Author Topic: Question concerning the use of religious art  (Read 1377 times)

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Offline StGeorge

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Question concerning the use of religious art
« on: May 29, 2005, 12:56:43 PM »
I've been reading a lot of the early Church Fathers lately. I clearly see a strong sacraficial theology behind the Eucharist, and I also see clear evidence of a Real Presence. The Protestant editors try to argue against a Real Presence interpretation, but I think they're crazy and are simply avoiding a clear truth.

However, I have been somewhat disconcerted with what the early Christians believed what was idolatry. Nowhere have I seen any mention of Christian art, and it seems that the Christian Fathers only argue against the use of religious art as being idolatry. Granted, the Fathers were mostly against the creation of religious art because of the prevalence of pagan statues of gods, etc.; but I find it interesting that Tertullian, among others, say that the creation of graven objects in the Bible is an exception and not the rule. Tertullian implies, in his "On Idolatry," that the creation of the graven serpent was an exception and should not be used as a proof that it is all right to create graven objects, or any likeness of things on earth or in heaven, for that matter.

So, I'm just really worried that maybe I'm not doing what God has commanded. I understand that Catholics and Orthodox don't worship the objects in themselves but those persons that these symbols represent. But nevertheless I wonder what the early Church would think if they were to enter an Orthodox or Catholic church. How can I be sure that the use of graven and other religious arts are ok and do not go against the First Commandment, even if we distinguish between symbol and the end of our worship?

The Catholic position, if I understand it correctly, is that since the Jews produced certain religious art in the OT by God's command (the serpent, the ceribum, etc.), that we are allowed to create religious art today, so long as it is used for the worship of the one and only God. Are there any good early Christian Fathers who support the use of Christian art as a rule and not as an exception? Thanks! :)
« Last Edit: May 29, 2005, 01:00:29 PM by StGeorge »

Offline choirfiend

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Re: Question concerning the use of religious art
« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2005, 02:38:09 PM »
I can't point you to any Fathers (i'm fairly useless and there are seminarians here who take Patristics and know a lot more) but check out the catacomb churches of the early (1st-2nd century) Church. There are images of Christ and others all over their walls. These are the first images we have, and these early Christians seemingly have no problem with them. Also, Tradition has it that St. Luke wrote the first icon of the Theotokos--so it dates to apostolic times.
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Offline choirfiend

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Re: Question concerning the use of religious art
« Reply #2 on: May 29, 2005, 02:45:45 PM »
Our position is also that God told the Jews to make images-but they never worshipped them. Likewise, we make images of Christ, His Mother and Saints, and events concerning them, because they are/were human and visibly on the earth, but we worship only God. Imagery is completely forbidden in very few denominations. Who doesn't use the Cross, or images such as bundles of wheat, grapes, or the infamous Jesus on velvet, Jesus as the Good Shepherd, the fish, etc? The only reason therefore for debating the use of imagery comes down to whether or not you are worshipping it. And veneration doesn't equal worship any more than kissing my grandma makes her God.
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Offline Augustine

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Re: Question concerning the use of religious art
« Reply #3 on: May 29, 2005, 03:44:38 PM »
George,

While Tertullian's writings are of interest for contextual/historical reasons, he is not numbered amongst the Church Fathers - he ended his life as a heretic (and it was no small error - Montanism), and the bad tendencies of his thought which led him in that way are quite apparent even during his (technically) "Orthodox years."

I think sometimes Orthodox "apologists" in their zeal to differentiate Orthodoxy from Roman Catholicism, err by excess, and say things they really ought not to, or give grand over simplifications.  One of these, is the grand over-simplification that Orthodoxy knows no sort of "doctrinal development."  I think what is more true, is to say that the development in doctrine and praxis which occured in Orthodoxy was not conceptual, but in the realm of giving things clearer definition (as in excluding certain erroneous ways of thinking), and more efficaciously expressing truths of revelation both in word and in deed (thus the developments which occured in the liturgical services.)

