Orthodox-Reformed Bridge

A Meeting Place for Evangelicals, Reformed, and Orthodox Christians

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Preparing for Lent

Feeling overwhelmed by sin?

 

The Orthodox Church prepares for Lent by observing a series of Sundays, each with a particular theme. On the Sunday of the Prodigal Son, the Orthodox faithful hear one of Jesus’ well known parables and are urged to reflect on the importance of repentance for our spiritual recovery. One way we learn the meaning of repentance is through the hymns and prayers of the Church. One especially powerful prayer sung in the Vespers service for the Sunday of the Prodigal Son goes:

I was entrusted with a sinless and living land, but I sowed the ground with sin and reaped with a sickle the ears of slothfulness; in thick sheaves I garnered my actions, but winnowed them not on the threshing floor of repentance. But I beg Thee, my God, the pre-eternal husbandman, with the wind of Thy loving-kindness winnow the chaff of my works, and grant to my soul the corn of forgiveness; shut me in Thy heavenly storehouse and save me. (Lenten Triodion p. 112; emphasis added)

Frederica Mathewes-Green in Facing East (p. 13) describes this hymn as a blend of the just-as-I-am humility but with a flourish of eloquent rhetoric. This prayer resonates with me because I spend a fair amount of time doing yard work. I find it frustrating after having made a part of my yard immaculate seeing weeds reappear over and over. This for me is a picture of the situation in my soul.

Heaven was intended to be our home, but due to our sins we have gone into exile, living in a foreign land strangers to God. In another part of the Vespers service is the prayer:

As the Prodigal Son I come to Thee; merciful Lord. I have wasted my whole life in a foreign land; I have scattered the wealth which Thou gavest me, O Father. Receive me in repentance, O God, and have mercy on me. (Lenten Triodion p. 113)

Sin is more than a legal violation. It is also the state of estrangement in which one is far removed from God. Therefore, salvation is more than legal righteousness; it also involves union with God. Repentance is key to our return to God. Repentance is more than remorse – feeling bad or having regrets over what one has done. Repentance goes a step beyond remorse and involves the renunciation of sin and a return back to God. Judas Iscariot had remorse, but Simon Peter returned to Jesus. The prodigal son had remorse when he longed to eat what the pigs were eating, but repented when he came to himself and resolved to go back home to his father (Luke 15:17-18).

In Orthodoxy, repentance is more than a one-time event. For Orthodox Christians, repentance is a continuous, ongoing process throughout life. We sin; we repent; we sin again; and we repent again. This cycle continues throughout life. Every Sunday we pray that we may live out our lives in peace and repentance. The good news is that when we repent, God is there to receive us back.

 

Icon of the Prodigal Son

Repentance in the Reformed and Orthodox Traditions

Repentance is a good example of how synergy underlies our salvation in Christ. We repent and God receives us back gladly. Unlike the heresy of Pelagianism which teaches that salvation depends on our exercising our will power, Christianity teaches God’s grace and mercy prepares the way for our return. God initiates and we respond.  God is the source of our salvation.

The Orthodox paradigm of salvation rests on two premises: (1) that God loves all people and (2) that all of us, even though fallen sinners, still retain free will. Our souls may have been damaged and corrupted by sin, but we still have the capacity to respond to God who is Love (1 John 4:8). Love does not coerce, but waits. The father in the parable of the Prodigal Son considered the wayward son dead in a certain sense but was waiting in hope for his return (see Luke 15:32).  The Orthodox paradigm of synergism differs sharply from the Reformed paradigm of monergism. In the Reformed paradigm the human will has been so damaged by the Fall that humanity lacks the capacity to return to God unless one has been predestined. We find the doctrine of monergism in the major confessions of the Reformed tradition.

Other men do not share this conflict since they do not have God’s Spirit, but they readily follow and obey sin and feel no regrets, since they act as the devil and their corrupt nature urge. But the sons of God fight against sin; sob and mourn when they find themselves tempted to do evil; and, if they fall, rise again with earnest and unfeigned repentance. They do these things, not by their own power, but by the power of the Lord Jesus, apart from whom they can do nothing. (Chapter 13 – Scots Confession; emphasis added)

Now we expressly say that this repentance is a sheer gift of God and not a work of our strength. (Chapter 14 – Second Helvetic Confession; emphasis added)

Where Calvinism believes that humanity has lost all capacity to respond to God’s grace, Orthodoxy and the early Church Fathers taught that man has retained free will after the Fall the ability to respond to God. See my articles: (1) “Calvin Dissing the Fathers” and (2) “Plucking the TULIP.”

While Calvinism part ways with Orthodoxy over synergism, there is a shared understanding that repentance involves dying to self and being renewed in the Spirit.

Because they acknowledge Christ the only head and foundation of the Church, and, resting on him, daily renew themselves by repentance, and patiently bear the cross laid upon them. (Chapter 17 – Second Helvetic Confession; emphasis added)

Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, doth, with grief and hatred of his sin, turn from it unto God, with full purpose of, and endeavor after, new obedience. (Q. 87 – Westminster Shorter Catechism)

 

Ladder of Divine Ascent. Source

Repentance and Spiritual Warfare

Repentance is an important part of spiritual warfare. When we sin, we under the influence of demons. Repentance is key to breaking the power of the demons in our lives.

I have become enslaved to every evil and in my wretchedness I have bowed down before the demons that provoke the passions; through heedlessness I have lost possession of myself. O Saviour, heavenly Father, take pity on me as I flee for refuge to Thy many mercies. (Lenten Triodion p. 117)

Missing from the Reformed understanding of repentance is the context of spiritual warfare. A search of the PCUSA’s Book of Confessions yielded only three results for “demons.” In Orthodoxy, there is a keen awareness of the Christian life as spiritual warfare. Prior to baptism, in the Rite of Exorcism the catechumen (candidate) renounces Satan three times. Throughout the Orthodox life are reminders of the need to battle the passions of the flesh and resist the demons. We do this in order to “fight the good fight” and to “finish the race” as the Apostle Paul put it in 2 Timothy 4:7.

 

Holy Thursday Service at St. Mary Orthodox Church in Cambridge, MA.

