"Iconomy": A Rule Theory for Images in the Church
Copyright 1999, Telford Work
In most systematic theologies, doctrines of images play a small part, if they appear at all. Church history classes usually mention the role images once played in splitting the Church, but until recently, Western theologians rarely paid serious attention to images as a continuing concern. There was little reason: Catholic practice relied on practical considerations backed by holy tradition, and Protestants relied on Scriptures which were fundamentally hostile to the very idea of depicting God graphically (even while they published Bibles illustrating the Sermon on the Mount). Neither tradition seemed to warrant much theological scrutiny. There were more pressing problems to worry about.
Two forces have pushed images to a higher place on theological agendas. First, Eastern Orthodox vitality has shifted the intellectual balance of power in ecumenical Christian discussion. The old Reformation debates and Continental philosophical questions have had to make room for other questions. Second, as Christianity has grown in Third World contexts, issues of contextualization in cultures in which symbol and image play important but (to outsiders) ambiguous roles have resurfaced. Back have come the old questions: When is an image an idol? When does it convey something besides the good news? And what is the role in Tradition of cultural "outsiders" who are also fellow members of a universal Church that variously critiques, resists, accommodates to, and redeems culture?
Where images are concerned, today's Church must make some semblance of order out of the mess that comprises today's iconologies if it is to answer the questions satisfactorily. This essay seeks a better understanding of images by developing a rule theory of images inductively from Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant theological history.
I. The Problem of Images
Developing a theology of images (an "iconology") that describes the thinking in one stream of Christianity -- say, Lutheranism -- is a relatively easy task. But how can a theologian describe a theology of images that describes more than one tradition? How can one find commonality in traditions which have mutually exclusive theologies of images, as Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christianity do? Can one ever arrive at a truly ecumenical theology of images?
Conversations among traditions have tended to bog down. Partially overlapping concerns and assumptions lead to false starts; roads taken turn out to lead nowhere. Seemingly small issues are in fact tips of icebergs; a discussion of Gregory the Great's letter to Serenus of Marseilles quickly becomes a debate over the nature and authority of tradition. Furthermore, philosophical and cultural assumptions lurking in the background turn innocent-looking Church doctrines into ecumenical minefields. Agreement as well as disagreement among different parties may turn out to be illusory.1
Furthermore, as Christianity becomes a truly worldwide faith, the diversity of Christian assumptions is multiplying. An effective ecumenical theology must not only find an effective way of taking into account historical theological contexts, but also take into account possible future theological contexts -- while never yielding to the temptation of attempting a "pure," acontextual, "objective" form. How should we go about developing a contextual theology of images that is not imprisoned in the particularities of its contexts?
Among the methodological possibilities for arriving at such a theology, and the one this essay will explore, is the use of rule theory along lines George Lindbeck has sketched in The Nature of Doctrine. Rules are guides to the hermeneutics of Christian faith and practice. Their value is in the difference between merely "interpreting a truth and obeying a rule."2 Lindbeck's understanding of rules derives from his view of religions as analogous to cultural-linguistic systems. Religious rules are like the rules of grammar and syntax which govern the use of a language within a community.3 They are not exclusively nor even primarily cognitive in the narrow sense; community skills, practices, and ways of life are also deeply influential. Thus rules are not merely "laws" in either the narrow senses of modern law or modern science. They may be commands, or principles and axioms, or symbolic systems, or patterns of thought and behavior, or ways of life. One might ultimately call them simply "reasons" -- involving not only the reasons which emerge from reasoning, but also those Blaise Pascal was referring to when he claimed that "The heart has its reasons which reason does not understand."
Already rule theory looks promising, for it offers not merely more iconology, but "iconomy," a law governing the Christian practice of images. Furthermore, rules straddle the contexts that divide cultures and historical epochs.4 While rules are never without concrete contexts, their commonality across distinct contexts can bridge communities whose practices appear incommensurable from other analytical perspectives. So Lindbeck recommends rule theory as an aid to ecumenical discussion among Christian traditions.5
Lindbeck illustrates the flexibility of rules by appealing to Athanasius' dictum that whatever is said of the Father is said of the Son, except that the Son is not the Father.6 A rule like this is comprehensible not only in a fourth-century Hellenistic context, but in a context as wide as the Christian Church itself, since all Nicene Christians speak thus of the Father and the Son. Thus it might be used to explain the dynamics behind Nicene and Chalcedonian Christology. More importantly, it might help derive and test Christologies that rely on non-Hellenistic categories, a growing concern as the Church grows in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and elsewhere. Here, rule theory may allow the Church to draw on the resources of Orthodox iconology without having to reproduce its philosophical presuppositions in every Christian culture.
Our methodology follows: First, inductive study of formative episodes in the history of images in the Church, in order to identify rules that characterize them; then extended examination of the rules that seem to emerge, in order to test and elaborate their usefulness. We will seek to identify both "ecumenical" rules, which describe the practices of the entire Church, and "local" rules, which describe the practices of only part of the Church.7 We will consider the rule-theory approach to be a success (1) if rules can be identified which have governed the use of images in the life of the Church, and (2) if these rules are theologically useful. If no such rules emerge, or if those that emerge are too shallow or vague to be helpful, then such rules have either eluded attention or do not exist in the first place.
As we shall see, Lindbeck's unfortunate attention only to the intrasystematic consistency of theology's truth-claims8 poses a problem for iconology. Rather than relying on his own vision of rule theory, we will refrain from precisely defining the role of rules in Christian theologies of images so that the rules we observe may characterize themselves. They are, after all, rules that govern Christian discourse, and Christian discourse is a very special form of human discourse.
II. The Sources
The inductive analysis studies several formative eras and developments in iconology:
-- Pertinent writings and data (including Scripture) from the Church's first five centuries.
-- Practices in the 150 years before the rise of Iconoclasm in the East.
-- Iconoclastic periods and councils in the East, with special attention to the Iconoclastic Synod of 745 and imperial actions against images.
-- The Iconodule movement which culminated in the "Triumph of Orthodoxy" as the Church came to accept the results of the Second Council of Nicea in 787.
-- The reaction to Nicea II in the Frankish West, including the Council of Frankfurt in 794 and Convention of Paris in 825, with special attention to the Caroline Books.
-- Orthodox practice in the post-conciliar period, with special attention to what evolution has occurred over the intervening 1,200 years, including the differences that have emerged between Greek and Russian iconology.
-- Catholic iconodule practice between Nicea II and the Reformation, with special attention to the thirty years before the Reformation.
