Friday, July 30, 2010

Second Incarnational Defense of Idols Rebutted

Subsequent to my last post, Frank Turk (aka Centuri0n) has submitted a new argument into the comment box of his his own post (link to post). Frank Turk argues:
One of the pillars of Tom's argumentation is that any image of Jesus is necessarily, by definition, a "false image" of Jesus. And the reason for this is that the Law in Israel says explicitly that Israel was [a] not to make graven images to worship, and [b] not to seek to represent the invisible YHVH with visible objects.

Tom's view relies heavily on continuity between Israel and the Church, and between Old Covenant and New Covenant. The problem is that, becuase of Christ as incarnation, there is a significant discontinuity between OT and NT.
There is some discontinuity and some continuity between the old and new administrations of God's grace. There is not discontinuity on this point. We see that a few ways.

I. Old Testament Prophecy

Micah 5:13 Thy graven images also will I cut off, and thy standing images out of the midst of thee; and thou shalt no more worship the work of thine hands.

Micah points forward to the coming time, and specifically identifies the issue of idols as one of the points of continuity/reform to God's word.

II. End-Times Prophecy

Revelation 9:20-21
And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries, nor of their fornication, nor of their thefts.

The use of idols is listed among the things that the wicked do, among the serious crimes like murder, sorcery, fornication, and theft.

III. Paul's Ministry

Acts 17:24-31
God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshipped with men's hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

This is part of Paul's famous sermon on Mar's hill. Notice that there is a discontinuity - the Gentiles are now called to serve God, whereas before only the Jews were called. All men every where are commanded to repent. But Paul does not say "Jesus doesn't look like that, he looks like this (holding up a little icon or statue)." No, Paul specifically teaches the Greeks that God is not worshiped with the works of man's hands, nor is he properly represented even by such elevated metals as gold and silver.

IV. Paul's Epistles

1 Timothy 1:17 Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Notice that while Paul acknowledges Jesus as Lord, without a doubt, he still refers to his King as invisible. Paul did not have a flannel-graph Jesus that he carried around with him. He preached Jesus, not pictures. Before I get too much more into Paul's epistles, let me provide some more of Frank Turk's argument. He writes:
Consider it:

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they. [NASB]

Right? Heb 1:1-4, with a special emphasis on this phrase: "He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature". That Greek word under "exact representation" ("χαρακτήρ"), ironically, is a word used to describe the engraving in a coin -- it is specifically an engraving term.

This speaks to us about the nature of the incarnation, doesn't it? Somehow, because Jesus was exactly like God, there's a discontinuity between the OT demand that there are no created images which can represent God and the NT fact that Jesus, conceived in Mary's womb as a man in the form of a servant, is actually God.
Let me provide the KJV for the passage that Frank Turk quoted:

Hebrews 1:1-4
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

What does it mean that Jesus is "the express image of his person" (χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ) It means that Jesus is God. It means that Jesus and the Father are of one and the same divine being. It does not mean that Jesus is a picture of what God looks like. Jesus flesh and blood, his humanity, is not a representation of God, nor was that the intent. Jesus took on flesh, not to represent God, but - as a man - to represent men!

Yes, there was a discontinuity, God became flesh and dwelt among us. But there was not a discontinuity with respect to make representations of God.

Thus, for example, we see Paul use a similar expression in Colossians.

Colossians 1:12-17 ... giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.

Notice that here it calls Jesus the "image of the invisible God" (εἰκὼν τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου) that first word in the Greek is the root for our word "icon." It would be absurd to read that literally, as though Jesus were a literal icon of something that is invisible. What it means instead is that Jesus is God. He is of the same substance with the Father.

Notice how in both the Colossians passage and the Hebrews passage, this likeness to the Father is contextually connected with power: "upholding all things by the word of his power" and "by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist."

Going back to Hebrews, we see that the author of Hebrews recognizes the invisibility of God, but provides this interesting metaphorical language:

Hebrews 11:27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.

How is it that we see our invisible God? It's not by painting pictures - it's by faith. It's trusting in the promises of God like Moses and the other witnesses of Hebrews 11.

Furthermore, in what should be a very interesting twist for Frank Turk, we see that the Scriptures teach that we can see the invisible things of God through the visible creation.

Romans 1:20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:

Of course, we are not seeing the power and Godhead of God itself, we're seeing their effects in the Creation. We're seeing what God made, and consequently seeing Him through that - not a purported similitude, but an illustration and demonstration of His power.

- TurretinFan

7 comments:

Viisaus said...

Revelation 9:20

"And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk:"


It is worth noting that in original Greek, the word for "worship" above is PROSKYNESIS:

http://www.greeknewtestament.com/B66C009.htm#V20

20. καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, οἳ οὐκ ἀπε κτάνθησαν ἐν ταῖς πληγαῖς ταύταις, οὐ μετενόησαν ἐκ τῶν ἔργων τῶν χειρῶν αὐτῶν, ἵνα μὴ προσκυνήσουσιν τὰ δαιμόνια καὶ τὰ εἴδωλα τὰ χρυσᾶ καὶ τὰ ἀργυρᾶ καὶ τὰ χαλκᾶ καὶ τὰ λίθινα καὶ τὰ ξύλινα, ἃ οὔτε βλέπειν δύνανται οὔτε ἀκούειν


The iconolatrous 2nd Nicene council in 787 AD specifically enjoined all Christians to PROSKUNEO "holy images" - under the threat of anathema.