Repentance and Returning to God

Lent is a journey. During the season of Lent, just as the Prodigal Son repented and made his journey back home, so likewise Orthodox Christians daily repent of their sins and undertake a return journey to the kingdom of God. Our journey is not outward and physical, but rather inward. Every day of Lent we undertake the disciplines of fasting, prayers, and acts of charity. The Lenten journey culminates in the midnight Pascha (Easter) Liturgy. After weeks of carrying our cross, repenting of sins, battling the passions of the flesh, and spending time in prayer, we are welcomed home by our loving heavenly Father. The fatted calf symbolizes the Eucharistic celebration. The Prodigal Son reclothed with the best robe symbolizes the newly baptized who are clothed with Christ. In the joyful resurrectional hymns the Church rejoices and makes merry as did the Father and the household over the return of the Prodigal Son.

Let us with repentance begin our Lenten journey. Let us with perseverance make our journey back home to God who is waiting for us.

Robert Arakaki

 

Resources

Robert Arakaki. 2018. “Does John 6:44 Teach Predestination?OrthodoxBridge.
Robert Arakaki. 2013. “Calvin Dissing the Fathers.” OrthodoxBridge.
Robert Arakaki. 2012. “Plucking the TULIP.OrthodoxBridge.
Frederica Mathewes-Green. 1997. Facing East: A Pilgrim’s Journey into the Mysteries of Orthodoxy. HarperSanFrancisco.
Mother Mary and Kallistos Ware. 2002. The Lenten Triodion. St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press.
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). 2014. Book of Confessions.

 

 

Aniconism Versus Iconoclasm?

Baptistry – Dura-Europos Church – circa AD 250

 

CS Comments on “John Carpenter – Round 2”

Folks,

I received a comment from CS in regards to my recent article: “Responding to Rev. John Carpenter – Round 2.”  In light of the number of questions he asked and the length of my answers to his questions, I made the decision to post both as a separate blog article.  You may find the original comment here.

To assist the reader, I have put CS’s comment in block quotes and italicized them.  My responses will be in the normal font format.

Robert Arakaki

 

“The Incarnation changes everything.” Fr. Josiah Trenham

[1] Did something change between the Old and New Testament?

CS writes:

I think the dilemma of the icon venerator is the question of “did something change with images between the old and new covenant or not?”

If something changed, then you cannot use Old Testament images or continuity with the Synagogues as an argument for icon veneration. Because icon veneration is something wholly new.

If something did not change, then you must show that the practice of veneration of images is present within the Old Testament church and to a degree within Jewish tradition during the time of Christ.

Icon venerators often mix arguments from these two positions together in the hopes that the uninformed reader will be confused and dazzled enough to give in.

In this article, you seem to take the view that our relationship with images did not fundamentally change in the new covenant. Well, somebody forgot to inform John of Damascus and Theodore the Studite of this.

My response – Yes, something changed between the Old and the New Covenants – the Word became flesh. The Levitical sacrificial system was superseded by Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross. Jesus was the ultimate Passover Lamb who died for the sins of the world. No longer were men obliged to go to the Jerusalem Temple and offer up sacrifices for their sins. Circumcision was superseded by baptism into Christ. Christian baptism—while it has roots in the Jewish reception of converts—represents a new form of covenant initiation, especially when it superseded Jewish circumcision. That is why the Christian Judaizers, who were theological conservatives, resisted the radical implications of the Gospel, which the Apostle Paul expounded on in Galatians and Romans.

Your insistence that it must be shown that Jews in the Old Covenant kissed and bowed down to images in order for icon veneration to be valid is misplaced. By that reasoning, you might as well have insisted that there be evidence for the universality of baptism in Old Covenant Judaism. And you might as well have insisted that there be evidence of the Jewish Passover meal consisting of consuming someone’s body and blood. It must be recognized that in Christianity elements of Old Covenant Judaism were received and transformed in light of Christ’s Incarnation and Resurrection.

The Incarnation gave rise to a new form of worship – the Christian Eucharist. In the Eucharist, Christ’s body and blood are offered in the Sunday worship throughout the world. The real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist, while it represents continuity with the Jewish Passover, also represent something new. Why else were so many offended by Jesus teaching about eating body and drinking his blood in John chapter 6? This new kind of worship reflects the transformatory influence of Christ’s Incarnation, his death on the Cross, and his third-day Resurrection. Father Josiah Trenham (5:15 mark of the video) aptly put it: “The Incarnation changes everything.”

You implied that my position was that our relationship with images did not change. That is incorrect. I wrote that Christ’s Incarnation and Resurrection transformed the Jewish martyrs cult and their approach to images. When you sarcastically remarked that someone forgot to tell John of Damascus that our relationship with images did not change, you seemed not to have read the quote from John of Damascus that the momentous event of the Incarnation opened the way for the making of images of Christ. “When the Invisible One becomes visible to flesh, you may then draw a likeness of His form.” It seemed to me that you read my article in haste and superficially. I would urge you to reread my article again more carefully, paying attention to the implications of Christ’s Incarnation for the relations between the Old and New Covenants.

 

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[2] Aniconism versus Iconoclasm?

CS writes:

You said:

“Thus, the likely reason for the absence of images was prudence, not iconoclasm. To openly depict Christian images might invite investigation and prosecution in times of persecution. It is somewhat surprising that Rev. Carpenter cites Bigham in support of Reformed iconoclasm (see footnote no. 45), but then failed to take note of the explanation that Bigham gives for the absence of images. “

Rev. Carpenter is not arguing for iconoclasm. The fact that Dura Europas has images is perfectly fine and acceptable with his position. That is why it did not need to be addressed.

At this point, your article is starting to present a straw man. This happens every time an EOA [Eastern Orthodox Apologists] finds themselves in a tough spot. They revert back to arguing against iconoclasm. You need to argue that it is correct to bow down before images and venerate them, not that it is merely ok to create images. Carpenter does not object to the latter as this is obviously present in the old testament.

And again you state:

“Reformed apologists like Rev. Carpenter will need to present archaeological evidence that shows that the norm among early churches were four bare walls like modern-day Reformed churches.”

Why must Rev. Carpenter defend a view that he does not hold? Please address Carpenter’s actual position.

You said:

“This belief that Orthodoxy’s claim “unbroken continuity” leaves absolutely no allowance or room for any development has been a significant impediment to Reformed-Orthodox dialogue.”

When you are unable to prove a consistent teaching from 33 AD (or even 200 AD) as you advertise to converts, you punt to development of doctrine. Just an observation.