-- Catholic reform movements before the Reformation, including the Cistercians.
-- The Reformation's war against images, with special attention to Erasmus, Karlstadt, Zwingli, and Calvin.
-- The later Luther's "middle ground" on images.
-- Protestant attitudes in the centuries following the Reformation.
-- The Catholic or Counter-Reformation, with special attention to the findings of Trent.
The sheer size of this list is problematic. It limits study to headline events, easily accessible primary sources, and notable theological and historical commentators. But for an inductive study seeking ecumenical rules operating in a wide variety of contexts, the trade-off is worth the risk. In fact, the high number of situations actually helps to reduce that risk, since the focus of our effort is to find commonality rather than eccentricity.
III. Ecumenical Rules: The Iconomy of the Whole Church
Space limitations make it impossible to reproduce the historical source material whose inductive clues yield ecumenical and local rules of iconic practice (and the resulting grand tour of historical theology would be tedious anyway). Instead, we present the rules themselves, then test their usefulness by probing them closely and bringing in historical references when helpful, in order to see how the history has contributed to their formulation and use. The bibliography indicates the range of material consulted.
Inductive study of these materials suggests the following ecumenical rule, on which Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican, Wesleyan, and Zwinglian traditions agree:
A particular image or group of images is appropriate in a particular context in the life of the Church when the following conditions are satisfied:
1. It communicates truth to its observers.
2. It neither discourages worship of God nor misdirects worship away from God.
Do not be deceived by the apparent simplicity of these rules. Walther Eichrodt's Theology of the Old Testament intensely studied three-quarters of the Christian canon, concluding in two volumes that the center of the Old Testament message was "God." Readers may at first respond that any child in Sunday school could have said that; however, Old Testament language does not merely refer to "God," but qualifies and enriches the meaning of God in extraordinarily diverse ways. So it is (though on a much more modest scale) with this ecumenical rule of images: the terms "context," "truth," "distract," "worship," and so on are thickly Christian, fundamentally formed by two millennia of Christian tradition. They beg the question of how theological and historical considerations inform the specific vocabulary of the rules. We proceed to answer that question, one phrase at a time.
IV. The Theology Behind the Vocabulary
"an image or group of images": Much theology reflects an all-or-nothing attitude towards images: either images should be encouraged, or they should be removed. This kind of reasoning oversimplifies the considerations which have traditionally played a crucial part in iconology: what makes some images proper and others improper. No Christian tradition is absolutely iconic or aniconic.
Thus this universal rule in fact treats images casuistically. Both the "all images" and "no images" positions remain theoretically possible, but they are not privileged positions.
"appropriate": Several considerations lie behind this word. First, in the Christian Church the debate has centered not around whether it is possible to depict God graphically -- even Calvin acknowledged that after the Incarnation this was possible.9 Rather, the debate centered and continues to center on the question of propriety. Second, "appropriate" carries positive force. An image considered appropriate has not traditionally been viewed neutrally, but positively: it should be where it is, and it is harmful to remove it. A word like "allowable" could never reflect the priorities of Orthodox or Catholic iconology. Third, "appropriate" connotes critical discretion on the part of responsible authorities. A "not appropriate" verdict need not lead to the image's removal or destruction. It may be that moving the image, adjusting the liturgy, or educating the Church's people can create the conditions for propriety. This reflects the thought of Gregory the Great in his letter to Serenus of Marseilles, which prefers to give clergy freedom to act as they see fit to remedy abuses as they happen, rather than micromanaging a very diverse Church.
"in a particular context": Whether an image is appropriate depends on its surrounding context. The pervasive attention to how images function in liturgical settings shows context to be a universally recognized concern of iconology. A typical Orthodox perspective here emphasizes the importance of the right liturgical context in order for icons to be rightly written and understood10 (while defining liturgy generally enough to allow icons a permanent place in Orthodox homes). Other theologians understand context in a more versatile way, stressing how an image's meaning changes when its context changes.11 Thus an image which is inappropriate in one context is not necessarily inappropriate in all contexts. That a Pantocrator is inappropriate on an Orthodox Church's front doors does not make it inappropriate on the Church's ceiling, and that a carved crucifix is inappropriate in an Orthodox Church does not make it inappropriate in a Catholic one. Zwingli, no friend to images used cultically, argued that the Ark's cherubim were not inappropriate, because no one thought of worshipping them.12 Likewise, he permitted portrayals of the human Christ, which is "just as fitting to have as to have other portraits," so long as they were never allowed in Churches where they might be worshipped.13 Christians are so confident that proper education on the meaning, role, and limits of images can provide a proper context for them that illustrations of Jesus can today be found in Sunday School curricula and Bibles even in the Reformed and Baptist traditions.14
"in the life of the Church": This phrase qualifies the previous one because the debate over images has traditionally been conducted only with respect to an ecclesial context. The phrasing is intended to leave ambiguous the propriety of an image outside an ecclesial context. But its greater purpose is to emphasize the importance of ecclesiology to the propriety of images. An ecclesiological emphasis keeps iconomy from becoming individualistic, because never has the Church's debate over images assumed that images are merely a private matter for Christians to consider on their own, or a public matter for society to judge. It does not restrict images to ecclesial settings -- as images in the home are an important part of the Orthodox life, so are images in Bible storybooks an important part of many Protestant childhoods. Yet a treatment of images may be ecclesiological and still treat Church contexts very differently. Bernard of Clairvaux, for instance, taught that images were inappropriate in monasteries, whose occupants "have left all the precious and beautiful things of the world for Christ's sake," but appropriate in other Churches where less dedicated worshippers might benefit from such spiritual crutches.15 A converse concern has treated images as more appropriate in contexts where clerical teaching can remove ambiguities than in contexts where observers are left to do the interpretive work on their own.16
"when": Contexts inevitably change. Thus this rule continually evaluates the propriety of a given image in its present context. This phrasing respects the fact that at least some later reactions against what were once settled matters, and local objections to settled practices elsewhere, have been beneficial to the Church. Even Orthodox theologians acknowledge that Byzantine style developed, and has continued to develop, albeit at a glacial pace. They justify this development on contextual grounds, by stressing the need of images to change as their observers change.17
Nor is this the only pertinent aspect of change, for Christian notions of truth have changed along with Christian notions of how to convey it. It was natural for medieval Catholic images to depict monsters of myths and legends, for Augustine had argued for their real existence.18 Because both substance and medium are contextual, this rule treats images as proper only as long as certain conditions are fulfilled.
