Friday, December 24, 2010

Further Response to Mr. Albrecht Regarding Debate on Veneration of Images

In a new video (audio + slideshow only), Mr. Albrecht has responded to the comments in my post (link to post) regarding the debate. This is in addition to the comments he submitted to me by email, and which are already addressed in the original post via an update to that post. I've provided the following written response and a largely-overlapping video response (just audio), below.

Mr. Albrecht responded to the comments on my blog by way of video. He stated that I didn’t heavily emphasize the Old Testament prohibition on the veneration of images – his justification for this claim was simply his assertion that the Old Testament doesn’t prohibit the veneration of images. This assertion is patently false. I highlighted many passages which specifically prohibit the veneration of images, such as Exodus 20:5, which states: “Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.”

Or Leviticus 26:1, which states: “Ye shall make you no idols nor graven image, neither rear you up a standing image, neither shall ye set up any image of stone in your land, to bow down unto it: for I am the LORD your God.”

In point of fact, Mr. Albrecht barely engaged the text of Scripture. Instead he focused his time in other areas.

One of his main arguments to attempt to distinguish away the Old Testament texts was to assert that “There is, however, a clear distinction between idolatry and veneration.”

Can Mr. Albrecht show us this distinction in the Bible? No, he cannot.
Can Mr. Albrecht show us this distinction from the fathers of the first century? No, they don’t make that distinction.
What about the fathers of the second century? No, they too say nothing helpful to him.
He basically has to jump forward in time many hundreds of years to find anything like this distinction being brought out.

He refers to the latria/dulia distinction that Rome is fond of making. He and I debated that topic some time ago. He could not find the distinction in Scripture then – and he still cannot find it now. Even if he could find that distinction eventually enunciated in some father or other after some time, as we brought out in the debate the 2nd Council of Nicaea did not make the distinction that he would like to see.

Mr. Albrecht again appeals to Dura Europos. He states: “There was much stronger evidence to prove the early Christian church venerated images, statues. The Dura Europos is a clear-cut example of this.” During the debate we exposed this error. Nobody knows what sect worshiped in that church. Nobody knows how the images were used – whether just for decoration, for teaching, or for (as Mr. Albrecht claims) veneration. In fact, no one knows even whether the church was ever used.

He claims it is a Christian church from earlier than the mid-200’s. His assertion is empty and untrue.

He claims that I “have to fall back on the assertion that this church is not typical.” Listen to the debate. First he asked me whether I knew of Dura Europos, then he asked me whether it was typical. I told him it was not. That’s hardly me “falling back” on that position.

He then asks who am I to make an assertion that Dura Europos is not typical. Well, he asked me – so I told him. Why would anybody think that Dura Europos was typical? Mr. Albrecht does not give us any good reasons to think so.

He then states that he’s not aware of any scholars who say that unorthodox people worshiped there. I’m not sure what his ignorance of the subject is supposed to prove. Are there any scholars who claim orthodox Christians worship there? If so, who are these scholars? What is there basis for the claim? Mr. Albrecht can’t tell us, because Mr. Albrecht doesn’t know.

Mr. Albrecht claims that he showed that not a single father interpreted the key Biblical texts in the same way in which I interpreted them. There was not time for Mr. Albrecht to show anything remotely resembling that. All Mr. Albrecht did was assert such a thing. He did quote a small handful of fathers who neither explicitly supported nor explicitly condemned the position I took.

Then Mr. Albrecht tries to explain why his unproven assertion is true. His proposed reason why is “the fathers knew the difference between idolatry and true religious veneration.” But, of course, Scripture does not make that distinction and Mr. Albrecht cannot identify any church fathers that make that distinction. It’s another assertion on Mr. Albrecht’s part, but not one he can support with facts.

Mr. Albrecht tried to argue that Ancient Judaism is not on my side. This was another one of his blunders. He quotes Jacob Milgrim who indicates that in the mid-third century there starts to appear in Judaism a “grudging recognition of Jewish art” and that people began to paint pictures on the walls in that time. This just proves my very point. (Read the article for yourself!)

Mr. Albrecht then cites to a pseudographic Jewish Targum that specifically permits for carved stone columns as long as they are not worshiped. This Targum, however, dates to somewhere between the eighth century and the 15th century. It’s hardly representative of ancient Judaism.

And even if it were, it is simply distinguishing between having the images and venerating them.

Mr. Albrecht claims that his quotation from Basil is a “contested quotation.” That’s not true. It’s a spurious quotation. The consensus of scholarship agrees – both among Roman Catholic scholars and non-Roman Catholic scholars.

