Are Icons Idols? A Refutation of Common Protestant Polemics
J.I. Packer's iconoclasm as anti-incarnational, anti-sacramental theology
The entire history of Christian thought proclaims that the Second Commandment categorically forbids any pictorial representation of God – at least, that is what J.I. Packer claims in his popular 1973 book, Knowing God.Although essentially a repackaged version of John Calvin’s Institutes 1.11, Packer’s arguments against the use of iconography in Christian worship might be considered the basis of Protestant iconoclasm today. For this reason, we will critically examine his position laid out in the fourth chapter of Knowing God and contrast it with the vision of Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
Packer’s two primary objections to icons
Packer’s iconoclastic arguments can be reduced to two major objections: 1. Images compromise God’s glory,and 2. Images give birth to false conceptions of God. Packer’s conclusion: icons are idols. This conclusion is based in his reading of the Second Commandment which, he claims, must be referring to something other than obvious forms of idolatry, such as Totem Poles and Hindu statuary, which are “obviously” condemned by the First Commandment. Otherwise, “it [the Second Commandment] would simply be repeating the thought of the first commandment without adding anything to it. Accordingly, Packer proclaims: “we take the second commandment—as in fact it has always been taken—as pointing us to the principle that (to quote Charles Hodge) ‘idolatry consists not only in the worship of false gods, but also in the worship of the true God by images.’” Thus, Packer categorically forbids the use of images in worship “for they obscure [God’s] glory,” and in Christian pedagogy, because “they convey false ideas about God.”
The Eastern Orthodox Church, on the other hand, sees both the First and the Second Commandments as prohibitions against pagan polytheism (e.g., against false gods). The Second Commandment, in particular, was given as a guard against syncretism (Israel’s perennial problem), not as a decree against post-incarnational iconography, as the iconoclasts claim.Further, the Second Commandment was necessary in that, prior to the Incarnation, God, Who is “incorporeal and formless,” could “never [be] depicted.” However, “now that God has been seen in the flesh and has associated with humankind,” He Who has been seen (e.g., Jesus Christ) can be depicted. The vision that creation participates in and facilitates man’s salvation through Jesus Christ is tied to its inherent goodness.
When man fell, creation fell with (or was cursed on account of) him. The Incarnation allowed for the restoration of creation, in Christ, through the Sacramental nature of the Church, to its original function; this is the basis of all Sacramental-Liturgical life. According to Fr. Alexander Schmemann, “in the Christian worldview, matter is never neutral. If it is not ‘referred to God,’ i.e. viewed and used as a means of communion with Him, of life in Him, it becomes the very bearer and locus of the demonic.”While “matter…[became] the vehicle for man’s fall and enslavement to death and sin…[in Christ and the Church it] become[s] again the symbol of God’s glory and presence, the sacrament of His action and communion with man.” As one modern iconographer put it: “the message [of the icon] is ultimately the incarnate Logos, Christ, the Archetype of deification, in whom all beings find their ground and derive meaning, the Beauty from which all beauty shines forth.” Thus, the Orthodox Christian understands iconography to be a necessary outworking of the Incarnation, one that displays the glory and truth of God as revealed in the mysterious dispensation of the Incarnate Logos.
Packer and the Orthodox Church offer two antipodal interpretations of the Second Commandment and Incarnation’s demand on Christian life. But which view adheres most faithfully to the Traditional Christian interpretation of Scripture and their understanding of the Incarnation? One is left with the following questions: has the Second Commandment always been understood to unconditionally ban the use of all images in Christian worship? Do images necessarily hide the glory of God and “convey false ideas” about Him? Are Orthodox Christians idolaters, or is there something that Packer is missing?In order to answer these questions within the context of Church history, a brief survey of iconoclasm is necessary.
Within the first millennium of Christian History, two periods of overt iconoclasm can be discerned (726-787 A.D; 815-843 A.D). While it seems that “there had always existed a ‘puritan’ outlook, which condemned icons because it saw in all images a latent idolatry involved with images,”this kind of “puritan outlook” was a sentiment of individuals rapt in fringe Christian heresies of Gnostic or Docetic influence. These heresies adhered to a dualistic worldview, much like Packer’s implied dualism, which downplayed, if not vilified, the material creation and its role in Salvation (thus denying the reality of the Incarnation). But, in fact, the most widely read and extolled historical witnesses to Christianity wrote favorably about Icons.