"conditions": The two conditions distinguish questions of information from questions of worship because the Church has tended to make the same distinction. But the distinction is less neat than our clearly separated statements may imply. Orthodox tend to treat the two as symbiotic, while the Swiss Reformers tended to treat them as nearly equally problematic. The relationship is murkier for Catholics: Gregory's letter to Serenus sharply contrasts the educational value of images with their inherent danger of tempting believers to worship them.19 While some commentators think this formula is paradigmatic for Catholicism, in fact over the centuries Catholicism accumulated other doctrines, especially Thomas Aquinas' approval of latria toward images of Christ. This made Gregory's old distinction effectively impossible to maintain until Trent returned to it by rejecting any concept of divine presence.20 The different tensions between traditions and within Catholicism suggest that the division of this rule into two conditions is itself reflective of the Church's own patterns of thinking.
1. The first condition emphasizes the educational function of images, which has been a central focus of the debate. However, it does not restrict this educational function to illiterate Christians, as was the practice of the many who viewed images as "the Bible of the poor." This is a poor distinction at any rate, since the Word preached, prayed, and sung is the most typical Bible for the illiterate. Images must be treated as potentially educational (or misleading) for all Christians. This was the practice both of iconodules like Durandus and of iconoclasts like the Swiss Reformers.21
"communicates": Zwingli distinguished between the relationship between image and prototype and the relationship between image and viewer, but both are in view here.22 Images work not only when they depict, but when what they depict is communicated to the viewer. An image is effective and thus proper not when symbolic meaning is transmitted, but when it is received. A chief value of understanding images this way is that they become the object of rhetorical as well as ontological concerns. This rhetorical emphasis draws attention helpfully to topics like the ability of a (or any) graphical language to communicate transcendent divinity, the need for the Church and its visitors and newcomers to know the image's language, the way languages change over time, and how to respond when communication fails.23
Christian traditions have adopted generally stable positions on the communicative properties of images which cluster along familiar lines. The Orthodox have tended to emphasize sacramental or quasi-sacramental communication along with a rigid set of stylistic and liturgical requirements, and to concentrate on the success of iconic communication by virtue of divine presence. Many Catholics and liberal Protestants have instead emphasized symbolic24 (in its weak sense) or typological25 communication more guardedly, yet have placed much less emphasis on regulating popular practices.26 Reformers and iconoclastic Byzantines have concentrated on communicative failure by emphasizing the inherently distortive quality of images that comes from the medium's inability to capture transcendent divinity,27 or its susceptibility to manipulation by authorities with vested interests in popular ignorance,28 or its practical inferiority to the spoken and written word.29 We will see below that local rules are well suited to describing and comparing the contextual, apparently exclusive positions of the major traditions. But at the ecumenical level, whether the verdict has been success or failure, debates have often revolved around the communicative quality of images.
Proper topics for elaboration in ecumenical discussions on the topic of communication include shared concerns like issues of cognitive psychology, the relationship between immanence and transcendence, the universality of symbolic systems,30 the role of symbolism in rapidly changing, modern societies,31 and semiotics and style, especially the ways the many levels of meaning interact as they simultaneously contribute to communication.32
"truth": The referential nature of images is the principal reason for the attention they have received in the course of Church history. Iconodules defend images on the grounds that images call attention to and/or sacramentally mediate their prototypes. Iconoclasts oppose them on the grounds that material representations distort the transcendent prototypes they claim to depict.33 In both cases the propriety of images is tied directly to their ability to communicate the transcendent reality of the Kingdom of God. An anecdote from Uspensky shows how important truth depiction has been: When in the seventeenth century icons were shown to the Russian Patriarch Nikos which had been painted in the Western manner, he ordered that "these icons be taken down, their eyes be put out, and they be carried through the streets in this state. Then the Patriarch smashed them against the iron slabs of the Cathedral's floor before the congregation and ordered them to be burned; only at the insistence of the Tsar were they buried in the earth rather than burned." It was reverence for the truth that led to the images' destruction, for Nikos believed that icons painted incorrectly actually conveyed an evil force.34 The excesses of Catholic allegorical exegesis eventually led European reformers to treat their images just as Nikos had treated his.35 Here too the issue was not just the ability of images to communicate, but the verity of the "gospel" they communicate (cf. Gal. 1:6-9). It is the question of truth that turns iconodule into Iconoclast and vice versa.
There is no more agreement about the nature of this truth than there is on images' ability to convey it. Every tradition brings a nuanced understanding of metaphysics, philosophy, Trinity, anthropology, Christology, eschatology, and more to the question of what images convey. The Iconoclasts and iconodules traded accusations over who was really distorting Christological and ecclesiological truth. One Iconoclastic objection to portrayal of the saints was not that the saints were not to be revered nor invoked, but that their ontological existence was now in heaven, not on earth. And at the heart of the Orthodox preference for Byzantine over realist style is Orthodox Christology and eschatology: What Orthodox critics find objectionable in Western images is that their so-called realism obscures the reality that is transcendent -- the real reality.36 This is exactly what Western critics find bad about bad art: its failure to capture the transcendence of the prototype.37 What eludes a poor piece of Church art is truth. This reality need not even be hidden to be missed. The Council of Trent recognized this when it sought to recover meaning by digging out the literal sense of its images from under centuries of accumulated allegorical sediment.38 The iconoclastic Reformers rejected both the plain and transcendent senses of images when they posited that God's overwhelming transcendence turned all divine depiction into bad art.39 For all their philosophical, theological, and methodological differences, the traditions are united in seeing themselves in the business of proclaiming what Lindbeck calls both intrasystematic and extrasystematic truth.
It is the importance of the truth of the image that calls into question the usefulness of a rule theory of images conducted specifically along Lindbeck's lines. Lindbeck treats rules as making "intrasystematic rather than ontological truth claims," which "affirm nothing about extra-linguistic or extra-human reality."40 He does not deny that rules can refer extrasystematically, but he never emphasizes this quality in his proposal. Yet the Church's rules concerning images demand that images possess precisely that power. How else could they describe an Orthodox complaint over the Catholic practice of depicting an angel rolling away the stone of Jesus' tomb,41 or the Catholic rejection of the "Jansenist crucifix" in 1633?42 Much of the debate over images would make no sense at all were the question of extrasystematic truth ignored.