My Response – Thank you for providing the missing quotes.  This makes your comment much clearer. [Added 9-Feb-2019]

In his article Rev. Carpenter disavows iconoclasm by defining it in a very narrow fashion – active opposition to icons. This definition is not only overly narrow but unconventional. This is why I took the effort to present the definition of ‘iconoclasm’ in the Oxford Dictionary. By presenting unconventional definitions Rev. Carpenter is rigging the rules of the game in his favor. In the paragraph just above the sub-section title “A False Binary?” I pointed out the word game that Rev. Carpenter is playing and my refusal to play by his rules. I stated clearly that I would be following the conventional definition of “iconoclastic,” rather than Rev. Carpenter’s idiosyncratic definition of ‘iconoclastic.’ In light of the conventional definitions like that provided in the Oxford Dictionary, Rev. Carpenter is clearly an iconoclast. This is why I cited the major confessions of the Reformed tradition that make it clear in no uncertain terms that they oppose images in churches.

Aniconism as a conceptual spectrum ranges from moderate aniconism which allows for religious images (not necessarily with active devotion) to rigorous aniconism which opposes religious images. This is useful for understanding the variety of views held in early Judaism and Christianity. Iconoclasm likewise is a conceptual spectrum. It ranges from doctrinal opposition to active opposition that involves physical destruction of religious images. This is useful for understanding the various forms that iconoclasm takes. Aniconism is not necessarily opposed to iconoclasm. Pertinent to our discussion is the fact that rigorous aniconism overlaps with doctrinal iconoclasm. Rev. Carpenter attempts to avoid this by applying an unconventional definition of iconoclasm (involving only the active destruction of religious images) to himself. But let us call a spade a spade; if you hold to rigorous aniconism, you are also a doctrinal iconoclast. Calvinists, like Rev. Carpenter, may not have destroyed any religious images lately, but they are bound to the Reformed confessions that explicitly oppose as a matter of doctrine religious images in churches. To me, in light of the Oxford Dictionary’s definition that iconoclasm involves the rejection and/or destruction of images, John Carpenter is an iconoclast. [This paragraph added 6-Feb-2019]

 

Eucharist – the core of Orthodox Tradition

Your demand for proof of clear evidence of icon veneration from AD 33 to AD 200 shows an unrealistic understanding of church history. It is important when studying early Christianity that one approach it with an attitude of humble respect, not arrogant demands for evidence. Rather than ask:

Where’s the evidence for the active veneration of icons between AD 33 to AD 200?”;

one should instead ask:

What evidence is there of Christianity between the period AD 33 to AD 200?

Although not abundant, the evidence from the early writings indicate that early Christian worship was liturgical, that the Eucharist was the center of early Christian worship, and that the early Christians believed in the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist. This is why I closed my article urging Rev. Carpenter to focus on the Eucharist as the point of difference between the Reformed tradition and Orthodoxy. There is ample evidence to make for a fruitful dialogue about how the Reformed tradition and present day Orthodoxy compare against early Christianity. Furthermore, the Eucharist lies at the core of Orthodox Tradition. If Rev. Carpenter can show that the Orthodox understanding of the Eucharist diverges from the early Church or that a radical rupture in historical continuity with respect to the Liturgy took place then he will have presented a serious challenge to Orthodoxy’s claim to have a direct link to the early Church. On the reverse side, Rev. Carpenter will need to show how the Reformed understanding of the Eucharist and the real presence is much closer to the early Church than Orthodoxy. This is where Reformed-Orthodox dialogue should be focused on. Icons, while integral to Orthodox Tradition, do not comprise the central core of Tradition. The veneration of icons can be considered consequences from the Church’s growing appreciation of Christ’s sacramental presence in the Eucharist which resulted from his Incarnation and Resurrection.

 

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[3] Essence/Energies Distinction & Did the Incarnation happen in the Old Testament?

CS writes:

Some icon venerators tie in the essence/energies distinction for why icons should be venerated. My response is, did the essence/energies distinction not exist in the Old Testament?

My response: The essence/energies distinction existed in the Old Testament just as the Holy Trinity existed in the Old Testament. The idea of God as Trinity was implicit in the Old Testament, became more explicit in the New Testament Scriptures, then was formalized as dogma in the First and Second Ecumenical Councils (325 and 381). The essence/energies distinction in the Church’s understanding of God has a similar trajectory. The Christological and Trinitarian controversies led the Church Fathers to appropriate terms used in Greek philosophy and invest new meanings into words like ‘ousia’ (essence) and ‘prosopon’ (person). It would not be until the 1300s that Gregory of Palamas brought greater precision to our understanding of God as ‘energies.’ God has always been essence, person, and energies, what changed is humanity’s understanding of what God is. Here again is an example of why the idea of the development of doctrine is so important and useful. Without the development of doctrine, we would likely still be debating over ancient heresies like Arianism which denied Christ’s full divinity, modalism which denied the divinity of each Person of the Trinity, Pneumatomachianism which denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit, and Barlaamism which denies that it is possible for man to have a direct experiential knowledge of God through prayer. Key to the development of doctrine is the belief that the Holy Spirit guided the Church in its understanding of God. Without this premise one would have a secularized understanding of church history of one faction triumphing over another faction and theological terms like ‘Trinity’ and ‘homoousios’ serving as mere human invention.

 

Christ Anapeson – Reclining Infant Jesus. Source

Some icon venerators tie in the incarnation for why icons should be venerated. My response is, did God not incarnate (physically manifest) in the Old Testament in multiple theophanies? If you claim he did not and those were merely holograms, well that goes against Eastern Orthodox teachings on the theophanies, no?

My response: Yes, God did manifest himself physically in the Old Testament but these events were for a limited duration. The Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:7 noted that in the Incarnation, Jesus “emptied himself” (RSV).   In the Incarnation, God the Son became human in the fullest sense of the word: spending nine months in his mother’s womb, being born as we all were born from our mother’s womb, spent his early years as an infant, grew up and matured as children do, have a career, hungered and thirsted, acquired a circle of friends, and ended life by sharing in the universal human experience of dying. In the words of Irenaeus of Lyons, Christ recapitulated human existence for our salvation. That is, he as the Second Adam repeated or lived the life that the First Adam failed to lived. As the Second Adam, Jesus lived the perfect life on behalf of all humanity. The Second Adam then died on behalf of all humanity on the Cross so that those who joined themselves to him would share in his resurrection. This is why Christ’s incarnation, while similar to Old Testament theophanies, is so radically different. It is because of the Virgin Mary’s conceiving Christ in her womb that he shared in our ontology. In the Old Testament theophanies there was a close likeness to human nature but no physical linkage that made God consubstantial with our human nature until the Virgin Mary gave her assent in the Annunciation (Luke 1:37). There is an Orthodox prayer that says of the Virgin Mary: “by your wondrous conceiving you united God the Word to human beings.” Your question leads me to think that you have not grasped the radical implications of the Incarnation. I would urge to read Athanasius the Great’s theological classic On the Incarnation. Understanding the Incarnation is essential to having a sound Christology.

