John Calvin famously said that the human heart is a factory of idols. What this means is that there is a yearning, a lust, to place some object, any object, in the position that only God Himself should occupy.
“Because they despised my judgments, and walked not in my statutes, but polluted my sabbaths: for their heart went after their idols” (Eze. 20:16).
Given the sinfulness of the human heart, this is a sin that we naturally gravitate to. And in the grip of the lust, the burden of proof inexorably shifts, such that the “iconoclast” who objects is asked to produce a passage of Scripture that says that we can’t kiss a picture of Jesus. The iconoclast, provided he has his wits about him, should say first that you can’t because we don’t know what He looked like and hence have no pictures; second, that you shouldn’t even if we did have a picture because God bans, prohibits, and excoriates the pagan tomfoolery of all such bowing and scraping; and third, the face of Jesus Christ is manifested in the preaching of the gospel (2 Cor. 4:6), and the response is to believe it, not kiss it. There is that time in Scripture when Jesus was kissed, but it was a Judas kiss.
Whenever the proclamation of the holy gospel is in decline, this kind of iconism is going to come back. First, it will creep back in and, provided nobody flips out, it will flood back in. Notice that I am assuming ostensibly Protestant churches, places where such behavior was once removed and the sanctuaries cleansed. But it is never enough to sweep a place clean and garnish it. Unless the Word of Christ is enthroned in power, and the pulpit becomes a place emanating the kind of awe that overwhelms everyone, including the frailty of the preacher, the returning corruption will be seven times worse than before.
There is no neutrality. Either we will make much of Jesus, the way the Scriptures teach us to, or He will relegate the chaff written by our ecclesiastical dastards to the blast furnaces of His wrath. He gave us Word and sacrament, but for some this is not enough. In their wisdom, they have substituted a cavalcade of mummery.
Of course, we come up with various misdirecting devices to hide what we are trying to do. Take for example the phrase Anglo-Catholic—what does that mean? It means only that when we make God angry, we do it in English. We want to make sure He understands. Oh, He understands, all right.
“There is that time in Scripture when Jesus was kissed, but it was a Judas kiss.”
Well, there’s Psalm 2, too, but truly kissing the Son, ISTM, would involve obeying Him…including by not kissing idols.
When this discussion comes up it’s never in the form of a thoughtful response to say, “Defense Against Those Who Oppose Holy Images” by St John of Damascus or the Second Council of Nicaea (7th council of the undivided church), but a rejection of worshiping objects, as if anyone formally believed that was acceptable in Christendom. It’s one thing to say people are worshiping images and another to prove it so. Those who venerate images with an understanding of the tradition believe they are honoring those to whom honor is due, and not offering anything like worship.
Can you at least concede that bowing down before idols to worship them looks exactly like bowing down before icons to venerate them, and that the distinction between them is less than clear?
Kilgore, I understand. There is a difference between the arguments of the iconophiles and the iconoclasts in the 8th century, and what I am saying. I am neither. I wouldn’t destroy every sacred piece of visual culture like Leo III (iconclast), but nor would I promote veneration as a positive and good thing like St. John of Damascus (iconophile). I would say it’s scriptural lawful but ultimately unwise, as it becomes a point of confusion for a world steeped in idolatry. But the same could be said for bowing before the King in more recent eras, people use to worship… Read more »
The way you have laid this out is fantastic. I agree with your nuances and also that it is very unwise.
Given our propensity for making idols, I think we should avoid their use altogether. At present we have a Protestant church that is fairly glib about things of this nature. Dangerous territory.
I’m pretty much in the same place as you Tim. I know many faithful Christians who venerate icons and who are obviously not practicing idolatry. I also have seen icons use d in a manner that appeared to me to look very much like idolatry. I have no interest in it or in encouraging it, but condemning it in others seems to do more harm than good. Of course, some might say, “But if you’ve seen it be a temptation to idolatry in some circumstances, shouldn’t that mean we should flee from it in all circumstances?” And I’d wager that… Read more »
Kilgore, I’m out of touch. Where is “iconism” making a comeback?
Any idea what, in particular, has aroused the General’s indignation?
Specifically, no. I do know that the good reverend is a very high church Protestant. Much higher than my liking, and I have heard some rumblings that in some of those churches, especially since there is a great dearth of teaching the Word, that icons and images are being used more.
This debate came up during the conversations about the Shack, where all three members of the Trinity were by played by actors.
Worship of the image and likeness, namely man.
