A Meeting Place for Evangelicals, Reformed, and Orthodox Christians

Do Your Homework?

A Response to Pastor Toby Sumpter


So much to read!


In “A Plea & A Sketch of an Argument on Icons” Pastor Toby Sumpter exhorts Protestants interested in icons and Orthodoxy to do their homework before making any move to Orthodoxy.  Reading through his admirably comprehensive list of references my first reaction was: “How many people have the time to do all this reading?!”  Second reaction was: “OMG!  This is way more than a typical seminary syllabus reading list! Is he expecting people to write a doctoral dissertation before converting to Orthodox?”

Here is what he wrote:

First the plea: do some serious study of the actual issues and arguments from both sides. This will take some time to do well. But if you are currently a Protestant considering taking the plunge, do yourself, your family, your current church family, and the catholic tradition the honor of really studying this topic. Can you summarize John of Damascus’ defense of icons? Can you explain where his defense is flawed (according to the Orthodox)? Can you summarize the iconoclastic argument of Constantine V? And what was flawed about his argument? Now sketch the contributions of Nicephorus the Patriarch of Constantinople and Theodore the Studite (abbot of the monastery at Studium). What did the Second Council of Nicaea actually decide? Be specific and trace the conclusion from Nicaea, Chalcedon, through John of Damascus, Nicephorus and Theodore. Now, are you familiar with the Western Carolingian response to the Second Council of Nicaea? Evaluate the claims in light of what you’ve already considered. Do your Protestant heritage the honor of reading the original Reformers on images. Summarize the views of Luther, Melanchthon, Oecolampadius, Bucer, and Calvin on the making and veneration of images. Finally, do some reading on the history of iconography itself. How widespread were [sic] the use of icons in the first three centuries? Does that matter? When the icon “triumphed” after Second Nicaea what stylistic changes did the icon undergo between then and the modern day? What does that mean?

So much for my plea. And related to all of this, spend time as you read and study comparing your notes with trusted counselors and friends, not just people who will smile and nod, but the kind of people who challenge you to think critically and carefully.

Running the obstacle course

Running the obstacle course

Toby Sumpter’s reading list is a lot like a military obstacle course that tests the strength and endurance of the strong and weeds out the weak.  This high level of expectations for Protestant inquirers is not realistic.  And more to the point they are unfair.  It makes me wonder if Pastor Sumpter is engaging in intellectual intimidation of Protestants interested in icons.


Missing Links?

Serious readers might be disappointed Toby Sumpter did not provide links to his references.  Serious inquirers would benefit from links that help them get started in doing research on such a complex issue like icons and Protestantism.  Since he expects his readers to invest time and energy doing the reading, the least he could do would be to help them get started.

Below are links to a few sources mentioned by Pastor Sumpter and other articles that I consider important for getting a good grounding on the issue of icons, the Reformed objection to icons, and the Orthodox response to these objections.

Secondary Sources

Philip Schaff – History of the Christian Church Vol. IV “Medieval Christianity” pp. 447-470, § 100 to § 104 (19th century Protestant church historian) [Note: the link takes you to a PDF file that has a differentiation page numbering.  Reader is advised to search by section numbering, e.g., “§ 100.”]

Jaroslav Pelikan – Imago Dei (20th century church historian, Lutheran scholar, convert to Orthodoxy)

Robert Letham – Through Western Eyes: Eastern Orthodoxy – A Reformed Perspective (Reformed)

Steven BighamEarly Christian Attitudes toward Images (Orthodox)

Primary Sources – Church Fathers

John of Damascus – On the Divine Images

Theodore the Studite – On the Holy Icons

Primary Sources – Reformers

John Calvin – Institutes: Book I Chapter XI

Martin Luther – Larger Catechism: First Commandment

Primary Sources – Early Church Councils

Synod of 754 (Iconoclastic)  — NPNF Vol. XIV pp. 543-548

Council of 787 (Pro-Icons) – NPNF Vol. XIV pp. 549-577; Caroline Books pp. 578-583

A Caveat – A good bibliography does not assure good understanding of the issue. It is of little value if one reads the text in a superficial manner, i.e., “scanning-with-a-bias/ax to grind.”  There is a tendency among some Protestant apologists to quickly scan early church texts and quote passages out of context to make the point they want to make.  Protestant readers who read the early church fathers need to guard against imposing their theological biases on the early Church.  The early Church was neither Protestant, nor was it Roman Catholic.  Many Protestant readers of the Church Fathers are like American tourists who, when visiting a foreign country, judge the local culture by their own  American standards, rather than appreciating the distinctive character of that foreign culture. This calls for careful and attentive reading of the early church fathers and the early church councils by Protestant readers.