 

CLOSING COMMENT

Dear CS,

I would urge you to read my article again carefully. Reading with haste can lead to superficial understanding and misrepresentations. Second, I would urge to familiarize yourself with early church history, especially with the evidence available to us. Third, I would urge you to reflect on the implications of the Incarnation for our salvation and how it opened the way for created matter to become vessels of divine grace. As a result of the Incarnation the world is no longer secular inert matter but potential channels of divine grace. Water blessed in the name of the Trinity becomes the laver of regeneration birthing us into the kingdom of God. Bread and wine becomes the body and blood of Christ. Images painted on wood become windows to heaven. Sinful men and women become holy saints partaking of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

Robert Arakaki

 

For Further Reading & Listening

Ben Witherington.  No date.  “The Church in the House in Dura Europos.”

—-.  No date.  “Church House in Dura-Europos.” Byzantine Legacy.

Carly Silver.  2010.  “Dura Europos: Crossroad of Cultures.”  Archaeology.

—-.  No date.  “#202: John of Damascus for Icons.”  Christian History Institute.

Fr. Thomas Hopko.  2010.  “Doctrinal Development.” [47:17]  Speaking the Truth in Love: Anicent Faith Radio.

St. Vincent of Lerins.  Before 450.  “Homily: The Development of Doctrine.”  Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Toronto (Canada).

 

Responding to Rev. John Carpenter on Icons – Round 2

A Friendly Conversation

Continuing the Conversation

Pastor John Carpenter recently published a lengthy article on the Gospel Coalition’s website “Answering Eastern Orthodox Apologetics regarding Icons.” The article is in part a response to my earlier article: “A Response to John B. Carpenter’s ‘Icons and the Eastern Orthodox Claim to Continuity with the Early Church.’” One could say that my article and Pastor Carpenter’s two articles represent an ongoing friendly Reformed-Orthodox dialogue, which we welcome. This article will be an assessment and response to his latest article.

Assessment

One common weakness in Reformed critiques of Orthodox icons has been either a superficial understanding of icons or reliance on caricatures of the Orthodox understanding of icons. As far as Reformed apologia engaging Orthodoxy goes, this article is one of the better ones. Pastor Carpenter appears to have done some homework as evidenced by the eighty-plus endnotes and his engaging a wide range of well respected Orthodox writers such as Steven Bigham and Gabe Martini. Carpenter’s scholarship is also evidenced by his willingness to cite secular sources such as Milette Gaifman’s 2017 article: “Aniconism: definitions, examples and comparative perspectives.” Despite some very real weaknesses, the quality of Carpenter’s latest article is such that it has helped refine this author’s pro-icon apologia.

In his article Pastor Carpenter approaches icons not just as religious images, but in the way they are used in worship. He concludes the introductory section with a sparse definition of an icon being “a sacred image used in religious devotion.” This focus on the function of icons plays a key role in Carpenter’s latest rebuttal of Orthodox pro-icon apologia. Orthodoxy has historically seen an inextricable connection between what an icon is with what an icon does – it sacramentally mediates the personal presence of Christ and the saints. So John Carpenter’s shift in focus is far from a minor tactical change in Reformed iconoclastic apologia, but one that must be taken seriously.

However, I found his understanding of “iconography” as the use of icons in worship rather eccentric. Conventional definitions of “iconography” focus on the images themselves, not the act of venerating the images in the context of worship as Carpenter would have it. The Cambridge Dictionary defines “iconography” as:

the use of images and symbols to represent ideas, or the particular images and symbols used in this way by a religious or political group, etc.

The Encyclopedia Britannica defined “iconography” as:

. . . the science of identification, description, classification, and interpretation of symbols, themes, and subject matter in the visual arts.

What Rev. Carpenter calls “iconography” would be more appropriately referred to as “icon veneration.”

One more terminological peculiarity of Carpenter’s article is his defining “iconoclasm” as the active destruction of images.

When this prohibition is enforced by the actual destruction of images, aniconism becomes iconoclasm. (§1)

The more widely accepted understanding of “iconoclasm” is either the rejection of religious images or their destruction. The Oxford Dictionary defines “iconoclasm”:

The rejection or destruction of religious images as heretical; the doctrine of iconoclasts.

This is important to keep in mind because it allows John Carpenter to disavow that he is an iconoclast in the general sense of the word by his insisting in his article that “iconoclasm” refers to just the active destruction of religious images and that his position is closer to rigorous aniconism. In this article I will be using the word “iconoclasm” in the more generally accepted sense.

 

A False Binary?

John Carpenter criticizes Orthodox pro-icon apologia for the “binary” nature of their arguments.

If EOAs [Eastern Orthodox Apologists] can frame the debate as a binary choice between radically rigorous aniconism or full-blown iconography [icon veneration], many people will succumb to the logic of iconography. Hence, they typically argue, “Icons are like family photos. Just like a deployed soldier may kiss a photo of his wife, we kiss icons of Saints who have fallen asleep in Christ.” This is, of course, a false dilemma. (Carpenter 2018; §1)

Carpenter counters Orthodox pro-icon apologia with the concept of aniconism. He argues that the presence of images in the Old Testament Tabernacle as well as in early Jewish and Christian places of worship are consistent with aniconism and do not necessarily indicate that these images were used for worship. To bolster his argument, Carpenter draws on Milette Gaifman’s comparative analysis of the use of images across various religious traditions. Drawing on Gaifman’s article, Carpenter writes:

So the discovery of decorations in catacombs or the synagogue and church of Dura Europos does not necessarily suggest iconography [icon veneration]. One can still be “aniconic” (opposed to icons) and allow decorations. Aniconism is the belief that images should not be used in worship; it is opposition to icons but not necessarily to all images. There is a spectrum of aniconism. Rigorous aniconism insists that the natural or supernatural world should not be represented in any visible way. . . . . When this prohibition is enforced by the actual destruction of images, aniconism becomes iconoclasm. (Carpenter 2018; emphasis added)

Aniconism, then, covers a range from rigorous aniconism in which all images are forbidden, including secular art, in any contexts, whether secular or religious, to mediating views of some images being acceptable in non-religious contexts; to the laxest form of aniconism, that images of all kinds are acceptable, even as decorations in places of worship but not used in worship. It is the prohibition on using an image in acts of devotion that is the sine qua non of aniconism. (Carpenter 2018; §1; emphasis added)

The concept of aniconism has the advantage of allowing us to come to grips with the complexity of the relationship between art and worship in early Christianity. The spectrum of moderate to rigorous aniconism gives us a more flexible framework for assessing so-called early Christian iconoclasm, e.g., Epiphanius, Clement of Alexandria, as well as archaeological evidence of images in early Christian places of worship. While there is some evidence for the presence of images in early Christian churches, it is harder to find evidence that the early Christians actively venerated these images. One could infer from the presence of these images that the early Christians venerated them but this is not evidence of the active veneration of the images. Later in this article, we will see that given Second Temple Judaism’s use of images there is reason to assume a continuity of practice which would provide the basis for the Christian veneration of icons.