I happily concede that. The distinction cannot be clear to an onlooker, but it must be clear in the mind of the person who is using the icon as an aid to religious devotion. The Catholic is taught that the image (statue or painting) is a mere object in itself, and must not be worshiped. But the image can point us to God. It reminds us of the spiritual world, and redirects our attention. But adoration belongs to God alone. The superstitious use of icons is always wrong. Catholics (and some Protestants) who bury a statue of St. Joseph in… Read more »
The distinction needs to be different. Catholics and Orthodox believers distinguish between worship and veneration, but the action is same outwardly. In my experience, the between way to distinguish this by their use. One is a memorial, the other is an idol. So, art that depicts Jesus, accurately at least, is fine as long as its use is for memorial or teaching purposes. If it becomes a necessary part of worship, then it is an idol. If you need a picture of your deceased father to miss him and honor his memory, then we have a problem. Memorials are necessary… Read more »
“If it becomes a necessary part of worship, then it is an idol. ” There’s the rub; the Second Council of Nicaea anathematizes those who do not use images as a necessary part of worship.
Oh, I didn’t know that. Then those images that are necessary are idols.
Catholicism is full of them, sadly. I wonder how much of this has seeped into Protestant High church thought.
I’m not familiar with the full text of council decisions from centuries ago, but I assure you that the public liturgy of the Catholic church–the celebration of the Eucharist–does not involve the use of statues or icons. A priest could say mass in my living room, if there was a legitimate need, and my living room contains no visible evidence that I am a Catholic. Bowing to an image of the Virgin, or kissing an icon, is simply not part of Catholic public worship. For many years I worshipped with a Catholic community that met in a Protestant church which… Read more »
The bronze serpent is a good lesson. Because it was worshiped and offered sacrifices Hezekiah had it destroyed. Would you be ok with tearing down the image in the basilica of Our Lady Guadalupe if it was shown that peasants were offering it worship?
Probably, although my first preference would be to instruct the peasants. If devout Mexican Catholics were setting food before statues, I would think they had not been well taught. But I hope I would not be too quick to assume that their understanding was erroneous simply because their pious practices are more conspicuous than my own.
But I will not remove stained glass windows from the cathedral at Chartres, no matter how much they are inappropriately adored.
But I will not remove stained glass windows from the cathedral at Chartres, no matter how much they are inappropriately adored.
You may be trying to be a little funny jill, but this is exactly the thing that Christians may have to do.
I think the danger with religious art that represents the best of western civilization–the Sistine Chapel, the rose window at Chartres–is not that simple Catholic peasants will adore it inappropriately. The danger is much more likely to be sophisticates who mistake a love for religious art for a love of God. I think the answer lies in teaching people the distinction, not in vandalizing great art. Mozart’s Ave Verum makes me feel holy, especially when I have successfully hit the top note while soloing the soprano line. I know that this feeling says absolutely nothing about my religious beliefs, my… Read more »
I see Our Lady Guadalupe, Our Lady Fatima, the Czarna Madonna and many other icons with cults as very different from stained glass in Chartes, or the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, or wonderfully illuminated manuscripts. If the cult surrounding an image cannot be destroyed then the image should be destroyed. I have to admit that my instincts are against destroying any sort of art, but In these cases I really do believe that God demands it.
Demo, I don’t think it’s that simple. The Catholic church has its hands full stamping out cults surrounding apparitions it considers false without going after the ones it recognizes. If someone has a particular devotion to Our Lady of Fatima and is otherwise a good Catholic, and if this person has been instructed on the proper use of icons and the dangers of idolatry, not even the church has the power to interfere. You are supposing that people who derive comfort from such religious devotions (which I don’t use) are necessarily being idolatrous, but I don’t see how we can… Read more »
Jilly, I thought I wrote a full response to this days ago, but I don’t see it now. Maybe I said something naughty and got admined away? Anyway, you are correct that these concerns are, at least in part, proxies for deeper issues. Mariology – in conjunction with the doctine of infallibility as construed by the church, is an absolute bar for me. I cannot paper over a situation where the church says 1. Anything the is defined by the church is absolutely and inalterably true. 2. They define and prescribe things that are manifestly false and possibly idolatrous. 3.… Read more »
Jill Smith wrote: The Catholic is taught that the image (statue or painting) is a mere object in itself, and must not be worshiped. But the image can point us to God. This isn’t a sufficient distinction. Israel didn’t think the golden calf was actually God either. They knew Aaron had just fashioned it from the gold they had recently donated for the project. The golden calf itself didn’t even exist at the time of the occasion they were celebrating, which was their rescue from slavery in Egypt. They knew that. The golden calf merely represented (pointed them to) the… Read more »