Everyone can thus draw their own conclusions of how applicable this Revelation prophecy is for the practices of RC and EO churches.

Viisaus said...

"This is part of Paul's famous sermon on Mar's hill. Notice that there is a discontinuity - the Gentiles are now called to serve God, whereas before only the Jews were called. All men every where are commanded to repent. But Paul does not say "Jesus doesn't look like that, he looks like this (holding up a little icon or statue).""

But you know, during the 8th century debates the defenders of icons DID actually seriously make the sort of claim you are only sarcastically referring to above - that Paul would have provided icons for his converts.

The Byzantine iconoclastic controversy was waged during the intellectually darkest times of medieval era - icons triumphed largely because enlightened, Biblically well-learned lay audience was almost non-existent or minuscule in those times, which was a great handicap to the opponents of superstition.

And thus iconodules had nerve to put forth tall tales of how apostles had employed icons during their missionary work:

http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/darby/DOCTRINE/22002E_B.html


"Germanus and the popes sustained their cause by appealing to the most ridiculous fables, which no one believes now, that Christ sent a miraculous picture of Himself to Abgarus, King of Edessa; insulted the Emperor in the grossest possible language; and Gregory the pope says that Uzziah profanely removed the brazen serpent which David had sanctified, and put with the ark into the temple — a confusion a child could have avoided who had read a little scripture. Hezekiah is commended for doing it.

He says, where it is said, "Where the carcase is there are the eagles gathered together," the carcase meant Christ and pious Christians, living men flocking to see Him at Jerusalem, and that so strong was the impression of the figure of Christ on their minds, that at once they made portraits of Him, and carried them about to convert people with."

Viisaus said...

"Paul did not have a flannel-graph Jesus that he carried around with him. He preached Jesus, not pictures."

The original iconodules did indeed claim just what you deny here. That should give you some idea of how repugnant their superstitions were - they thought that Paul really WAS "preaching pictures", or "holy images" as they called them.


And consequently, throughout the EO world silly legends gradually cropped up - for example, in pre-modern times Russians used to seriously believe that they possessed a wonder-working icon made by evangelist Luke himself ("Theotokos of Vladimir").

For example, this is how matter-of--factly Czar Ivan the Terrible (one of the best educated men in Russia back in his day) boasted to papal legate Possevino in 1580:

http://www.archive.org/details/romanisminrussi00tolsgoog

p. 69

"Our Boyards inform us that thou desirest to visit our temples and assist in the divine offices of the Orthodox Church. Thou shalt now have an opportunity of seeing all, as we go to the Church of the Holy Virgin, and thou canst accompany us. There thou shalt see with what faith we adore and implore the Holy Trinity, the Holy Virgin and the saints. Thou shalt see with what respect we bow before the miraculous images, and view the Mother of God painted by the Evangelist Luke."


Still today, EOs like to present this preposterous tale as real - from OrthodoxWiki:

"The Vladimir Icon of the Mother of God was painted by the Evangelist Luke on a board from the table at which the Savior ate together with His All-Pure Mother and Righteous Joseph. The Mother of God, upon seeing this image, exclaimed, "Henceforth, all generations shall call Me blessed. The grace of both My Son and Me shall be with this icon.""

http://orthodoxwiki.org/Theotokos_of_Vladimir

Needless to say, secular scholarship does not support the notion of the apostolic origins of this dumb idol.

Turretinfan said...

Viisaus: Yes, the EOs do make those kinds of claims. I don't take those claims seriously, based on a variety of things, so I only mentioned it briefly in the post.

Nevertheless, sadly - you're right. They are the sorts of ridiculous claims that were made to try to promote the innovation.

-TurretinFan

Coram Deo said...

Excellent, TF!

Something else came to mind today on this subject; most believers - I think - would agree that anything God honoring or holy that emanates from their lives is the product of God's Spirit working within us both to will, and to do His will (i.e. bearing the fruits of the Spirit's sanctifying power within us).

With this in mind, and knowing that no good thing dwells in our flesh; does the "flannel jesus" iconophile really believe that God Himself is working out His will and good pleasure through them as they create an image of God the Son, and carry it around for use as a didactic tool to teach others spiritual truths about Christ?

Is my premise and/or conclusion flawed here?

In Him,
CD

Eric said...

TurretinFan: Are you saying that images of any kind are sinful? In which case photography and all drawings would be sinful. This seems wrong since the arc of the covenant and the serpent made by Moses would fall into this category.

If you are instead saying that it is only images of God that are sinful, on what basis do you make that distinction? The second commandment bans images of anything on heaven or earth. Why would images of God be inherently sinful while images of other things only become sinful if worshiped?

Turretinfan said...

"Are you saying that images of any kind are sinful?"

That's definitely not what I'm saying.

"If you are instead saying that it is only images of God that are sinful, on what basis do you make that distinction?"

There are a number of grounds. One obvious one is that certain images are commanded to be part of the tabernacle worship. They are not similitudes of God, however.

"Why would images of God be inherently sinful while images of other things only become sinful if worshiped?"

The primary concern of the second commandment is representing God (and worshiping Him) through any created image. The worshiping of the created thing in itself is already forbidden in the first commandment.

-TurretinFan