Friday, January 04, 2008

Icons continued

Well, since David Bryan linked to a recent post on icons not long ago in his return to the blogosphere, I'll go ahead and get back on the topic since I have some time and a little motivation, borrowed from God-knows-where.

Orthodox said:
How does our differentiating the two (latria and dulia) excuse you for lexical fallacies?

B/c the transparent teaching of the OT is NOT to fall down before images. You do so. Your excuse partly consists of pleading a difference between latria and dulia. The lexical differentiation is disproved by the OT itself. It's idolatry.

We differentiate the two because we believe they should be differentiated

But you're *supposed* to hold to beliefs that are in harmony with Scriptural teaching. Since the OT does NOT differentiate, what is your explanation for the differentiation?

MAYBE you would have an argument if you related it to the PRACTICE, not to the words.

Your problem is that your practice is undistinguishable from the pagan idolatry condemned in the OT. The words are YOUR refuge, not mine.

I'm not aware that we can force the saints in heaven to stand on a pedestal.

The icons are on pedestals and hung on walls.

it's quite common for the priest or bishop to pray from a small pedestal.

Do you pray TO the priest? Inaudibly? At the expense of time you could be spending praying to God?

I fail to see how the communication method is indicative of worship or not worship.

1) Ascribing non-human inabilities to these dead people (ie, hearing you when you pray silently)
2) Falling down before them
3) Lighting candles to them
4) burning incense to them
5) addressing THEM in prayer
God reserves the right to define how He will be worshiped. He has condemned such things, so why not stick with what is not condemned? I'm not even arguing for the Regulative Principle of Worship or anythg, just don't commit idolatry!


I'm communicating to you inaudibly right now, it doesn't mean I worship you.

You're typing and I can read.
This kind of equivocation does not inspire confidence that your argument is very strong.


They represent my prayers to God.

Brilliant, except you're not praying TO GOD. That's the problem.


Lots of ancient cultures communicated by light messages. Light a fire on a mountain top and send morse code.

Equivocation again.

Well, incense is burnt to the living during the church service while we pray. That counts, right?

That's its own question.
You're trying to communicate with dead people.

what exactly are the situations you would "ordinarily pray to God", but would NOT ask other Christians to pray for you

"Oh God, I repent of my sin."
"Oh God, please provide for me and my family."
I pray everything ***TO*** God. What I pray to God I don't ask from humans. I might tell them what I'm praying some or many times. It's not the same.
I'm not talking about asking people to pray for you. You're praying TO these dead people.
Equivocation again.


I guess because in OT times they were not yet able to intercede for us.

1) Your appeal to "tradition" doesn't do a lot for me.
2) Especially since the OT stands against it.
3) From your perspective, what changed after Christ's coming, that people began to be able to intercede for others though dead?

Do you follow all the OT laws?

How is that relevant?
I don't bow down to images or serve them, that's for sure.



David Bryan,

Good to see you back in the blog o' sphere, my friend.
It'll make me have to be more on my toes though. :-\

David Bryan said:
Because the distinction is made within the heart of the Christian.

Can I kill an innocent man w/ premeditation b/c my heart was pure?
Can I worship the Buddha even though my intentions are good?

No Orthodox I've ever met thinks we're worshiping the wood and paint, period

Then why act like you are?
Could an OT Israelite have used this same defense?

(skipping down a bit for a moment...)
He was not worshiping him; he was consulting him for information.

Hey, this is MY thought experiment! :-D He is INDEED worshiping the image. So, what do you say?

I've never asked the Theotokos for information about the future, other people's plans, prophetic insight, etc. I just ask her, as a member of the Body of Christ, to pray for me to God.

This is the exact defense that the OT Israelite gives in the thought experiment - he was dulia-ing his ancestor, not latria-ing him.
Is it your position that he would be exonerated? Should he be?

Same idea as why it's OK to honor the king as king with a bow

Said king is typically alive when you bow to him, isn't he?

1 Chronicles 29:20

But the king is ALIVE here, and nobody disputes the usage of the idiomatic "worship" for certain humans in authority.
But the image of a dead person, is that not the central question? There's not one in this psg.


Are you aware of any teaching in either the Roman or Eastern Church that states that a saint has...ontologically bridged the gap between the two, formerly-estranged natures?

I don't want to turn this into a debate on theosis, but no I'm not aware of any.
Nor do I honestly think that's very relevant, or more pointedly I'd say that it strengthens my argument either way.
I doubt you'd deny that you are praying TO this person, and then expecting this person to intercede for you with God. QED, and since these people are not God, it's even a more offensive notion.
'Course, if you thought they WERE God, you'd have another problem that starts with the letters L, D, and S...