Jill, Not only are some Catholics superstitious about Catholic statues, some anti-Catholic Protestants are superstitious about Catholic statues. Military chapels are used by both Catholics and Protestants, obviously at different hours. The disadvantage for Protestants is you have all kinds together at once. Apparently some of them think the disadvantage is that RC are doing their RC thing in the chapel. I remember once some Pentecostals who were scandalized by the stations of the cross set up in the chapel, around do that – Easter, isn’t it? – I don’t remember. Anyway, one of the them declared that we needed… Read more »
I have a friend whose Jewish congregation meets at an Episcopal church. Jews are very uncomfortable with religious statues, but it grew to be far less hassle to simply ignore them than to be covering them up with cloths every Shabbat. I find the appearance of some Protestant church interiors to be cold and sterile. But, if I were sharing worship space with these Protestants, I would not demand that they adopt Catholic ways. The stations of the Cross are present in all Catholic churches and many Anglican ones. They are up all year, but typically only used at Easter.… Read more »
I find the appearance of some Protestant church interiors and exteriors to be mud fence ugly. That said, I’d still take Sinclair Lewis’ “moldy barns of churches” over the contemporary civic arena design. The exteriors of some Roman Catholic churches of the past fifty or so years hardly seem calculated to inspire anything either, though I think they do a little better with the interiors. Personally, I found the stations of the cross to be irrelevant but unobtrusive, and the idea of fearing anything about them laughable. Any images used as a teaching illustration are as harmless as the drawings… Read more »
There are a lot of very unattractive Catholic parish churches, especially in suburban areas where, after the war, large numbers of churches had to be built in a hurry and on the cheap to accommodate huge influxes of people. I can wince a little at some Catholic aesthetic taste, but this is not a trait to be encouraged and I try to stifle it. Catholics are supposed to attend their local parish church and not go shopping for the church with the most beautiful art, the best choir, or the most charismatic pastor. In any event, it is hard to… Read more »
I hope you stick around. Your contributions in this thread have been helpful and erudite.
Absolutely. I do love Doug Wilson and his blog (even if I do have strong disagreements at times). My wife and I (and our friends) often read his books, blog and watch his sermons. I’ve even sent him a few e-mails of question and encouragement in the past.
Thank you for the kind words!
Wilcoxson wrote: Those who venerate images with an understanding of the tradition believe they are honoring those to whom honor is due, and not offering anything like worship. In the interest of careful and “thoughtful response”, the Seventh Ecumenical Council actually does speak of more than mere veneration and honor of those depicted. It explicitly refers to veneration of the images themselves, as objects. “We honor the venerable images [icons]. We place under anathema those who do not do this.” “Anathema to those who refuse to venerate with proper reverence the holy images of our Lord and His blessed saints.”… Read more »
Hello Katecho, You’re correct. The 7th council calls people to honor images by bowing to them and so forth. Honoring images is a way of honoring what the image represents. The issue isn’t whether images are honored but whether or not something less than worship (honorveneration) is permitted to the people of God toward those they esteem (dead and living, keep in mind the communion of saints idea). I would answer: it is permitted. However, I take issue with the 7th council’s wording because it binds the conscience to venerate images. It commands it. But in historical context, the issue… Read more »
Agreed. I think anyone can tell the difference between bowing in honor and bowing in worship. Bowing in honor and remembrance of a saint whose life one aspires to imitate is not worship to them, but insofar as we desire to ultimately imitate Christ and look to others who did so, honoring the saints is worshipping Christ, not the saints. If one strives to live like Paul, and so they meditate on Paul’s life, and even have some image that helps them in that meditation and pursuit, they aren’t worshiping Paul or some picture that only symbolizes Paul since no… Read more »
Very well put, Matthew. I have my dear father’s combat medals from the second world war. If holding them sometimes helps me remember that I must try to live up to a heritage of bravery and endurance, and quit whining about how tough my life is, how can it be wrong for me to use a painting of a Christian martyr for the same purpose? Asking the saints to intercede for one is a different but related question, and I totally see why many Protestants find this disturbing. Catholics don’t help matters by using a kind of verbal shorthand to… Read more »
But what if the Jews had made an idol or statue of God? Would God have reacted the same way?
The golden calf incident seems to address that.
They did… Remember the golden calf/calves?
“God bans, prohibits, and excoriates the pagan tomfoolery of all such bowing and scraping.”
I’d like a little clarification on this. God does not excoriate every example of “bowing and scraping” before other men. And I’m unclear on precisely where all bowing (regardless of object) is banned, etc.