I pointed out that Mr. Albrecht was relying on a secondary source. I probably should have mentioned that his comments about Judaism were similarly drawn from a secondary source, which is probably why he didn’t realize the pseudographic Targum he quoted was so late.

Mr. Albrecht asserted that he relied on as secondary source “just as everything else Turretinfan relies on in scholarly works on the Biblical or patristic texts are secondary sources.” I’m not sure why this is particularly relevant. There’s no scholarly source that Mr. Albrecht has turned to that says anything other than what I’ve said – his quotation from Basil is spurious.

Mr. Albrecht goes on to argue with one of the patristic scholars who notes that the term “theotokos” became popular later than Basil. Mr. Albrecht misunderstands what the scholar wrote and goes off on a diatribe about how the term theotokos was used early.

Mr. Albrecht makes a serious blunder by alleging that the term theotokos was used “close to two centuries before Basil’s time” by citing a prayer found in a papyrus that was “dated by papyrologists to the mid-200’s.” The mid-200’s would be about 100 years before Basil (330-379). And frankly, given Mr. Albrecht’s numerous mistakes about dates and so forth, I would want to see what his source was regarding this prayer as well rather than just accepting it (though it may be correct).

Mr. Albrecht points out that work was probably not written by the Greek iconoclasts. One of the works that I quoted from does say “It has been attributed to the Greek Iconoclasts,” which is clearly wrong. So, Mr. Albrecht is quite right to point out the editor’s mistake in using the word “Iconoclast” instead of “Iconodule.” I’m not sure if Mr. Albrecht read the other notes, which indicated what this quotation obviously meant, which was that the work had been created during the Iconoclastic controversy. Nevertheless, I fully agree with Mr. Albrecht that it was not the iconoclasts, but the iconodules, who forged this particular letter.

Mr. Albrecht also suggests that many more “m s s” (as he calls them) have been discovered at a later date. I don’t know of any scholarly support for Mr. Albrecht’s assertion, and he does not provide any.

Mr. Albrecht then tries to bolster his position regarding Basil by quoting Basil’s statement that the honor paid to the image passes on to the prototype. This is very interesting, of course, because Basil is talking about worship of Jesus passing on to the Father. I’m not sure if Mr. Albrecht grasps the impact of his seizing on this phrase from Basil. Is his worship of Jesus the same as his worship of images? Does he really want to compare his worship of man-made images to his worship of the true image of the Father?

Basil certainly did not make that comparison. Basil was simply pointing out that by worshiping Jesus was are not becoming tritheists – we remain monotheists, because the worship given to Jesus is not only given to Jesus but to the Father. Basil did not compare the worship of Jesus to the worship of painted boards or statues.

Mr. Albrecht speaks with great emphasis on the word “Image” but he doesn’t seem to realize that Basil is speaking of the Son of God, not some carved stone column or other lifeless idol. I will grant him this – the veneration of Jesus is perfectly acceptable. There is no problem worshiping Jesus. It is man-made images that are the problem. Remember that Scriptures “thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image or any likeness,” it does not prohibit us from worshiping the image of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

Mr. Albrecht says that in the authentic Basil quotation, the use of “icon” in its proper Christian usage is shown. I heartily agree. The one icon we can worship is Jesus himself. Not a picture of Jesus, but Jesus himself, the image of the Father. That’s the proper Christian worship of an icon – and it is the only worship of an icon supported by Basil.

Mr. Albrecht again repeats his statement that “Christianity has always been able to distinguish between proper religious veneration and idolatry.” Yet, as we’ve noted each time – Mr. Albrecht’s assertion is just not supported by any evidence.

Mr. Albrecht next turned to the issue of the Vienna Genesis. He admitted he made a mistake in saying that the Vienna Genesis was dated to the 300’s, and asserted that it was dated to the 400’s. Actually, while some people have placed it in the late 400’s, it appears that the consensus is for the early 500’s.

Mr. Albrecht then claims that he really meant to refer to the “Cotton Genesis.” But Bruce Metzger (who Mr. Albrecht cited during the debate) also tells us that the “Cotton Genesis” is from the 500’s and John Lowden tells us that some scholars (citing Weitzmann and Kessler) date this to the late 400’s (John Lowden, “The Beginnings of Biblical Illustration” in “Imaging the Early Medieval Bible,” John Williams editor), p. 15. The same work indicates the sixth century for the Vienna Genesis (p. 17).

Mr. Albrecht tries to argue that he has provided positive evidence for the veneration of images in the early church, but he has not. The most he has done is to point out that in some instances some of the ancient churches had images in the churches.

10 comments:

natamllc said...

