesying through the icon if we do…

You believe they do other things, though.
Example.
Example.
Example.
Example.
Example.
This claim seems a bit disingenuous.

God didn't make death. Man separated himself from his Life. Death was the natural consequence of this and has been healed eschatalogically through Christ.

But we're not in the end state. You forgot the "not yet" of the already/not yet of the resurrection and the eschaton.
You don't want to make the same mistake as the Full Preterist!

We don't expect corpses to talk, though. So that's odd you'd mention it.

Of course not. The person is DEAD. There's a separation that occurs.

4) proscribed communication with the dead.

Which is why we simply petition them.


More equivocation.

there is no such thing as a "living saint," because he's still alive and capable of apostasy. So that's a moot point.

Such an explanation is at great odds with the New Testament usage of the word.

How did he know they were still lost? For that matter, how did Abraham know about Moses and the Prophets if those in heaven are so completely cut off from earthly goings on?

He could have just assumed it. Who knows how long after death this conversation occurred?
The point about Abraham is possibly a good one, though.
My initial reaction is that the place where Lazarus was is called "Abraham's bosom", implying Abraham had some responsibility over it or something like that. And of course Moses and the Prophets are dead already at that point as well and God's revelation is eternal and will, I have little doubt, be part of the contents of the praise songs that heaven-dwellers will sing to God for all time.

I guess you could say that it's not so much a question of "are the departed really dead" as it is a question of "is a Christian in this world really 'alive'?"

There's a reason, though, why the Bible refers to physical death as "death".
The separation is a true separation. God is the One Who said not to communicate across its threshold from our side to theirs. Whether they communicate from their side is another question.

4 comments:

sbda said...

Apparently, according to the iconic tradition, there are no objective answers as modeled by the quotation: “What you can distinguish outwardly is not the issue.” If external rightness is irrelevant in evaluating the use of icons, those scriptures don’t mean much… unless I’m willing to reinterpret them. In an earlier post I offered a worldview that seems similar to me and the position was I think correctly interpreted to be fatalistic: “Your interpretation of morality is a little depressing.” Depressing or not, biblically consistent or not, is there really any tangible harm evident in Joe Orthodoxy’s life if he slips in and out of icon-worship? Or is the debate on icons predominantly academic?

Rhology said...

See here what God thinks of idolatry/false worship.

orthodox said...

R: Orthodox appears to want to put us in a situation where we are to tell God that the distinctions He makes in His revealed Word are to be judged relevant or irrelevant based on a more modern vocabulary. I'd like to see the argument for that, 1st of all.

O: The point I'm making is that you can't make any milage from a naieve word study of latria and dulia.

For example, the KJV at 2Th 2:7 says "he who now letteth will let". Now in old English, let means "prevent". But in modern English it means "allow". Now if I make an argument assuming the meaning is "prevent", and you argue against it, arguing that the original meaning is "let", that would be a nonsense argument, based on a shift in language semantics.

Similarly, if the church uses the words latria and dulia to make a certain distinction, you can't argue from the vocabulary of 500 years earlier that the distinction is invalid. Your argument will have to be a lot more sophisticated than that. You'll have to show what the two words meaned 500 years earlier, then show what they mean now, and analyse the corresponding semantics. In other words, there is no quick shortcut down this path, you have some major work to do.

R: The reason that such distinctions are made in the 1st place is to justify the behavior of rendering worshipful actions of religious piety to someone other than the One True God.

O: Of course, you are going to assume what you have to prove, namely that for example, use of incense is worshipful. How you come to these conclusions based on your sola scriptura theory, I can't imagine.

R: As a monotheist, it stands to reason that one would need to come up with a reason why such is not prohibited, especially since Exodus 20:5 makes it clear that we are to bow down to no one other than God, and yet here they are bowing down to someone other than God.

O: Of course, the bible is full of instances where people bowed down to people other than God, and 1 Chronicles 29:20 has been cited as an example.

R: Ex 20:5 - you shall not worship (bow down to) them

O: And yet the Israelites bowed down to the Cherubim covered Ark of the Covenant.

R: Yet the LXX translates `abad as latreuo and douleo (out of which come latria and dulia in Latin) both. So here we are forbidden to "`abad" anyone other than God.

O: And yet Chronicles uses the even stronger term, translated as worship in Exodus 20:5 as what the people did to the king in 1 Ch 29:20. So this naieve proof texting is unsuccessful.

R: In the Heb mindset, you can't worship him whom you don't serve.

O: There are so many fallacies here it is hard to know where to start.

1) You are engaging in the "he who now letteth will let" fallacy, assuming that what the Hebrews are talking about can be mapped 1:1 with what Orthodox millenia later refer to with the terms latria and dulia.

2) You are ignoring the general principle that the semantic range of words in different languages never exactly corresponds. So you assume that abad is entirely equivilent to dulia.

3) You are ignoring the semantic range of even the Hebrew words involved. Just one of many examples, David says to God 2Sam. 22:44 “You have also delivered me from the contentions of my people; You have kept me as head of the nations; A people whom I have not known serve (abad) me."

4) You are assuming that in the Hebrew vocabulary set, it is actually wrong to "worship" someone other than God. This is refuted by 1 Ch 29:20.

5) You take a small selection of verses referring to abad of other Gods, and then leap to the conclusion you can't separate worshipping from service. The methodology is flawed to begin with, because it ignores all the counter examples.

R: The NT likewise shows no hint of the distinction.

