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Praying to Icons.

Discussion in 'Biblical Debates' started by Pilgrim of this Reality, Feb 4, 2005.

  1. Pilgrim of this Reality

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    Would someone please explain the difference between praying to\toward icons of Jesus or the saints. Most of the large pagan religions didnt believe that their idols were their gods but represented their gods. How is this any different from the modern day practice?
     
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  2. Pah

    Pah Uber all member

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    I see little difference. But I suppose it should be asked if it is the icon that is worshipped or is a focus for what the icon depicts?
     
  3. No*s

    No*s Captain Obvious

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    That's a tough question, PotR. I'll confess this from the start: You have to experience it to understand it clearly. While I had the knowledge and arguments down...the thing that most drove it home was the practice once I had accepted it. When I had done veneration, I began to see the difference. It's not easy to put into words, either.

    Part of the answer applies to what the target is, frankly. Worship is ascribed to God, and if we worship anything but God, then this is idolatry. Worship involves the presentation of sacrifice, absolute adoration, ascription of traits belonging only to God, and so forth. So, when I venerate an icon, of say, St. Herman of Alaska, and pray to him (not to the icon), I am not worshipping him.

    However, if I hold a religious service and present a sacrifice to him (maybe like that of the Eucharist, for instance), then I have crossed he line. The Eucharist represents Christ, and He alone. No sacrificial meal is permitted to anybody but Christ (God).

    The next thing to remember is ancient paganism. The idol was a god. More specifically, it was a representation of the god that was like a little avatar. The idol acted as a sort of avatar. For this reason, when an idol was damaged, it was like the god was damaged, even though the god wasn't. It was with this understanding that one Father (I'd have to look up his name), explained that if the cross is broken, he may break it up and cast it into a furnace.

    It is true that that oversimplifies things, because like the Old Testament, things are made holy, but it does explain a key difference, and it's one you can't simply wave away: the icon is completely separate from its subject. Only my intention, say of reverence or prayer may be transferred, and then, not because there is an icon, but because God allows the person in heaven to receive the veneration.

    So, we have these attributes that I can name (off the top of my head) that separate icons from idols: the nature of veneration given the target, the nature of the target, and the identity of the target. For instance, worship given to a deity other than God is always idolatry.

    The preceding is actually reflected in the Scripture. Pagan idols were condemned because they were deaf stone and wood. They could not act. They could not do anything, and they represented a god that the builder decided to fashion. However, they treated it as the god. They would serve it meals. They would sacrifice to it, and so on. The worship was given to the image, and it was even fed.

    God, however, didn't make a blanket statement against images (using our Old Testament, since the situation is very complex). He commanded the construction of multiple images in the Temple. The highest sacrifice of the year was to be done on an image in the Holy of Holies. This same Ark of the Covenant was paraded around for war, preceded the people, etc. It was venerated, and on occasion those who did not treat it as holy were struck down. God also commanded the construction of a serpent. When the people were bitten by the vipers in the desert, they would look to a bronze image for healing, but this same image later became an idol and was destroyed. The veneration God assigned was acceptable, but the worship that came later was not.

    This attitude about veneration/worship even applies to bowing. When someone bowed down to a man, authority figure (such as Pharoah), or the like, he was well within his God-given paramaters. However, John bowed before the angel in Revelation, the exact same action was forbidden. Why? The heart and the veneration involved. The former was mere veneration, while the latter became idolatry, because he ascribed to an angel the fear he owed God alone.

    We, also, venerate people and images in everyday life, and we do not consider it idolatry (well, most of us). For instance, when I pledge to the flag, I am not worshipping it. I am venerating it. When a funeral procession goes by, I stop what I am doing out of reverance for the deceased. This is not worship. This is veneration. Likewise, if someone kisses a picture of their spouse and even talks to it, they aren't worshipping the picture or the person in the picture.