I am not so much contesting the point as looking for clearer backup for the statement. There’s no scripture or specific example cited for this clause of the sentence.
You have examples of un-rebuked or criticized (in context) instances of bowing before eminent men, kings, and even angels, etc: Genesis 42:6, 2 Samuel 1:2, 1 Samuel 25:23, Exodus 18:7,Ruth 2:10, Luke 24:5 You also have illegitimate examples of bowing that are clearly rebuked: Acts 10:26, Revelation 22:8 The difference between the illegitimate and legitimate bowing examples? Honor and worship. The legitimate are in the context of honor, the others seem to be in the context of worship or concern that there is worship taking place. However, based on Acts 10:26 and Revelation 22:8 we should obviously be more conservative… Read more »
Agreed. But I want to hear from the author what led to his making such a very absolute statement without even arguing for it.
Jane, does that rule out curtseying to the queen ? Or prevent a British barrister from bowing to the judge? Or, going to Doug’s other point, should it have prevented witnesses being required to kiss the Bible upon taking an oath? I can’t see a difference between kissing a Bible (if that’s okay) and kissing a picture of our Lord.
(May I just add, however, that I don’t think Americans should bow and curtsy to foreign monarchs. It does not comport with our republican ideals.)
Well, I am the one asking. And I can’t see biblical condemnation for things like curtsying to the Queen, rather the examples seem to run the other way. However, I think there are lines to be drawn. I think kissing Bibles or pictures is at least dubious. However, I’m going to leave that to others to lay out the argument, because I think I see people on this thread already on the way to doing that better than I could. But I am genuinely asking for clarification, because I have to believe Pastor Wilson doesn’t think that curtsying to the… Read more »
“Whenever the proclamation of the holy gospel is in decline, this kind of iconism is going to come back.”
Yes, this is the case, but why? Does the iconophile find it easier to believe in something he can see – or is it an ‘aid’ to worship the true God? (Is it like steps on a ladder, working his way up to the real God?)
Are the icons and saints looked at as (inter)mediates to God? Because we are so sinful and God is so transcendent?
Hi wisdumb, I can only tell you what a well instructed Catholic believes about this. You are closest when you call religious imagery an aid to worship the true God. We are a worldly people who need reminders that this is not our true home. We are visual people and look to our faith to nourish our senses as well as our minds and spirits. We must always remember that the God we worship is not in the statue or the painting. But the use of icons is not the only issue that separates us. The use of icons as… Read more »
Thanks, Jilly I can see what you are saying, but it runs contrary to reality. You identify as weak and frail, but Jesus says something quite different! You are a child of God and heir to His kingdom! We need to understand this with eyes of faith rather than eyes of weakness. You say we are visual people, but we are told to live by faith and not by sight. You say this nourishes the senses, but as a Catholic, you (of all people) should be faithful to the bread and wine! (And that exclusively!) You say it is good… Read more »
Wisdumb, too many questions to answer them all here! But to hit the highlights. Catholics are taught that heaven is enjoyment of the beatific vision and complete union with God. We are not taught that it is here on this earth. Our time here is brief, but because how we use our time determines our eternal destiny, the church’s role is to shepherd us to be faithful to the end. If you don’t accept the Catholic view of the communion of saints, asking saints to pray for you is clearly a waste of time. First I should say that no… Read more »
Jill Smith wrote: We further believe that there is no time in God, and that those saints hear our petitions. There is therefore no difference between asking my friend to pray for me or asking St. Francis of Assisi to pray for me. Complete non sequitur. How is God’s timelessness supposed to convey timelessness to a saint? In the book of Revelation (see 6:9-11), don’t we see the throng of martyred saints crying out to God “how long?” Why are they crying out to be avenged, and told to rest and wait a while longer, if they are allegedly timeless?… Read more »
Katecho, I have no doubt that you find the idea of asking the saints of intercede for us unscriptural and even ridiculous. It is certainly not my intention to persuade you otherwise. Attacking or ridiculing what other sincere Christians believe is something I try to avoid, not always with perfect success but I do try. Persuading sincere Protestants to start asking the saints in heaven to intercede for them is also not something I consider a legitimate thing for me to do while visiting a Protestant board. As I have said to you previously, I write to explain Catholic doctrine… Read more »
Jill Smith wrote: The use of icons as aids to religious devotion … I keep hearing this notion about icons being a mere aid to individual religious devotion. In that case, the practice would be a risk born by the individual between them and God, and kindly leave me out of it. The problem with this theory is that the Seventh Ecumenical Council explicitly pronounced anathema (damnation) against those not actively engaging in the practice: “We honor the venerable images [icons]. We place under anathema those who do not do this.” Anathema to those who refuse to venerate with proper… Read more »
Katecho, I think we have had this conversation before, although it might have been about the Tridentine anathemas and why, if they have not been formally rescinded, Catholics don’t feel bound by them, even in the unlikely event that they know what they are. When I explain Catholic teaching, by the way, it is never in the hope that Protestants on this board will change their mind about the propriety of venerating religious icons. I write to explain, not to convince anyone that I am right and he or she is wrong. If I can persuade someone–anyone here–that I do… Read more »
Wo. You go girl.