Given the paucity of evidence for the active veneration preceding Emperor Constantine’s recognition of Christianity, the more cautious position to take is that early Christianity was originally aniconic and that the active veneration of icons emerged at a later date. It is hypothesized that the active veneration of images by Christians had two sources: early Christian aniconism and the cult of the martyrs, both of which had roots in Judaism. These two strands of Jewish traditions were retained by the early Christians and transformed through the prism of Christ’s Incarnation and Resurrection. The convergence likely took place in the sixth and seventh centuries when images of the martyrs shifted from being visual reminders into visual sacraments by which one could pray to the saints. Pagoulatos dated the introduction of images in Christian worship between the fifth and seventh centuries (p. 26). The convergence was initially a bottom-up phenomenon, that is, they sprung up among the laity independently of the hierarchy. It was only later that the Church’s hierarchy formally endorsed the veneration of icons at the Council of Nicea II in 787. This continuity with growth points to the dynamic nature of Orthodox Tradition.

 

Three Youths in Furnace – Christian Catacombs in Rome

The Cult of Martyrs

The cult of the martyrs has roots in pre-Christian Judaism. 2 Maccabees 7, which dates to 124 BC, recounts the courage of a mother’s seven sons who refused to eat pork because of their religious conviction. This incident was alluded to in Hebrews 11:35, which recounted the many instances of Old Testament saints’ faithfulness to Yahweh. The early Christian cult of the martyrs emerged as early as 155/156 with the early Christians treasuring the bones of Bishop Polycarp and coming together to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom (see The Martyrdom of Polycarp chapter 18).

One very early indication of the religious use of images can be found in the Acts of John, a Gnostic text dating to the early second century and regarded as part of the New Testament Apocrypha. In it is an account of a certain Lycomedes who commissioned a portrait of the Apostle John, then hung it in his bedroom with a garland of flowers (§27-28). While outside the pale of orthodox Christianity, this text points to the presence of what Rev. Carpenter would call “iconography” around the time of early Christianity.

Virgin with Child – Catacomb in Rome circa 200s

Another early evidence for the veneration of saints is Rylands Papyrus 470 which has been dated circa 250 – about the same time as the Dura Europos church. On this third century papyrus was a prayer addressed to Mary asking for her aid. See my article “An Early Christian Prayer to Mary.” One possibility is that the early Christians prayed to Mary apart from images and that it was not until the sixth and seventh centuries that there emerged spontaneously among the laity the practice of facing the image of the Virgin Mary when asking for her prayers. The practice of praying to the saint depicted in an icon represents the convergence of the martyr cults with moderate aniconism.

 

 

Kissing the Torah. Source

The veneration of icons in the form of kissing icons, a common practice in Orthodoxy, points to Orthodoxy’s historic continuity with Judaism. Kissing holy objects is a widespread practice among Jews. The Virtual Jewish Library notes:

To kiss a holy object displays veneration. This symbolically represents one’s devotion to Judaism and loyalty to God.

In Judaism it is a common practice to kiss the curtain of the Ark (where the Torah scrolls are kept) and to kiss the Torah scroll before reciting the blessing over it. If so, then the kissing of icons would not really be a radical innovation but more an application of a common devotional practice unto the already accepted presence of images in churches. Here we see the process of growth within capital “T” Holy Tradition.

 

Interior of Solomon’s Temple

The Emergence of Icon Veneration

Christian aniconism had roots in continuity with Judaism. Even with the Second Commandment’s prohibition of graven images, the Old Testament was not iconoclastic as evidenced by God commanding the installation of images in the Tabernacle in Exodus and later in Solomon’s Temple (Exodus 26:31-33; 2 Chronicles 3:7, 14; 1 Kings 6:29-32). From this precedent in the Temple, the Jews would continue to make use of images in the synagogues. Moderate aniconism in early Judaism prepared the way for the active veneration of icons. See my article “Early Jewish Attitudes Toward Images.”

Leslie Brubaker in Inventing Byzantine Iconoclasm (2012) notes that towards the end of the seventh century the Byzantine world saw a shift to a more positive attitude towards images. Among the laity there emerged the widespread practice of asking the martyrs aid as well as the use of candle, curtains, and incense to honor these images (p. 14). The veneration of icons in the 600s followed the passing of Graeco-Roman polytheism along with its depictions of pagan deities. Up until then the veneration of Christian portraits was avoided on the basis that it might be construed as “acting pagan” (Brubaker p. 13). What was new was not the sacred portraits, but their new function in Christian devotional practice (Brubaker p. 110).

One of the earliest evidences of the active veneration of icons can be found in a story in circulation in Constantinople in the mid or late 600s. The story goes that a soldier about to go into battle stood before a portrait of Saint George and spoke to Saint George as if he were there in person. That soldier miraculously survived the battle where thousands perished (Brubaker p. 14). In 626, the city of Constantinople successfully withstood attacks from the Avars and the Persians. The success was attributed to a miraculous icon, an icon not made by human hands (Brubaker p. 15). Brubaker views the rise of the veneration of icons as a response to the general climate of anxiety at the time.

This practice of praying to icons likely stemmed from the convergence of two streams within early Christianity: moderate aniconism and the cult of the martyrs. Both streams had pre-Christian roots in Judaism. Moderate aniconism was already present in Jewish synagogues and reverence for martyrs can be found in 2 Maccabees 7 (which has been dated to circa 124 BCE). The convergence of the two devotional practices took place among the laity independently of the clergy. The convergence of religious devotional practices stirred up resistance among the rigorist aniconists which would explain the presence of rigorous aniconism in early Christianity. In other words, rigorous aniconism was a reaction, not an established position of the early Church.

