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#420824 01/02/21 09:13 AM
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I have some confusion concerning icons. If I'm incorrect in any premise (or conclusion), please correct me.
And however I phrase these questions, I mean no offence.

Question #1. It is my understanding that the Church makes a distinction between worship (latreia) and veneration (douleuo). How is this tenable, especially with verses like this:
"But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served (douleuo) those which by nature are not gods." Gal. 4:8?

Question #2. Also, it is often said that the Orthodox don't worship icons (as pagans worshipped their images), we venerate the icon and the veneration given to the image
goes to the person depicted in the icon (who is in paradise with Christ). But this is what pagans did. It seems that they did not worship the work of their
own hands (as Deut. 4:28 & Rev. 9:20 indicate). The image represented the deity that they actually worshipped. This seems a lot like icon veneration.
There are those who say that Christianity's Saints replaced the (European) pagan idols. And consider that "worship" is a European word that means
"condition of being worthy; honorable." (etymonline.com). Its not worship in the "fear and trembling" sense. European (pagan) worship seems a lot like Orthodox veneration.

To sum up: Question #1. How do you justify veneration (douleuo) of icons when the New Testament (Gal. 4:8) seems to frown on such a practice?
Question #2a. How does the veneration of saints differ from the worship of (pagan) idols?
Question #2b. What do you think that the Bible seems to have been wrong about this (the pagans did not actually worship their own handiwork)?

Thank you.

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Christ is Born!!

James,

Welcome to the forum!!

While I do not pretend to answer your questions, the Apostolic Churches do not use the Bible--especially the New Testament--to challenge Church practice or theology. That is a position that comes from the 16th century Protestant Reformation. We see the Scripture as the "heart" of Tradition, which is the ongoing life of grace given by the Holy Spirit to the Church. The Seventh Ecumenical Council has defined how we go about using icons in our piety and worship. Beyond that, there are other, more learned members here who can answer your questions at length.

As far as the Holy Spirit speaking to and leading the Church into all truth, the Ecumenical Councils and lesser councils of the Church are lead when all the members of a council come to a unanimous decision or conclusion. That is how the books determined to be the New Testament canon were established, too.

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Originally Posted by James Scott
I have some confusion concerning icons....

Question #1. It is my understanding that the Church makes a distinction between worship (latreia) and veneration (douleuo). How is this tenable, especially with verses like this:
"But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served (douleuo) those which by nature are not gods." Gal. 4:8?
...
To sum up: Question #1. How do you justify veneration (douleuo) of icons when the New Testament (Gal. 4:8) seems to frown on such a practice?
Among the many occurrences of grammatical forms of douleuo in Scripture, why look only at it (edouleusate) in Gal. 4:8? Why not , for instance, Colossians 3:24 "knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve (douleuete) the Lord Christ"?

Also, is it the Church explicitly making the distinction, and if so where, or theologians or Church Fathers?

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Thanks for your replies.
Theophan, I'm not using the New Testament to challenge Church practice or theology. I think if someone thinks the Bible is incongruent with Church teaching, the logical thing to do is not to go to another Christian church (say, Protestant or "Bible" church), but to leave Christianity altogether since the Orthodox Church formulated the New Testament in the first place. I'm simply seeking to understand how certain Church practices are coherent with certain passages in the Bible.

ajk, I chose that particular biblical passage because it was recently brought to my attention as an objection to icon/saint veneration. The fact that you added another passage just makes my question "stronger." I think the Church made the distinction at the Seventh Ecumenical Council, but I'm not sure. I'm not making a case here, I'm asking questions. You tell me when (and if) the distinction) was
made. If a distinction was never made, it just adds to my question of how icon veneration is acceptable (and different from the worship of the pagans of antiquity).

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If you have not already done so, read "On the Holy Images" by St. John of Damascus.

His premise is that through the Incarnation Christ "the image of the invisible God" (cf Colossians 1) has assumed our flesh and therefore can and should be portrayed through images.

Anyone who has used a modern computer interface know how computer icons bring one to the original folder, document, program, etc. in this way, the concept of our veneration reverting to the prototype should be easier to understand than ever before.

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Originally Posted by James Scott
ajk, I chose that particular biblical passage because it was recently brought to my attention as an objection to icon/saint veneration. The fact that you added another passage just makes my question "stronger."
I'm not understanding your point. What do either have to do with the worship of icons? Both passages, as do many others, use this word meaning: serve, be a slave, be subjected.

Originally Posted by James Scott
I think the Church made the distinction at the Seventh Ecumenical Council, but I'm not sure. I'm not making a case here, I'm asking questions. You tell me when (and if) the distinction) was made.
No, you tell me, it's your question to which you have a possible answer from the Seventh Ecumenical Council. You should research it, for instance, to better know what your point is.