In 754 A.D, however, several bishops made an attempt to ecclesially codify this “puritan outlook.” There had been a growing contention between Bishops in Eastern Asia Minor over misuses of iconography, such as were condemned in the canons 82 (using a lamb to represent Christ) and 100 (against sensual imagery) of the Quinesext Council. The disagreement, which was likely influenced by Paulician dualism and the anti-imagery mentality of the Muslims in the 7th and 8th centuries, would reach a breaking point, resulting in what was later called the Iconoclastic council.
This council, which was called by Constantine V, the son of the iconoclastic emperor Leo III, vehemently condemned icons, seeing their use as idol-worship. Quoting Romans 1:23-25, the council accused the iconoclasts of “chang[ing] the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man” and thus “exchanging the truth of God for a lie.”But in 787 A.D. the Iconoclastic Council was overturned, its calumnies addressed, by what is now recognized as the Seventh Ecumenical Council. Using St. John of Damascus’ distinction between latrea and proskynesis, this Council delineated between the Worship given to God and the veneration paid to the Icons (and the Saints), proclaiming, along with St. Basil the Great, that the “honour which is paid to the image passes on to that which the image represents.” it also warned against the dangers incumbent on those who “dare spurn the traditions of the Church.” But not everyone was convinced.
Only seven years after the Second Council in Nicea, in 794 A.D., Charlemagne, who had received a faulty translation of the Seventh Council which failed to make the distinction between worship and veneration (using the Latin adoratio for both), commissioned a treatise to be written against its proceedings.This document, which rejected the “worship” of icons and emphasized their instructional use only, is known as the “Libri Carolini…[and] in practice…remains the official [Roman Catholic] position to this day.” Following Charlemagne’s lead, Emperor Leo V insisted that icons could be used didactically but not venerated; the gravity of Leo V’s insistence provided enough pull to kickstart a second wave of iconoclasm in 815 A.D. The notion that icons should be used as instructional aids only was later addressed by a Synod in Constantinople in 843 A.D., which reaffirmed the proceedings of Nicea II. This restoration of the icons by Empress Theodora is known today as the Triumph of Orthodoxy because the icons, and their use in the Church and personal life, demonstrate an outworking of the Church’s core Christological teachings and Incarnational Theology. The conclusions of Nicea II and the Synod at Constantinople are accepted today as the authoritative ruling of the Church. They stood firm in the Liturgical-Sacramental life of the Church – the Church in which both the iconoclasts and the iconodules found themselves – which necessitated, by its very structure, an affirmation of the Sacramental Vision of the cosmos and the use of the Icon.
When the history of iconoclasm is taken into account, it becomes clear that Packer, who claimed a number of pseudo-theological arguments from the Iconoclastic Council, demonstrates little originality. However, his articulation is distinct in a few ways. In order to get a better idea of Packer’s argument, one must look to the influence of Late Medieval Nominalism on Western Christian thought. The “Nominalists…[made] God’s omnipotence His fundamental characteristic, instead of His goodness, or love…[which led] to a very dark view of God.”For the Calvinist, this omnipotence was later expressed in God’s “freedom” to arbitrarily damn men to hell in order that His justice might be satisfied and His Glory revealed in His saving an elect few. Thus, for both Packer and the Nominalist, “limiting God” is unacceptable, “because they believe the most important thing is His omnipotence as they have defined it.”
It follows, then, for Packer, that God’s glory is at stake when He is represented pictorially because “his glory is precisely what images can never show us.”That is, the image “limits” God and thereby obscures His glory. Iconodules are guilty of idolatry not because they are confusing the wood and paint for God in Essence, but because they are falsely representing God (because they are limiting God) by their use of images, thus offending His majesty and obscuring His glory. So images must be condemned both in worship and in teaching because they can never raise man to worship in spirit and in truth (see John 4:24).
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Here, Packer also unwittingly postulates that all Christian images are necessarily false images and necessarily produce false theology. The Orthodox Church, however, in recognition of the fact that “images and pictures of God affect our thoughts of God,”makes a distinction between true and false images – between canonical iconography and non-canonical iconography. False images can lead to false theology. This is exactly why iconography is tied to the ascetical labor and the Sacramental Life of the Church, because “iconography must be authentic…[and the iconographer must work] without the desire to impose [himself] egotistically.” Unlike the “study of religious art” which “is often disassociated from an understanding of nature as theophany and symbol, permeated with the glory of God,” the Icon’s natural context is within the walls of the Liturgical-Sacramental life of the Church. It’s only natural, then, that Packer, who is bereft of this Sacramental vision of the Cosmos, would reject iconography.