    Perhaps the best modern example is the Bible. I reverance the Bible, and I take it as an authority on my life. It is, however, a book. It's a piece of paper with ink on it. If I tossed it into the fire, it would burn just as easily. However, I would wager most Christians on here treat their Bible with respect, and if someone spit on it, they would take it as malice towards God. The action and intent directed toward the Bible, thus, is directed toward God. However, the two cannot be equated in any way.

    I'm afraid I cannot address idolatry in modern paganism. I have never been one, and I have no sources that I have really read. As such, I could do nothing with modern paganism but construct a scarecrow. I will not do that.
     
  4. No*s

    No*s Captain Obvious

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    It is a focus. It is holy, just like the Baptist regards his Bible, but it is something to focus our minds on its archetype. Worship is never to be given one.
     
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  5. Pah

    Pah Uber all member

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    I'm sorry, but it was a rhetorical question. I should have been more clear about that.

    I agree with you!
     
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  6. No*s

    No*s Captain Obvious

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    Ah, in that case, I will also apologize for mistaking you :).
     
  7. may

    may Well-Known Member

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    The Bible shows how unreasonable persons are who look upon things made by human hands as though they could have some superhuman power in them. For example, the inspired prophecy of Isaiah tells of the man who cuts a big tree from the forest, takes part of it to make a fire and to bake some bread and then uses the other part to make an image and "bows down and prays to it and says: ‘Deliver me, for you are my god.’" Jehovah God says of such ones: "They have not come to know, nor do they understand, because their eyes have been besmeared so as not to see, their heart so as to have no insight. And no one recalls to his heart or has knowledge or understanding, saying: ‘The half of it I have burned up in a fire, and upon its coals I have also baked bread; I roast flesh and eat. But the rest of it shall I make into a mere detestable thing? To the dried-out wood of a tree shall I prostrate myself?’ He is feeding on ashes. . . . And he does not deliver his soul, nor does he say: ‘Is there not a falsehood in my right hand?’"—Isaiah 44:14-20

     
  8. cardero

    cardero Citizen Mod

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    This is a very interesting sentence.
     
  9. No*s

    No*s Captain Obvious

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    And how does this passage deal with icons? I've shown above that God does sanction the use of images, and I've shown that if we ban it, then the problem is deeper than images. More than one material thing is venerated in Scripture.

    Would you spit on your Bible? If not, what's the difference between it and an icon? It seems to me, God has no blanket prohibition on either images or the veneration of material things.
     
  10. Pilgrim of this Reality

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    Hmmm. veneration and idolatry seems to be a fine line to walk at times, depending on the person. The arguement using the Ark of the Covenant makes a lot of sense when drawing that line.The idea of an the idol being an avatar for the god was common, as was the idol just being an icon of the god.

    What of the praying to\toward the saint,their bodies and their images? Where did that tradition begin? The NT examples of prayer, chiefly the Lord's prayer (matthew 6:5-15) gives the example of praying directly to God. No where in the NT can an example of praying to saints etc be found. One could argue for it using creeds, but the idea of false doctrine ( according to the NT) could step in. But who (other than God) is to say what is false?Or true for that matter
     
  11. Master Vigil

    Master Vigil Well-Known Member

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    "The Bible shows how unreasonable persons are who look upon things made by human hands as though they could have some superhuman power in them."

    Ah, once again the bible proves the bible wrong.
     
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  12. No*s

    No*s Captain Obvious

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    PotR, I'm glad I could help some. Of course, I omitted the most important icon of all: the Incanrate Christ. That's a gross oversight, but it happens :).

    On prayer to icons and the dead, we first have to determine what prayer is. Essentially, it is a request. You are no doubt familiar with the phrase "I prithee." It is a contracted form of "I pray thee." It wasn't too terribly long ago that the term was part of a formal request, "I pray thee, spare my child."

    With that sense in mind, the only difference between "praying" to the dead and requesting prayer to a friend is that the friend is still on earth. That, though, isn't a problem if you believe two things:

    1). That the dead are conscious
    2). That they can perceive this world, via the power of God of course

    If these two things are true, then prayer to/for the dead follows.