Mediators in sense of some other hypostatic union? No.

You're just defining it away, but since God is the One Who defines how He shall be worshiped, I don't see why that should stand.
I'm not claiming you think these are God-men. You insist, however, in rendering to dead people what is due to God only - worshipful actions.

They are alive in God (Luke 20:37-38),

With respect, this is equivocation. You think God didn't know when He breathed out Deut 18 that dead people were alive in God? He still said it.

and we don't "call them up" expecting answers, which was the issue in the Old Testament.

You don't expect them to do anythg for you?
You don't expect the prayers to reach God, Who will then act out of love and generosity to answer?

Why should death, then, be a reason why one part of the Body cannot pray for another?

It's a separation put in place by God Himself.
God:
1) made physical death a separation between living and dead people.
2) made it so that a corpse doesn't talk to a living person.
3) made it so that corpses appear to be asleep. And start rotting after a few days, much more quickly than the rot when I don't shower for a month.
4) proscribed communication with the dead.

They may be alive to God, but physical death DOES change a lot, you know. Once my wife dies, I am forbidden to have sexual intercourse with her corpse, right (not that I'd want to)? Once she dies, we're not even married, right?
If I pray to a living saint RIGHT NOW, by hanging an image of them in the church, lighting candles to the image, burning incense to the image, prostrating myself before the image, and asking the living saint thru the image to intercede with the Father for me inaudibly, is that OK? Why or why not?


In what way can Christ be said to have trampled down death by His death if this is the case?

B/c death is the last enemy and WILL BE conquered fully and finally at the Last Day.
Then all will be made fully alive with no difference, with imperishable bodies, and there will not be the appearance of separation in the Body of Christ. That hasn't happened yet and God has said that such activities are not licit forms of worshiping Him.

did you ask the person if he was doing these things as to a god or to a man?

In the middle of the EO Divine Liturgy? No, that wouldn't have been appropriate or respectful.

how would it be "bad" if God granted them this

This is like asking "Well, couldn't God have used evolution if He wanted to?"
Of course He "could" have, but I'm more interested in what He *has* said.

how is that "stealing God's thunder," since the "ability" comes from God?

B/c God is more interested than anything else in His own glory. Praying to others in a worshipful context apparently diminishes this. I can see why He thinks so.

I usually ask folks to pray for me while in church

This is equivocation.
I stated the conditions, describing (hopefully) nothing more nor less than what you do, and you're dicing it up and saying "Heck yeah, I do that." Do you do ALL THAT to the living? If not, why not?

Those departed this life are aware of what goes on down here

What is your evidence for that?

In Christ's tale of Lazarus, Abraham knew of Moses, who came after him, and the rich man knew his brothers remained lost on earth.

That proves that the rich man had memories of how it WAS, that he HAD brothers. Not that he knew events on earth that had occurred after he died.
Besides, this guy was in TORMENT, not in heaven, so that's very different than what you're trying to prove.

the martyrs under the altar are aware that their blood has not yet been avenged.

B/c the end had not come yet. That's not rocket science to them. ;-)

rejoice that the Holy Spirit would reveal to their holy hearts that I had unspoken burdens that are harming my soul and that they would, in response, pray for me

Fine if the *Holy Spirit* does that - He has not revealed in Scripture whether He does or doesn't. But you are forbidden from calling up the dead.

rejoice that God has seen fit, in his mercy, to assign me intercessors who, in addition to my own prayers to God, will lift theirs up to Him with me

No one's arguing that they are definitely not interceding for us. I'm saying that committing worshipful actions to them and communicating with the dead is proscribed. It's a fairly focused point; I was trying to be careful in this post.

Thanks for the time. Happy New Year!

5 comments:

orthodox said...

R: B/c the transparent teaching of the OT is NOT to fall down before images. You do so. Your excuse partly consists of pleading a difference between latria and dulia. The lexical differentiation is disproved by the OT itself. It's idolatry.

O: Lexically, later Greek culture can make whatever differentiations it wishes, because no book, bible included, controls the evolution of language. If the Greeks want to call veneration supercalafragelisticexpialadocious, it can do so, and what the OT says lexically is irrelevant.

Don't make lexical judgments about say 5th century Greek based on the lexical situation of say 3rd century BC Greek. That's what's called a fallacy.

