Monday, November 5, 2007

Orthodox - Answers to List Two

You may find it interesting that many reformed churches are going over to images and using them in various ways

Going over? You make it sound like a new thing, but there are tons of old Anglican, Presbyterian and Lutheran churches with stained glass icons.

would you have God lessen the commandments simply because people break them?

The same book of Exodus that says to have no graven image also says to put images of the Cherubim in the temple. The same man who wrote the book carried around a staff with a snake's head. It's all about interpretation. In any case, when you start keeping the Saturday Sabbath as the law commands, get back to me.

Do you believe that Holy Scripture contains all the doctrines we must believe to be saved or do you believe we must know and believe other doctrines outside of and distinct from the bible to be saved?

Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. And he didn't even have Holy Scripture.

I don't think that means we ought not follow Holy Scripture.

You just admitted that the church practiced beleiver's baptism up to the second century.

No I didn't. The point was that even protestants such as Francis would admit that many of these things were in place in the 2nd century.

Of course from my point of view, having two sola scripturalists fighting it out over infant baptism, is a help to my argument that it is "unworkable". Thanks for the help.

On this post, I'd like to know if Orthodox knows whether the 7th Council interacted with Scriptural psgs that would seem to proscribe the veneration of and prayer to images.

Of course, we don't pray to images, we pray to Christ represented in the image. If you use one of those video phones, do you talk to the phone, or do you talk to the person shown? It should be noted again that the iconoclasts were not against prayer to saints, veneration of saints, or veneration of holy items. That was not a matter that anyone disputed.

The most famous discussion of the issues contemporary with the 7th council, is of course the apology of St John of Damascus. This is, as one would imagine, full of discussion of the Holy Scripture as it applies to the topic of icons.

This debate came out of a comment of John Chrysostom. Nobody in antiquity was a bigger proponent of reading the scriptures than he. Nobody knew the scriptures better than he. And yet he was an iconodule.

Saint and Sinner quotes some apparently iconoclastic people from the early church

The first epistemological principle is that the Church preserves the true faith. A couple of quotes can't sway one from this.

Even a protestant must hold this principle. Think of the alternative, if the faith isn't preserved. Maybe scripture isn't preserved, either in its text or in its canon.

What if we take (a) skepticism in the Church preserving the true faith, and combine it with (b) an early church quotation and (c) some silence in the historical record and perhaps (d) some conspiracy theories? What do we get?

You get exactly what Basil was talking about shaking down the foundation of the faith of Christ by levelling apostolic tradition with the ground.

No rule of faith can stand this radical skepticism, whether it be the canonicity of 2 Peter, 1 John, Revelation or the Pauline epistles, or the originality of the trinitarian formula, or anything else. If lack of clear evidence in the earliest strata is a problem, what of 2 Peter which doesn't appear in the extent evidence until AD 200 ? On the other hand, we have hard archiological evidence of icons in Christian churches and baptistries from AD 240. Are we going to quibble over 40 years? And there are frescos in the catacombs from the mid 2nd century too.

As to these specific quotes, Minucius Felix actually lays out the Orthodox doctrine of icons nicely. The doctrine about icons isn't purely about painted pieces of wood, it is much wider. Everything can be an icon. All sorts of things in every day life are considered to be physical reminders or representations of spiritual realities. A priest for example is an icon of Christ (which is one reason he wears a beard, as Christ did). Christ was an icon of God (Heb 1:3, 2Cor 4:4, Col 1:15). Man is an icon of God (Ge 1:26, 1Cor 11:7). Christians are icons of Christ (1 Cor 15:49, Ro 8:29).

So Felix says: "Your victorious trophies not only imitate the appearance of a simple cross, but also that of a man affixed to it. We assuredly see the sign of a cross, naturally, in the ship when it is carried along with swelling sails, when it glides forward with expanded oars; and when the military yoke is lifted up, it is the sign of a cross; and when a man adores God with a pure mind, with hands outstretched."

