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7/14/2015 1:47 am  #11


Re: The Theology of the Icon

RE: Jeremy Taylor

Of course I agree about informally referring to icons that way; I helped myself to such a use of language in my comment if you look back. I wouldn't have even have said anything about it, but it was a helpful segway to my real point, which was about how icons are actually used in Christian worship. I was also somewhat subtly trying to stave off at least some of the concerns about idolatry people might have, since the original language you used definetly is easier to misinterpret in that direction.

Overall, still mostly just a little thing...

 

7/14/2015 2:12 am  #12


Re: The Theology of the Icon

Etzelnik wrote:

Here's what Maimonides has to say about this 'confusion' (beginning of Laws of Idolatry):

During the times of Enoch, mankind made a great mistake, and the wise men of that generation gave thoughtless counsel. Enoch himself was one of those who erred.

Their mistake was as follows: They said God created stars and spheres with which to control the world. He placed them on high and treated them with honor, making them servants who minister before Him. Accordingly, it is fitting to praise and glorify them and to treat them with honor. [They perceived] this to be the will of God, blessed be He, that they magnify and honor those whom He magnified and honored, just as a king desires that the servants who stand before him be honored. Indeed, doing so is an expression of honor to the king.

After conceiving of this notion, they began to construct temples to the stars and offer sacrifices to them. They would praise and glorify them with words, and prostrate themselves before them, because by doing so, they would - according to their false conception - be fulfilling the will of God.

This was the essence of the worship of false gods, and this was the rationale of those who worshiped them. They would not say that there is no other god except for this star.

I know this is not precisely the same as Christianity, but it is identical in implication.

Do you mean the situation Maimonides depicts is identical in implication to Christianity?

That is not clear from what you quote. On the one hand, there is the metaphysical or theological position of the world. From a Platonic position at least, all things derive their being and their goodness, so far as they possess this, from God. Their goodness, beauty, and being are infintely less than God's. But few living men are ready to entirely leave behind created goods. And whilst there is danger in all created things, for fallen men who have trouble seeing them entirely as they are, it is far from icons that are only dangers. Anything may become an icon if it is valued for itself rather than for reflecting God.

But, in a sense, also, all things are icons, and can be viewed as such. Reflecting God, they come from him and viewed probably lead to him. Icons, like sacraments and the Scripture, are simply especially efficacious kinds of such symbols, and made so by the divine. The theology of the icons, pace Maimonides, captures a truth and is founded upon an important truth.

Of course, the Jewish and Islamic traditions, amongst others, are correct that there are dangers in the use of icons. Aasim makes a good point about the ideal use of such symbols. And the Church has tried to guard against these dangers. But there are great benefits in their use too. And there are dangers in the opposing position - especially in sundering God from his creation. I certainly think the Christian position is complex and one not easily dismissed simply with reference to idols.

 

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7/14/2015 2:15 am  #13


Re: The Theology of the Icon

This quote seems interesting:

He says, in his "Systema Theologicum," p. 142: “Though we speak of the honor paid to images, yet this is only a manner of speaking, which really means that we honor not the senseless thing which is incapable of understanding such honor, but the prototype, which receives honor through its representation, according to the teaching of the Council of Trent. It is in this sense, I take it, that scholastic writers have spoken of the same worship being paid to images of Christ as to Christ our Lord Himself; for the act which is called the worship of an image is really the worship of Christ Himself, through and in the presence of the image and by occasion of it; by the inclination of the body toward it as to Christ Himself, as rendering Him more manifestly present, and raising the mind more actively to the contemplation of Him. Certainly, no sane man thinks, under such circumstances, of praying in this wise: ‘Give me, O image, what I ask; to thee, O marble or wood, I give thanks;’ but ‘Thee, O Lord, I adore; to Thee I give thanks and sing songs of praise.’ Given, then, that there is no other veneration of images than that which means veneration of their prototype, there is surely no more idolatry in it than there is in the respect shown in the utterance of the Most Holy Names of God and Christ; for, after all, names are but signs or symbols, and even as such inferior to images, for they represent much less vividly. So that when there is question of honoring images, this is to be understood in the same way as when it is said that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bend, or that the name of the Lord is blessed, or that glory be given to His Name. Thus, the bowing before an image outside of us is no more to be reprehended than the worshiping before an external image in our own minds; for the external image does but serve the purpose of expressing visibly that which is internal.”
(in James Cardinal Gibbons, "The Faith of Our Fathers" [Baltimore: John Murphy Company, 93rd revised and enlarged edition, 1917], pp. 199-2000)

Supposedly the "he" being referred to is Leibniz, who certainly wouldn't have had a theological axe to grind for Catholics/Orthodox here; quite the reverse actually. Unfortantely I haven't the time to verify its authenticity; the original Latin work is available on the Internet, but my Latin's only shakey at best, and it would take me forever to find the original quote. This is of course assuming the work's authentic; from what I can tell it is, but I would need to spend some time I don't have to be sure...

