Thursday, February 04, 2016

More on the Christian use of images

"You can't consider the use [veneration] of images to be idolatry; it doesn't mean you have to use them. You just can't go Protestant and say they're idols and thus wrong."
And it doesn't matter what you would do. You're a Catholic, not an Anglican. Get on board.
My interlocutor, who stomped off, is a young man, a new Catholic, from Protestantism by way of the Orthodox, still learning.

The Protestants' founders were Iconoclasts, among other heresies, in that they thought they knew better than the seventh ecumenical council (Anglican Article XXI: the church and its councils are fallible; "we" know in our hearts what the truth is) that veneration is idolatry. The Lutherans kept images, though, but only as instructional aids, not for veneration, because Luther was inconsistent and was willing to bait and switch, using the church's trappings to bring people into his new faith, plus his followers tried to reach an understanding with the church. (So they accidentally ended up our close cousins, closer to us than to Reformed.) The Anglicans, being Reformed, were definitely anti-images. Basically believing that the Jews are still right on this (where the idea of Iconoclasm among Christians came from).

Differences with Protestantism such as the nature and authority of the church, how it is set up and governed, how salvation works (the church or a feeling of being saved?), the nature of the Eucharist and other sacraments (making Christ's sacrifice present, actually doing what they signify, or just tokens of your feelings of being saved?), are essential. The idea of venerating images is a non-negotiable too: the seventh ecumenical council teaches that the Incarnation now makes that acceptable. Whether you use ornaments in church and what kind are matters of culture and discipline. (Mostly culture; rites usually slowly evolve, not with the church sitting down to compose them.) Elevating them to doctrine would be an error. (The sin of the Orthodox: "If you're not in our cultures, you're not in the church.")

We and the Protestants remain very different faiths though both Christian (for example, the content of the creeds, belief in the hypostatic union). For example, the Reformed Episcopal Church, in the Anglican tradition if not officially Anglican, was founded to oppose Anglo-Catholicism's belief that Anglicanism is a Catholicism (divinely mandated hierarchy and sacraments actually giving grace) albeit without the Pope, vs. the Reformed teachings of Anglicanism's framers. Their take is that the structure of the ancient church (bishops and a liturgy) is nice to have but not necessary: "Presbyterians with Prayer Books." It was very anti-image, anti-ornament. Now they appear to witness to other Reformed Protestants that images are an option. Not venerating them like we do but now they tolerate Eucharistic vestments, crucifixes, and Stations of the Cross! Ditto the Anglican Realigners, ACNA, Reformed with women priests but defending traditional marriage; images such as crucifixes aren't really an issue anymore. Rather like classical Lutherans in that.

With many Protestants we've gotten to the point where we're not fighting about ornaments in church anymore. And that's good.

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