tbp361Running the Gauntlet

Notice the unfairness hidden behind the benign pastoral counsel to “compare your notes with trusted counselors and friends.”  These Reformed friends and counselors are not going to be objective about icons.  Protestant inquirers need to be aware of the fact that icons are, for the most part, a highly charged topic between Reformed and Orthodox Christians today.  Among certain Reformed churches a display of interest in icons and Orthodoxy can lead to censure and other forms of church discipline. Strangely, this is true even in one liturgical-sacramental Reformed group willing to read and cherry-pick (borrow) much from Orthodoxy!  Protestant inquirers, especially those in the Reformed tradition, need to approach the issue of icons and Orthodoxy with eyes wide open.  My advice to those who find themselves between a rock and a hard place is to take the Nicodemus approach.  That is, to study the matter in private and make contact with Orthodox Christians discreetly, like the way Nicodemus came to Jesus at night (John 3:1-2).


A Proposal: Reformed-Orthodox Forums

Screen-shot-2015-05-01-at-9.37.40-AMFor several years I was blessed to have been part of a local group of Christians in Hawaii that met on a monthly basis.  It was a diverse group of people coming from Evangelical, Charismatic, Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox churches.  The diversity of perspectives was enriched by the fact there were former Protestants who had converted to Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy, and thus were able to see more than one side of a theological issue.  From time to time, we would have debates over important issues like sola scriptura and the veneration of saints. Pastor John Armstrong organized a similar forum between Evangelicals and Orthodox in 2008 (see Vimeo podcast).

I propose that interested readers organize similar forums in their own areas.  It would be responsibility of presenters to do the “heavy lifting” (reading the sources recommended by Pastor Sumpter).  Those who don’t have the wherewithal to do the reading prescribed by Pastor Sumpter could benefit by listening to the presenters present their findings.  These face-to-face encounters are likely to be more fruitful than just posting comments on the Internet.


How Much is Enough?

One hidden danger in Toby Sumpter’s reading list is the assumption that head knowledge is enough.  Reading books about icons is not enough.  Protestant inquirers should make the effort to visit an Orthodox Sunday worship service (Liturgy).  While in the service they will find that icons play an important but supportive role in Orthodox worship.  The two major focal points of Orthodox worship are: (1) the Gospel reading in which the congregation hears the words of Christ, and (2) the Eucharist in which Christ offers his body and blood for the life of the world.  After the Sunday service the inquirer should talk with Orthodox church members about what icons mean to them and why they venerate icons.  It would be a good idea to talk to both converts and cradle Orthodox.  And of course, inquirers should meet one on one with the local priest.

Where Toby Sumpter’s approach is rational and doctrinal, the approach I am sketching here is similar to the way anthropologists approach the culture and practices of a “foreign” culture sympathetically in order to better understand it.  Orthodoxy at its core is not a system of abstract doctrines but a faith lived out in community and in worship.


The Key Question

Greek New Testament

Greek New Testament

For those whose time and life situation is constrained I would say that the key issue is: Are icons biblical?  This is the bottom-line question.  More specifically, Is Orthodoxy’s veneration of icons in violation of the Second Commandment?  The Reformed position is: Yes.  The Orthodox position, on the other hand, is that the Second Commandment applies to the pagan idolatry of Egypt, the land the Israelites had just left.  The Orthodox note that later in the book of Exodus and other books of the Old Testament God gave instructions for the making of images in the Tabernacle and the Temple, i.e., in the place of worship central to the Jewish life.  I wrote an article “The Biblical Basis for Icons” that dealt with this question.  I am confident that the majority of Protestant readers will be able to compare the two ways of reading the Old Testament texts and make up their minds.


Strategic Study

For Protestant inquirers who have more time on their hands I would advise them to approach Toby Sumpter’s massive reading list strategically.  You don’t have to read everything to find the truth of the matter.  If you are a Reformed Christian, read the leading theologian of the Reformed tradition, John Calvin, and his key work, Institutes of the Christian Religion.  Then read the two church fathers regarded by the Orthodox as the leading apologists for icons: John of Damascus and Theodore the Studite.  In addition to the doctrinal approach, inquirers should examine church history.  Which position reflected the general view of the early Church?  Was the early Church iconoclastic from the start?  Or was there early evidence for images in Christian and Jewish worship?  Which church council came to represent the historic Christian position on icon?  Then consider the issue from the standpoint of church unity.  Have the Orthodox across the various jurisdictions been united in the acceptance of icons?  Have the Protestants likewise been united in their opposition to icons? That Lutherans and Anglicans have been open to icons while Reformed Christians have not should make one pause and reconsider.  The absence of consensus and historical continuity in iconoclasm are indications that it is not part of historic Christianity.