 

The Iconoclastic Reaction

This active veneration of icons among the laity sparked resistance among the clergy. The first recorded use of the word “iconoclast” was in a letter dated in the 720s to rebuke a bishop who had removed religious portraits without authorization (Brubaker p. 3). In the early 700s, Constantine, bishop of Nakoleia, was censured by Germanos, Patriarch of Constantinople, for refusing to honor icons by bowing before them. Thomas, bishop of Klaudioupolis, was chided by Germanos for removing icons from his churches (Brubaker pp. 22-24). The novelty here seems to lie with the iconoclasts’ hostility to icons than to the introduction of icons. One significant aspect of the iconoclastic controversy is the absence of objections to the introduction of icons. Rather, the controversy began with people objecting to the removal of already existent icons.

Much of the iconoclastic controversy centered on the sacramental nature of relics and icons. Were the martyrs truly present in their relics and in the icons that depicted them?

The ‘real presence’ of saints offered by miracle-working relics and images not-made-by-human-hands was expanded to include portraits painted by living people . . . . (Brubaker p. 18)

The Byzantine iconoclasts in reaction to popular piety which believed in the real presence of the saints in their portraits sought to emphasize the role of the clergy as intermediaries. Brubaker points out that it is questionable—in light of the available historical evidence—that the Byzantine iconoclasts engaged in the widespread destruction of icons attributed to them (pp. 120-124).

It should also be kept in mind that the 600s were times of anxiety for the Byzantine Empire. By the mid 600s, Arabs had conquered Egypt, the breadbasket of the Roman Empire. There were fears that the end of the world was near. This atmosphere of anxiety led to attempts to purify and regulate secular and religious affairs. The Quinisext Council of 691/2 issued regulation on religious images, e.g., prohibiting the decorating of floors with the cross (Canon 73) and the requirement that Christ be depicted in human form rather than symbolically (Canon 82). Brubaker notes:

While the urge to control and regulate is symptomatic of this unease, the decision to focus on the control of images is a direct response to the power of icons . . . . (p. 17)

The development of Tradition allows for a plurality of opinions until a theological crisis precipitates the refinement of what the Church believes resulting in the formal statement of dogma. The iconoclastic controversy led to the deepening of the early Church’s understanding of the implications of Christ’s Incarnation. One example of early Christian rigorist aniconism was Clement of Alexandria who opposed images on philosophical grounds. Gaifman notes:

Central to Robin Jensen’s argument is a notable distinction between narrative images and images used and venerated in worship. The former, such as scenes from the Bible on sarcophagi, were never a target of anti-iconism, and the argument against the latter was based on classical philosophers (often Plato), for instance the aneikoniston argument of Clement of Alexandria about the impossibility of representing the invisible God in visible form mentioned in the first part of this article. [Gaifman; emphasis added.]

It would not be until the iconoclastic controversy of the eighth and ninth centuries that early Christian theologians realized the implications of the Incarnation. John of Damascus (676-749) wrote:

When the Invisible One becomes visible to flesh, you may then draw a likeness of His form. When He who is a pure spirit, without form or limit, immeasurable in the boundlessness of His own nature, existing as God, takes upon Himself the form of a servant in substance and in stature, and a body of flesh, then you may draw His likeness, and show it to anyone willing to contemplate it. Depict His ineffable condescension, His virginal birth, His baptism in the Jordan, His transfiguration on Thabor, His all-powerful sufferings, His death and miracles, the proofs of His Godhead, the deeds which He worked in the flesh through divine power, His saving Cross, His Sepulchre, and resurrection, and ascent into heaven. Give to it all the endurance of engraving and colour. (John of Damascus)

The transition from the Platonism of Clement of Alexandria in the early third century to that of John of Damascus in the early eighth century illustrates the development of the Church’s understanding of the Incarnation and the ramifications it had for the use of images in churches. Indeed, given the historic Jewish influence on the early Church and the contemporary Muslim’s gnostic hostility to all images, the Church Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council had a far better comparative context—than the Calvinists—by which to assess the nature and function of icons, and also the implications of the Incarnation of Christ for the salvation of humanity and the material universe.

How one views the development of doctrine in the 600s and 700s depends on one’s church affiliation. For many Protestants, Christianity of the seventh century occurred long after Constantine’s conversion in the early 300s which makes it very late and therefore highly suspect. For Orthodox Christians, early Christianity spanned from the Apostolic Fathers of the second century to the period of the Seven Ecumenical Councils which concluded with the Triumph of Orthodoxy in 843. Orthodoxy views church history as one continuing flow unlike Protestantism which views church history in terms of two broken pieces resulting from some vague and unproven “fall” of the Church.

 

Baptistry – Dura-Europos Church

Reassessing the Dura Europos Images

John Carpenter points out the somewhat curious fact that the religious images at the Dura Europos church were to be found primarily in the baptistery, not in the large hall where assemblies were held. He cites the well-respected Orthodox apologist Steven Bigham’s book Early Christian Attitudes towards Images (p. 68). Carpenter also cites Michael Peppard who wrote The world’s oldest church: Bible, art, and ritual at Dura-Europos (2016). Peppard notes that the large assembly hall which could hold some seventy-five people contained a few graffiti but no “formal paintings” (pp. 17-18). Carpenter takes this as clear cut evidence for rigorous aniconism.

However, the situation is not all that simple. It should be noted, however, that the room’s eastern wall was not preserved leaving open the possibility that that wall had images on it. This strongly warns against making the four-bare-walls argument. The simplest explanation for the apparent iconoclasm was the illegal status of early Christianity. Dura Europos was a military outpost. Peppard underscored the fact that anywhere from a quarter to half of the town’s population were associated with the military garrison (p. 21). Bigham was aware of this possibility. Soon after noting that main hall of the early church was devoid of images, he explains:

The respective situation of the two religions is clearly set out by these two buildings: Judaism was a legal, rich and ancient religion having many adherents; Christianity, on the other hand, was an illegal, poor and new religion having few adherents (p. 69).

Thus, the likely reason for the absence of images was prudence, not iconoclasm. To openly depict Christian images might invite investigation and prosecution in times of persecution. It is somewhat surprising that Rev. Carpenter cites Bigham in support of Reformed iconoclasm (see footnote no. 45), but then failed to take note of the explanation that Bigham gives for the absence of images. Either Rev. Carpenter was hasty in his research or he conveniently passed over the explanation to gain an advantage in the debate. This is not a minor failing in scholarship. This lapse in scholarship is something that John Carpenter needs to address in a future article.

Determining the meaning of the Dura Europos images is not a simple matter given that they are interpreted through the perspectives of theological beliefs. Far from viewing the Dura Europos images as mere decoration (which would support Carpenter’s Reformed iconoclasm), Peppard in his conclusion argues that the images depicted in the baptistery were charged with theological significance.