Refreshing to have you in these seats with us.
To this Protestant yokel, this sounds very similar to unrepentance.
That kind of change happens occasionally. The Catholic church has formally repented of its treatment of the Jews and of Galileo.
They could never have done so if the treatment was codified ex cathedra or in a councillor statement, right?
Conciliar statements are theoretically binding, but in practice, not always. Which is a good thing because some over the centuries have been a little contradictory. And some were issued in wording that allows of a little leeway in interpretation. Only a Catholic church historian would likely be aware of what the pre-Vatican II councils taught; for most Catholics, the deposit of faith is outlined in the most current version of the official catechism. There was no papal infallibility as a defined doctrine then; otherwise it would have been a little awkward. There’s a good reason why infallibility is used so… Read more »
Jilly, Thanks for the history lesson. A couple of things I would push back on: *I think the church viewed an anathema as condeming someone to hell if it wasn’t formally lifted. From the old rite “we declare him excommunicated and anathematized and we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate, so long as he will not burst the fetters of the demon, do penance and satisfy the Church.” From the plain text of the councillor decision I am held as anathema if I don’t venerate holy images. This was meant to… Read more »
Very true! I had not read the text of the anathema. My, these old guys sounded unpleasant. But doesn’t getting rid of the whole concept of anathema solve the problem? And Benedict was willing to set aside the anathemas of the first seven councils in his negotiations with the Patriarch. The Catholic church has learned, over the years. to be much cautious, leaving many disputed issues, like origins, to the individual conscience. I wish they would be more cautious in declaring sainthood without the precautions the church took in times past. There was a good reason for the hundred year… Read more »
It seems to me that they can stop talking about ananthemas if they want, but as they are written in a concillar statement they can’t “get rid of them” if they do, by the Church’s own reasoning they will cease being a Church. “anything it solemnly defines for the faithful to believe is true.” If I am not anathema for not venerating statues, then the Church has solemnly defined something for the faithful which was false, and therefore is not the True Church. I don’t see any way out of this bind, you simply must believe I am condemned to… Read more »
A couple of things. Despite its brutal language, the old ceremony did not foreclose the person from salvation. All he had to do was adjure his errors. How is this different from excommunication as practiced by some Protestant churches? How is it different from St. Paul’s saying that someone who teaches false doctrine should be treated as accursed? Secondly, the sentence of anathema, pronounced by the Council of Trent, fell on Catholics who were defecting to join groups the church saw as heretical. A Protestant wrote to a Catholic site wondering by what presumption the church dared to call harmless… Read more »
I think it’s because Protestants see the authority of the magisterium as entailing the idea that they’re always right at every point. If I understand correctly, though, that’s not quite how it’s understood to work. Rather, the idea is that collectively and over time, they’re right. The church never absolutely falls into error, but may make some missteps on the way to hammering things out over time. It’s a longitudinal view.
Is that how you understand what you’ve taught, @Jill Smith ?
Jane, you have it exactly right. The ordinary Catholic in the pew believes, over the long arc of history, the Holy Spirit will guide the church rightly, however screwed up things may appear at the time. This is why, when some Protestants try to confound Catholics with reminders that a pope held bullfights in the Vatican, or that our clergy have occasionally been known to be spectacularly wicked and depraved, or that we are commanded on pain of hellfire to venerate statues, they fall far from the mark. Even the infallibility of the Councils has restrictions which can limit its… Read more »
I am afraid I will have to contradict you on this.
I cannot envision Katecho finding me more credible – and I am certain he does not find me less irritating.
With the Seventh Council, it is important to recognize that the Eastern Church had just experienced over half a century of intense iconoclastic persecution from the emperors, the army and compliant bishops.
The anathemas were similar to demanding that rebels salute the flag before they are recognized as loyal countrymen again.