Closing Thoughts

Don’t let Pastor Sumpter’s long reading list intimidate you.  One does not have to become an expert theologian.  It is possible for busy lay people to discern the truth about icons and Christianity.  Growing numbers of Protestants, lay and clergy, have come to the conclusion that icons are indeed biblical and part of the historic Christian Faith.  In accepting icons they encountered the rich heritage of the ancient Church.

Robert K. Arakaki


Additional Readings








  1. Lawrence B. Wheeler

    That’s another good article, Dr. Arakaki. I have a strong suspicion that Pastor Sumpter’s design is to bury his lay readers in some heavy theology so as to impede their progress toward Orthodoxy. One might call it intellectual red tape.

    • Robert Arakaki

      Thanks! Glad you liked it.


  2. Rebecca

    I second your advice to visit an Orthodox service to get a better understanding of the cultural context for the veneration of icons. For me, as a catechumen, the moment veneration “clicked” was when I noticed how our Ethiopian parishioners always greeted each other with kisses– when you kiss your friends to say hello, of course kissing an icon isn’t worship!

    • Robert Arakaki

      Thank you Rebecca! Good insight about how Ethiopian Christians greet each other. When I walk into the church the first thing I see is this big mosaic icon of Christ. I see Christ and bow out of respect to my God and Savior. Seeing the icon reminds me that I am in church to encounter Christ, not to watch a performance (the music or the sermon) but to participate in the holy mysteries.


      • Bill Ford

        “Not to watch a performance”? As if Protestants attend church for this reason? Who are you to judge, Robert? Cheap shot.

        • Robert Arakaki


          I think you’re overreacting. In my comment to Rebecca the point I had in mind was that in attending an Orthodox Liturgy it’s all too easy to get caught up in the beautiful icons, the chant, and other aesthetics, and forget that the main point of being in the Liturgy is to encounter Christ. That is why I wrote that I find venerating the icon of Christ upon first entering church a helpful reminder of why I am at church.


  3. Timothy White

    Thank you for the writings Dr. Arakaki. My journey from Protestantism to Orthodoxy is being blessed by a caring wife, a gifted Priest, and a parish that has welcomed my questions. I have come to the conclusion the conversion to Orthodoxy is really more answering an unending series of question never considered as part of my Christian faith. This is hard work.

    • Robert Arakaki


      Thanks for sharing! God bless your journey to Orthodoxy.


  4. Dawit

    As Rebecca says the Ethiopian Copts greet each other with a kiss. But so do Ethiopian Protestants and for me as a child that was a quite normal greeting when I met Christian people.

  5. Dawit

    I’m not sure how wide a definition of icon you have or what makes something an icon? When does a representation of a saint become an icon, when the artist is done with it, when it is blessed by the abuna or when it is venerated? For example would a cross at the front of the church be an icon? Whenever I see it the cross in front of our CRC church reminds me of Easter… Would you consider the images of “Creation Fall and Redemption that I sent you as an icon? I do.

    But lets take an icon, at a local Orthodox church that depicts Theotokos. If the function is to remind one of Mary and all the other saints who have gone before then I have no problem. Even to remembering them as reverenced predecessors is fine. But if the function is to direct one to pray to Mary, that she would bring our requests to Christ her son then no I can not accept an icon of Mary. So I am not sure what the implication of accepting icons is for the Orthodox.

    Probably an Orthodox icon of Christ in a local Orthodox church would be fine too. But if I were back in Ethiopia where I grew up and if as likely I observed that the majority of the people seemed to worship the icon of Christ then no I would not accept it.

    • Robert Arakaki


      In Orthodoxy there’s no one specific definition of icons. For example, because human beings are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26) you and I are icons. During the Liturgy the priest censes the icons on the wall then he swings the censer towards the congregation because the people are icons as well.

