Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Iconoclasm

One thing I did again wonder about while reading The First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325-787) was why "middle" ground seemed so absent in the Iconoclastic dispute that resulted in the Seventh Ecumenical council.

On the one hand, there were the iconophiles who thought we should reverence (but not worship) the pictorial images of Jesus, Mary, other saints & etc. On the other hand, the iconoclasts argued that even making the images and having them as art in churches was wrong.

I always wondered where "my" position was in this dispute: that there's nothing wrong with making the pictures, but that we're not authorized to reverence them. (Although, my position "may" be that the line between reverencing and worshipping an image is so fine, that as a pastoral matter we should avoid it.) I don't have the book with me now, but as I recall, the council insisted that it's appropriate to reverence the images; so I'm pretty sure that it condemns my "middle" view as well.

One other note on this: As I understand it, the iconoclasts all insisted to a person that the only authorized image of Jesus Christ that we could reverence is the Eucharist. I had a discussion some months ago about the real presence and reverencing the Supper. I noted that someone had said that you can tell whether a person believes in the real presence by whether they reverence the Supper. My friend argued that that was just like reverencing images, and so was idolatry. I responded that it's not idolatry if Jesus is really present. We're not bowing to the bread and the wine, we're bowing to Jesus who really inhabits the bread and the wine.

I thought it was telling in Davis's book that the original iconoclasts expressly excepted the Supper from their argument -- indeed, the authorized image in the Supper was the point of contrast for the iconoclasts because Christ was truly present in the Supper, while man-made images do not share his real presence. My friend's iconoclasm was so extreme that it would have been condemned by the iconoclasts themselves.

4 Comments:

Blogger Wayne said...

I had something to add, but alex appears to have expressed it better than I ever could. :-)

April 18, 2007 8:59 AM  
Blogger Wayne said...

Oops, it got deleated in the time it took me to write my silly remark.

You raise an interesting question about the absence of the middle position. I'm no art historian, but I wonder if making a distinction between art for decoration or instruction rather than worship is easier to do today than it was then?

April 18, 2007 9:01 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

Your 8:59 comment is pretty funny anyway.

April 18, 2007 9:39 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

Wow, I didn't know that I could make comments disappear entirely.

April 19, 2007 1:53 PM  

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