Monday, September 2, 2013

Against Contemporary Iconoclasm

            I think one of the most important defenses of icons in the current culture is the psychological. The creation of images as memorials for absent departed loved ones is a nearly universal human custom. For example, even among many who object to the Catholic and Orthodox use of images in worship, there is often widespread use of photography. I have explained it this way to Protestant objections before. When asked why my church is filled with images of Jesus, his mother, and the saints, I have responded with the question, “Do you have a picture of your mother?” The answer is usually yes. Our culture unquestionably accepts images for this purpose, which is really a way of showing love and respect for those dear to our hearts. As Christians, Jesus, his mother, and the saints should be as dear to our hearts as any members of our family should be, so icons are a fitting way to remember and venerate them. It is a natural human response to look lovingly upon the image that reminds us of the one we love. This is a part of the human nature, just as is the capacity to be represented by an image.

            Furthermore, it is essential to remember that we are not purely spirit, but also body and that God created our bodies and means for us to worship him in and with our bodies as well as with our spirits. There is no better way to worship Christ with our eyes, which he blessed, than to venerate icons – unless it is to see Christ in our neighbors who are also true icons of God.

            In offering this veneration to icons, it is important to distinguish between veneration and worship. We worship God alone. We worship him through the icon, but we do not worship the icon. The icon is an aid in our worship of God and worthy of its own veneration for this reason – for the reason that it points us to God. 

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