      The biggest difference between the Protestant and the Orthodox understanding is this. Where Protestant view icons as visual reminders, Orthodox view icons as having a sacramental quality, that is, icons provide a spiritual connection between the Christian viewer and the person depicted in the icon. This applies even to the saints because they are in Christ who is the Resurrection and the Life are present to us via the icons. They are now part of the great cloud of witnesses mentioned in Hebrews 12:1. When I read this passage as a Protestant I imagined a group of saints standing far off in a distance whom I would one day in the future meet. As an Orthodox Christian I picture the cloud of witnesses as being near me. This is especially the case in the Orthodox Liturgy (worship service) when the priest after the consecration mentions the Virgin Mary, the Apostles, the martyrs and other saints down through the ages. So when the priest calls out the names of the saints I don’t view this as a history lesson but more as a roll call of those present with us.

      So going back to your point about icons of the Theotokos (the Virgin Mary) serving to remind us of Mary and her life I agree with you on that. But where you see a reminder, I see a window into heaven that connects me to her. I’m guessing that the underlying difference is that you see a sizable gap between earth and heaven; we’re here on earth and Mary is way up there in heaven. For the Orthodox because Christ came down from heaven, destroyed Death by his dying on the Cross, rose again and ascended into heaven, the gap between earth and heaven has been bridged. Where the Orthodox worldview is sacramental, the Protestant worldview is very secular and grounded in Newtonian physics.

      Regarding the image of “Creation Fall and Redemption” you sent me. I thought it a very nice picture with lots of biblical insights but it would not be an Orthodox icon. Icons in Orthodoxy are governed by Tradition. I like to look at icons and I can sense whether or not an image is an Orthodox icon. I haven’t studied iconography. Those who study iconography have a more in-depth understanding of what makes for an Orthodox icon. If you want to understand the role icons play in Orthodox Tradition, the best thing to do is attend Orthodox liturgies and observe how icons fit into the liturgical life of the Church.

      If I were to visit an Ethiopian church, I would be among those who go up and venerate the icon of Christ. I will be giving my respect to Christ depicted in the icon, not the icon itself. It’s a lot like talking on the phone. You’re talking to the person, not to the phone. There’s a real conversation going on between two persons. It’s not make-believe like a child talking into a play phone. I’m guessing that for you there’s no connection. Icons for you are just paint on wood arranged in a pleasing manner but devoid of spiritual qualities. Am I right?


  6. Pauline

    Your point about Pastor Sumpter’s use of “intellectual intimidation” is a good one. Throwing down a reading list like that can definitely be off-putting for an average reader, and I suspect he’s intelligent enough to know that and have done so on purpose.

    His reliance on an intellectual approach points to the challenge of investigating Orthodoxy in the midst of a time and culture where intellectual activity is prized as the best way to investigate a subject, rather than only one method of investigation. In some ways an intellectual exploration really it’s own paradigm (and one that isn’t often questioned), not necessarily a way of seeing something as it really is

    I really appreciate how you redirected the “conversation” to a more holistic approach to icons. Researching icons within the Christian tradition can be a helpful way to understand them further – but it’s a reductionist approach at best.

    • Robert Arakaki


      Good point!


  7. Dawit

    You did not really answer my main question about the connection between icons and prayer to saints. If to an Orthodox person acceptance of icons implies acceptance of prayer to human persons in Christ’s keeping then I must reject Orthodox icons.

    I find your understanding of icons rather impoverished by what the Orthodox church has accepted and not going beyond that. I think good theological art functions as a way of drawing us, intellect, body and emotions… ie our whole being into their story and message. We get to see things in a new way, a new point of view, a new experience, a new understanding, a new drawing closer to what God has for us and closer to him.

    You insult me by suggesting that I see nothing in a piece of art except the media, this is like saying a book is nothing but wood fiber and splotches of ink. there seems to be a spiritualing tendency in what you write whereas I think matter matters as God made it and as the saying goes God don’t make junk. I expect to be matter and human for eternity and not just a de-materialized spirit in heaven. Imo evil is not intrinsic in matter and humanity and something we throw off when Christ returns. Maybe I have misunderstood you on this point as Orthodox friends do not seem to spiritualize everything.

    • Robert Arakaki


      You wrote: “If to an Orthodox person acceptance of icons implies acceptance of prayer to human persons in Christ’s keeping then I must reject Orthodox icons.” That I believe reflects an accurate understanding of the Orthodox view of icons. This what makes you a Protestant, and me an Orthodox Christian.

      I did not intend to insult you in my point about approaching icons as paint on wood. I was drawing on my Protestant experience of icons. Back then I appreciated icons but felt no spiritual connection with the heavenly reality depicted in the icon. I did not view material objects as evil or inferior, just inert matter with no sacramental quality in themselves. If there was any spiritual benefit, it would be from the mental reflection in my mind. This for me is a secular worldview.

