Not to double post, but it occurs to me I have another inquiry related to this... OK, so, I've read a lot about Icons (big surprise sense Icons are alien to the protestant), and I often come across the claim that icons of a kind were used in Christian worship straight from the very beginning. Now, naturally, I looked into this, and found some information that roughly corresponds to the Wikipedia article on icons. To summarize, it seems archeologically that the first Christians made some artistic works, but the first written references to early Christian art spoke of Christians using the image of the Shepard, and other common symbols, as reminders or expressions of their faith, but did not seem to be too concerned with making images of Christ or saints or martyrs, and there's no evidence that they felt any special benefit from praying and worshiping in the presence of images, though in fairness, little evidence against it. Over time Christian imagery evolved, though it was hotly despised by some. St. Epiphanius of Salamis went so far as to rip down a curtain with what he described as an image of either Christ or a saint that he found in a church. He told the bishop that such images were opposed to Christianity. It seems to me, personally, that if such images were to any extent commonly seen and used in the churches or of the 4th century, this one curtain would not have received notice.
That said, Icons don't really bother me. And it wouldn't bother me to think that the practice of using Icons developed gradually over time. That's what, I think, Holy Tradition is partly about. It's about the idea that the experience of the church throughout the ages, guided by the Holy Spirit, has led the church to a greater and more profound experience of the truth. I like that idea! It's like saying the story of the book of Acts...the story of God's people...the story of the Bible didn't just end with the Bible. It's still going on today! So if the Church is being guided by the Holy Spirit, there's nothing wrong with believing that her traditions developed over the ages. I would be comfortable with that. But when I see some insisting that most of these practices were present from the very first and taught by the apostles themselves, it causes a difficulty for me. If the origin claim is sketchy, then the practice itself could be sketchy. It also puts a damper on the idea that Icons are 'imperative' to proper Christian worship. Seemingly, to many Christians in the early days of the Church, they were not...or at least it can be argued that St. Epiphanius attained to deification, despising them all the while...
Now, I'm not saying I know for a fact that the early Christians didn't use icons, I'm just saying it seems sketchy from what I know so far. So again, I'm faced with a choice of believing on faith that saint Luke actually painted icons, and that this was a common practice of the early church, or accepting that the practice, however meritorious, developed in later centuries. Which view is orthodox, and how can you tell? Clearly I have a long way to go with this.
I hope I'm not offending anyone with this. I just want to be open and upfront with my thoughts, but please let me know if I go to far.