Friday, April 02, 2010

With Perry Robinson on icons

Perry Robinson aka Acolyte4236 and I have been discussing a quote from Irenæus related to icons and worship over at his blog.  I reproduce here my latest comment:


one has to wonder what to make of these,

Oh, did the picture cut out the droves of faithful bowing down and offering incense and candles and prayers to these statues? 

Are these idols? If not, why not?

No, b/c nobody is bowing down and offering incense and candles and prayers to these statues. 

simply stating your position isn’t a demonstration that it is correct

You act like early church writers can do that all the time, though, and they have some kind of intrinsic authority.  Why the inconsistency? 
Maybe you should tell Irenaeus this same thing; will you?

Irenaeus doesn’t invoke the 2nd Commandment in the way you would here.

Have I so far invoked the 2nd cmdmt?  No.

noting that your position doesn’t admit these distinctions

I reject the distinctions; that's probably why.

One can bow down to persons and images without adoration.

Sorry, it strains credulity when you tell me that it's OK to do all of the above:
1) Kiss their image. While they're not there.
2) Burn incense and light candles to their image. While they're not there.
3) Set up that image in church. You know, the place where religious activity frequently takes place.  While they're not there.
4) Pray inaudibly to them and expect them to read your thoughts and carry the prayer to God. While they're not there. And you can't say it audibly to their ears since the dead don't hear with their physical ears.

Why divorce the one action (bowing down) when it's never alone in real practice?  Unless you were trying to hide something or commit the fallacy of division?

So the mere fact that the sect of the Gnostics bowed before images isn’t a sufficient condition to label them as iconodules.

This question would seem to come down to semantics and definitions.  For the purposes of this discussion, I've been using "iconodule" as "someone who uses images in worship".

You’d need to show that the Orthodox got their teaching and practice of iconic veneration from paganism.

That principle doesn't seem to stop you when you compare Reformed theology to Nestorianism, or when your friends do so with Gnosticism.  You first.

Its clear from their texts that what they are objecting to is the false claims of apostolicity which were grounded in part in fake images of Jesus

Irenaeus' citation doesn't mention false claims of apostolicity. 
Even if it did, in the context, for example, I don't see how that helps you since I'm concerned about the exact same thing with respect to the EOC and its "apostolic succession". 

Irenaeus doesn’t seem to be objecting to the idea of an image of Jesus

But in your last comment you thought he was mad about its "fake" nature. Which is it?

I don’t see why I need to be absolutely certain (certainty is irrelevant for knowledge anyhow) of the spiritual state of the iconographer.

OK, didn't think so.  So the point: "It seems the text indicates it was of whom the images were made, associated together and that they claimed to have an image of Jesus" is moot. 

So the fact that no one is bowing down before the coin doesn’t imply that the image on the coin wasn’t a form a honoring.

But not *religious* honoring, at least not to Christians.  Unless you think Jesus thought it was fine to participate in pagan Roman emperor worship. 

Are they fakes and counterfeit images of Calvin, Luther, et al?

Remember - YOU were making the argument wrt 'fakes', not me.  This is not an argument I produced, and doesn't apply to my position. 
I don't object to pictures hung on the walls of the church; actually I kinda think it can be helpful, but in the worship hall I'm not so sure, and for sure we worship only God and don't flirt with worshiping mere men. 

Don Bradley,
I think the question is impossible to answer in reality - the blood of Christ is all dried up (at least, the blood that spilled during His passion) and I can't imagine how anyone would be able to identify it or the True Cross.  So b/c of the impossibility of the question, I'd have to say that I'd just stick to what I know is true and bow down to God alone, in Heaven, and give Him all my worship. What's wrong with bowing down to God alone?  It's like EOx think that they give plenty of adoration to God so there's plenty of time on this Earth left over to bow down to lessers, like JWs.  It's so bizarre to me - does not God deserve infinite praise, infinitely more than anyone else?



Viisaus said...

And then there's also the aspect that modern, enlightened EOs don't like to talk about so much, but which WE should still rudely remind them of - the "wonder-working" icons.

This is where the idolatrous nature of "iconodulism" really comes out of closet. Some icons were (are) supposed to have intrinsic miracle-working powers, making them different from mere "ordinary" icons.

Plus the fairytales about "images not made with human hands":

"Acheiropoieta (Byzantine Greek: αχειροποίητα, "not handmade"; singular acheiropoieton) — also called Icons Not Made by Hand (and variants) — are a particular kind of icon which are alleged to have come into existence miraculously, not created by a human painter.


Such icons were seen as powerful arguments against iconoclasm. In a document apparently produced in the circle of the Patriach of Constantinople, which purports to be the record of a (fictitious) Church council of 836, a list of acheiropoieta and icons miraculously protected is given as evidence for divine approval of icons. The acheiropoieta listed are:

1) the Image of Edessa, described as still at Edessa;
2) the image of the Virgin at Lydda in Israel, which was said to have miraculously appeared imprinted on a column of a church built by the apostles Peter and John;
3) another image of the Virgin, three cubits high, at Lydda in Israel, which was said to have miraculously appeared in a (different) church.

The nine other miracles listed deal with the maintenance rather than creation of icons, which resist or repair the attacks of assorted pagans, Arabs, Persians, scoffers, madmen, iconoclasts and Jews."

