Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Eastern Orthodoxy, Icons, and Worship

Robert Letham has just come out with a new book on Eastern Orthodoxy. The section on Icons is extremely helpful. I like this quotation:

For the Reformed, everything is iconic. God has imprinted evidence of his own beauty and glory throughout creation. In the words of the Psalmist, 'the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge' (Ps. 19:1-2). And again, 'O LORD, our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth!' (Ps. 8:9). In line with this Paul can say that 'his envisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made' (Rom. 1:20). Every blade of grass, every tree and flower displays the glory of God. Every square inch belongs to Christ, the mediator of creation (Col. 1:15-17, Heb. 1:1-3). If icons are windows to draw us to God, opened books lead us to heaven, so too is the entire order of creation-the beauty of the hills, the colours of the grass, sea and sky, the trees and plants, the changing of the seasons. [Through Western Eyes; Eastern Orthodoxy a Reformed Perspective p.160-161]

What an incredible section! Notice that icons and images are a very important part of worship. Hence, the issue is not over whether we should use icons, the issue is over whether or not icons are part of general or specific revelation. The Bible presents images as part of general revelation. Hence, when we talk about the specific revelation of God, we cannot say it refers to images.

However, notice further implications of this observation. We therefore do, indeed worship God with images every day of our life. However, what kind of images? Images that are evil and wicked, or images that are pure and Godly? That is a difficult question for most men who either love the gore found in many video games, or who love the thrill of pornography. We need to be careful, because our entire life is an act of worship. Therefore, we cannot profane the worship of God by using images that are displeasing to him.

BTW, I would recommend this book by Robert Letham very highly. It is certainly not easy reading. In fact, he goes through and discusses the seven ecumenical councils, giving their historical context, and showing how they relate to Orthodoxy theology. Therefore, it is not something you will be able to read in five minutes. However, many of the topics addressed are very important to the emmergance of Eastern Orthodoxy to the theological scene here in the west.

Eastern objections to Sola Scriptura is a topic I will have to take up in a blog entry one of these days. There arguments, while at times paralleling Roman Catholicism, have some slightly different twists.

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