I was in a somewhat Protestant church where the interim pastor, while arguing against the metaphorical idols that we all can set up in our hearts (e.g., money, sex, career, etc.), went on to give us some icons to contemplate. I couldn’t believe it.
I don’t get the joke.
I get the “one true church” condescention and the virtuous snark. But I don’t get the timing. The Oxford movement was a long time ago. The iconoclasm was a really long time ago. Why bite and devour your Anglo Catholic brothers today?
Maybe the needless alienation will help my Anglo-Catholic brothers finally cast down their idolatry of you.
Some good comments here. Wilcoxson makes some astute and good observations. Still, I think Doug’s point is probably more valid than some are willing to concede. Elsewhere someone commented that Paul felt free to change “brothers” in an OT quote to “brothers and sisters” in the NT so should we not be free to do the same? IIRC Doug’s response was something along the line of Paul being inclusive but the modern response is to the demands of godless feminists. In other words motivation matters. I am free to eat meat but must be cautious if I am tempted in… Read more »
Hi bethyada, I think there is a sharp contrast between the position I’ve taken and Doug’s, because he baldly states that for Protestants to even permit images is to let idolatry come flooding back in. His core argument relates to the idea that God bans visible signs of honor because he sees it as fundamentally Pagan. Of course he cannot prove this to be so from Scripture, because as I’ve already demonstrate Scripture doesn’t forbid shows of honor toward that which is not God, and clearly allows it; yet does forbid religious worship given to that which is not God.… Read more »
Wilcoxson wrote: However, a warm sign of honor to a statue of St. Augustine is not the same as having ritual sex by an Asherah Pole, and to sloppily conflate the two is why iconclasts are criminal. If ritual sex by an Asherah Pole is all that Wilcoxson is on guard against, a lot of the more subtle forms of idolatry are going to slip completely under his radar. First, honor to Augustine is not the same as honor to a statue of Augustine. Jesus warned specifically about those who honored the tombs of the prophets, but didn’t honor what… Read more »
Reverend Wilson, Perhaps you could mention briefly the occasion for this post. Several people have asked. To speculate, in the high church world, or so I hear, there is an increasing use of images and statues, and the good Reverend here is concerned that the lack of true gospel preaching is being supplanted. The other possibility is that there have been a number of high profile conversions from evangelicalism to Orthodoxy, not my beloved Presbyterian Orthodoxy, but the Eastern kind, and perhaps the good reverend is beginning to sense, as am I, a temptation toward the Orthodox world by evangelicals… Read more »
Having a chuckle here, but I had to go look up a “cavalcade of mummery.” So glad there aren’t any mummies. So that’s like when your church leadership decides to hoist the rainbow flag up high above the cross in a pompous display of mummery? I see many people attempting to merge “anglo Catholic” with evangelist, traditionalists, the reformed, because they are seeking something solid, something unwavering within faith, and trying desperately to make those distinctions,to separate themselves from the more liberal side of faith that has now become so open minded our brains have fallen out. Catholicism may even… Read more »
MeMe, any Catholic woman who goes through a fake ordination service to become a priest is excommunicated, along with whoever officiated at such a thing. Yes, there are liberal Catholics. But there are also many conservative Catholics who strive to be faithful to the teachings of the church. I don’t think people cross the Tiber in order to become a pro-choice Catholic. I think it is important to be fair in assessing people’s motives. When someone leaves the Catholic church to become Reformed, I assume that he is acting out of conscience and because he has come to believe that… Read more »
“Why would you believe that the person who becomes a Catholic is not equally impelled….”
I understand what you are saying, Jilly and it relates to the way we talk, the phrases we use, but nobody should become a Catholic, or even a protestant, Presbyterian, Baptist. We should become a follower of Jesus Christ first and foremost. I did not say that every one who becomes Catholic has bad motives, I said there is a lot of idolatry going on right now as if one can just put on a team teeshirt, rather than putting on the armor of God.
Well, of course our primary identification is Christian. But, there are large doctrinal differences that separate us, and clearly, joining any church is going to place us in one of the branches of Christendom. When someone leaves one denomination for another, I assume one of two things: either he has studied the doctrine of the denomination and believes that it reflects Christian truth more closely than his previous one, or the new church is helping him in his walk with Christ more than the old one did. I never think someone is doing it to be trendy, idolatrous, or to… Read more »
“I never think someone is doing it to be trendy, idolatrous, or to wear a new team tee-shirt…..”
That’s nice Jilly. However, the fact that you NEVER think it is happening does not change the fact that it IS happening.
