To Venerate or not to Venerate (Icons)

Well, JMW over at All Souls' Anglican blog has been quoting some old church historian (John Mendham?) on why the veneration of icons is in fact (ready?) idol worship. I mean, it's one thing to say it's just not a good idea for some people, or that it's not your bag, but JMW is pretty clear about it: that little statue of Saint Jospeh on your aunt's front lawn makes her an idolater. You are welcome to get into the fray and defend the icons, or hey, if you don't like icons, then defend Mendham and JMW.

The newest entry is here:
Mendham on Images, 2

The first entry is here: Image Worship


Don said…
It's interesting to note that some of the original proponents of Iconoclasm were inspired by their contact with Islam, whose prohibition on graven images is well known.

It's also interesting that one of the most famous defenders of the veneration of icons was the last "Father of the Church," John of Damascus, who also actively debated with Muslims in his day.

Personally, I don't see the practice. I think it's important to focus on our risen Saviour for worship and prayer. I never got into the Catholic counterparts of this in my years in the RCC. But I think that the intent of the heart and the focus of the soul is what's important, and I would be hard pressed to make a blanket accusation of idolatry, even though I'm sure that, for some people, that's what it is.

My discussions with Muslims indicate that the veneration of images and statues is a serious stumbling block for them, which gives Evangelicals an edge in that regard. But the deity of Christ is always the #1 issue, and for that we're in agreement with many of those who think highly of icons.
Rob said…
Since the Great Councils approve icons, I have no problem with them.

That was an easy decision!
FrGregACCA said…
First, here is St. John of Damascus on the Holy Images:

Apologia Against Those Who Decry Holy Images"

As it happens, it is no conincidence that Muslims would simultaneously stumble on the questions of the Incarnation and of these Images, since the justification for their use and veneration is grounded in the fact that the invisible God has become visible and otherwise tangible in human form, which is, of course, itself created "in the image and likeness of God."
James said…
Abu Daoud:

Just read your exchanges with JMW. I have to ask, why bother arguing with him? The man is obviously hyper-Protestant (Calvinist maybe?) and is not going to be convinced. From a quick reading he appears to be citing some things out of context and trying to get other quotes to mean things that they clearly do not. He also appears to have found the only Latin Iconoclast there was to quote from.

They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand (Isaiah 44:18). Appropriate description and particularly ironic since Isaiah was condemning idolatry. You are correct that JMW does not understand the distinction between adoration/worship and dulia/veneration; and he does not want to learn. His eyes are shut.

James G
Don said…
James: the reason why Abu Daoud dialogues with such people is that he is a great man.

In his line of mission work, the first thing you learn is to dialogue with people who might kill you. After you have passed that threshold, people like JMW are a snap.
Abu Daoud said…
James: normally Christians who will appeal to something beyond their own individual opinion should be engaged in conversation. I mean, if we can appeal to, say, tradition when we are asking questions about how to interpret the Bible, then that is a good starting place.

I thought I could do that with JMW. After all, we are both Anglicans and neither of is a flaky liberal, which I thought would give us a good point of departure.

Eventually it got to the point where I simply did have to say that he was engaged in private interpretation, or what we might call the heresy of Americanism, where you just choose what you like and reject what you don't like.

He has chosen some pretty exotic examples from tradition, I have chosen examples that are much stronger and I thought he would entertain my position. He didn't.

I think ultimately it is clear that, at least hermeneutically, he is a fundamentalist, which is not always bad mind you. But here it is. It all ended when he said that the meaning was clear and did not need to be taken in context. There is not text without a context. Direct contact with the meaning of a text which is not mediated is, at the end of the day, Romanticism. Which might work at the opera or in poetry, but does not work in theology or religion.

Don: you are too kind.

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