    Now, is it Christian? Well, yes, it is. First, I'll show that the dead can be the recipients of prayer. Specifically, we can pray for the dead, and it can have meaning.

    In the Deuterocanonical book of II Maccabees 12.36ff., we read that the Jewish leader Judas gathered the dead after a battle and buried them. After that, he cleansed himself and his men as was customary. He "took up a collection...to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering."

    The author of II Maccabees (a Jew before the time of Christ) commented on this, saying, "In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be delivered from their sin.[/color"

    This passage is used in the Roman Catholic Church to teach Purgatory. Orthodoxy's view is slightly different, seeing it rather a place where our corruptions are burned away simply by being in the presence of God. It is a subtle difference, and we can both use this text. It also reveals a similar Jewish view existed before the time of Christ.

    This text, though, causes problems for many Protestant doctrines. As a result, it, and the rest of the Apocrypha, has been ejected from the Protestant Bible. First, Martin Luthor tried to do this with several books in the Bible, but he could not justify it (James, for instance, was "a right strawy epistle," lacking the grace of God). Only in the Old Testament could it be justified, and the justification for omitting them was that they weren't part of the Jewish Hebrew canon (which is not the Christian Bible, why people think it is important for their faith on the Deuterocanonicals but refuse the same testimony on the NT is beyond me). They were separated into a separate portion between the testaments then dropped. The core reason it was dropped by Bible-beleiving Christians was because it conflicted with their beliefs :).

    So, if we accept the traditional canon, then we have the most blatant proof possible for Christians for prayer for the dead (and I think we can both agree that that can lend weight to prayer to the dead). Paul argued "what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead" (I Cor. 15.29). To this day the Church allows the assumption of a name for a deceased saint at baptism, and that saint becomes the Christian's patron saint.

    However, now I come to the New Testament. Jesus argued for the resurrection in the here and now. In Luke 20.27ff. the Sadducees approached Christ to refute the resurrection. They related a story (probably referring to the book of Tobit) of a woman who had seven husbands to ask whose wife she was. Jesus affirmed the resurrection by saying that people neither marry nor are given in marriag. However, what concerns us is "But even Moses showed in the burning bush that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord `the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him." I don't see a way to read this but to say that the dead are in Heaven (i.e., in the presence of God).

    We further read about the Transfiguration in Matthew 17. Moses and Elijah came to speak with Christ. They glowed with heavenly light (the uncreated light received from God). After the conversation, they disappeared again. We also have the elders praying around the throne of God. We know those in heaven pray (well, as close to "in" as you can get for something we can't really call a place), and they pray continuously.

    Now, this brings us to Hebrews 11. It lists several saints from the Old Testament, and their deeds. It describes them as having "all died in faith not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off" (11.13). Finally, we come to chapter 12. There the author, after having built up so many, said "Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses," and proceeds on with his argument. Now we may take this as referring simply to the scriptural record of their deeds, but we can also take this as referring to mean that they were very real witnesses to the people Paul wrote to. It would certainly jibe with the fact that the dead both pray and are conscious, and even, can appear on earth, all established with Scripture now.

    Now when did this practice first appear? It did so in the Early Church. St. Ignatius was martyred, and in the record of his martyrdom, he returned to his friends' bedsides and prayed for them the night after his martyrdom. He was martyred about 107, and the story of his martyrdom is here.

    The relevant portion goes: Now these things took place on the thirteenth day before the Kalends of January, that is, on the twentieth of December, Sun and Senecio being then the consuls of the Romans for the second time. Having ourselves been eye-witnesses of these things, and having spent the whole night in tears within the house, and having entreated the Lord, with bended knees and much prayer, that He would give us weak men full assurance respecting the things which were done, it came to pass, on our filling into a brief slumber, that some of us saw the blessed Ignatius suddenly standing by us and embracing us, while others beheld him again praying for us, and others still saw him dropping with sweat, as if he had just come from his great labour, and standing by the Lord. When, therefore, we had with great joy witnessed these things, and had compared our several visions together, we sang praise to God, the giver of all good things, and expressed our sense of the happiness of the holy martyr.