However, having said that, clearly the LXX does use latria in a non-worshipful sense. I shouldn't even need to prove something so obvious, but as an example:

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

R: But you're *supposed* to hold to beliefs that are in harmony with Scriptural teaching. Since the OT does NOT differentiate, what is your explanation for the differentiation?

O: Having shown that the lexical meaning of two words in later Greek culture is irrelevant to the lexical meaning in the LXX, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt here and assume you are referring to the concepts of latria and dulia rather than the words themselves.

Well, what is dulia? To an Orthodox mind, I think it is really just admiring thoughts about saints - something that protestants do as well.

But clearly your problem is the Orthodox demonstativeness of the physical actions.

But in the OT, plenty of people bow down to kings without being accused of idolatry. How is it relevant that the king is alive? Either something is worship or it isn't, at least that is the line you are pushing. So if it's worship, then nobody but God should get it.

1Chr. 29:20 And David said to all the assembly, Now bless Jehovah your God. And all the assembly blessed Jehovah, the God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshipped Jehovah, and the king.

With one and the same physical action, namely bowing down, they both worshipped God and the king. I'm sure they weren't worshipping the king as God almighty, nor were they confusing God with just another human king. 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.

R: Your problem is that your practice is undistinguishable from the pagan idolatry condemned in the OT. The words are YOUR refuge, not mine.

O: See above. What you can distinguish outwardly is not the issue.

R: Do you pray TO the priest? Inaudibly? At the expense of time you could be spending praying to God?

O: Do you ask Christians to pray for you, wasting time that could have been spent praying to God directly?

R: 1) Ascribing non-human inabilities to these dead people (ie, hearing you when you pray silently)

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

> 2) Falling down before them

See above.

Also, they fell down to the ark of the covenant which was an icon covered box.

> 3) Lighting candles to them

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

> 4) burning incense to them

The priest burns incense for the living all the time.

>5) addressing THEM in prayer
God reserves the right to define how He will be
>worshiped. He has condemned such things, so
>why not stick with what is not condemned?

He hasn't condemned such things.

R: O: what exactly are the situations you would "ordinarily pray to God", but would NOT ask other Christians to pray for you

R: "Oh God, I repent of my sin."

I don't think I've ever heard an Orthodox prayer to a saint saying anything like that.

>"Oh God, please provide for me and my family."

What about "Brother Fred, please pray that God provides for my family"?

>I'm not talking about asking people to pray for
>you. You're praying TO these dead people.

You're getting a bit caught up in the terminology of "pray". Of course the word "pray" is simply the English word for a request.

So, pray tell, what is the difference between asking people to pray for you, and praying people to pray for you? Lexically the sentences are equivilent English. The word comes from the Latin, meaning entreat.

"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.

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

O: 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".

David Bryan said...

Whoo, this is gonna be a long one...

Can I kill an innocent man w/ premeditation b/c my heart was pure?
Can I worship the Buddha even though my intentions are good?


No, because there's no way to kill an innocent man honorably. There's no way to worship a false god righteously. There is, however, a way to bow down to mere humans and honor them in righteousness, as attested to by Scripture, without it being a sin. In your examples, intention plays no part because the action itself is always sinful. In mine, intention is everything because of the variable possibilities of the meaning of the action.

Then why act like you are [worshipping the icon]?

Actually, we're simply honoring a man worthy of honor--something St. Paul tells us to do--in a way that was perfectly acceptable and normal for someone in St. Paul's day. We just happen to be using a tool (and that's all it is) to help us to do this bodily.

Could an OT Israelite have used this same defense?

No, because the mercy seat in the Temple was empty. Just an ark (though it was holy), two images of cherubim, and a seat. God was invisible, unknowable, so any image seeking to convey that reality in matter would be insufficient. Now, though, the cosmos have been filled and glorified with the resurrected Christ's glory. Mercy seat is full now, too. Looks like this now. Since the One in the seat can be depicted, so can those who are one with Him.

DB: He was not worshiping him; he was consulting him for information.

Rh: Hey, this is MY thought experiment! :-D He is INDEED worshiping the image. So, what do you say?


I say you need to re-read your original scenario:

"Scenario: an Israelite has been calling up a dead believing ancestor and has been caught and brought before Moses for judgment. His defense: I was dulia-ing my ancestor, not latria-ing him. Is it your position that he would be exonerated? Should he be?

What he is doing, again, is not worship, but it is calling up a departed spirit from the realm of Sheol. Divination, as King Saul shows us, is the act of invoking the spirit of someone in Sheol and inquiring of it prophetic insight. Now, this is not what we do when we honor beloved members of Christ's body, so please dispense with beating this strawman.