In my overall interpretation of the artistic and ritual program of the Dura-Europos baptistery, these Christians emphasized salvation as victory, empowerment, healing, refreshment, marriage, illumination, and incarnation more than participation in a ritualized death. In early eastern Christianity, and especially before a cruciform spirituality began to radiate out from Jerusalem’s pilgrimage center, salvation was more likely to be conceived through “birth mysticism” than “death mysticism.” (p. 198)

One of the thrills of scholarship is discovering new authors. John Carpenter cites Michael Peppard’s book to bolster his argument for iconoclasm. Not being acquainted with Peppard, I read his book and came across passages that weakened Carpenter’s argument. Reading Peppard led me to two other scholars, Michael Squire and Steven Shoemaker, who enriched my understanding of the complex relations between religion, art, and text in ways that supported the Orthodox approach to icons. Here, I suspect that John Carpenter in his haste read his sources superficially overlooking the destabilizing implications of their findings.

Peppard offers some startling and even unsettling insights about how the Reformed tradition understands the relations between text and image. He quotes from Michael Squire’s critique of modern western analysis of ancient art:

. . .the critical problem . . . stems from the reductive definition of the image as simply a mode of communication after the manner of words. It is a definition that descends from the theology of Reformed Christianity, with its emphasis on the invisibility of faith and its faith in invisibility. (Squire in Peppard p. 196)

Following that, Peppard makes another provocative observation of the Protestant understanding of the visual arts:

Squire places the blame for our common privileging of text over image — and both of these over ritual — squarely at the feet of the Reformation, which itself was dependent on the printing press and the concomitant logocentric revolution. He aphorizes, “One simply could not be a Protestant in the Graeco-Roman world.” (p. 196)

To sum up, John Carpenter’s aniconic argument far from bolstering Reformed iconoclasm, actually weakens it. This suggests that it is time for Reformed pastors and theologians to reassess Reformed iconoclasm.

What I found surprising in Peppard’s conclusion is his bringing in the Orthodox understanding of salvation. He quotes from the historian Stephen Shoemaker who wrote:

It is through God’s joining Godself to the Creation and to the human race that both are again made whole and restored to God. . . . Human nature is healed by the Immortal One’s condescension to unite with the human race in the Incarnation, allowing the recreation, the recapitulation, as Irenaeus calls it, of humankind. . . . Far more important — and constant — in Eastern Christian soteriology is the notion of ultimate unification with God that is made possible through the act of Incarnation, rather than any compensation due to the devil or, in the case of Anselm [centuries later], the satisfaction of a debt that God must collect through the suffering and sacrifice of the Crucifixion. (Shoemaker in Peppard p. 198)

In footnote 66 (p. 245), Peppard cites Gerasimos P. Pagoulatos who argues that the baptisms carried out in the Dura Europos church represent “the earliest known iconophile service” (in Peppard p. 245). Pagoulatos notes:

The Byzantine service of Christ the Bridegroom as it appears in the third-century sources (that is, the initiation service of the Dura-Europos Christian House Baptistery), constitutes the earliest known Christian service that employed the arts in the communication of knowledge. The third-century service of Dura-Europos Christian Baptistery lies at the origins of a tradition of inclusive epistemology (use of word and image) and anthropology (human mind, body and the senses) in the communication of knowledge that continued later in Byzantium and today’s living tradition of Hellenism. Unlike Western theory and practice (with the exceptions mentioned above), images in Byzantium and in the Orthodox Church of today are thought to reveal divine knowledge. (Pagoulatos p. xxii)

As the later analysis will indicate, Christian apologists of the first three centuries, following Plato, criticised the use of images of gods in pagan Greek religion, implying a spiritual kind of Christian worship far from pagan superstitions. Nevertheless, in pre-Constantinian Christianity one may trace evidence for a type of Christian worship that used images and material means to transmit divine knowledge to the entire human being. (Pagoulatos p. 25)

This finding must surely give apologists like John Carpenter reasons to reconsider their advocacy of Reformed iconoclasm.

 

Iconoclasm and the English Reformation

Implications for the Reformed Iconoclasm

Early Christian aniconism presents a serious challenge to Reformed iconoclasm. While rigorous aniconism can result in the exclusion of images, there is no archaeological evidence that early Christian churches were totally devoid of images. Reformed apologists like Rev. Carpenter will need to present archaeological evidence that shows that the norm among early churches were four bare walls like modern-day Reformed churches. As it stands now, the very presence of images in the Dura Europos church baptistery and the catacomb churches of Rome undermine Reformed iconoclasm. This leads to the conclusion that Reformed iconoclasm lacks historical precedent in the early Church.

One striking aspect of Pastor Carpenter’s article is his position that the Old Testament and early Jewish and Christian attitudes towards images were aniconic. This apparent openness to images marks a shift away from the Reformed tradition’s iconoclasm. Furthermore, it suggests that early Christian aniconism is more consistent with the Anglican and Lutheran traditions which allowed for images in places of worship than the Reformed tradition which formally rejects icons (Heidelberg Catechism Questions 97 and 98; Second Helvetic Confession Chapter 4; Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 51; the Westminster Larger Catechism Questions 107 and 108; and the Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 23).

I suspect that the reason why Rev. Carpenter has devoted so much attention to refuting icons is because iconoclasm is the most visible marker of Reformed worship. Thus, contemporary Orthodox apologia has given considerable attention to the defense of icons because the Reformed tradition has made such a big deal of icons. We have also done so because of the pervasive influence of Reformed iconoclasm on Protestantism in the U.S. Orthodox apologetics has devoted considerable attention to defending icons because Reformed iconoclasm has prevented many inquirers from converting to Orthodoxy. Once a Calvinist is convinced that icons have a biblical basis and are consistent with historic Christianity then the door opens to converting to Orthodoxy.

 

Roman Catacombs circa 200s

 

Static Tradition or Development of Doctrine?

