Turretinfanhas taken some shots at some Catholic apologist regarding icons and John of Damascus. I don’t know this particular Catholic apologist andI am not particularly interested to know or how legitimate his particular arguments may or may not be. What I do find worth noting is Turretinfan’s arguments defending the heresy of iconoclasm by proping up the iconoclast council of Hieria(754) as somehow out manning John of Damascus. As an aside, I highly recommend Amrosios Giakalis’, Images of the Divine: The Theology of Icons at the Seventh Ecumenical Council, Revised Ed.Brill, 2005. It is a very short book and quite expensive, but it is probably one of the best pieces of secondary literature I have to date come across. It is a good one stop shopping point for reading on the subject. What follows are some of my notes.
Eucharist as the only acceptable form or figure. What is at play here is the notion of a figure. Christ uses lots of images for himself in the Gospels-Vine, lamb, Son, etc. so strictly speaking the Eucharist isn’t the only acceptable image. What is important though is the notion of a figure that the iconoclasts are using. They are averse to any created “shape” and it is precisely because they take the Eucharist to transcend shape or created form that they deem it acceptable.
“The sanctified bread is ‘the true image of the economy of the incarnation of Christ’ not of Christ himself. With such a conception of ‘form’, the iconoclasts depart radically from the biblical, especially Pauline, terminology which regards the form ‘form’ as synonymous with’nature’ or substance (Phil. 2:6-7). By interpreting the bread as the unique form or type (typos) with the power to represent his incarnation, but without the power to represent the actual humanity of his person, the iconoclasts believe that they have found a satisfactory solution to the problem of idolatry, since in their view the problem consists precisely in the worship of ‘forms’, whereas the bread is ‘formless.'” Giakalis, 70. Informed matter in the Aristotelian sense that the iconoclasts employed and endorsed was not capable of bearing the divine power andso no icon was permissible. It was only because they took the Eucharist to transcend matter qua type that it was deemed acceptable. The basis then for their aversion to icons is grounded in a Greek pagan denigration of matter as opposed to God. Giakalis, 69,ff.
This is why they spoke of the Eucharistic bread as “formless” or “without shape” (amorphous) and as a type (typos) of the work of Christ, rather than an image of his humanity. And becauseof this, they essentially denied the physicality of Christ’s resurrection body, endorsing a kind of Docetism. The iconoclasts are essentially Origenists.
“The matter that they keep repeating is lifeless, dead and ignoble reflects their conviction that matter has no place in the resurrection, and will not be glorified in the life to come at the end of the ages. Most probably this is their deepest reason for calling images ‘false’ and ‘spurious.’ Since neither Christ nor the saints are to have material bodies in the life to come, it follows that the material likenesses of the iconophiles are falsely and spuriously called icons of Christ or the saints.” Giakalis, 71-72
“The important thing for them is that every attempt to ‘raise up’ the material bodies of the saints as icons is blasphemous since such bodies will not exist in the final resurrection. Besides, sanctity is regarded as a ‘dignity’ and it is clear that this dignity does not refer to an actual participation n the deifying energy of God, but simply to an attainment of a contemplative prelapsarian state of perfection.” Giakalis, 73
“Sanctification and dematerialization are parallel processes and it is almost impossible for iconoclasts to distinguish between them.” Giakalis, 74
The problem with matter-Iconoclasts there spoke of matter as evil, as “common and dishonourable matter” As 2nd Nicea makes clear “The usefulness of matter should not be overlooked just because it is vilified or shown to be base though being used for various contrary purposes.” 2ndNicea upholds a biblical view of creation over against the Platonism of the iconoclasts.
Ecumenicity of Heirara
Practically any council convened by the emperor was deemed ecumenical since the term denoted the imperial authority by which it was convoked. To be ecumenical in the theological sense it would require per canon law an invitation to other sees, specifically apostolic ones and their presence by delegation, by letter or deference. The fact that Heirara thought of itself as “ecumenical” is of little argumentative value. What Turretinfan needs is a council that meets the appropriate canonical conditions, but the one he’s picked doesn’t do so.
Condemnation of John of Damascusper se is irrelevant-Even if its true that John of Damascus stood directly under the condemnation of Heirara, that by itself is irrelevant since Athanasius for example stood under similar condemnations, which weren’t valid judgments in the first place since they violated church law and tradition and so like them they were simply manifestations of imperial policy. Emperors were precluded form directing the debates in councils, let alone setting forth their theological destinations before hand as Constantine V did at Heirara.
Moreover, prior to 754 other patriartchates, specifically apostolic sees had already denounced the emperor prior to his council so any claim to ecclesiastical normativity is further weakened.