Packer continues his critique (with this assumption that all images are false) in a manner that seems to confuse what is depicted in the icon. This method seems to mimic Constantine V who proclaimed that,
either icons of Christ are Monophysitic (mixing the Divine and human natures, if their defenders say that Christ Himself is depicted in the icons), or Nestorian (separating Christ’s divine nature from His humanity, if it is stated that only His human nature and not His divine nature is being depicted.
The thrust of this argument, however, fails to recognize that nature (whether Divine or human) must be concretized in an hypostasis; that is to say, it is only through the person that it is possible to know, 1. The attributes of the nature (e.g., whether Divine or human), and 2. The personal characteristics of this specific person who is in that nature (e.g., coming to know a specific person).Glory or majesty can never be understood, considered, or even contemplated outside of the persons of the Holy Trinity, Who actualize and reveal it. The the icon is understood to display the likeness of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Who took on human nature alongside His Divine Nature, without any confusion, change, separation, or division between the two. While Packer might complain, for instance, that “the crucifix obscures the glory of Christ, [because] it hides the fact of his deity…[and only] displays his human weakness,” Ouspenksy writes that “the Orthodox did not even think of representing either the divine nature or the human nature of Christ. They represented His person, the person of the God-Man who unites in Himself the two natures without confusion or division.”
But in Packer’s view, it is precisely this that leads to another critical point: iconography is not painted after the likeness of the Historical Christ.He writes that “at best, they can only think of God in the image of man-as an ideal man, perhaps, or a superman. But God is not any sort of man.” This shocking statement, which betrays a total disregard for the Incarnation, is indicative of Packer’s entire argument, in which he never once mentions the Incarnation. Instead of recognizing the full meaning of the Incarnation for the Christian life, Packer, along with Calvin, blasphemes it, calling the wood and paint used in such images “dead and corruptible matter” and their use “brute stupidity,” proclaiming that those who see this “foolish scruple of the Greek Christians” should “cling to this principle: God’s glory is corrupted by an impious falsehood whenever any form is attached to him.” Considering the audacity of this claim, one is forced to ask if the “limiting” nature of the Incarnation – in that the Second Person of the Trinity took on the form of a servant (see Philippians 2:1-9), whereby He allowed Himself to be circumscribed in the flesh – is a detriment to God’s glory? Were those who saw Christ (Who is the Image of the Invisible God [Colossians 1:15]) in the Flesh “miserably deluded”? According to this logic, it seems that God’s glory and majesty would only be “rightfully” recognized (and not shrouded in the delusion of the “dead matter” which Christ put on at the Incarnation) in events like the Transfiguration. For Packer, the Incarnation is doubtlessly an “extrinsic” reality only that serves no greater purpose than to allow Christ’s Flesh to be ripped apart on the Cross in order to satisfy “God’s justice.”
Such radical disinterest in the Incarnation leaves one to wonder what kind of God it is that Packer purports to know – and how one is supposed to know this amorphous God Who seems to exist only in mental contortions. Packer gives an answer: the only viable mode of Divine Revelation (e.g., knowledge of God) is the “Spoken Word” which he sees as the Bible alone. Relating this to Deuteronomy 4, he writes that
Moses himself expounds the prohibition of images…he reminds the people that at Sinai, though they saw tokens of God’s presence, they saw no visible representation of God himself, but only heard his word, and he exhorts them to continue to live, as it were, at the foot of the mount, with God’s own word ringing in their ears to direct them and no supposed image of God before their eyes to distract them.
He insists even further, saying that “the point is clear. God did not show them a visible symbol of himself, but spoke to them; therefore they are not now to seek visible symbols of God, but simply to obey his Word.”For Packer, it is this exact point that leads to his stance on Sola Scriptura:
[God] has spoken. He has spoken to and through his prophets and apostles, and he has spoken in the words and deeds of his own Son. Through this revelation, which is made available to us in holy Scripture, we may form a true notion of God; without it we never can. Thus it appears that the positive force of the second commandment is that it compels us to take our thoughts of God from his own holy Word, and from no other source whatsoever.