Regardless of authorship, it certainly seems like it could help remove some worries thrown around here about idolatry; another good place to look would be the 3rd pt. of the Summa Theologica, Question 25.

 

7/14/2015 5:22 am  #14


Re: The Theology of the Icon

Do you mean the situation Maimonides depicts is identical in implication to Christianity?

That is not clear from what you quote. On the one hand, there is the metaphysical or theological position of the world. From a Platonic position at least, all things derive their being and their goodness, so far as they possess this, from God. Their goodness, beauty, and being are infintely less than God's. But few living men are ready to entirely leave behind created goods. And whilst there is danger in all created things, for fallen men who have trouble seeing them entirely as they are, it is far from icons that are only dangers. Anything may become an icon if it is valued for itself rather than for reflecting God.

I was trying to say that both Maimonides' example and religious icons, can be said to essentially represent the same concept: that of glorifying an individual aspect of creation to an elevated level of "Godness" (for lack of a better word).

I would also add that your point that any glorification of creation as power is absolutely correct, and the Jewish polemicists quite frequently employ references to idolatry.

But, in a sense, also, all things are icons, and can be viewed as such. Reflecting God, they come from him and viewed probably lead to him. Icons, like sacraments and the Scripture, are simply especially efficacious kinds of such symbols, and made so by the divine. The theology of the icons, pace Maimonides, captures a truth and is founded upon an important truth.

Here is where our fundamental difference lies. We can inspire ourselves towards God by contemplating the totality of creation, and then only as an action of God. Such a mode of approaching God is highly prevalent in both the Platonist and the Kantian schools of thought in Judaism, as well as in Suffism, to the best of my knowledge. I will continue on this train of thought following the next quote:

Of course, the Jewish and Islamic traditions, amongst others, are correct that there are dangers in the use of icons. Aasim makes a good point about the ideal use of such symbols. And the Church has tried to guard against these dangers. But there are great benefits in their use too. And there are dangers in the opposing position - especially in sundering God from his creation. I certainly think the Christian position is complex and one not easily dismissed simply with reference to idols.

The distinction must be drawn between ascribing Godliness to all of Creation as a harmony (the Suffi "Unity of Existence), which is a perfectly fine way of approaching God's greatness, and selecting a single facet, feature, or object of creation as having more Godliness than others, which is (at least by Jewish and Islamic standards) idolatrous. When one does this he in fact separates God from all the rest of his Creation, via ascribing them lesser Godliness than other objects. He also risks eventual ascribing of independent power to that specific detail of creation.

Last edited by Etzelnik (7/14/2015 5:25 am)


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7/14/2015 5:36 am  #15


Re: The Theology of the Icon

I would simply want to question the fear of visual images and the acceptance of verbal images as inconsistent (and this seems to be Leibnitz's point in your quote, Tim). I'd put the point in this manner.

Why should we worry about turning to this...

http://mayantrip.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/San-Ildefonso-Christ-interior.jpg


...and affecting prayer.

As opposed to saying the words...

Per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso, est tibi Deo Patri omnipotenti in unitate Spiritus Sancti, omnis honor et gloria per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen. 

What's the important difference? Is it mismatch? But god is not called "Patri" as a man is, nor is he a "unitate" as most unities are, etc.


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It is precisely “values” that are the powerless and threadbare mask of the objectification of beings, an objectification that has become flat and devoid of background. No one dies for mere values.
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7/14/2015 6:23 am  #16


Re: The Theology of the Icon

Etzelnik,

There is certainly a truth in that argument. All things reflect God and he is in all things. However, I do not think one can maintain that some things are not in a sense closer to God or more spirituality efficacious, universally, culturally, or individually. After all, is not the holy and wise man in some sense more God-like than a man riven by folly and vice? Are not some things relatively more good and beautiful and true than others? Are not some practices especially marked out as spiritual and religious practices, as Iwpoe alludes to? Are not, to the Platonist at least, levels of being closer to God, so to speak, than others.

The position you seem to advocate would have immense ramifications, far beyond the issue of icons. It would also be a position implying the highest apophatic and otherworldly spirituality, fit only really for one who had achieved theosis - who sees God perpetually in all things and all things through God, and has no need for any support from created things, even discursive reason and mental images - though even this highest Saint would acknowledge a hierarchy in creation.

There is also the question of abstraction. Except perhaps to the fully sanctified man, nature does not appear as a whole to man, except in a deeply abstract sense. Particular objects, occasions, and relationships, though, are far better to lead the whole soul to the transcendent whilst avoiding too much abstraction or merely mental or discursive ruminations.

I understand the perspective of Judaism and Islam when it comes to images. There are dangers and these traditions largely avoid them. But I think the Christian position does contain a truth, not one these other traditions need adopt but one the Christian tradition has made good use of.

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