Originally Posted by James Scott
If a distinction was never made, it just adds to my question of how icon veneration is acceptable (and different from the worship of the pagans of antiquity).
If a distinction were never made you would not have a question. What did the Church decide and what exact words used in the dogma? That's important. What do you think of the theological explanation of St. John of Damascus? An old (1898) but standard English translation that is a good start is St John Damascene on Holy Images.

Originally Posted by James Scott
I'm simply seeking to understand how certain Church practices are coherent with certain passages in the Bible.
That's not how it works. Certain passages in the Bible are not "coherent" with certain other passages in the Bible. Scripture must be understood canonically, that is, as a whole, not selectively piece-by-piece, and with the correct interpretation that can only be provided by the Church.

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Originally Posted by Thomas the Seeker
If you have not already done so, read "On the Holy Images" by St. John of Damascus.

His premise is that through the Incarnation Christ "the image of the invisible God" (cf Colossians 1) has assumed our flesh and therefore can and should be portrayed through images.

Anyone who has used a modern computer interface know how computer icons bring one to the original folder, document, program, etc. in this way, the concept of our veneration reverting to the prototype should be easier to understand than ever before.

Thanks for the recommendation. I read it before my conversion, but it really didn't answer the above questions.

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Originally Posted by James Scott
I have some confusion concerning icons. If I'm incorrect in any premise (or conclusion), please correct me.
And however I phrase these questions, I mean no offence.

Question #1. It is my understanding that the Church makes a distinction between worship (latreia) and veneration (douleuo). How is this tenable, especially with verses like this:
"But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served (douleuo) those which by nature are not gods." Gal. 4:8?

Question #2. Also, it is often said that the Orthodox don't worship icons (as pagans worshipped their images), we venerate the icon and the veneration given to the image
goes to the person depicted in the icon (who is in paradise with Christ). But this is what pagans did. It seems that they did not worship the work of their
own hands (as Deut. 4:28 & Rev. 9:20 indicate). The image represented the deity that they actually worshipped. This seems a lot like icon veneration.
There are those who say that Christianity's Saints replaced the (European) pagan idols. And consider that "worship" is a European word that means
"condition of being worthy; honorable." (etymonline.com). Its not worship in the "fear and trembling" sense. European (pagan) worship seems a lot like Orthodox veneration.

To sum up: Question #1. How do you justify veneration (douleuo) of icons when the New Testament (Gal. 4:8) seems to frown on such a practice?
Question #2a. How does the veneration of saints differ from the worship of (pagan) idols?
Question #2b. What do you think that the Bible seems to have been wrong about this (the pagans did not actually worship their own handiwork)?

Thank you.

The idols that St. Paul and other Biblical passages are referring to are of non-existent beings and worthy of no one's worship or veneration. Worshiping the Incarnate Word of God by bowing down and venerating an image of this all-existent, infinite being is hardly the same thing. The Saints are the heroes and heroines of God. Although deceased, they are real beings and their images, be they written icons or photos, are worthy of veneration because they evoke in a very real way the presence of those Saints. I assume you've hugged and even kissed photos of your loved ones because these images evoke their presence. No? The Catholic and Orthodox churches have a much stronger and longer memory of these beings simply because they've been around longer than their newer and more "reformed" counterparts and they have this marvelous concept called the Communio Sanctorum by which they live and pray!

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Originally Posted by James Scott
Originally Posted by Thomas the Seeker
If you have not already done so, read "On the Holy Images" by St. John of Damascus.

Thanks for the recommendation. I read it before my conversion, but it really didn't answer the above questions.
Consider Question #2:
Originally Posted by James Scott
Question #2. Also, it is often said that the Orthodox don't worship icons (as pagans worshipped their images), we venerate the icon and the veneration given to the image
goes to the person depicted in the icon (who is in paradise with Christ). But this is what pagans did. It seems that they did not worship the work of their
own hands (as Deut. 4:28 & Rev. 9:20 indicate). The image represented the deity that they actually worshipped. This seems a lot like icon veneration.
There are those who say that Christianity's Saints replaced the (European) pagan idols. And consider that "worship" is a European word that means
"condition of being worthy; honorable." (etymonline.com). Its not worship in the "fear and trembling" sense. European (pagan) worship seems a lot like Orthodox veneration.

Originally Posted by ajk
What do you think of the theological explanation of St. John of Damascus? An old (1898) but standard English translation that is a good start is St John Damascene on Holy Images.
St. John says this in the provided link St John Damascene on Holy Images at [29]:
Quote
If you bring forward certain practices, they do not inculpate our worship of images, but the worship of heathens who make them idols. Because heathens do it foolishly, this is no reason for objecting to our pious practice. If the same magicians and sorcerers use supplication, so does the Church with catechumens; the former invoke devils, but the Church calls upon God against devils. Heathens have raised up images to demons, whom they call gods. Now we have raised them to the one Incarnate God, to His servants and friends, who are proof against the diabolical hosts.
Is that not an acceptable answer to Question #2? Basically, as the adage remarks, abusus non tollit usum, abuse does not cancel use.


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