O: Of course, you assume in advance that the distinction must be found using the same vocabulary as an entirely different time period. Rather than looking for latria and dulia, we could look at other terms like timh (honour).

But even if we do accept the original words, we find you are wrong anyway. Phil. 2:22 But you know of his proven worth, that he served (dulia) with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father. Gal. 5:13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve (dulia) one another. (There's a proof text if you want one for dulia other Christians).

R: Exodus 20:15 - you shall not steal.

In Hebrew, the word is "ganab".
In the LXX, ganab is translated "foneuseis" and these words have a similar usage to "klepto" in Grk, which is often used by the NT to express the same idea.

O: Of course, you assume they mean the same idea. In this case you may be right, but in the case of these other words, it has been proven that it is nowhere near clear cut.

R: As I've said before, when you ask a dead person to pray for you, you light candles, kneel and prostrate yourself before an icon, kiss the icon, burn incense, and pray at the icon. These are worshipful actions.

O: Assuming that which you need to prove - that they must be worshipful actions. It's already been shown that the Israelites prostrated themselves to David. Not only that, but in the same context as worshipping God.

R: Is man left up to the task of determining what is right worship before God, or does God determine that for us?

O: Ortho-doxy: Right Worship. There is your answer.

R: It has been argued from 1 Chronicles 29:20 that one can "shachah" King David as well.
The context of the passage is a worshipful action to the LORD Himself. The very next verse says:

O: Well isn't that exactly the problem for your thesis? In this "worshipful" context, they prostrate themselves to David.

R: The LORD is set apart as divine. Bowing down to the king is normal practice for rulers of those times, who were ALIVE. It's just showing honor to him, much like 1 Peter 2:17 tells us to do.

O: Well venerating the saints is "just the practice of the times" for Orthodox, I suppose. So big deal, right? We're just showing them honor, right?

R: Is there so little separation between the divine and the human?

O: John 10:35 “If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came...

R: Of course they knew the difference. But why didn't they just go ahead and sacrifice bulls and calves to the king as well? Why didn't they build an altar to the king as well and sprinkle it with the blood of sacrifices, and offer burnt offerings to him as well? I mean, they would've known the difference, right?

O: Reductium ad absurdum. Just because it is acceptable to prostrate yourself to someone other than God, it doesn't follow that all things are interchangable. The former is found in scripture. The latter would be heterodox.

R: Orthodox said:
Gen. 25:23 "And the older shall serve(dulia) the younger.”

Is the context the worship of God vs idolatry in Genesis 25?

O: No, and the context of Orthodox veneration is not idolatry either. You see, you assume a-priori which is which, just not the same way we do.

R: Orthodox: How is it relevant that the king is alive?

B/c it is customary to honor the king like that.

O: So "custom" is all the justification we need. Well we've got that in spades.

R: The Bible leaves no room to doing the same to DEAD PEOPLE.

O: So according to you, if scripture simply didn't happen to record the incident about bowing down to the king, then "the bible would leave no room"? That's rather arbitrary. I guess if it doesn't record bowing down to the Tsar, then that is no good either?

R: The only way dead people can be "contacted", it is thought, it spiritually

O: It would be right to venerate the saints even if they couldn't be contacted. Protestants do it all the time, they just aren't as demonstrative.

> Yet spiritually is where God wants our devotion and has delineated the limits for
>spiritual activity. Why not just follow those limits?

O: We do. It's called Orthodoxy.

R: This is a brilliant set of equivocations from our EO-dox friends.
The issue is clear and you're playing word games with the word "pray".

O: You can't just claim what is clear, and then assume what you have to prove.

R: The question is: Do you do ALL OF the things to another human who is LIVING that you do to DEAD humans? I know you don't, please don't insult my intelligence. Why don't you do all of these things to LIVING members of your church?

O: I can't think of anything significant we do with respect to the church militant compared to the church triumphant. Sorry if this insults your intelligence.

R: Orthodox: I ascribe non-human abilities to my dog. It doesn't mean I worship my dog.

More equivocation. As if ascribing less than human abilities is the same as ascribing MORE than human abilities.

O: My dog has more than human abilities. He can hear higher noises. He can survive in the cold with no clothes. He can eat things that would make a human puke with no ill effects.

R: Orthodox: I turn on lights all the time. Doesn't mean I'm worshipping something.

More equivocation.
I think the savvy reader can see what's happening here.

O: You mean, the predudiced reader with their own traditions and their own equivocations will see things diffferently.

R: Is flipping a light switch in your home comparable to going to church, bowing before an icon of a dead person, lighting a candle, and praying inaudibly to them, expecting them to hear?

O: No, but things merely being different doesn't prove anything. Waving your arms about, preaching to the converted and saying how terrible this is, does not constitute an argument.

R: Orthodox: The priest burns incense for the living all the time.

That's not what I said, though. I said "burning incense TO them", not "for" them.

O: I don't see the distinction. Perhaps you can show me the scriptural distinctions concerning incense burning since you have apparently decided distinctions exist.

R: I'll leave it to the reader to decide how relevant that is.
Did no one rise from the dead in the OT?

O: So Alan has to minimise the significance of the events of the cross to make his point.

R: And I'm not talking about icons of CHRIST here, I'm talking about icons of DEAD PEOPLE.

O: Should we assume you have given up criticising veneration of icons of Christ at least? That would be progress.

Rhology said...

I see virtually nothing in Orthodox's comment here that's worth responding to.
I'm more than happy to let the reader judge.