This argument, however, was addressed 1200 years before Packer by St. John of Damascus, who quipped that “if, because of the law, you prohibit images, watch that you keep the sabbath and are circumcised; for these the law unyieldingly commands.Packer’s stalwart insistence on the Second Commandment as an imposition against Christian imagery shows an implicit denial of the Old and New Testament’s roles as symbol and fulfillment, respectively. On this theme, Leonid Ouspensky writes that, “the prohibition of all direct and concrete images was accompanied by the divine commandment to establish certains symbolic images, those prefigurations which were the tabernacle and everything which it contained.” He comments further that,
[the icon] is not a break with nor even a contradiction of the Old Testament, as the Protestants understand it; but, on the contrary, it clearly fulfills it, for the existence of the image in the New Testament is implied by its prohibition in the Old. Even though this may appear to be strange, the sacred image for the Church proceeds precisely from the absence of the image in the Old Testament.
That is, prior to the Incarnation, imagery of God (whether human or creaturely) was strictly forbidden; after the Incarnation, however, when the Second Person of the Trinity became man, it is permissible (necessary, even) to depict Christ in the icon.
As if all that was not enough, Packer begins wrapping up his exasperating treatise against icons with the following paragraph:
all manmade images of God, whether molten or mental, are really borrowings from the stock-in-trade of a sinful and ungodly world, and are bound therefore to be out of accord with God’s own holy Word. To make an image of God is to take one’s thoughts of him from a human source, rather than from God himself; and this is precisely what is wrong with image-making.
Here Packer unpacks his anti-Sacramentality, not only in his failure to recognize the Incarnation but also in his failure to recognize the redeemability of creation. As Schmemann said above, creation can be the locus of the demonic if it is not referred to God. But in Christ (and now, through the man who is in Christ) creation is restored to its original state and function – as a means of communion with God. But Packer does not refer creation to God. Instead, he demonizes it by failing to see that “[Christian imagery] has a biblical and Christological basis…[which] overcomes the Platonic dualism of the intelligible and sensory world.”
There is yet another issue with Packer’s understanding of the “Word” (meaning of course Holy Scripture, not the Logos, ironically) over and against image that has not hitherto been explained. As one writer put it, “Packer’s argument hinges entirely on a strict word/image binary…But [his] argument falls apart when you consider a language like Japanese…[because] in logographic writing systems, such as Japanese and Chinese, Packer’s opposition between images and God’s Word is untenable.”Further, “If, as Packer insists, the use of images in worship is idolatrous, then a written Japanese Bible is inherently idolatrous whereas a written English Bible is not.” Saint John of Damascus demonstrated this word-image relationship by commenting that “the function of image and word are one.” Addressing Packer’s claims indirectly, Ouspensky relates that “if, in the Old Testament, the direct revelation of God was made manifest only by word, in the New Testament it is made manifest both by word and by image.”
Packer’s insistence on the “revealed, spoken word” without any grounding in the Incarnation leads directly to a question asked by St. Theodore: “if merely mental contemplation were sufficient, it would have been sufficient for Him to come to us in a merely mental way.”That is, if the spoken word of the Old Testament were sufficient, why did Christ become Incarnate? By denying the Icon of Christ, Packer necessarily denies the power of the Incarnation, along with the objective standard of Beauty, Truth, and Goodness.
So, what is one to do with Packer’s eisegetical and erroneous treatment of Scripture when juxtaposed with the the Incarnational theology of the Orthodox Church? The first obvious course of action is to thank God for His wondrous gifts and apply this Incarnational Theology to one’s own life – to hang up, pray in the presence of, and venerate the Holy Icons in addition to participating in the Liturgical-Sacramental life of the Church. Beyond that, one is simply left with the brash, pleading words of Saint Theodore:
Would you please stop ignorantly dragging out scriptural verses to use against us, taking the words spoken against the pagans in regard to the forms of the idols, and misapplying them to the icon of Christ? For what person with any sense does not understand the difference between an idol and an icon? That the one is darkness, and the other light. That the one is polytheism, but the other is the clearest evidence of the divine economy?
The fact is that the foundation of all iconography and all Liturgical and Sacramental practice is the Incarnation. The Incarnation is the event around which all of Christianity, all of history, revolves. It is the Person of Jesus Christ that bridges the gap between the uncreated God and His creation. But when Packer insists that images “corrupt” the glory of God because “[they] inevitably conceal most, if not all, of the truth about the personal nature and character of the divine Being whom they represent,”he is simply rehashing the confused arguments of the Iconoclastic Council (which have already been refuted). Like Constantine V, Packer fails to recognize the bridging of the unbridgeable chasm between God and man in the Person of Jesus Christ, which makes possible the restoration of creation. In spite of the Incarnation, he superimposes a kind of Gnostic or Platonic dualism on top of the created world by focusing on the corruptibility of matter and its inability to contain the Archetype. This eventually leads to his neglect of the pattern of symbol-fulfillment in the Old and New Testament, effectively contenting himself the symbol as opposed to the fulfillment. In this manner, Packer rejects the fulfillment toward which the entire Old Testament points: the Incarnation.