    Another early document (and this one the only one I can think of that directly relates to the veneration of the deceased's body) is the Martyrdom of Polycarp. It dates to about 125 and can be found here.

    The relevant portion reads: Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, as being more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, whither, being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps.

    As you can see, the author was able to state that in accordance with his martyrdom, they would venerate and decorate his body with expensive materials, and he could say this as a natural result of the martyrdom as early as 125.

    It wasn't a coincidence that the Christians worshipped in the catacombs. They even held services over the bodies of the deceased. The catacombs afforded not just a safe haven, but a viable place for relics, and coincidentally, we have found icons in the catacombs. The practice, naturally, horrified their pagan neighbors. They found it to be disturbing and unnatural.
     
  13. No*s

    No*s Captain Obvious

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    I think this site is relevant to the discussion. It is a link to a set of frescoes from a 3rd century Jewish synagogue, Dura Europos. The thing was literally covered with icons.

    I post this, because it shows that at least some Jewish sensibilities were not quite iconoclastic at the time, and we have the above evidence from Scripture showing that the Bible isn't opposed to all images. We also know that Early Christianity venerated the remains of dead people, and that there is some veneration of objects in the Old Testament.

    We can add to this, that since the Early Church was quite reactionary (well, the Church was...there were schismatics), we would expect to see a huge uproar over the introduction of the veneration of images. There was no such uproar. In fact, when Iconoclasm broke out in the eight century, it was Christians in Muslim territories that offered the most vibrant support of icons, and Islam is Iconoclastic. The Roman Emperors, however, were adament in their persecution of iconodules (people who used icons).

    It would be hard to see the innovation introduced under Islam, but far easier in the Empire, but it was St. John of Damascus, in Muslim territory, that wrote the definitive treatise on this. In fact, Islam acted as the defender of icons then by protecting him, and the theologians like him, from martyrdom, which the same received in the Empire.

    I think all this goes to show that there is little reason to doubt the use of images in an early Christian context. I don't have a link to Christian icons from the same era, but if I run into one while this discussion is still going, I'll post it.
     
  14. may

    may Well-Known Member

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    "To whom could you liken God? What image could you contrive of him?"—ISAIAH 40:18, "THE JERUSALEM BIBLE"




    some are sincerely convinced that using icons is acceptable in worshiping God. they may feel that this draws them closer to the Hearer of prayer, who is invisible and may seem impersonal and abstract.​

    But are we totally free to choose our own method of approach to God? Should not God himself be the final authority on what is acceptable and what is not? Jesus explained God’s view of the matter when he said: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) Those words alone preclude the use of icons or any other sacred objects.​

    Yes, there is a specific kind of worship that Jehovah God accepts. And what is that? On another occasion, Jesus explained: "The hour will come—in fact it is here already—when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth: that is the kind of worshipper the Father wants. God is spirit, and those who worship must worship in spirit and truth."—John 4:23, 24.​

    Can God, who "is spirit," be represented by a material image? No. Regardless of how imposing an icon may be, it can never match the glory of God. So an image of God could never be a truthful representation of him. (Romans 1:22, 23) Would a person be ‘worshiping in truth’ if he approached God through some man-made icon?​



    A​
    Clear Bible Teaching





    God’s Law forbade making images as objects of worship. The second of the Ten Commandments decreed: "You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them." (Exodus 20:4, 5) The inspired Christian Scriptures also command: "You must keep clear of idolatry."—1 Corinthians 10:14.​

    True, many insist that their use of images in worship is not idolatry. Orthodox Christians, for example, often deny that they actually worship the icons before which they bow, kneel, and pray. An Orthodox priest wrote: "We pay respect to them because they are holy objects, and because we reverence what the Icons depict."​

    Still, the question remains: Does God approve the use of icons for the purpose of even so-called indirect veneration? Nowhere does the Bible authorize such a practice. When the Israelites set up an image of a calf, allegedly for the purpose of venerating Jehovah, he expressed his strong disapproval, saying that they had apostatized.—Exodus 32:4-7.