If one of Lindbeck's primary methodological features renders his proposal inadequate for describing iconic practice, at this point in the analysis our orphaned rule lives a rather ambiguous life. It is no longer so fruitful to refer to Lindbeck's treatment of rule theory just as he has described it. Thus the rest of the essay takes our rule of images as more determinative for our appreciation of rule theory than Lindbeck's own description. The Church's practice must critique his vision. For all its parallels with the rules mentioned in The Nature of Doctrine, our rule means more than what Lindbeck is concerned it would mean.
If reality depiction is crucial to the Church's use of images, are only the semiotics of realism adequate for orthodox imagery? The question is an iconic counterpart to the endless debates among biblical scholars over the "historical Jesus." And the Church has already given its answer in continuing to practice the gospels as Gospel truth. Matthew's typological style, Mark's apocalyptic style, Luke's salvation-historical style, and John's symbolic style all faithfully communicate the same first-century man, Jesus of Nazareth. No critical-historical picture, however historically and theologically legitimate, can supplant them. Nor can one synthetic iconic style (such as the Byzantine) supplant or norm all others, any more than the Diatessaron could gain canonical status in the Bible-believing Church.
"to its observers": The theme of communication has already brought out the importance of an image's observers. Mentioning them explicitly has the added value of calling attention to their character. An image may be seen by anyone, from clergy, to laypeople who are active or marginal members of the community of faith, to people outside the Church altogether. The linguistic nature of images raises the question of whether everyone knows the language. The more sophisticated an image's message and means, the more fluent its observers must be. Theologians often cite common faith and liturgical participation as preconditions for correct interaction between icon and observer.43 But they often leave unposed and unanswered the problem of iconic illiteracy within the Church, let alone the problem of how visitors of different faiths (such as Muslims) are to apprehend images. For traditions with high views of images, the stakes can be high: some Russian Orthodox regard incorrect contact with an icon as idolatry. Service before icons becomes "the offering of services to Satan himself."44 On this issue the Orthodox and Reformed Christians are on surprisingly common ground.
Some sacramentalist icon theologies discount the importance of observers having a clear understanding of either the object or medium represented, since the prototype is truly present regardless of the observer's perception.45 Under these assumptions, the propriety of Church images is generally seen as a separate issue from the character of their observers.46 But in most treatments the qualities of observers ("illiterate," for instance) have been at least minimal factors for the propriety of images. The uses of images in post-Christian and multiconfessional social contexts assure that the roles of observers in iconic communication will continue to occupy a prominent place in our iconomy.
Here it is helpful to keep in mind a consideration which has not always been paramount in the minds of the theologians of images, which is that the complexities and nuances of icon theology and rules have rarely been received accurately by more than a few professional observers. Icons gain audiences beyond those their writers envision. 47 Their ultimate audiences may belong to different demographic groups, cultures, or eras, none of whom need share common symbolism. It is one thing for John of Damascus to look at an image, and another for a Byzantine peasant or an American yuppie. If misperceptions from images can be as disastrous as either Orthodox or Reformed Christians claim, then pastoral concerns make observers' linguistic cultures an urgent concern.
2. The second condition emphasizes the importance of images to the Church's practice of worship. This is iconology's point of greatest profundity, as well as the point of greatest discord among the different Christian traditions. Convictions about the power of images in worship motivated those who risked martyrdom to defend images in the eighth century -- and those who risked martyrdom to destroy images in the sixteenth.
Separating questions of worship from questions of communication has at least two important effects: First, while some issues come into play in both conditions -- for instance, the issue of an image's ability to mediate divinity -- these issues may apply differently in each. Second, even if the second condition could never be met and an image could never be appropriate in worship (perhaps because Calvin's critiques of the psychology of images were right), the image might still be proper outside a worship context -- in catechesis, for instance, or in academic study.48 Catholicism through Trent maintained Gregory's original distinction between education and image worship.49 Conceivably, even misleading or blasphemous images might have some contexts in which they were educationally proper as historical data or negative examples for iconographers.50 Changing their context might change their message so that it no longer misleads. A non-ecclesial context has made images tolerable even in some of the most iconoclastic times in Church history: Zwingli distinguished between the liturgical images of Charlemagne inside Churches, to which he objected, and the civil images of Charlemagne in the town square, which he found unobjectionable as long as people did not worship them.51
"worship of God": The difference between worship of God and similar expressions of allegiance or love for others was basic to the Church's debates over images up to the Reformation. This difference is pertinent to this phrase, but it avoids the terms latria, proskynêsis, dulia, hyperdulia, adoratio, and veneratio, which all carry connotations too technical and contextual for a truly ecumenical rule of images. The Byzantine connotations of proskynêsis are analogically much more meaningful to ancient Western or Eastern Romans than to Americans, who can now buy clothing made out of their national flag.52 They are Hellenistic concepts which do not necessarily make sense outside of their local context.53 If these fine theological distinctions ever made sense to Byzantine laypeople, they were lost on Western laypeople.54 Western theologians sharing in the confusion included the writer of the Caroline Books, who condemned Constantius for supposedly ordering latria toward images55 -- and perhaps even Thomas Aquinas, who encouraged exactly that. As we shall see, this kind of cultural confusion is often a consequence of mistaking as ecumenical what is in fact only a local rule. At the same time, there is nothing exclusively Byzantine about the widespread distinctions among the honor due authorities, the honor due fellow Christians, and the honor due God alone. Leaving our wording general allows shades of meaning to emerge while freeing them from a context determined either by ancient Roman practices or by technical historical theology. This is consistent with the rules in The Nature of Doctrine: Lindbeck finds rules driving Nicene Christology which themselves make no mention of terms like ousia, hypostasis, prosôpon, substantia or persona, which Lindbeck calls "postbiblical novelties."56
"discourages": It may seem strange that the phrasing here is negative rather than positive. Should we not allow images only when they encourage worship? The issue is much the same as that of adiaphora in the Reformation. The negative wording better describes the standard which usually operates throughout the Church: that the propriety of images has to do more with abuse than with use. Icons are appropriate even if they do not encourage worship, as long as they do not discourage it. Images in non-liturgical contexts -- say, the storage closet or the professor's study -- would thus tend not to apply to this condition. They are causing no one to stumble.