Finally,cConsider the logical chain of these final thoughts on Packer’s iconoclasm: if Packer is content with symbols he may as well rip all the pages of the New Testament out of his Bible. While he would never such a thing, since such an act would be physically destroying the Word of God, he effectively does it in this short treatise against imagery, whereby he denies the reality the New Testament proclaims. If he would not physically tear a page out of his Bible or spit on an image of Christ, why does he do so with his words?
The Orthodox Christian proclaims that, just as man is able to approach God because Christ became man, he is able to approach the icon, which is after the likeness of Christ, as a way to come to know God. It is this reality (that of the Incarnation) that makes the pictorial representation of God and the restoration of creation possible. Thus, Christian imagery is both true (because it portrays the likeness of the Second Person of the Trinity) and to God’s glory, because it displays His mysterious dispensation. This is Good News! God is real, God is here, God became man. Knowing God is not a mental exercise or academic discipline – it is a Sacramental reality made possible by the Incarnation. It is this same reality that makes possible the Icon.
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Arakaki, Robert. 2011. Calvin Versus the Icon: Was John Calvin Wrong? Web:<https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/orthodoxbridge/calvin-versus-the-icon/>
Calvin, John. 1960. Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vols 1-2. Ed. John T. McNeill. Trans. Ford Lewis Battles. Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press.
The Encyclopedia of Christianity, Vol. 2. Eds. Erwin Fahlbusch, Jan Milic Lochman, John Mbiti, Jaroslav Pelikan, Lukas Vischer. Trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing Company.
Ford, Dr. David. 2017. Book of Hand-Outs for the Byzantine Church. Waymart, PA: by the author.
Ford, Dr. Mary. 2015. The Soul’s Longing. Waymart, PA: St. Tikhon’s Monastery Press.
Hart, Aidan. N.d., Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, Romanesque Iconography. Web: aidanharticons.com <http://aidanharticons.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/CLTSAXRM.pdf>
John of Damascus. 2003. Three Treatises on the Divine Images. Trans. Andrew Louth. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
Ouspensky, Leonid. 1992. Theology of the Icon Vols. 1-2. Trans. Anthony Gythiel. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
Packer, J.I. 1973. Knowing God, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Packer, J.I. 1993. Knowing God. 2nd ed. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press. PDF. <https://www.ivpress.com/knowing-god-ebook>
Ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. The Seven Ecumenical Councils, NPF Vol. 14. Trans. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers Marketing.
Pino, Tikhon. 2013. Beauty as a Double-Edged Sword: Icons, Authenticity, and Reproductions, pts. 1-2. Road to Emmaus, vol. XIV, No. 3. Indianapolis, IN: Christ the Saviour Brotherhood.
_______ . 2013. Incarnational Aesthetics. Road to Emmaus, vol. XIV, No. 3. Indianapolis, IN: Christ the Saviour Brotherhood.
Schmemann, Alexander. 1974. Of Water and the Spirit. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
Theodore the Studite. 1981. On the Holy Icons. Trans. Catharine P. Roth. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press.
Quick, Jacob. 2017. The Problem with J.I. Packer’s Opposition to Iconography. Web, Conciliar Post: <http://www.conciliarpost.com/theology-spirituality/problem-j-packers-opposition-icono graphy/>
See Packer 1993, p. 25. Packer sold over 1,000,000 copies between the first edition (1973) and the second (1993).
Interestingly, J.I. Packer gives no citations and his book contains no footnotes or bibliography. He only references Calvin by name once his entire chapter on iconoclasm – only in connection to an uncited direct quotation. Also interesting is the fact that Packer likely took the title of his book directly from Calvin’s section headings: “The Knowledge of God the Creator” and “The Knowledge of God the Redeemer”
See Packer 1993, p. 25; compare with John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.11.1, p. 100 and 1.11.12, p. 112.