Thus, it is obviously true that the formalities surrounding the reverencing of Icons, or their relative importance in the praxis of the Church ("the way we pray", particularly in the liturgy of the Church), did grow and develop.  I think it's also fair to say that after the disputes of the Iconoclasts, the place of Icons in the life of the faithful was somewhat "underlined", because of the important doctrines implied by them.  This however, is different from the conceptual development which occured in Roman Catholicism.  The images of Christ, the Cross, and the Saints have always been venerable, and venerated by the faithful; even if this eventually became a bigger part of the "devotional life" than it perhaps would have been in earlier times, or if it was only with time that the conventions surrounding formal Iconography developed (though the prototypes for certain Icons, like those of Christ or the Theotokos, are in fact quite old, and in fact Apostolic)...all of that it is irrelevent.  However, entire concepts like "purgatory" or "universal juristiction of the Pope" or "indulgences", etc. etc. ... these are all conceptual developments, innovations which do not find their origin in the universal and apostolic faith, much less matters that could ever be transformed into "dogmas."

Thus, the relative poverty of the early Church, joined to perhaps less of an emphasis on such things as a result (and certainly since it was not challenged), would mean you're not going to see Christian Temples all over the place, let alone ones decked out in Iconography - though it certainly did exist to a degree in most permanent Temples, even if they were simple, appropriated places like a hidden chapel in a house, or a crypt in the catacombs (where in fact some relatively "elaborate" iconography has been found.)


Offline TonyS

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Re: Question concerning the use of religious art
« Reply #4 on: May 29, 2005, 04:15:58 PM »
For Orthodox the writings of St. John Damascene on this matter are very important. He is considered a Doctor of the Church by the RCC.

Of course, the 7th Ecumenical Council spoke on this as well.

The underlying principle is the incarnation, that which was formerly unseen (God) is now seen (Jesus Christ - God). This is one of the differences between images in the OT and images after the Incarnation.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2005, 04:22:16 PM by TonyS »
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Offline Thomas

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Re: Question concerning the use of religious art
« Reply #5 on: May 30, 2005, 01:46:48 AM »
Christ is Risen!

To be correct, the Orthodox Church has not ever taken the official position that statues and religous art are heretical, however the Orthodox Church teaches that Icons are the acceptable form of Image veneration.  There are periods in the historic record that show various ivories (3d statues) and 2 D carved panels  of ivory that were used in Orthodox Churches, Patrirachal and otehr Hierarchal thriones, and residences in Constantinople---these items still exist today,all be it in  collections taken by the western crusaders. During the time in which both East and West were in communion, this did not arise as an issue.  It did become an issue after the schism, especially when western art began to influence and impact the spiritual image of the icon.  In deed, for the most part  Western imagery  impacted greatly even the icons from the  schsim through to the early twentieth century when there was a reawakening and restoration of the ideals of byzantine iconography, atterns, and rules.

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Offline idontlikenames

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Re: Question concerning the use of religious art
« Reply #6 on: June 09, 2005, 11:35:54 PM »
I have a question: Does the Sistine Chapel break the Second Commandment?.....If I am correct, I believe that the Orthodox Church strongly condemns making images of the Father....it only allows for images of Our Lord Jesus, and "metaphorical" images of the Trinity (i.e. Rublev's icon, etc.).....so what about the images of the Father at the top of the Sistine Chapel and other such images held in the Vatican (by Renaissance painters)?
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Offline beewolf

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Re: Question concerning the use of religious art
« Reply #7 on: June 09, 2005, 11:40:44 PM »
I've been reading a lot of the early Church Fathers lately. ‰ clearly see a strong sacraficial theology behind the Eucharist, and I also see clear evidence of a Real Presence. ”he Protestant editors try to argue against a Real Presence interpretation, but I think they're crazy and are simply avoiding a clear truth.


The protestant problem is an overreaction (in varying degrees, Anglican's strictly speaking are protestants but are divided into High Church and Low Church - with the High church believing in a real presence) to the teaching of a true presence as taught by the medieval RC church, which relied heavily on their interpretation of aristotlean physics to argue the case for transubstantiation. Luther believed in the real presence but his basis and explanation for it was different. Both Luther and Calvin (who were scholars) claimed that the RC had misinterpreted Aristotle, and that Aquinas was mainly to blame. To me no matter how one attempts to explain how it works, it's there in the Scriptures and the Fathers.
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