Naturally the traditions differ on how an icon might discourage worship. Orthodox tend to point to individual icons they consider inferior, notably those influenced by Western, Renaissance, and modern styles, and those whose theological concerns are not typically Orthodox. An oft-cited example is the Western crucifix, which is said to concentrate worshippers' minds on the suffering and humility of Christ rather than on his transfiguration, resurrection, and glory. Reformed critiques would tend to put all devotional images of God in this category, perhaps on Karlstadt's grounds that their materiality and sensuality fail to do justice to the transcendent God they claim to depict, or perhaps because a Church full of images is a visually noisy place that distracts congregations from their task of worshipping the true God with all their heart, soul, strength, and mind. In a similar way, Bernard of Clairvaux worried at the ornate and beautiful images could capture people's attention rather than directing their attention to the prototypes.57 On this matter, Lutheran critiques would likely pay attention more to the spiritual status of worshippers than to the propriety of the image. Once again, the reasoning runs in many different -- even opposite -- directions, but the concern is a common one.
If iconodules worry that this phrasing is unnecessarily pessimistic, they may understand the issue of distraction more constructively by considering how attention to it can focus iconology back on an image's proper context, rather than on the propriety of its very existence. Orthodox iconology pays much attention to how their icons work together positionally to direct believers' attention forward to Christ enthroned and upward to Christ Pantocrator. An image out of place leads to a Church out of harmony and a distracting environment for worship. The rules are different and less formal for Catholic and Lutheran Churches, but they are still significant. The ecumenical rule qualifies propriety with respect to context and observers. Thus a failed test is not necessarily, nor even often, a call for iconoclasm.
"directs ... away from God": For many, the greater danger of the use of icons was not that images might dampen worship, but that they might misdirect worship to anyone or anything besides the living God. A central concern here was the relationship between image and prototype. The debate is as old as Israel's battles against idolatry. It took a Christian turn in the first centuries of the Church when aniconic theologians denied any meaningful correspondence between the two.58 It took iconic form with the subsequent spread of practices that followed the widespread pattern of connecting the (now Christian) Emperor and his imperial image.59 Most trace the roots of the correspondence theory of images to Greek philosophical ideas, but it may also derive from Syrian and Egyptian "sympathetic magic."60
Christian attitudes about images reflect the idea of correspondence in radically different ways. It was central at Nicea II and remained so throughout later Orthodox theology, taking a sacramentalist form. Catholic and Protestant theology have adopted it but tend to stress its limits rather than the potential of the relationship.61 The limit of correspondence is the basis for Gregory the Great's letter, which was the Church's most authoritative early guidance on the matter. It is the crux of the thinking of the Caroline Books62 and important to Calvin's thought.
With the Reformation, the dangers that the cult of the saints posed to worship became a lasting concern on the part of both Protestants and reform-minded Catholics. This attention was long overdue. The rapid proliferation of images in pre-Reformation Europe had the paradoxical outcome of making God more rather than less distant.63 The saints came to occupy most if not all of many Christians' attention;64 pilgrimages to shrines of favorite saints became increasingly popular; demand exploded and cities competed for Churches, relics, images, and indulgences.65 The result was such a proliferation in religious paraphernalia that according to Charles Garside, "Not a hundredth part of the paintings and statues that Zwingli would have seen in 1518 had been made in 1500."66 The atmosphere seems analogous to the kind of speculative fervor that fed the South Sea Bubble and the 1929 bull market in stocks.
The collapse of this frothy medieval spirituality has led to lasting awareness on the part of Reformed (and to a lesser extent, Tridentine Catholic) Christianity of the power of images to detour worship away from God and to the saints, and regulations to keep history from repeating itself. The "essential and functional" worship of the early Church67 came to be seen as a model for reformers, be they Catholic mendicants and monastics or Protestants.68 But the traditions read the story of Catholicism's historical departure from the primitive ideal in different ways. One stream in Reformed thought traced medieval excess to the sensuality of its worship,69 and drew upon Erasmian humanism's renewed emphasis on the spiritual as transcendent to distinguish radically between "material" versus "spiritual" worship.70 This dichotomy has led to a dualistic streak that persists to this day among many Protestants.71 Another stream drew upon biblical texts, and especially Johannine and Pauline texts, to distinguish sharply between creator and creation in worship.72 To Calvin and his followers, on the other hand, the trouble with images is more properly to be found in the fallen human psyche than in the images themselves.73 Nevertheless, the practical result was common: Images were powerfully able to distract worship away from the living God.
Thus questions about the doctrine of the invocation of saints, the practical difference between latria and dulia (especially for laypeople), and the prominence of images of saints and angels in liturgical settings all shape the issue of whether an image misdirects worship. So do epistemological issues equally important to the educational efficacy of images, such as cognitive psychology, semiotics and the nature of symbol, and the dialectic of divine immanence and transcendence.
V. Ecumenical Universality and Ecclesial Particularity
This, then, is the ecumenical rule that emerges from an analysis of the broad sweep of historical theology. It looks quite similar to the principles Lindbeck finds behind Nicene and Chalcedonian Christological thinking in that it explains concerns shared throughout the Church. Through the centuries Christians seem to have been using something like it, even if subconsciously, to guide their own thinking on images. It represents common ground among the major Christian traditions, and provides a hermeneutical key to understanding the history of images in the Church and resolving issues concerning their present use. It incompletely but helpfully orders the many aspects of Christians' practices and thoughts on images, even those which are invisible to the ones doing the practicing and the thinking.
Such a rule could find various uses in Church practice. Explicitly referring to the rule and the issues it raises might be a fruitful exercise for local churches trying to solve iconological issues as they arise. And when representatives of divergent traditions come together to understand each other and reconcile, the rule offers a good starting point for dialogue. It can train the discussion away from simply concentrating on conflicts and lead enquirers in an orderly way through issues that invariably arise, such as the nature of the transcendent reality "behind" an image, the status of the observers and the forces that lead them to perceive and misperceive, and so on.
Yet it should be obvious that the framework our ecumenical rule provides is insufficient, for it is unable by itself to describe, let alone explain, the theology and behavior of particular Christian traditions. It can help traditions clarify their own thinking and find common ground. Before long, however, the traditions would want to go beyond its affirmations, and in dialogue they would likely begin to talk past each other.
Ecclesiology explains this insufficiency in terms of the catholicity and sinful divisions of the Church. Rule theory explains it in terms of a tradition's tendency to locate the ecumenical rule of images in a particular place in its cultural-linguistic dialect. Lindbeck has recognized this tendency of all religious traditions to develop exclusive frameworks which are partially incommensurable as well as irrefutable on their own terms.74 To understand and clarify the conflicting and even exclusive stands particular Christian traditions take on images requires that we develop further rules which apply only in specific locations and traditions. We thus arrive at the need for local rules. Their character and their relationship to the ecumenical rule are the next concerns of this essay.