While Rev. Carpenter’s recent article shows a more balanced response to Orthodox pro-icon apologia, one weakness still persists – the partisan, oversimplified understanding of Tradition. In reading the recent article one might get the false impression Orthodox tradition is fixed and static. Carpenter concludes his latest article noting:

Perhaps most revealing, Eastern Orthodox claims notwithstanding, is the absolute lack of any description of anything like iconography by anyone in the early church. As yet, I’ve found no evidence of an early Christian using icons. Hence, the supposed strong point of Eastern Orthodoxy, their raison d’être for many evangelical converts to Orthodoxy, their claim to continuity with the early church, is actually their Achilles’ heel. At least as far as icons are concerned, their claim to continuity is baseless. Their practices are, in fact, in direct contradiction to the consistent convictions and practices of the early church. (Carpenter 2018; §9)

This regrettably is a straw man fallacy. Rev. Carpenter constructed the straw man through two tactics: (1) insisting on “early” evidence of images being used in Christian worship and (2) defining “early” Christianity as the period prior to Augustine of Hippo (354-430) (Note 8; Carpenter 2018). Carpenter’s definition of early Christianity has two weaknesses. First, it is quite arbitrary. Generally speaking, church history has been broken down into the following periods: the Apostolic Age (33 to 100), the Ante-Nicene Period (100 to 313), the First Seven Ecumenical Councils (325 to 787) with the Middle Ages commencing in 800. Source. Rev. Carpenter’s approach to early church history using Augustine as a major demarcation point is eccentric to say the least. Second, his arbitrary dating excludes important evidences like the writings of John of Damascus (676-749), Theodore the Studite (769-826), and the Council of Nicea II (787). In short, John Carpenter ignores or excludes much of the evidences right in front of him in order to stack the deck in his favor.

 

The Straw Man Argument Yet Again

Thus, for all the improvements in John Carpenter’s pro-Reformed apologia, several weaknesses remain: an ahistoric, static understanding of Orthodox Tradition and a refusal to consider evidences that point to historical continuity within Orthodox Tradition. This is much like to criticisms I made in my 2013 article: “Clearing the Way for Reformed-Orthodox Dialogue on Icons.” Here I reiterate what I wrote then:

What Rev. Carpenter wrote reflects a misunderstanding among Protestants as to how Orthodox Christians understand Tradition. This belief that Orthodoxy’s claim “unbroken continuity” leaves absolutely no allowance or room for any development has been a significant impediment to Reformed-Orthodox dialogue. Steven Bigham in Early Christian Attitudes toward Images (2004) counters that false characterization noting:

Few defenders of the idea of Tradition claim that nothing has changed since the beginning of the Church, and everyone recognizes that all the changes that have taken place have not necessarily been for the good. . . . . A healthy doctrine of Holy Tradition makes a place for changes, and even corruption and restoration, throughout history while still affirming an essential continuity and purity. This concept is otherwise known as indefectibility: the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church. This theoretical framework, indefectibility, takes change and evolution into account but denies that there has been or can be a rupture or corruption of Holy Tradition itself (p. 15; emphasis added).

Rev. Carpenter’s static understanding of Tradition raises all sorts of problems. By that definition then the Nicene Creed can be considered an innovative add on. Furthermore, it would imply that the term “Trinity”–which cannot be found in the Bible—can be considered a departure from Apostolic Tradition. Also, for the first several centuries the New Testament canon was an open question with some books included by some churches and other books left out by others. It was not until the Sixth Ecumenical Council formally defined the New Testament canon that the listing was formally closed. All this goes to show that there is an element of elaboration and development of doctrine and practice in early Christianity that does no violence to indefectibility or unbroken-continuity. Carpenter’s portrayal of the Orthodox understanding of Tradition as static is historically incorrect and leads him to set up a straw man argument.

 

Living Mango Tree

Shifting the Focus of Reformed-Orthodox Dialogue

While icons may represent the most visible difference between the Reformed tradition and Orthodoxy, they do not constitute the most important difference. Of greater importance to Orthodoxy claim to apostolic continuity are: (1) continuity in worship, especially the Eucharist, and (2) continuity in apostolic succession via the episcopacy. I wrote in my 2013 response to John Carpenter:

If Pastor Carpenter wishes to challenge Orthodoxy’s claim to unbroken apostolic continuity, he should marshal his arguments against two claims made by the Orthodox Church: (1) its claim to unbroken episcopal succession from the original Apostles to the present day and (2) its teaching of the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist. For Orthodoxy the episcopacy and the Eucharist form the core of Tradition. Icons, on the other hand, acquired dogmatic significance in the later centuries.

Fossil

Contrary to Carpenter’s depiction of Orthodox Tradition as static continuity, Orthodoxy understands Apostolic Tradition—with the capital “T”, not the lowercase “t”—not static like a fossil, but rather a dynamic continuity much like the continuity one observes in a tiny mango plant growing into a huge, fully grown, fruit-bearing mango tree. Ironically, Carpenter’s introduction of the concept of aniconism has helped me to develop a more nuanced and flexible approach to handling the apparently iconoclastic evidence in early Christianity and to trace the process by which a full-fledged theology of the sacramental nature of icons that is so characteristic of Orthodoxy. It also points to the fact that Reformed-Orthodox dialogue can be fruitful and beneficial to both sides. I look forward to Rev. Carpenter’s future articles and hope that he will give more attention to capital “T” Tradition which constitutes the heart of Orthodoxy. This, not icons, is the core difference between the Reformed tradition and Orthodoxy.

Robert Arakaki

 

References

Robert Arakaki. 2013. “Clearing the Way for Reformed-Orthodox Dialogue on Icons.” Reformed-OrthodoxBridge.
Robert Arakaki. 2013. “Early Jewish Attitudes Towards Images.” Reformed-OrthodoxBridge.
Robert Arakaki. 2015. “An Early Christian Prayer to Mary.” Reformed-OrthodoxBridge.
Steven Bigham. 2004. Early Christian Attitudes toward Images.
Leslie Brubaker. 2012. Inventing Byzantine Iconoclasm. Bristol Classical Library.
Milette Gaifman’s 2017 article: “Aniconism: definitions, examples and comparative perspectives.”
Acts of John. §27 [Early Gnostic document]
Jewish Virtual Library. “Jewish Practices & Rituals: Kissing Holy Objects.”

John of Damascus.  Apologia Against Those Who Decry Holy Images.  Fordham University.
Gerasimos P. Pagoulatos. 2009. Tracing the Bridegroom in Dura: The Bridal Initiation Service of the Dura Europos Christian Baptistery as Early Evidence of the Use of Images in Christian and Byzantine Worship.
Michael Peppard. 2016. The world’s oldest church: Bible, art, and ritual at Dura-Europos.
Stephen J. Shoemaker. 2008. Between Scripture And Tradition: The Marian Apocrypha Of Early Christianity in The Reception and Interpretation of the Bible in Late Antiquity.
Michael Squire. 2009. Image and Text in Graeco-Roman Antiquity.

 

 

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