It's frankly sheer fetishistic folk-religion in a Christian garb, but people like John of Damascus or Perry Robinson then have to "ad hoc" invent sophisticated theological excuses for them.

Rhology said...

And my otherwise normally level-headed friend David Bryan has argued for the truth of a weeping virgin, one who weeps oil or perfume or sthg.

And of course we get weirdo Lucian/Lvka around here who argues for the truth of the Holy Fire 'phenomenon' at the Church of the Childish Fighting, ahem, I mean of the Holy Sepulchre...

Viisaus said...

In pre-modern EO countries, this stuff was serious business - why are today's EOs so reluctant to talk such glorious affairs? Can American EO churches boast of any famous wonder-working images, I wonder?

"The icon was discovered on July 8, 1579, underground in the city of Kazan by a little girl, Matrona. According to tradition the location of the image was revealed to her by the Theotokos, the Blessed Virgin Mary, in a Marian apparition.


Invocation of the Virgin Mary through the icon was credited by the Russian commanders, Dmitry Pozharsky and Mikhail Kutuzov, with helping the country to repel the Polish invasion of 1612, the Swedish invasion of 1709, and Napoleon's invasion of 1812.

In the night on June 29, 1904 the icon was stolen from the church in Kazan where it had been kept for centuries (illustrated, to the left). Thieves apparently coveted the icon's golden setting, which was ornamented with many jewels of highest value. When several years later Russian police finally apprehended the thieves and recovered the precious setting, they declared that the icon itself had been cut to pieces and burnt. The Orthodox church interpreted the disappearance of the icon as a sign of tragedies that would plague Russia after the image of the Holy Protectress of Russia had been lost."

Rhology said...

Perry has answered and I have replied below.

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

It's interesting to see Viisaus having a problem with wonder-working icons: does he have a problem with 1 Samuel 5:1-5 as well? :-\ And if not, then why not?

Viisaus said...

"Now these biblical cases do not strike me as any more “fantastic” than other cases. If on the other hand you accept these, then there is in principle no difference between us. The difference then is application and scope. Consequently the notion of being “fantastic” is obviously out of place, unless you’re an atheistic naturalist. You either do not think God works miracles after the NT period or in this way or that these later cases aren’t miraculous. But of course, we’d need a demonstration to show that they are in fact false and do not merely strike you as “fantastic.”"

First of all, I did not use the term "fantastic," you put that word to my mouth.

Secondly, it's not the miraculous factor per se that bothers me about these EO yarns, but their blatantly polytheistic nature. One icon that has never been in physical contact with the person it is associated with (thus differing from all those Biblical examples you eisegetically mustered to support your superstition) is supposed to have some inherent powers that other icons about the same person are lacking.

It WAS the materials of Kazan icon that Russians venerated, otherwise its missing would not have been felt as any real loss - after all, another icon of Mary could have easily taken its place.

And finally, I'm tired with this RC/EO insinuation that if we use our reason and refuse to swallow all their tendentious, self-aggrandizing fables, we are somehow being "atheistic".

We are, if anything, safeguarding the reputation of Biblical miracles by refusing to let you guys to CHEAPEN them via INFLATION. Like lying legends about this or that monk performing greater miracles than Jesus Christ Himself.

Many infidels have been born when sensible people have been repulsed by RC/EO pious stories and concluded that all the miracles of Christianity most be as spurious as they are.

Rhology said...


When an icon "works a miracle", how do you know that it's doing sthg godly or demonic? On what basis do you distinguish?

Viisaus said...

Lvka, do you think Apostle Paul was being "rationalistic" when he wrote this:

"But avoid foolish and old wives' fables: and exercise thyself unto godliness."

(1 Timothy 4:7)

Acheiropoieta icons are foolish old wives' fables par excellence.

"Thus we can trace the development of the legend from a letter, but no image in Eusebius, to an image painted by a court painter in Addai; then to a miracle caused by the letter in Procopius, which becomes a miracle caused by a miraculously-created image supernaturally made when Jesus pressed a cloth to his wet face in Evagrius. It was this last and latest stage of the legend that became accepted in Eastern Orthodoxy, the image of Edessa that was "created by God, and not produced by the hands of man"."

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...


the first sentence in your last comment is from Saint Paul. The second sentence is from you. (An atheist also considers everything religious to be old wives' fables -- St. Paul doesn't).

John said...

I'll ad the question I always ask but never get an answer to:

if supposedly Orthodox are trying to draw distinctions that don't exist, how come Protestants have to draw the distinction between religious and non-religious veneration, which is in fact not a biblical distinction. And given that the entire Protestant argument falls apart without this distinction, why should we take seriously allegations against us that we make distinctions that don't exist? In point of fact they only don't exist if we accept the unbiblical Protestant categories to begin with.

Rhology said...


You've never asked me that before.
Unbiblical distinction? God says all thru the OT not to make graven images, not to worship or serve (douleou or latreou, in the LXX) idols, and yet ppl also proskuneo occasionally in front of LIVING PERSONS like monarchs in non-religious contexts, and you call that a nonexistent distinction?
Wow, I'd hate to see what you think an EXISTENT distinction is!

Rhology said...

My latest response to Perry.