So when Felix sees a cross, or when he sees a man with arms outstretched, what he really sees is a crucifix. Even if Felix doesn't have more sophisticated painted icons, he is looking at the world in an orthodox fashion. He sees the image of spiritual realities sanctified in ordinary symbols and images. Whether he has actually solidified the image into wood and paint, hardly makes any theological difference.

Now if, per chance, Christians of that era didn't have images as we now know them, what of it? What if Christians in that particular place and time didn't have painted temples and altars and painted images either because of persecution, or some other reason. What of it. The Orthodox world view is still evident in Felix's thinking. He is venerating the crucifix he sees in everyday things, the Christ with his arms outstretched.

Still, I don't see the need to assume Felix's experience is standard for all Christians. That they lacked temples then due to the circumstances of persecution doesn't stop even baptists from having temples. And again, as we saw in the debate, Presbyterians have icons, and they have a lot of them. Where is the controversy? Does Francis wish to excommunicate his fellow Westminster Confession following Presbyterians?

Concerning Epiphanius, the church has long felt this work to be spurious, at least since the time of the 7th council. (See John of Damascus' apology) How reasonable this is, I don't know. Long have debates raged about the authenticity of documents, both the canonical books, and others, both in antiquity and today. While nobody is completely off the hook from making their own assessment of such things, I personally want to give the church the benefit of the doubt when the authenticity has been questioned.

Concerning Origen, who comments on Christians AND Jews "avoiding images" and "not praying to them". Origen lived in Alexandria till the mid third century, 254 AD. On the other hand, as was mentioned in the debate, we have Christian icons in Alexandrian catacombs from the mid third century depicting Mary with Christ child. And Dura-Europos, also from the mid third century, not too far from Origen, contained many images in both Jewish and Christian temples.

So the question is whether Origen draws the distinction that modern Orthodox do, between pagans, having images as deities, and praying TO blocks of wood, compared to the Jewish and Christians who also have images, but images of things real, the saviour, the saints. Well it seems reasonable to me that we should not try and make the fathers and archeology contradict each other. Obviously the Jews did NOT avoid images, as we see in both Exodus itself which commands images, or the factual evidence of Jewish synagogues from the period Origen was alive. As we know, Origen knew Hebrew better than anyone of the period. So do we assume Origen was completely ignorant of the Jews, or do we assume he distinguishes between the false deities in the images as used by pagans and images as used by Christians?

I know which way I want to go. And again, if real Christians "avoid images", as claimed, when is Francis going to disown Presbyterianism?

You seem to only be reading commentaries written by liberals or other historical-critical scholars. Perhaps you should read conservative works as well to see how we address those problems.

So a liberal or historical-critical scholar is basically someone who disagrees with you? So which of those was Jerome when he said that 2 John was not written by the apostle? Which of those was the Syrian church that didn't accept these books? Which of these was the Ethiopian church that had 1 Clement as scripture? Which of those was Athanasius who didn't have Esther as scripture?

If one of these references can demonstrate that a book is God-breathed scripture, get back to me. In the mean time, I define liberals and historical-critical scholars are those who doubt the orthodox christian faith.

Tradition is self correcting and thus fallible, if it is fallible it is not inspired.

This was already addressed in a follow up to Francis. It is self-correcting in the sense that it can correct ambiguities.

Fascinating stuff. I would like to hear a more thorough examination of the the three Johns. One of my New Testament professors swears by 1 Clement's canonical status.

Benjamin, you are a presbyterian, and your professor says that 1 Clement is canonical scripture?

All I can say is thanks for the help showing that sola scriptura doesn't work.

Can you tell us the doctrinal content of "traditions" in the context of Paul's Epistle? Thanks.

Traditions for Paul is everything taught by Jesus and the apostles whether in writing or by word of mouth. If you want to know what the full content of the apostolic tradition is, come and see Orthodoxy.

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