See Packer 1993, p. 26; compare with John Calvin, Op. Cit., 1.11.1, p. 100; 1.11.4, pp. 104-105; 1.11.5, p. 105.
Packer does not specifically mention icons due to the broad strokes of his arguments, so the connection is assumed in that he condemns of all Christian imagery, claiming that they are “subtle forms” of idolatry. For Packer, the First Commandment condemns the first (overt idolatry); the Second Commandment condemns the second (subtle idolatry). See Packer 1993, p. 25.
See Packer 1993, p. 25; E.g., the idolatry of the pagans. Packer continues about the Second Commandment: “If it stood alone, it would be natural to suppose that it refers to the worship of images of gods other than Jehovah—the Babylonian idol worship, for instance, which Isaiah derided (Is 44:9-20; 46:6-7), or the paganism of the Greco-Roman world of Paul’s day, of which he wrote in Romans 1:23, 25 that they “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. . . They exchanged the truth of God for a ‘lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator.” But in its context the second commandment can hardly be referring to this sort of idolatry” (Packer 1993, p. 25).
Ibid. Exodus 20:3: “You shall have no other gods before me.” – Packer seems to think that because the First Commandment addresses the issue of worshipping “created gods” / not YWH, the Second Commandment must be referring to something else. In this way, Packer uses logical arguments to parse the meaning of Scripture in an either/or fashion.
Packer 1993, p. 25. Packer gives no reference for this direct quote from Charles Hodge. However, I was able to trace it to Hodge’s Systematic Theology, Vol. 2, p. 136. Hodge continues: “This is clear, 1. From the literal meaning of the words. The precise thing forbidden is, bowing down to them, or serving them, i.e., rendering them any kind of external homage. This, however, is exactly what is done by all those who employ images as the objects, or aids of religious worship. 2. This is still further plain because the Hebrews were solemnly enjoined to make any visible representations of the unseen God.” The document is available on the web: <http://bit.ly/2l7Wmo0>
Ibid, pp. 25, 26.
See Exodus 32; 1 Kings 11:1-14; 18:21; Jeremiah 2:5; Ezekiel 20:7-8. Consider an analogous example: the creed of Israel,“Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4), was given by the Lord as a protection against the predominant pagan polytheism, not as a prescription against Trinitarian Theology, as Oneness Pentecostals are wont to claim.
St. John of Damascus, Three Treatises on the Divine Images, p. 29.
But not God the Father or God the Holy Spirit – only Jesus Christ can be depicted, because it is He who became Incarnate. On this point, one must recognize that Rublev’s Trinity Icon is displaying a typological reference to the Holy Trinity that is made in Genesis 18 (e.g., the “Hospitality of Abraham”).
See Genesis chs. 1–2.
Fr. Alexander Schmemann, Of Water and the Spirit, p. 48.
Ibid, pp. 48, 49.
Tikhon Pino, Beauty as a Double-Edged Sword: Icons, Authenticity, and Reproductions, pts. 1-2, p. 19.
The Sacramental Worldview – which is required by the very fact of the Incarnation! – is what Packer is missing.
By necessity, this survey will be extremely brief – at times only making reference to movements that should be given far more time than this paper allows.
Bp. Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Church, revised ed., p. 31.
Not just any historical Christians, either, but the “heavy hitters” such as Sts. Athanasius the Great, Ambrose of Milan, Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian, John Chrysostom, Jerome, and others.
One can see how this formula undergirds Packer’s two main objections. Interestingly, in the opening pages of his fourth chapter, Packer admits that this passage is referring to the “paganism of the Greco-Roman world” (Op. Cit., p. 25). This admission (which is to his credit) forces one to wonder where Packer finds “justification” for his two major objections.
See NPNF, series 2, vol. 14, p. 549. While the Iconoclastic Council of 754 saw itself as the Seventh Ecuemnical Council, this self-proclamation was proven spurious partly because it was not, in fact, Ecumenical – the cards were stacked by Constantine V.
NPNF, series 2, vol. 14, p. 549
See Ouspensky, pp. 141-142. The Latin word adoratio was used for both Worship and Venerate – effectively causing the document to read that the Council affirms worship only to God and worship to the icons. This affected a shift in the West which will be discussed briefly below.
Ouspensky, p. 488.
This must be what Packer is referring to when he says, “Historically, Christians have differed as to whether the second commandment forbids the use of pictures of Jesus for purposes of teaching” (op. cit., p. 25).
Dr. Mary Ford, The Soul’s Longing, p. 133.