I am not going to stop speaking the truth about what I have observed simply because somebody, somewhere, might be hurt by the fact that I suggest not everyone has pure, non idolatrous motivations when they flip from one denomination to another.
Well, I certainly wasn’t hurt! But, based on how little I understand my own motives much of the time, I am reluctant to be suspicious of other people’s motives when it comes to their religious belief. How can you know what is actually in their hearts, and because there will always be doubt, why wouldn’t you adopt the kindest interpretation?
Jill Smith wrote:
The notion that Roman Catholicism is “one of the branches of Christendom” completely concedes one of the great pillars of historic confrontation between Rome and Protestants. Does this mean that Rome will stop referring to itself as the Church, and permit (in the spirit of true catholicity) that they are one of the branches?
Katecho, to recognize the historic divisions of Christianity is not to claim that all branches are in equal possession of the truth. Nor is it to concede that the Catholic church is, like the Protestant churches, an offshoot of the Christian church as it existed at its founding. Nor does it imply that where other churches’ doctrine contradicts Catholic teaching, all views have equal merit from a Catholic standpoint. However, unlike some Protestants, the Catholic church does not teach that those who belong to other churches are not Christian. Reverting to the official catechism, I quote: “…many elements of sanctification… Read more »
Most of the convertees I know are very traditionalist. I have several friends who have left the CREC/PCA/OPC for the tiber or the bosphorus and, honestly, they are some of the most devout and thoughtful Christians I know.
Yes demos-, they are thoughtful and sincere. They just want to do more – more for Jesus, more for the Kingdom, and more to insure their progeny is secure. I want the same, but we don’t want to run in front of our General.
“So the very term ‘anglo-Catholic’ is becoming a bit of an idol all of it’s own.”
That really doesn’t make sense. As for idolatry, you’ll find a lot more in Evangelical churches–from the hipster pastor/youth pastor, to the praise bands and god-awful feminized music, to the church that doesn’t resemble a house of worship, to the PC sermons, etc.
It makes perfect sense to me. “Anglo-Catholic” is an attempted tribal identity that says nothing about Jesus Christ and everything about one’s own perceived tribal I-dentity.
No, it connects one to the whole of church history, not just the last 400-500 years, which has been all about tribal identity.
This is exactly how even our labels can become idols. “Anglo-Catholic” wasn’t even a thing until the 19th century. As to connecting the whole of church history, that really depends. You have your liberal Anglo-Catholics too, blessing same sex marriage, ordaining lady priests.
I’m obviously not talking about liberal ACs (there’s a liberal wing of practically everything). Sure, the term hasn’t been around long. Neither have Presbyterian, Baptist, the Community Fellowship Relevant unChurch, Springfield campus…or your local church, for that matter. All of those are idolatrous as well by your criteria. You’ve missed the point.
No, I think I’ve nailed the point very well. You yourself are attempting to defend an incoherent label that is more about honoring tribalism than it is about honoring Jesus Christ.
MeMe, it’s not an incoherent label. To me, it means someone who holds the traditional faith of the Anglican Church as it came to be in the years after Henry’s split. Someone who adheres to the Articles, the Book of Common Prayer, and the liturgy. The Anglican church “looked” Catholic while rejecting the authority of the pope. Hence the name, even if it wasn’t used before Keble and Newman. If the term Anglo-Catholic honors tribalism and not Christ, what do we do with “The Presbyterian Church of the United States of America.” Not a word about Jesus in that mouthful.… Read more »
“MeMe, it’s not an incoherent label.”
Well Jilly, I’ll point you to the words of our host, “Take for example the phrase Anglo-Catholic—what does that mean? It means only that when we make God angry, we do it in English. We want to make sure He understands. Oh, He understands, all right.”
I’m not sure what Doug meant by these words. If he means that Anglo-Catholics are mere Catholic wannabes with little doctrine and a passion for all things English, that’s one thing. But, regardless, there is a definite meaning to the phrase Anglo-Catholic, and it is not accurate to say that the term has no historic or actual meaning. Most English speaking people worship in English, including Catholics, so I’m not sure what he is trying to say. Was he attacking anglophilia as it attaches to religious belief?
Jill said, “… it means someone who holds the traditional faith of the Anglican Church as it came to be in the years after Henry’s split.”
Thanks for clarifying, because I had never heard the term before and really wasn’t getting it. So, Anglo Catholics are those who embrace the errors of the Roman Catholic faith, but without a pope for an enforcer.