      I know you intended it as a criticism when you wrote: “I find your understanding of icons rather impoverished by what the Orthodox church has accepted and not going beyond that” but I take that as a compliment. 🙂



  8. Dawit

    Your statement about taking what I said as a complement illustrates another issue that I have with much of Orthodoxy. As I see it, some in Orthodoxy do not expect to find anything new in Scripture revealed by the Spirit. I see God showing us ongoing understanding and growth but not contrary or as a replacement for scripture. Of course we protestants sometimes see trajectory in scripture that probably is denied to the Orthodox.

    I admit now that I am old and unable to get out I tend to deaden my sacramental instincts since we no longer get out to church and in any case the elements make me very ill for days, essentially I am in practice excommunicated. At least our church does not have the Eucharist every Sunday so if I am well I can select when I go. Some Sundays if I am well enough but Eucharist is occurring, I simply stay home as it is too painful. The loss is incalculable. Sometimes I watch Coptic or Orthodox services or lectures on the many days at home but too often the fatigue and mental fog prevent that. I do learn from the Orthodox at times.

    • Robert Arakaki


      Let us recognize and respect each other’s choices. Sorry to hear about your painful situation and limited opportunities to go to church. Read the Scriptures, pray constantly, and stay faithful to Christ always.

      In His tender mercies,


      • Dawit

        Robert I respect your choices although I disagree but in no case ever do I think you are not Christian both now and when you were Protestant.

        I tend to take a broad view of Christianity as represented in the Nicene (without the filioque) and Athanasian Creeds plus summaries such as those by C S Lewis or by G. K. Chesterton (with some slight reservations). On many issues I am not convinced that there is one right answer for all or that we have sufficient information to make a hard decision. I also expect that in some of my theology I am wrong but I just don’t know exactly where, I think we differ in this respect as you seem to think that all your theology and traditions are essential. Often I disagree with Calvinism especially high federal Calvinism like the YRR groups.

        The separation of the church into so many groups is a tragedy. In a number of cases I think we badly misunderstand one another for example the Council of Chalcedon and the Orthodox split with the Copts and possibly with the western church over Deification, apophatic theology and some other items. I look at the fact that we can’t even agree on dates for Christmas and Easter and despair. Maybe the whole effort is in vain as we can’t ever fulfill Christ’s commandment to love one another and thus demonstrate the truth of Christianity. Thus possibly we should throw it all in the trash? I really don’t care when Christmas is held but strongly think that Easter should follow the Jewish Passover as the Orthodox do most of the time it seems.

        You see your blog as helping those of the reformed who want to transition to or explore Orthodoxy. I see it much more as a way to try to understand our real differences rather than just the differences we have on the surface.

        A topic I would like to see explored would be monergism, synergism and Pelaganism. A previous post and discussion left me wondering if Orthodoxy holds to semi-Pelaganism and an Arminian theologian I queried said he wondered the same. Just a thought.

        By the way the pastor who suggested reading and understanding Calvin and a whole host of other theologians seems way off base to me and it is likely he is obfuscating the issue. But some reading on both sides of the Icon issue is appropriate, both for and against. I found parts of “Eastern Orthodox Christianity: A Western Perspective” helpful although I disagree with the author in places. I do accept icons as appropriate aids (sacrament or possibly sacrament like) to understanding and worship, in case I was not clear. The number of sacraments is something I tend to be agnostic on, but have not spent much time studying the issue as I doubt the number and precise identification has much importance beyond the basics of baptism and Eucharist that we all agree on, although I do think confirmation, as we practice it, is important.

        • Robert Arakaki


          I’m sure much of your questions will be covered in some of my earlier articles.

          1) One Church versus many churches — see “Protestantism’s Fatal Genetic Flaw.”

          2) Monergism — see “Plucking the TULIP 3

          3) Semi-Pelagianism — see “Response to Theodore.”

          4) You wrote about my positions: “You seem to think all your theology and traditions are essential.” What I try to present on the OrthodoxBridge is the Apostolic Tradition received, safeguarded, and passed on by the Orthodox Church. This is not my opinion but what the Church has taught. Where I do present my opinion, I try to make sure that the reader understand that this or that are my personal positions. You might want to read my article “Defending the Vincentian Canon.”