Packer op. cit., p. 26.
Aiden Hart, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, Romanesque Iconography, p. 5
Tikhon Pino, op. cit., p. 17.
Dr. David Ford, Book of Handouts II, p. 34. Unpublished.
See Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, The Person in the Orthodox Tradition, for an excellent summary of this issue (that nature does not exist as some sort of amorphous blob outside of its personalization in the person-hypostasis. Because of this, the person actualizes/makes real/gives concrete reality to nature and is distinct by his own, personal qualities – called, by Met. Hierotheos, “enhypostatic qualities.” od makes known the attributes of Divine Nature by Divine Revelation (by Revelation of Himself); Attributes of human nature are both revealed and observable.
Otherwise, one is forced to ask, is God really free? It’s the classic dilemma demonstrated in Greek Philosophy by Socrates’ conversation with Euthyphro. (See also Freedom of Morality by Christos Yannaras and Being as Communion by Met. John Zizioulas).
See St. Theodore op. cit., pp. 21-23, 26-27; Also introduction by Catharine P. Roth, pp. 11-13.
Packer, op. cit., p. 26; Ouspensky, op. cit., p. 153.
Once, a Protestant friend, when commenting on icons related something similar to me: “The whole point is we don’t know what God looks like!”
Packer, op. cit, p. 26
Packer mentions the Incarnation by name 21 times total: 18 times in his Fifth Chapter, God Incarnate, and only three other times throughout the whole book. Ironically, Packer’s very next chapter (ch. 5) is entitled, God Incarnate. This only goes to demonstrate the compartmentalization necessary in order to hold such a dualistic worldview. The Incarnation is affirmed in the head but denied in the world.
Calvin 1960, pp. 100, 104; Institutes, 1.11.1, 4. The very last quote is used by Packer (without citation beyond Calvin’s name) on p. 26.
See also Calvin Versus the Icon: Was John Calvin Wrong? By Robert Arakaki.
See St. Theodore the Studite, 1.2-4, pp. 20-23; 3.44, p. 94.
See Calvin, op. cit., 1.11.5, p. 105.
Dr. Mary Ford, op. cit., pp. 130-132.
Packer, op. cit, p. 27.
Ibid. Here, Parker correctly begins with Divine Revelation. Compare with John Calvin, Institutes 1.11, p. 100: “God himself is the sole and proper witness of himself.” But apparently Packer forgot about the physical Revelation manifest in the Incarnate Christ. He writes, “We cannot know [God] unless he speaks and tells us about himself” – what about the Incarnation?
Ibid. Packer references the Incarnation here but it seems that, in his view, its ramifications do not go much further than making it possible to write an Historical account of Christ’s “words and deeds,”which comes down to us today in the form of the Holy Scriptures.
Saint John of Damascus, op. cit., 1.16, p. 31.
Ibid, p. 42.
Ouspensky, op. cit., p. 41.
While Eastern Orthodox Christians today, following Canon 82 at Quinisext, forbid the post-incarnational symbolic representation of Jesus Christ (such as depicting him as a lamb), Packer forbids both creaturely and the human depicting of Jesus Christ: “This categorical statement rules out not simply the use of pictures and statues which depict God as an animal, but also the use of pictures and statues which depict him as the highest created thing we know-[sic]a human” (p. 25). That being said, in a follow-up note in his 1993 edition which addresses, in a half-page, certain inquiries about his prohibition of Christian imagery for personal edification,* he writes that “symbolic art can serve worship in many ways, but the second commandment still forbids anything that will be thought of as a representational image of God. If paintings, drawings and statues of Jesus, the incarnate Son, were always viewed as symbols of human perfection within the culture that produced them, rather than as suggesting what Jesus actually looked like, no harm would be done. But since neither children nor unsophisticated adults view them in this way we shall in my opinion be wiser to do without them” (pp. 27–28). *These second edition notes do not address any substantial critiques of his or Calvin’s iconoclasm.
Packer, op. cit., p. 27.
The Encyclopedia of Christianity, p. 642.
Jacob Quick, The Problem with J.I. Packer’s Opposition to Iconography (ConciliarPost.com)
St. John of Damascus, op. cit., 1.45, p. 45.
Ouspensky, op. cit., p. 46.
St. Theodore the Studdite, op. cit., p. 1.7, p. 27.
St. Theodore, op. cit., 1.7, p. 27.
Packer, op. cit., p. 26.