iconodulia (Was Re: Why?/Re: Answersingenesis)

From: george murphy (gmurphy@raex.com)
Date: Mon Apr 02 2001 - 11:11:34 EDT

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    Graham Richard Pointer wrote:

    > On Mon, 2 Apr 2001, Jonathan Clarke wrote:
    > .....................................................
    > I had an illustrated children's Bible when I was young. I haven't looked
    > at it since I became a Christian (well, it has been stashed away in a box
    > in my parents' garage- so I don't think I picked up any theology from its
    > pictures). I wonder whether this is part of the reason for the second
    > commandment- that we could learn our theology from pictures.
    > There has been much in the British media about a new BBC series "Son of
    > God" and its reconstruction of what Jesus could have looked like (not a
    > white man with long flowing blond hair).

            Certainly people can pick up a lot of misconceptions from pictures, but there
    is an even more fundamental problem with a refusal to have them.
            The "Second Commandment" is not a rejection of images _in toto_ but a
    prohibition of images to be _worshipped_. It is not just Ex.20:4 but includes v 5a:
    "You shall not bow down to them or serve them." That is why Lutheran & Roman
    numbering of the commandments considers this not as a separate "Second Commandment"
    but as part of an explanation of the _First_ Commandment.
            The problem which images can present is that people may place their ultimate
    trust and reliance in them rather than in the true God. This is "idolatry" in the
    elementary sense, & is not really as serious a problem as placing one's trust in more
    sophisticated non-visual idols. "Son of man, these men have taken their idols into
    their hearts" (Ez.14:3).
            Thinking that Jesus was blond & blue-eyed or that dinosaurs lived in Eden can
    be a hindrance to good theology. It is not, however, in itself idolatry.
            The 7th Ecumenical Council in A.D. 787 approved images and appropriate
    veneration for them (_dulia_ rather than _latria_). The essential issue there was the
    Incarnation and the value which matter therefore has. Because "the Word became flesh"
    it is possible in principle to represent the Second Person of the Trinity in visible
    form. There can, of course, be many abuses and superstitions connected with images
    but it is wrong to reject them in principle. It is unfortunate that some of the 16th
    century reformers (& their heirs today) took such an iconoclastic position.


    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Interface"

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