The Triumph of Greek Philosophy

If a picture can be worth a thousand words, what is the value of Monty Python?

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9 thoughts on “The Triumph of Greek Philosophy

  1. well, i understand his thoughts in regards to the lives of the saints, and Mary; but, the jump to God and His persons (Father, Son, Spirit) seems bigger than he makes room for.

    His arguments read that we can make icons of God for several reasons:
    1. Christ was the first icon of God–God’s image made into flesh.
    2. Old Testament people were particularly prone to idol worship and needed to be protected from it.
    3. We could not make an image because we did not know what God looked like; but, now that we have seen Him we do know what He looks like and can make an appropriate image.
    4. Christ made an icon of himself in the shroud.
    5. It was in the Old Testament and does not apply to the New Testament.

    Starting with the easier ones:

    The shroud of Christ is a legend and should be taken as such. There is not enough evidence of the event to base an entire section of theology on.

    The idea that things in the OT are simply outdated or “trumped” by the NT needs to be taken with a lot of consideration. Yes, we do not live by the Levitical law; however, we do generally live by the Ten Commandments–a much stricter version of them in fact. Instead of simply not murdering, we cannot have anger in our hearts, etc. Even in the NT Jesus tells the young ruler to live by the 10 commandments, and the great two (love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself). Basically, again, this seems just is not a convincing enough argument.

    It also seems that God had more reasoning behind us not creating images than the idea that we simply did not know how to make them correctly. I think it takes a large jump to go from God stating, “do not make images” to saying, “we have seen Him and can do it correctly.” Not to mention though we may know what He looks like, what does it even mean to draw (or write as many say) God correctly? Is the artist truly that endowed?

    In regards to the OT people being more prone to idols as it was a part of their pagan world and background, I see no difference in our world today. The faces and modes of idols have perhaps changed; but, people are just as prone towards idolatry now as they were then. Back to the NT interpretation of the 10 Commandments–it is a matter of the heart now; not, just the object or action itself.

    I think his strongest argument is the idea that the incarnation was God creating a icon of himself for man; however, I have two questions about this. The first is, are not all men icons of God? Why did we need to wait for God to send His Son for us to be able to make icons of Him (God)? The other question simply put, is what allows us to make an icon of God simply because He has made an icon of Himself? I do not see the jump from God doing it to us being given implicit permission to do so.

    In all, I completely understand his writings on icons of the saints (even praying to the saints!) and his distinctions between worship and veneration as well as his outlining of power and presence through the icons; however, I felt that his arguments for icons of God Himself were weak, poorly ordered, and really, seemed like more of a rant than a logical doctrinal proof. So, I was disappointed. =(

    –It also reminded me a lot of Athanasuis…but, that is a bitter side note…–

    Any recommendation on other saints’ works against iconoclasm I should read?

  2. St. John Damascene added to the Church not merely a defense for icons, but contributed to it through his theological art, among which are hymns we sing during Pascha. Orthodoxy has a rich ascetical tradition, but it also has a place for aesthetics, and St. John is a great example in this regard.

    Concerning the defense of icons – the one that really “took” in the history of the Church has been #3, but I think the case can be phrased a bit stronger. I would phrase it like this – and tell me if it helps.

    Certainly we can make icons of men: and certainly Christ is fully man. Therefore we can make icons of Christ.

    Yes all men are icons of God in that they have His image, tarnished though it may be. However St. Paul says that Christ is the “in Him (Christ) dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily”, thus reminding us that Christ is not your average human being.

    From here it seems that objection go one of two ways: either towards the role or art and matter in the Christian life, or towards the validity of intercessory prayers to the Saints.

    (As a side note, the Orthodox arguement for icons includes the OT, which includes great description of how God wanted Cherubim etc., on the walls of the temple.)

    That being said, I hope that reading St. John didn’t prove to be a waste of time (I can’t imagine it could be). He’s by far the most prominant figure in the Orthodox discussion on the matter.

    What it seems to me that is unique and most insightful is his stuff on the presence and power of icons… and not the sort of general iconoclast defenses that can be found elsewhere. Put another way, he’s more devotional than apologetic.

    PS. The Shroud isn’t necessarily the Shroud of Tourin…though it may well be. I would point to Clark Calton’s podcast on August 26th, 2007.

  3. I certainly think it was a good read (few reads are ever truly a waste of time) and there were many interesting/ reflective points; however, I was looking for a book written as a defense of writing icons of God and was instead met with a book more written to strengthen the beliefs of those who already believe.

    As for the cherubim and the other temple decorations, I completely understand their use and his arguments for them and also the saints; I just do not see the strength in the theological proof for God. I am uncertain on my thoughts of the difference between icons of Christ and icons of God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. I might be willing to concede his points for icons of Christ on earth; but, need more information (more reading) to really settle that one.

    For what its worth–since this is online and not in person–none of this is personal. Meaning, I don’t think it is heretical to write icons of God–I am just leary of it at the moment and trying to decide my position on it from those who have devoted their lives to it. I like them as art; but, am looking at the spiritual implications.

    On a side note, i am reading Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization (about St. Patrick and the irish monks)–amazing. =) Reading it in preparation for St. Patrick’s day. If you get a chance, you should really read it. Also, have you gotten to the book I sent you?

  4. You sent me a book? Sweet! (I haven’t received it yet.)

    It sounds to me (I’m not sure) that the issues your thinking about are along the Christological lines; i.e. what does it mean to be fully God and fully man? In what ways is a picture of Christ a picture of God, etc. But of course then you also get into Trinitarianism, and (one of my favorite thougts of late) how “deep” do the distinctions go between the persons of the Trinity? Are they, to use a Thomistic phrase, real distinctions?

    And this is, of course, deep water.

    On the flip side, I will probably blow off steam soon and write a bit on phenomenological absence in iconography. It might be the sort of thing you like Chelsea! But then again, it might be old hat to you.

    The book on St. Patrick strikes me as very interesting. Maybe this summer…

  5. yeah, gosh, there have been a number of things rattling inside my head–which is nice. I kinda went on a several year reading fast after graduating and have been surprised at how long it has taken to fill back up. I naively thought I would have good thoughts after one or two books…ha! It has taken about 20…. =) One thing I would love to talk about next time we all get together (or earlier if I am impatient) is the distinctions between iconographic images and Plato’s phantasms or mimesis as well as the relation to “real presence”, etc. I feel like I am getting ahead of myself because I have been trying to stick to history at the moment; but, keep finding myself slipping into theology/ philosophy–nasty habit. 😉

    as far as the book– it is the one I gave you over Christmas Icons and the Mystical Origins of the Church. I might send the St. Patrick one after Justin is done reading it. Thomas Cahill has become one of my favorite authors–he shares a healthy disdain for Augustine. =)

  6. We got you package and when I saw the “Shooters” book I thought: “Is this what she was talking about?”

    Yeah, I haven’t read the whole Icons and Mystical Theology book yet – what I looked at seemed a bit more Jungian universalistic that Christian, though the insight on particular icons was great. And of course a healthy disdain for Augustine.

    There is a very important imageless place in Christianity, that I feel we need to hold onto. For instance, when praying with icons we don’t “image” things – but slowly listen the words being said. The image is important, and it brings a sort of presence – the real presence (not in the Anglican sense)of the Uncreated Light of Christ involves an apophasis.

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