VI. Local Rules: The Iconomies of Christian traditions
Lindbeck never uses the term "local rules," but speaks of "conditional rules" -- rules that apply only under certain conditions. For instance, a condition that underlies Marian dogmas in Catholicism is an Augustinian doctrine of original sin. The Marian rules exist like undiscovered but necessary mathematical theorems that follow from the conclusions of Augustinian hamartiology. Lindbeck admits that such an analysis makes it quite difficult to identify the rules guiding Marian theology. They may even be uncodifiable. Lindbeck's concentration on intrasystematic truth also allows him to stipulate that conditional rules, for example the affirmation of the Immaculate Conception, may even be temporary and reversible.75 But "temporary" and "reversible" are not terms that adequately describe Marian dogma's argument that Mary really was immaculately conceived, whether or not the Church appreciates it. So we will describe the local rules of images in a different way than Lindbeck.
What is local about a local rule? Broad Christian traditions feature prominent streams within them. The Augustinian wing of pre-Reformation Catholicism and the ancient schools of Antioch and Alexandria are famous examples. These streams are subtraditions: Their adherents share some commonality of worldview that characterizes the thinking of only a part of the broader tradition. In rule-language, they are governed by rules which enjoy less than universal acceptance in the Church.
A stream may live fruitfully within its broader tradition. Or it may separate institutionally from the rest of the broader tradition and continue Christian life autonomously, in which case the rules that led to the separation effectively become normative within it.76 It may even come to regard its distinct rules as ecumenical rules, which effectively define true Christianity and exclude those who do not share them. For the purposes of this essay, rules that operate anywhere on this spectrum are local rules.
A thorough review of the local rules on images is impossible. Nevertheless, to see how local rules work, we must explore some subtraditions to find a few examples of local rules which have been formative for their iconic practices. We will examine some rules behind the most pronounced and stable sectarian attitudes, for these are the easiest and safest to identify. They include the Orthodox view of images as analogous to sacraments by virtue of the effects of the Incarnation on the material world; the Orthodox and Catholic support for invoking the intercession of the saints; the Lutheran view of images as adiaphora because of the freedom that grace imparts to the Christian; and the Calvinist view of images as always hazardous in worship contexts because of the human propensity to misread them.
VII. Orthodox Local Rules: The Byzantine Eschatology of Deification
Following the language and concerns of the Second Council of Nicea, the Eastern Orthodox tradition has usually resisted describing icons outright as sacramental, because doing so would dissolve the distinction between the kind of divine presence which is in an icon and the kind of presence which is involved in the Eucharist.77 But Orthodox theologians have long seen icons as analogous to a sacrament,78 often using quasi-sacramental language to call the icon not a mere representation of events, but "Grace incarnate, a presence and an offering of life and holiness ... a life-giving presence."79 A few theologians have explicitly embraced sacramental language.80
Behind this strong affirmation of divine presence in images lies the Orthodox concept of theosis, deification, which sees the Incarnation and Resurrection of Christ as reconciling transcendent deity and the once-estranged material world. Creation owes its ability to be transfigured to the Incarnation of the Logos. This realized eschatology has major consequences for divine images: Orthodox Christians like to speak of the materials of an icon as being deified and sacralized by their role in conveying the image of Christ or by a member of his eschatological body, the Church. They cease to be mere representations and become transfigured creation from which issues divine energy.81
A related source of local Orthodox rules is Orthodoxy's distinctive theological methodology. The Orthodox method relies on Hellenistic practices and concepts (for instance, deification itself draws on Neoplatonism82 ) to develop its central doctrines, like Cappadocian Trinitarianism and Chalcedonian Christology, and analogizes from these triumphs of conciliar Patristic theology to other theological issues.83 Pelikan calls this method "argument from analogy within tradition."84 These kinds of rational moves are paradigmatic for Orthodox theology in general and for Orthodox iconology in particular.
Thus we might propose one local Orthodox rule of images: "The relationship between the human and divine natures of Christ expressed in Chalcedonian Christological dogma is analogous to that between the material and divine in images of Christ."85 Further analogies would characterize rules describing the Orthodox attitude towards images of the saints (who have been deified), images of the Father alone (which, having no material analogy besides the incarnate Christ, are inappropriate), and the role of images in education versus worship (which owing to Orthodox quasi-sacramentalist attitudes would be much harder to differentiate than they would be for Catholics or Protestants). This argument by analogy ultimately opens just about every aspect of Orthodox life to divine presence in creation. All of life becomes sacramental, and a supposedly apophatic theologian can exclaim confidently that icons are "the new pillar of fire that leads the new Israel to the Promised Land, [and] a new star leading to the King of peace."86 Orthodox theological method creates an entire Orthodox cosmos using the argument by analogy from tradition.
Orthodoxy's heavy reliance on Hellenistic and Neoplatonic concepts needs further elaboration. It is particularly pronounced in its icon theology, where the New Testament's explicit guidance is minimal (and what evidence there is more clearly and directly supports aniconic theology). Early Iconodules appealed to a "natural theology" that was in fact a widely held but particularly Hellenistic set of assumptions about the universe.87 Hellenism was well suited to creating imagery for religions -- it may even have provided Buddhism its iconic style88 -- and the glue of Hellenic idealism continues to hold together Eastern iconography.89 Yet Orthodoxy grounds these rules theologically -- by appealing in particular to Byzantine style's power to convey Orthodox ecclesiology and eschatology.90 The common philosophical presuppositions of Byzantine icons and Orthodox faith and practice lend the semiotics of the former especially well to the nature of the latter.91 Thus the rules of Byzantine style, which derive directly from classical Greek style, govern Orthodox iconography so canonically that even minor stylistic variations cause uproars.92 We need not put the relationship into rule language, since the canons that guide iconographers are already detailed sets of hermeneutical rules for practicing Orthodox theology.
As the Christological and stylistic rules above indicate, Hellenistic, Neoplatonic, and Greek Patristic concepts are so important to Orthodox theology that local rules will have to refer explicitly to them in order to describe Orthodox theology's particularities. Even the "Orthodox" Iconoclasts used the analogy from Chalcedonian Christology to fight images.93 Among Greek Orthodox Christians, the emphasis can so heavy that a modern Greek theologian can describe Greek and Russian icon theologies, which are virtually indistinguishable from a Western perspective, as having "a radical distinction and contrast between two views of truth and knowledge, of existence and the world, of the incarnation of God and the salvation of man ... two incompatible ontologies."94
This reliance makes it difficult to see how Orthodox local rules can operate outside of their own cultural context. One Orthodox observer in America characterizes Eastern thinking as visual and Western thinking as textual,95 and an Asian artist describes Asian readings of images as emphasizing the aural.96 With such fundamentally different semiotics, it is difficult to see Orthodox practice as having the universal normativity it often claims for itself. It may be influential beyond its borders, but it will never control the terms by which it is understood.
