Thursday, August 23, 2007


I have had to wrangle it out with some folks who view Orthodox iconography as idol worship. It seemed like none of the typical apologetics worked with my crowd, so I tried a different approach. Whether it has had any affect or not remains to be seen, but here is what I have been saying:

"Isn't it true that advertisers and those who study the effects of repeated exposure to various images, whether through billboards, magazines or other media, conclude that there is a direct correlation to what people see and how it affects their behavior? There are a myriad of articles which reveal that those who are constantly exposed to violent images tend to show signs of aggresive behavior. So, if negative images affect you negatively, wouldn't positive images affect you positively? Since the icons are holy images reflecting the life of Christ and the fruit of the Spirit in those who follow Him, constant and reverent exposure to these images should likewise produce holiness and spirituality in their viewers."

Of course, the issue of kissing an icon also is bothersome and where the line between the "proper use" of images and idolatry intersect. It is as if kissing something suddenly makes it an idol. As my priest says, "If kissing something makes it an idol, then we shouldn't kiss our children or our spouses either."

I may talk more on this later as this is a subject on which much can be said.


Grace said...

Ugh. Good for you for coming up with something. This is just a real visceral turn-off for some people, and they don't always feel like being reasonable.

The arguments John of Damascus gave for icons are some of the best, definitely.

For those who are theology-impaired, I've made the most headway by asking if they have a photograph of their mother, children or other loved ones that they especially like. If they do (and most everyone does), I ask:
* isn't it true that you like this photo because it captures something of what you love about the person?
* How would you feel if someone smashed the photo to pieces? It's not so primitive as an idea that they've shattered the person's soul or anything, but the fact is there was something about that image that made you call the person to remembrance.
* if the loved one had passed on and you could no longer talk to them, would it really be that insane to talk to the photo, or kiss it when you entered a room or left it?

Doesn't always work of course. Some people are just icon-challenged. What can you do?

Nicodemus said...

Yeah, I had tried that line of using the picture of a loved one - seems to fall on deaf ears. But, I certainly think everbody understands the impact of negative images, especially those with impressionable, young children. So, I am hoping they get the point that positive images also have an affect. I guess they could say idols are positive images to their worshippers, but my response would be that it isn't a positive image if it is an idol.

Grace said...

Again, good for you for keeping the dialogue going, in any case. Maybe you've given them something to think about.

I know there are folks out there who reject icon veneration out of a sense of Old Testament purity, but I've never quite understood it. Yes, it does say not to worship idols in the Ten Commandments, but it also says to remember the Sabbath to keep it holy. So what are these guys doing on their Saturdays -- spending the day in prayer? We're in the age of the New Testament. Once God had come in the flesh, there WAS something that was truly and completely God, and its His incarnation we commemorate in all icons.

But again, by this time I'm sure they're gone. Too bad.