     
  15. Irenicas

    Irenicas high overlord of sod all

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    Now, I expect this to be jumped all over, but surely the real answer it seems that you all are giving is that it's different because it's us doing it. I'm sorry, but that seems to me to be the gist of the arguments...

    Also, can someone explain to me the difference between worship and prayer... it seems to me that some people are saying it's ok to pray to an idol, but not to worship it... but prayer is a kind of worship by definition!
     
  16. No*s

    No*s Captain Obvious

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    Actually...I can understand how you would say that. I did blatantly say that if it isn't addressed to God, then it is idolatry. I think your impression is perfectly understandable, because of it. In fact, there is some truth to it.

    I made a differentiation, also, between worship/adoration and reverence. If the former, then no matter where or to what image, it is idolatry, and if the latter, then it is not neccessarily so. I think this is the biggest point of confusion. After all, we are both making a separation between worship and veneration.

    I'm afraid I can't address idolatry/images in modern non-christian religions, because I can't say I really understand it well. I only spoke about the ancient world's, and that because Jews and Christians had to dialogue with them...and I do enjoy the ancient pagan literature :).

    I recently heard this analogy, though, that could help explain the distinction here. If we had cameras in the ancient world, would it be idolatrous to take a picture of Christ? Most people would say no. Would it be idolatrous to treasure the picture, as we do with others? Again, most people would say no. Would it be idolatrous to kiss the picture because we cherished the person in it? Again, most people would say no.

    In fact, we do all of those with our loved ones, and not one person has ever called that idolatry. What, then, is the difference between a painting and a picture? We venerate images, but they do not receive worship them. I hope the analogy clears up the difference some :).

    Prayer is a request, and it has a religious connotation. When someone prays to, say, Mary, then they are essentially asking her to pray for them. It's little different, in our minds, than asking someone to pray for us in person.

    I hope that clears up the prayer :).
     
  17. No*s

    No*s Captain Obvious

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    May, I have clearly demonstrated in this thread that God ordered the creation of images and their veneration in the Old Testament. I have also demonstrated that the same actions given to things other than God are acceptable and unacceptable simply on account of our heart.

    The thread's starter understood what I said, and so did Pah. Rather than categorically declare that God finds what we do unacceptable, how about addressing the information we gave?

    As it stands, you simply claim "True, many insist that their use of images in worship is not idolatry. Orthodox Christians, for example, often deny that they actually worship the icons before which they bow, kneel, and pray. An Orthodox priest wrote: `We pay respect to them because they are holy objects, and because we reverence what the Icons depict.'" Could you address the reasons we give that it is reverance and not worship, instead of pasting a treatise whose points have already been addressed in the thread?
     
  18. Pilgrim of this Reality

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    This topic usually does result in a back and forth debate, which is good. The direction of where the prayers are going determines whether the image is idoltry or just an object of focus. Exodus 32 discusses the instance that Aaron created a golden calf to represent God (to represent or to be depending on the english translation) as a compromise to the people of Israel. This idol displeased God even though the worship was still directed to Him. Personally, I would prefer to not use images as a focus simply because of the risk that the focus can become how we think about God, but everyone must "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling"
     
  19. No*s

    No*s Captain Obvious

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    I can understand that. It is for that reason, that it is verbotin to make an image of the Father or Spirit outside of the events where they have been manifested in some way. It is true that it is done, but it's not exactly considered a good thing.

    We mustn't forget the most important icon: the Incarnate Christ :). There, God came down with a body. We can make an image of that.

    With all of that, I can understand caution. I was a blatant iconoclast at one time. I had problems with symbols, much less icons. So, I fully understand caution there.
     
  20. may

    may Well-Known Member

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