However, Nicea II was just such an attempt to apply local terms to the entire Church. The cultural nature of Orthodox local rules helps explain why the theology of Nicea II was never well understood nor implemented in the West: It was essentially Eastern -- local -- in character,97 and Western Christianity lay outside of the milieu the East took for granted. By the eighth century, East and West had come to understand the faith in different ways. They could no longer understand each other.98 Nicea II's canons were miles away from the rule of Gregory the Great which characterized later Catholic thinking,99 and were designed to fight practices and heresies like Iconoclasm and Monophysitism which had never been big problems in the West. Carolingians rejected the essentially Eastern analogy between Eastern Imperial practice and their own veneration of images.100 Whatever the quality of Nicea II's theology in its own context, it was poor ecumenical language. It is not surprising that the council's doctrines failed to enjoy much de facto authority in the Church catholic,101 or that the effects were ambiguous where they did influence Western icon theology.102
Through rule theory we can draw a lesson from Nicea II's mixed legacy: Rules only govern well those whom they describe. In order to work, rules must share the frameworks of those who would follow them. This is one way in which ecumenical rules are different in essence from local rules: A local rule cannot necessarily be turned into an ecumenical rule by force of law -- even, Protestants insist, by the declaration of an ecumenical council.
VIII. Catholic Local Rules: Support for the Cult and Intercession of Saints
Neither eighth century Iconoclasts nor the writer of the Caroline Books questioned the practice of the veneration or invocation of departed Christians.103 But as widespread as the practice has been, it is foreign to the thinking of a substantial portion of the historical Church. The New Testament shows no indication of such practices being sanctioned in the first century Church; in fact, at times it discourages them.104 Thus the biblicistic Reformers found it easy to abandon them once Erasmus had drawn attention in his satires to medieval abuses.105
What they abandoned was an immensely popular practice which emerged as early as the beginning of the third century.106 The practice is normed by local rules, one of which we might describe as: "It is appropriate to invoke the names of departed brothers and sisters in Christ to intercede before God on one's behalf." The fact that rules like this at times guided the behavior of the entire Church does not make them ecumenical, for at other times entire Christian traditions and even the Christian tradition in general have rejected them. They fail Vincent of Lerins' criterion of catholicity. The lesson for rule theory is that a rule must describe Christianity diachronically as well as synchronically -- more poetically, "always, everywhere, and by all" -- in order for it to be truly ecumenical. A rule which falls short on either of these counts must be considered local.
The cult of saints also shows how rules which do not explicitly pertain to images may be significant to iconic practice, even if they are not analogically related. A liturgical role for images of the saints depends on the validity of either the cult of saints or the intercession of saints. Traditions may appreciate these doctrines differently, with profoundly different results: For instance, the Eastern theological emphasis on Christology reduces the importance of the intercession of saints for its iconology. In the West, however, emphasis on the intercession of saints more commonly justified icons and was a more powerful force in multiplying images.107 This reason alone can explain much of the difference between Eastern and Western iconographic history.
Rule theory explains how seemingly unrelated rules may in fact be related: The cult of saints and the intercession of saints are formally unrelated to the correspondence of image and prototype, but once the practice of praying to and calling on the saints is rejected, correspondence theories of images become nearly irrelevant. The relationship may not be immediately obvious at all: One may for instance oppose the ubiquity of saints' images in a Church on the ecclesiological grounds that believers should concentrate more on their neighbors and less on a few departed exemplars.
The course of the Reformation debate over the saints shows other ways that local rules are related. A rule encouraging invocation of the saints exists in tension of the rules encouraging invocation of Jesus as the sole mediator between God and humanity. Thus invoking saints can undermine a believer's direct relationship with God.108 This "crowding out" effect seems to have been widespread in Catholic Europe on the eve of the Reformation. It helps explain the immediate appeal of Protestantism's recovered appreciation for Christ as mediator, and its sudden enthusiasm for iconoclasm.109 Dialectical tension among rules (be they local or ecumenical) is a common feature of Christian theology, and when any pole of a dialectic collapses the entire structure can change seismically.
Rules are often related circularly. Because medieval Catholicism was such a tightly constructed culture, a rule like the cult of the saints could not be cleanly removed from the cultural-linguistic system without radical consequences. Its entire ecclesiological structure both supported and ultimately depended upon the integrity of each of its components.110 Thus when the Reformers called into question established and integral practices like the use of images, the cult of the saints, and the meaning of the Mass, they challenged Catholicism's entire ecclesiology. An attack on an image was an attack on the Pope. The circularity of Catholicism's rule structure turned the Reformation critique of individual features of the Church into a critique of the Church itself. Circularity can help a tradition withstand attacks up to a point; but after that point the system disintegrates. The rise of Protestantism in formerly Catholic lands offers a precedent that Churches with deeply circular structures should take seriously.111
In these ways -- verticality, dialectical tension, indirect relation, and circularity -- and more, rule theory describes and systematically relates ecumenical and local rules on a variety of matters to reveal the implicit and explicit theological hermeneutics that shape local Christian traditions.
IX. Lutheran Local Rules: Images as Adiaphora
Whereas Orthodoxy stressed the analogical relevance of Trinity, Christology and eschatology to the question of images, Martin Luther's doctrine of images was most fundamentally informed by his soteriology -- specifically the consequences of salvation by grace for the freedom of a Christian. Luther was originally inclined toward a Reformed attitude toward images.112 But when incidents of iconoclasm in Wittenberg focused Luther's attention on the ramifications of that attitude, he rethought his position and formulated a more consistently Lutheran one. Lutheran iconology does not press Erasmian humanism's and Reformed Protestantism's stark contrast between matter and spirit. Instead, it stresses that iconic practices hold no threat for Christians who have learned to rely on faith alone.113 The creative work of God and the power of grace are sufficient to span the chasm between transcendent deity and fallen creation, allowing Christians to view images as long as they do so with indifference.114 The Lutheran affirmation of sacramental relationships seems to relieve the tension between divine transcendence and divine immanence which made iconoclasm a feature of Reformed Protestantism.115 Whereas Zwingli took issue even with mental images of God, Luther thought them a natural consequence of the fact that humanity had been created with body and soul. To sunder body and Word would be inappropriate to humanity's created nature.116 When accompanied by the preached Word of God, images can actually be helpful as sermon illustrations. For Luther, images are neither sacraments nor idols; they are simply images. As such, they present no threat to a true Christian.
