More on Frankfurt

Thomas Noble’s Images, Iconoclasm, and the Carolingians looks quite good.  A significant portion of it is available on googlebooks, and I’ve looked over as much of it as is available.  His treatment of Frankfurt is very helpful.  He notes that Frankfurt was:

1) A long time coming.  Alcuin and then Theodulf composed lengthy theological writings on the issue of images.  It was seen as authoritative for the churches within the Frankish empire.

2) Not wholly dependent on the faulty translation of Nicaea II.  Though they did use the portion on “adoration,” this was not all there was to their case.  It merely seemed the most outrageous statement among many bad statements, and the translation they were working with was the official one for the West.

3) Inconclusive for the West’s future.  The Pope was pro-icons, but, in the words of Noble, he “agreed to disagree” with the Franks.  He knew that they had very different views, and he knew better than to directly rebuke them.  The Franks, likewise, did not wish to wage war against the papacy at this time.  This compromise did, however, effectively state that Nicaea II was neither “universal” nor “ecumenical” in the Western mind.

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A Few Patristic Sources Against Icons

The early church is a complicated place.  The Reformers all claimed an antique heritage, truly believing that the original Christian doctrine was their own.  Now of course, anyone who reads deeply into the fathers knows that this claim is easier said than done.  Many times the record is mixed, but the Reformers used that very point to show that the controverted doctrine was not truly catholic.

The liturgical use of icons is one of the disputed points which has a mixed foundation in the early church.  Most people are familiar with the 2nd Council of Nicaea, which demanded the veneration of icons, citing it as apostolic.  Not as many people, however, know the opposing patristic voices.  To help counter-balance this, I have given just a few below.

Tertullian explains how the bronze serpent and the decoration on the ark of the covenant do not violate the 2nd commandment. Continue reading

Reformed Images

My friend Eric has a great little post up about Zwingli’s Illustrated Bible here.

The Reformed did not oppose the making of images (pictures, paintings, sculptures), but rather the use of images in worship, along with superstitious ideas that the image was some sort of locus for the divine.  They appealed to the 2nd commandment, the New Testament’s reiteration of this theology (Paul at Athens, as well as other epistolary texts), and the first several centuries of the Christian church.

Why No Images?

In Acts 17, Paul explains why idols, statues, carvings, and paintings are all improper means of contemplating God.  He says in verses 24-29:

God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;  for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’  Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.

Now Paul is saying this on this side of the Incarnation, and so that particular theological argument just cannot stick: if the mere fact of not approving of the use of visual aids in worship is anti-incarnational, then so goes Paul.  But I think there’s a better answer, and I think it is very incarnational.

So, what is Paul’s reasoning against the Greek use of images?  The answer is found in vv 27-29:

…So that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.

We do not find the Divine nature in gold, silver or stone, and I believe it is fair to say, not even in wood.

We find it in other people, the offspring of God.