Now, let's say he was adoring this image of Moses, for example. 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. And, as you state, the practice of honoring departed righteous ones in the faith had not yet been revealed to the people of God. As Orthodox commented, though, now we've come near to those spirits. Fulfillment in Christ does wondrous things.

But the image of a dead person, is that not the central question? There's not one in this psg.

Nor is there one in my icon corner.

You're just defining it away…

Well, so you're not going to answer the issue. All right. 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…

You insist, however, in rendering to dead people what is due to God only - worshipful actions.

Take it up with OT Israel, who gave "worshipful actions" to King David. Intentions, sir, are everything. As Orthodox has said, "What you can distinguish outwardly is not the issue."

You don't expect them to do anythg for you?

Sure! They'll pray for us. 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 don't expect the prayers to reach God, Who will then act out of love and generosity to answer?

You know, I've never understood why people think if we ask other people to pray for us, then we must not (1) pray to God ourselves as well, or (2) think that, when we do pray to Him, he hears us. It's both/and, not either/or.

God:
1) made physical death a separation between living and dead people.


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.

2) made it so that a corpse doesn't talk to a living person.

Right, though the resurrection did have them walking around right after, as Orthodox noted. We don't expect corpses to talk, though. So that's odd you'd mention it.

3) made it so that corpses appear to be asleep. And start rotting after a few days, much more quickly than the rot when I don't shower for a month.

Not sure if you've heard of the incorrupt bodies of many of our saints. They die, are buried, then brought up sometimes centuries later with their bodies in excellent condition and smelling of myrrh or something else nice. Again, Christ HAS trampled down death, and that reality is seen even now in these holy ones' bodies.

4) proscribed communication with the dead.

Which is why we simply petition them.

If I pray to a living saint RIGHT NOW…is that OK? Why or why not?

No, but maybe not because of what you're thinking…there is no such thing as a "living saint," because he's still alive and capable of apostasy. So that's a moot point.

B/c death is the last enemy and WILL BE conquered fully and finally at the Last Day…That hasn't happened yet…

Pauline eschatology and early (1st/2nd Cent) patristic consensus would disagree with you. Not about "The Last Day hasn't come," but that we can't participate in the divine life of the Trinity NOW, in this life.

B/c God is more interested than anything else in His own glory. Praying to others in a worshipful context apparently diminishes this. I can see why He thinks so.

I stated the conditions, describing (hopefully) nothing more nor less than what you do, and you're dicing it up and saying "Heck yeah, I do that." Do you do ALL THAT to the living?

I said I did. I do it the way I said I do it.

That proves that the rich man had memories of how it WAS, that he HAD brothers. Not that he knew events on earth that had occurred after he died.

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?

No one's arguing that they are definitely not interceding for us. I'm saying that committing worshipful actions to them and communicating with the dead is proscribed.

Worshipful actions, in and of themselves, are not inappropriate when directed towards humans if done with a certain intention. That much is clear. We are members of Christ's body, seated in the heavenlies with Him now, come to the heavenly Jerusalem now, which brings us into the presence of the righteous made perfect now--you know, 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'?" If we're buried with Christ in baptism and dead to sin and this world, then it's we who have been brought to them, not them to us! We have been changed and united with Him in a death like His and, though we wait for the resurrection like His within time, we also rejoice in the eschatological reality that, right now, we have died and our life is hidden with Christ in God. In one sense, we're already with the departed in the heavenlies; in another sense, we're waiting to become fully what we already are in Christ.

David Bryan said...

(Sorry: I missed the "B/c God is more interested than anything else in His own glory" paragraph in there...I think my points were made well enough without addressing that, though...)

orthodox said...

"If I pray to a living saint RIGHT NOW…is that OK? Why or why not?"

I think Alan WAS praying to a living saint, as he wrote this. We are living saints, and he prayed to us.

Through experience, Alan has learnt he can pray (aka entreat) people over the internet. Orthodox through experience have learnt how we can entreat the passed-on saints too. The bible doesn't say Alan can talk over the internet, but experience tells him it is so.

David Bryan said...

"We are living saints, and he prayed to us."

I get what you're saying here, but let's be clear for the sake of those reading this who are not Orthodox Christians: we are, more properly said, "called to be saints," though we have been set apart (as holy ones) for this purpose by virtue of our baptisms/chrismations. It's now about "becoming what we are," or walking worthy of the calling of one united to Christ.

We're all called out, but we're not fully realized yet.