With Whoops and Happy Yells

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A few folks brought my attention to this, and I thought it would be good if I offered a brief response. I had answered a question about Eastern Orthodoxy for a CanonWIRED clip, and this was posted by a gent named Nicodemus as a response to that short video.

First, I appreciate that the response did not consist of screeching. My “blunder” was charitably categorized as an example of Homer nodding, and not an example of a doofus doofusing. So let me start off by saying that I at least appreciate that.

Much of the rest of our differences I would attribute to disagreements, and not to blunders. A disagreement would be if I claimed that EO uses icons in worship, which I believe to be in violation of the Second Commandment. A blunder would be if I maintained that EO patriarachs wear propeller hats, when they in fact do not.

For example, when I said that the idea that EO goes back before Roman Catholicism is “just laughable,” the response was that I had blundered. It is then acknowledged that I “partly salvaged” the blooper by saying that the church was “all together” before the split. But I had said this in the very next breath, and did so in a way that showed that I was unfolding my meaning, not walking most of it back. But the response of Nicodemus was this: “What he fails to portray is a lucid understanding of Church history.”

But wait a sec. All history is interpreted history. This is true of institutional history as much as any other kind of history. Talking about whether EO left Roman Catholicism or Roman Catholicism left EO is like debating which Siamese twin left the other one during the surgery. If we are talking about age (which is the question I was answering in the video), they are both of them the same age, whether before or after the surgery.   

I also told a story of how Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis, tore down an image in a church and wrote to Jerome about it, full of indignation. “It is a horrid abomination to see in Christian temples a painted image either of Christ or of any saint.” My story was not intended to be a respresentation of the entire early church. After all, at least one part of the early church had put that image up in the first place. My point was that opposition to image-worship had an honored place in the early church, and did not come into existence at the time of the Reformation. I had friends back then. The response to my point was that a one-off letter doesn’t tell you much, which is true enough. But wide reading in theology and the early fathers does tells you a whole lot, as it has taught me. It was the Council of Elibert that said, “Let naught that is worshipped be depicted on walls.” I can live with that.

“It is a historic fact that Roman Catholicism separated itself from the established Church.” This is just assuming what you need to prove. Rome says that it was the other Siamese twin that left. Now I agree with my respondent here that the Pope of Rome was having his issues, and that his assertion of supremacy was just the kind of thing that Jesus said not to do. My sole point is that if you are going to argue on the basis of antiquity, more than one entity can argue that. If you are going to argue, as both RC and EO do, that they are indefectible, then I can point to at least one of them as making a false claim. As a classical Protestant, I would point to two of them — but both EO and RC have to admit that I have found at least one.

My disagreement on the icon issue is taken as an example of another embarrassing “misunderstanding.” What that misunderstanding was supposed to be is not exactly stated. I am a classical Protestant, and we don’t pray to pictures. The EO do. What misunderstanding?

I need to take a brief moment to say something about Wes Callihan’s apology for an article entitled “Presumptuous Icons” that he wrote for Credenda some years back. He has since apologized for his ignorance of the subject when he wrote it, which only he can testify to. If he felt bad about how much background reading he had (not) done when he wrote that piece for us, I sure don’t mind. But objectively, his article was quite good, and if he resubmitted it to us again tomorrow (having done all the needful reading), I would publish it again verbatim with whoops and happy yells. Wes is a good friend, and he is currently worshiping at Trinity Reformed Church here in Moscow, and he is presumably happy with his pastors and elders, who say things like this.

“The fact is, the Seventh Ecumenical Counsel dealt meticulously with the issues surrounding the use of Icons in Christian worship.” I am happy to grant that they dealt with these issues meticulously. That is not the same thing as biblically, or correctly. So if they, or an angel from Heaven, tell me, however meticulously they tell me, that I should be praying to a picture, I am not going to do it. Furthermore, I am going to be quite meticulous about not doing it. Look, guys, I am a Protestant.

My point about kissing was simply an illustration, and I am happy to provide another one (every bit as good) to make it clear that I understand the point being made here. Our congregation stands in our liturgy during the Scripture reading out of respect, and I stand when a lady enters the room. Are these the same? Well, the standing part is, but the meanings vary. Why can’t we make those kinds of distinctions while bowing down before a picture? Well, because the Bible says not to try.

Last point. “What is disappointing is, though certainly able, Pastor Wilson has refused thus far to do the reading and study easily available to him needed to understand the issue of Icons before making specious public declarations.” There is something of a baffling point here. I surely have no idea of what he means by “refused thus far to do the reading and study available to him.” How does he know what reading and study I have done on this?



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