Even according to the council and the emperor, the issue was Christological-the iconoclastic objections depended on a rather Nestorian/Eutychian confusion which took the hypostasis of the incarnate Christ to be the product of the union. If the hypostasisis composite in that way, then surely to make an image of Christ would be to either confuse or separate the natures. But that is not Chalcedonian Christology, but Nestorian and Eutychian Christology. What about thosewho saw Christ? Is vision essentially idolatrous? Taking a picture of me doesn’t abstract my soul from my body or my person from either or both. Last I checked my soul and my hypostasis weren’t empirically detectable so that no image of my body could separate them from my body in any case. Further, at best, the only way to make that old canard of an argument work is to suppose that the persona of Christ is the product of the union of the two natures. An attempt then to portray one will entail portraying the other since the persona per se is constituted by the two natures. But of course that isn’t Chalcedon, so the objection depends on the objector assuming a Nestorian Christology. Besides, if the reality of Christ’s death, separating his human soul from his body didn’t separate either of them from his divine person, a picture certainly can’t. And beyondthat why suppose that an attempt is made to separate the matter of Christ’s body from his divine person and put into the painting? It certainly isn’t the case when someone takes a picture of me. So why can’t the humanity of Christ stay where it is so to speak and still be represented in a picture? Unless of course Jesus no longer has a genuine physical body as the iconoclasts supposed.(Does Turretinfanwish to agree with this?) This is why they spoke of Christ’s humanity as “uncircumscribed” during the incarnation and after the ascension. The problem is the Reformed departure from Chalcedon’s teaching with their notion of the persona mediatoris. This departure is documented in Richard Muller’s Christ and the Decree: Christology and Predestination in Reformed Theology from Calvin to Perkins.
Also to attribute to the iconophiles the same position as the pagans in thinking of the relation of prototype to image is historically incorrect.
“By contrast, the mentality of the iconoclasts, who wish to attribute to their opponents the essential identification of the icon with the prototype, is purely Greek and reflects pre-Christian conceptions regarding idols.” Giakalis, 86.
It was the iconoclasts who identified prototype with image by essence, which is why they accused the iconophilesof making idols initially. It was because the iconoclasts assumed the pagan identification between prototype and image that they imputed idolatry to the iconophiles. So the pagan shoe is on the other foot here.
As for John of D’s statements, the question is what the text says and not what the translation says. The term employed is proskuneo. What fixes John’s use of proskuneo is not a specific translator’s judgment but how he says he understands it, and he says explicitly so as to deny worship except to God alone. Older translations often use “worship” according to older English usage which permitted obeisance or veneration to be covered under the single term.
Supposed Silence-There are no references to women taking communion either. There are no prescriptions regarding wedding ceremonies, funeral rites, the celebration of Paschaor Christ’s Mass. Protestants of Scottish variety in the Second Reformation chucked these things on the basis you give against images. Why then do you seem to accept these but not images? Secondly, one should take Galatians 3:1 to mind as well. What was the act of portraying to the church in Galatia of Christ portrayed? What it merely a verbal depiction? Christ gives lots of figures of himself in the NT-Lamb, vine, etc.
Jesus doesn’t say please write books about me either. You also don’t have Jesus saying to pass around anointed clothes form the apostles and other relics, but it was done in the NT church, seemingly approvingly in the book of Acts.
The Apostolic Fathers don’t mention lots of things, due to their direct concerns or the shortness of their writings. And even if they did, you probably wouldn’t take it as supporting evidence but would dismiss it as yet more proof of an early apostasy. It is rather fallacious to infer that the images weren’t present simply on that basis alone, considering we have archaeological data that seems to indicate otherwise. Excavations at Nazareth under the chapel of the Annunciation reveal images of Mary and John the Baptist with inscriptions indicating venerating their image. No secure date can be given but it is likely that the images go back to at least the third century and possibly to the 2nd century.
Even the iconoclasts in their later polemical works agreed that icons weren’t idols. Second, the minor iconoclastic controversy in the 4th century motivated likewise by Origenism indicates the presence of images in churches as do the archaeological excavations as Duros Europas which pre-date the Nicene period. How far back is this pagan influence theory going to take us? Secondly, paganism could just as easily influenced against images in terms of a rejection of matter, as was the case with Origen and Origenism, which had a pervasive influence. And third, we’d need proof that the introduction of images was the result of pagan syncretism and not a speculation that this is in fact happened.
“…it was from such a philosophical andspeculative background that the iconoclasts derived their attitudes towards ‘image worship’ considering it in purely Platonic and Neoplatonic terms to be idolatry.” Giakalis, 96.
Depiction of God. Icons don’t depict the divine nature and this was agreed upon by the iconoclasts and iconodules so to say that icons attempt to depict God is something of misrepresentation.
“Accordingly they refuse to represent the first person of the Holy Trinity, the Father, since he totally transcends every sensory experience: ‘Why do we not describe andpaint the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ? Because we do not know who he is, and it is impossible for the nature of God to be described and painted.” Giakalis, 76, from Mansi 12, 963D:13, 101A
I have to wonder where Turretinfan’s outrage and condemnation is for Lutheran adoration/veneration of statues. I have to wonder if he consider’s Lutherans guilty of idolatry as well.