  9. David Rockett

    Thanks again Robert for a fine article. The issue(s) surrounding Icons can get detailed and confusing, especially if one does not relax and take their time to really understand. Sadly, I was often as a protestant too anxious and ready to “get the right position” about everything. This “premature-dogmatism” is not helpful and leads to shallowness and pride. Let me encourage readers (and you lurkers) out there to take their time and do what Robert suggests. Do your reading slowly. Visit a few Orthodox Churches and Divine Liturgies. You might even ask a few Priests or seasoned Orthodox…(shocker!) how they understand Icons! The articles reference and linked above are very good and helpful…as are others in the archives.
    Let me just say after reading the past six yrs and being an Orthodox convert for the past two years…Icons have been a tremendous aid in adding tangible substance to “the communion of the saint” confessed in the Creed. It has become far more a living reality…than a theological abstraction. Lord have mercy.

    • Lawrence Wheeler

      Well put, Mr. Rockett, especially the remark about a premature dogmatism leading to shallowness and pride.

  10. Stefano

    As someone from a Greek background let me say we do a lot of kissing as well as a form of greeting. It is becoming less common in the diaspora due to Anglo-Saxon cultural influences but when I’m in Greece it’s kisses from all directions. A kiss is simply a common greeting convention in Meditteranean culture. If Christianity started in Anglo-Saxon society then the convention would probably be to shake an icon’s hand!

    It always astounds me to see the knowledge that some converts have. One of my convert friends has amassed a sizeable Patristic library. Luckily, more and more patristic writings are being translated every day. There are also plenty of modern books and articles dealing with Church history in a scholarly way. There are even some from Orthodox scholars. There was nothing like this when I was growing up.

    Ultimately, the issue is problematic. You can show evidence from the 8th century but then someone will say show me something older. When you show them evidence from the 4th century they will say what about before Constantine. When you show them pre-Nicene examples they will say they want multiple examples. When you show multiple examples they demand more.

    I certainly think that Orthodoxy can meet any historical scrutiny but it can’t withstand an overly critical assessment of the sources. This is especially the case when the Church Fathers don’t deal directly with an issue that is in dispute in the modern world.

    Having read a substantial number of writing from the Reformers over the last 5 years I am constantly underwhelmed by their twisting of Bible verses, misquotes and out of context quotes from the Church Fathers, factual errors and simplistic thinking. Take, for example, the Reformation attack on relics – there were numerous fakes and priests were defrauding the public. The solution was not to investigate the authentic practice but to abolish it all together. With this kind of thinking we should abolish the Bible because people misuse it!

  11. Perry C Robinson

    His argument seems to go something like this.

    1. Icons cannot sufficiently resemble what Jesus looked like.
    2. If icons cannot sufficiently resemble what Jesus looked like, then they can’t denote his hypostasis.
    3. If icons can’t denote Jesus’ hypostasis, then veneration of them is not licensed.

    He seems to be taking Theodore’s argument to be the idea that seeing Christ is a matter of pictographic representation or expression, rather than denotation. Images can denote without being iconographic. Words do this all the time.

    Furthermore, iconophile’s reject premise 2. Iconic works are not pictures. Nor is it necessary for artwork to be pictographic to denote or express a given person. Is biblical language describing what the Apostle John saw pictographic? Do all forms of art that are not pictographic fail to denote? If so, why think so?

    As for 3, this would be an argument against veneration, but not the strict iconoclasm of traditional Calvinism. And here is why that is important. His argument is in support of the Reformed reading of the commandment which prohibits icon making as well as veneration. This is why the argument fails.

  12. Brad

    Sumpter in his article wrote: ” Can you explain where his (John of Demascus’) defense is flawed (according to the Orthodox)”. What issue might he be referring to?

    • Robert Arakaki


      Good question! I took another look at what Pastor Sumpter wrote and ended up scratching my head in puzzlement. It seems that Sumpter would like Protestant inquirers to familiarize themselves with John of Damascus’ pro-icon arguments and then to be able to critique the pro-icon arguments. But the enclosed phrase “according to the Orthodox” bewilders me. I’m not aware of any Orthodox criticizing John of Damascus on the issue of icons. I suggest you write him directly.


      • Stefano

        Hi Robert,
        Could it be that Calvin rejected the distinction between doulia/hyperdoulia and prokinesis so he sees John of Damascus’s approach as flawed that way?

        • Robert Arakaki


          I don’t know why Calvin rejected the doulia/hyperdoulia distinction. It could be from etymology, or it could be that he was iconoclastic to begin with and with that as his starting point rejected John of Damascus’ reasoning.


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