They tend to hold a lot of Catholic doctrine, but not all of it. Their liturgy is so close to Catholic liturgy that you would have trouble telling them apart–except that, in my experience, the A-Cs use a lot more incense and holy water, have fancier vestments, and better hymns.
“Anglo Catholics are those who embrace the errors of the Roman Catholic faith, but without a pope for an enforcer.”
Which “errors” are you talking about? Only some extreme ones hold to things like the Immaculate Conception.
CHer, I’m not sure what those errors might be. Having churches with names like St. Michael and All Angels? Having priests in vestments? Ringing a bell at the consecration? Infant baptism? Confession to a priest for those who want it? I find it easier to take seriously criticism of a doctrine of my church from people who can accurately state it before they start in on it. But I like the idea of the pope as enforcer. With one billion Roman Catholics in the world, he must be a busy man. When I have told any priest that I have… Read more »
I’m glad someone gets it! I thought I was speaking directly into the echo chamber!
I hope that I am reasonably reluctant to accuse fellow Christians of practicing idolatry. But I do hope that those who consider me an idol worshipper, despite my firm denials, are equally concerned when their fellow Protestants start selling “Resurrection Seeds” for $1,144 apiece, promising deliverance from hell. It sounds unpleasantly similar to selling relics and indulgences, a practice which the Protestant Reformers shamed us into giving up a long time ago. And a good thing too.
I sense a perception exists, that the use of images in Christian worship is on the rise. This cannot be true, as the denominations which use images are shrinking fast. I posit that the sensation responsible for this post is the sensation of customers fleeing one’s own brand for another’s. If that’s the case, I’m sure our host’s response is perfectly reasonable. Christians ARE leaving the reformed enclave for the ancient church(es). Not in a gush, but certainly in a strong trickle. But never fear! They are also leaving the clappy evangelical for the reformed, and probably faster. It should… Read more »
Wells needs to label the axes on his Punnett square before we know what he is talking about, and whether his FV metaphor accurately describes anything.
If you can’t have a worship service without icons and statues, aren’t they by definition idols?
Perhaps. But, as long as you have a priest equipped with the materials needed to celebrate the Eucharist, the worship service can take place in an open field if there is a good reason for it. The veneration of icons and statues is not part of regular Catholic liturgy. There’s no point in the service at which everyone is commanded to bow to an image of the Virgin Mary!
My understanding of Eastern Orthodox is that there must be icons present for a worship service.
Jill, forgive me if you answered this elsewhere, but how do you define “venerate” in Roman Catholicism?
Hi Ginny, I was taught that to venerate means to show honor and respect. The English Catholic bishops have explained this as it relates to religious images: “We should give to relics, crucifixes and holy pictures a relative honour, as they relate to Christ and his saints and are memorials of them.” “We do not pray to relics or images, for they can neither see nor hear nor help us.” The use of religious images is not essential to my devotional life. However, while I am not required to have any such item in my home, I must treat it… Read more »
If you’re going to dismiss the theology of the Greek and Russian Orthodox Church you ought to do it with more than a few paragraphs. Second, comparatively speaking, the idolatry of love of money as manifested in an economy based on renting money (usury), contrary to Scripture; and loans that extend beyond seven years (contrary to scripture) is, in the scale of things, perhaps far more destructive — and neglected — in terms of pastoral counsel and admonishment. As for images, since Jesus walked the earth, if we know the difference between latria and dulia, I do not see how… Read more »
I don’t expect treatises on a blog. If there are two or three statements that provoke my thought in a new way, I’m happy. As integral as icons are to Orthodox life, it’s a bit hyperbolic to say criticism of icons “dismiss[es] the theology” of the EO church. There are other areas of disagreement, and even ostensible agreement, between Protestants and Orthodox. Is it really the case that if Mr. Tycoon wants to borrow my money to acquire real estate in Chicago, Scripture requires me to decline interest on the loan? There’s a difference between helping the poor and helping… Read more »
What I learned in Narnia: “The Prince [Rilian]…returned with a strange light in his eyes a moment later. ” ‘Look, friends,’ he said, holding out the shield toward them.’ An hour ago it was black and without device; and now, this.’ The shield had turned bright as silver, and on it, redder than blood or cherries, was the figure of the Lion. ” ‘Doubtless,’ said the Prince, ‘this signifies that Aslan will be our good lord, whether he means us to live or die. And all’s one, for that. Now, by my counsel, we shall all kneel and kiss his… Read more »
It seems like Kilgore just glommed the silver ring on this one: “perhaps the good reverend is beginning to sense, as am I, a temptation toward the Orthodox world by evangelicals due to a deprivation of good liturgy.”