"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Orthodox Church

I attended an Antiochian Orthodox Church this week. While my Protestant principles find a few problems with the Orthodox Church, it is always good to experience the other traditions for a sense of what others may emphasis that we do not.

The liturgy had one main focus: Christ. Christ incarnate, Christ our Savior, Christ the Resurrected. It is hard not to meditate on the person of Christ in the service. While we Protestants may look at Christ through the lens of faith or grace, it is helpful to also take a minute to look at the Christ as the one who incarnates Truth (who became what he wished to save) and Resurrects (completes, does not destroy).

The Eastern Orthodox talk about Icons. Icons signify something else. They are very similar to sacraments in that they remind us of some truth that is greater. Did we Protestants over-react to Icons in the past?

What would the culture look like if we did not run from culture to our safe walled garden, but incarnated truth in that culture? What would it look like if we looked to redeem all of creation? What would it look like if we saw life as a sacrament, if we could find more icons or types of Christ in art, culture and nature?

Sure, having Icons may tempt us to worship them instead of Christ. Anyway, we Protestants have enough to worship instead of Christ already: materialism, the pastor, the sermon, the Bible…


Aaron said...

Totally agree with the first part of your post! Mostly disagree with the section part. I highly recommend the chapter on this in J.I. Packer's book "knowing God" I remember getting so excited about God as Packer laid out why God is to big to be captured in an icon and how focusing on them not only leads us to miss out on the scope of God but leads to incorrect living. For example if you have a crucifix staring at you every time you go to church will that affect the way you see Christ? Yes! Many start to see becoming like Christ should mean pain is a virtue, nail yourself to a cross etc. That is an extreme example. Most would take the error somewhere else in their living, but it makes a good point. Packer is better at it then me of course. Icons are dangerous, God is bigger.
Also on the point of praying to them, is not that fact that it turned into that makes the point it is needing some correction? Can you watch someone kiss an icon and not feel something is amiss?? Your point for the idols of Protestants is well taken though. I agree.

Aaron said...

Adding.... I remember reading "Death on a Friday Afternoon" and thinking "yeah, icons are not that bad", a couple years later is when I read "Knowing God" (He's an Anglican you know...) and he totally changed my mind from what I thought before. I am just a mocking bird...

Jared Nelson said...

True, Romans 1:23 warns us of this. We can cerainly turn images into our God.

But that is our limitation. I cannot worship a perfect image of God other than what I can envision of Christ imperfectly in my finite mind and senses. Our knowledge of God can only be analogical. I am told my sins will be white as snow. Are they also cold? The analogy helps but not perfectly. I call God good. I also call my sandwich good. It is a start up the sunbeam back to the sun:

"Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men."

If Christ incarnated Truth in human flesh of all things, then might we see Christ in all of creation and not just past salvation, but "making all things new"? A.W. Tozer called all of life a sacrament. I just want to explore what that means.

I cannot see Christ perfectly now, but how exciting is it to try to see Him wherever I can? How much more exciting when Christ redeems all things and we can see Him perfectly!! Doesn't hearing God in the music of Beethoven wet your appetite to taste him more fully in the new earth and new heavens?!

Aaron said...

Let me be clearer in my objection. Music and art are totally Biblical. I share Augustine and Calvin’s concerns with music but it is totally Biblical. David invented instruments to praise God with and any reading of the Psalms shows music is an appropriate for worship. We just need to be careful.

As for images they must not be used in worship. For the Bible also says this.

Exo 20:4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath,or that is in the water under the earth:

Also see Deu 4:15 – 19.

God says quite categorically, “Thou shalt not make any likeness of any thing” for use in worship. – J. I. Paker

A true image of God is not to be found in all the world; and hence… His glory is defiled and His truth corrupted by the lie, whenever He is set before our eyes in a visible form…. Therefore, to devise any image of God is itself impious; because by this corruption His majesty is adulterated, and He is the figured to be other than He is.” – John Calvin

“That’s all I got to say about that” – Forrest Gump

Jared Nelson said...

Those are Old Testament verses. Just for some discussion: Do you think anything changed by God becoming man? If Christ is God's perfect image of Himself, how can that help us in worshiping God?

Aaron said...

Somehow in icons Christ turns into the perfect image of HUMANITY in the eyes of the person making the icon. Black in Africa, pasty white in Europe etc. Besides His appearance has nothing to do with the perfection! (Doesn’t scripture tell us there is nothing note worthy of Christ’s physical appearance?)
Addressing the question of did anything change it seems clear that The Ten Commandments were not thrown out when Peter had his vision to eat what he wanted. It is the second commandment for crying out loud. There is a strong case to be made that Aaron was not creating another God for Israel with the calf but trying to capture a picture of God’s strength. He almost got a huge taste of God’s wrath. Ex 32:5. I think even though it is old testement that still means something, it is still scripture. Again see Chapter 4 of Packer’s “Knowing God”. It is called “The one true God”. I highly recommend it. It is one of the best parts of the whole book. I have often wanted to do a Sunday school lesson on it, but went for the chapter on adoption instead. Anyway just use the link on the blog and you can order the book straight away from Amazon. :-)

Jared Nelson said...

Your point is well taken. Images should not be worshipped.

But then, Christ is the Image of God, (2 Cor 4:4) and man is the (small i) image of God. I do not believe we are forbidden or even *very strongly* cautioned against making representations of either. Song, image, word, prose, movies, sculpture and drama all can incarnate truth to our culture. The early Church immediately made images of Christ, probably even while the Apostolic Fathers were alive.

In as much as Packer seems to warn against any image of Christ, I disagree. I read chapter 4, I was not convinced to have his same rigidity. I think a large portion of the OT command against images of God was because then people would not recognize the Image (Christ) when he came. The painting of Christ saving the lamb from the cliff, Mel Gibson's "The Passion", and The Jesus Film all spur me to worship, not to worship the actor or the paint on the painting but the Image it tries to communicate. The trick to not directly associating a particular image of Christ as The Image is to see many, and not just a few. A black, yellow and white Christ can give my image healthy multi-sided perspective. (just as 4 gospels give me more perspective than 1) for "now I see dimly," but eventually I will see clearly.

If one dances to the music of a song worshipping Christ, we need not immediately condemn them for worshipping the instruments. One must understand not to worship music or images, but not be banned from learning from and using them.

Jared Nelson said...

To make this not just my own opinion: a Protestant approach that I think is more balanced is Alister McGrath's "Christian Spirituality". Chapter 6 deals with the same issue, but he is less reserved than Packer.

Aaron said...

Will do. Don't know much about Alister McGrath other then I think he and Packer together edited the Hebrews commentary by Owen that I have. I hope I can get my hands on this other book you are telling me about. Thanks.

White Badger said...

"Doesn't hearing God in the music of Beethoven wet your appetite to taste him more fully in the new earth and new heavens?!"

"A.W. Tozer called all of life a sacrament."

Good stuff!

George MacDonald hath also said: "Life & Religion are one."

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "All of life is Unity with and IN Christ."

Lewis said that as he grew older, he came to see God in the criss-crosses of sunlight, and the patchwork of an old quilt.

Not because we are trying to "Deify" everything, but because everything has sprung from Deity.

In this sense, we worship nothing but God...meanwhile, in all things, we worship him.

Anonymous said...

Though I am 2 years late to send a comment , i would presume, reading this link , http://www.antiochian.org/node/16913 , would be apt.