And so with patient waiting and deliberate response, God through a humble man, TF, does it again, exposing the foundation of a man.

When I listen to Mr. Albrecht I hear his premise.

He is always reaching.

He speaks to others who hold to that premise with every response or assertion of his faith.

That premise is as the Lord has taught us, sand.

Sand is an unusual thing when the wind blows on it. Depending on how forceful the Wind is blowing on the sand determines the fineness or coarseness of the particles of sand that move.

When the breeze is light, only the fine dust of sand moves and forms images for the eye to see.

When the wind is of great and Godly force, coarser grains of sand move and form other images for the eye to see.

When listening to or reading what you have to say as Truth or in response to Truth or something other than Truth, I always hear Christ as the premise and foundation of your words, TurretinFan.

This is simply not the case with the likes of Mr. Albrecht, Mr. Albrecht himself as well. He usually is not speaking directly to the issue. He is speaking to both the issue, usually to refute it and to those who wholeheartedly hold to his belief systems, which as I indicated above looks different depending on how hard the blowing wind is blowing!

Oh well.

Here is my hope and prayer. It only applies to those Called, Chosen and Elected:

Php 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
Php 3:21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.


Another way of skinning this cat is the way the Spirit of the Lord spoke it through the Prophet Isaiah with these Words:

Isa 4:3 And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem,
Isa 4:4 when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning.
Isa 4:5 Then the LORD will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy.
Isa 4:6 There will be a booth for shade by day from the heat, and for a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain.


When the Spirit of Judgment and the Spirit of Burning gets done with His little rocks of His intended Glory, His little rocks shine with His Holiness and Glory. If you are but a grain of sand, when you build anything, not only you will move around a bit or much, depending on whether or not you are just dust or some greater particle of it, during the times of storms and rain, your foundation you build on will also have the same peculiar quality and nature, it will move around like that of sand during the storms and rains when they come! :)

May this trumpet sound blow and be heard:

Mat 3:8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
Mat 3:9 And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father,' for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.
Mat 3:10 Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Mat 3:11 "I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Mat 3:12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."

Matt said...

Just yesterday I listened to William's appearance on The Dividing Line, and was reminded of how he made his distinction between idolatry and veneration. His big answer was that is very very different, completely different in fact. James must have asked him a million times why it was so very different, and never did William answer that.

I guess it's just because there really is no answer. The veneration of Mary is idolatrous, and Catholics need to realize that they need to bring more than just their ipse dixit if they want to show that such is not the case.

Lvka said...

A link for you.

Lvka said...

Did he also mention fourth century Arian icons? :-)

Turretinfan said...

I wish he had! The use of pictures of Jesus by people who don't think that Jesus is God are not overly surprising, though.

Lvka said...

I think they are. They're there in the fourth-century (orthodox) catacombs, and they are there in fourth-century Arian churches. And they're there in a second/third century Christian church, and they are there in a second/third century Jewish synagogue. And they are there in the Jerusalem Talmud (100-500 AD), and they're there in the Temple of Solomon, and they are there in the Tabernacle. And they're there in Exodus (the same Exodus that forbids idols and idolatry).

theorthodoxlife said...

http://theorthodoxlife.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/bowing-down-to-a-faceless-idol/

theorthodoxlife said...

Before the Incarnation, it was idolatrous to make an image of God.

Now that the Incarnation has taken place, it would be idolatrous not to make images of Him.

When a religion rejects images of God, it sends the message that God is only a spirit, and that He has no physical body. Before the Incarnation, that was true. After the Incarnation, it is false, and is therefore idolatry.

To read more: http://theorthodoxlife.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/bowing-down-to-a-faceless-idol/

ChaferDTS said...

Do you overlook what is in Acts 17:29 and 1 John 5:21 ? We have no idea of what Jesus physically looks like. The commandment againist idols and idol worship still stands. If people bow down to icons or statues in a religious context than that is pure idol worship.

zablause said...

theorthodoxlife,

Actually, what we are suggesting is that only God has a right to make an image of himself. Only God can make humans in his image, and only God can make the ultimate image of himself, namely, Jesus Christ. This is because of what the scriptures teach about the necessity of the voluntary condescension of God to man. We could never know anything about God unless he reveals himself to us. We cannot reach up to God; he must come down to us and reveal himself to us. Hence, we could never make images of God precisely because doing so would presume that we could bridge that gulf, and make an image that accurately reflects God himself. Only God has that prerogative because we are entirely dependent upon God for our knowledge of who he is. Hence, we are not denying the reality of the incarnation; we are merely preserving the uniqueness of the incarnation, and the fact that all of our knowledge of God and who he is must come directly from his hand.