Luther's rule of images actually seems not to be a rule at all. It is merely an affirmation of the ecumenical rule of images on the basis of the freedom of a Christian. Yet it is distinctively Lutheran in that iconic practice develops as a consequence, rather than an analogy, of his core doctrine of justification by grace through faith alone. A systematic analysis of Lutheran rules would reveal characteristically Lutheran hermeneutical moves linking ecumenical rules and specifically Lutheran local rules, yet it would probably not reveal any local rules pertaining to images. The ecumenical rule's place in the overall framework is what would be particularly Lutheran.
Because this essay goes into little depth in examining the Lutheran attitude on images, such a conclusion must be tentative. Nevertheless, it is a useful reminder that it is theoretically possible for a local tradition to have distinct iconic practices while lacking local rules specifically on images.
X. Reformed Protestantism: The Rule of Failure
Of the major Christian traditions, Reformed Protestantism developed the most radical critique of the use of images in the Church. Its complicated history winds through the Devotio Moderna, revived Neoplatonism, Erasmian humanism, the peculiarities of Church-state relations in Germany, Switzerland and France, and the personal narratives of Karlstadt, Zwingli, Jacques Lefevre d'Etaples, and Calvin. But its roots lie deep in the grammar of Christianity. They show that aniconic theology has been an ancient and persistent stream in Christianity117 whose essential conviction is that no image can truly communicate the transcendent essence of God. The Reformers looked at the Churchly use of images from the perspective of their regained appreciation for God's transcendence,118 and saw that the Incarnation had not in fact divinized wood and paint and stone, that God was no more present iconically in the Church era than God was in the centuries before Christ. The continued chasm between God and creation turns an image -- any image -- from an aid in worship into a misleading caricature.
While all iconic traditions have appealed to the overwhelmingly aniconic Scriptures and to an empirical study of the Church practices of their day, they have thought of this chasm in different ways. A strong stream running before, throughout, and after the Iconoclastic era119 has opposed images because of their associations with pagan practices that showed no clear relationship with Christianity. The atmosphere in the earliest Christian centuries was so antagonistic to images that Clement could not bring himself to believe that the ark had really been decorated with cherubim.120 Epiphanius, the first theologian to take up Christian images as a major issue, fought them because of their pagan parallels, on the grounds that the true God could not be treated as false gods were.121 Eusebius' response to Constantia's request for an image of Jesus followed Origen's typically Alexandrian stress on the gulf separating the true spiritual world and the less consequential material world.122 Iconoclasts (like the Carolingians who followed them) rejected the correspondence theory of images as an unwarranted pagan imperial import. Erasmus, and the Reformers who followed his thinking, appealed to dualistic Platonic categories on the one hand and to the supposedly pristine "inward" spiritual practices of the primitive Church on the other.123 With Zwingli, primitivism became outright biblicism, seeking to restore the ancient Jewish perspective on images that became a feature of the early Church.124 Karlstadt developed probably the most complete divorce between matter and spirit this side of gnosticism, attacking the ability of matter to depict transcendent spirit or convey spiritual benefits.125
Reformed thinking culminated in Calvin's more subtle psychology of images, which stresses the effects of sin on human perceptions of divine images, and his doctrine that finitum non est capax infiniti. His twofold argument holds that even if a physical image could mediate an encounter with God, the fallen human mind would not be up to the task.126 The problem with the bronze serpent was not in the figure, but in the minds of the Israelites who eventually turned to worshipping it.127 The metaphysical argument amounts to a rejection of the realized eschatology of theosis in favor of a sharper distinction between this world and the next. The psychological argument is more interesting for our purposes, for Calvin used a local rule that may well have described sixteenth century France and Switzerland to describe humanity in general.128 Like the Orthodox, Calvin mistook a local rule for an ecumenical one. The misapplication of this rule in different contexts (for instance, most everywhere outside Europe) has had at least two persistently problematic consequences for the Reformed tradition: a misunderstanding of the nature of sacramental presence and whole varieties of symbolism,129 and a Reformed evangelicalism which at times verges on the docetic.
Though the various aniconic traditions have argued differently, their lines have all fundamentally separated the divine essence from mental images of the divine. The broad parallels in thinking across these traditions' vastly different contexts suggest a local rule which spans the traditions: "No image can truly communicate the transcendent essence or work of God." Many aniconic worldviews derive from this common Christian conviction, which comes to be expressed in different contexts in different philosophical and theological ways.
Such a common rule naturally generates various results in different traditions because of its unique place it occupies in each linguistic context. Some Reformed traditions have regulated images heavily; others have resisted them; still others have destroyed them. Contexts have changed over time, too. In the absence of a threat from hegemonic medieval Catholicism, Calvinism has moderated from being outright iconoclastic to being tolerant of images as long as they are used neither as channels for prayer, nor as ornate and distracting Church decorations, nor as limiting metaphors for people's conceptions of God. Modern Reformed concerns reflect a lingering Calvinistic influence which interprets, but no longer drives, both the broad aniconic local rule and the ecumenical rule.
These conclusions are preliminary, and they depend upon prior ecclesiological convictions that are in no way shared by the traditions under analysis. Whether our ecumenical and local rules are adequate, and even which ones are ecumenical and local, are issues open to debate. But this exercise is as much a test of rule theory as an application of it, and at this point in our analysis, rule theory (when developed so that it can truly describe the rules that guide Christian Churches) looks like a promising theological tool. It makes much sense out of a chaotic and often neglected aspect of Christian practice. It yields answers to some of the questions we originally asked: Is there a theology of images that describes more than one tradition? Traditions with mutually exclusive practices and theologies of images? Christianity in general?
Rule theory has an impressive capacity to accommodate and honor both ecumenical and local theological practices. Where iconology is concerned, rule theory respects both contextuality and continuity in a remarkably facile way. It points a way for Christian communities to understand themselves and each other, to deepen and inform their uses of images, and to work together without necessarily giving up their distinctives -- just as Lindbeck claims.
Alexander, Paul J., The Patriarch Nicephorus of Constantinople: Ecclesiastical Policy and Image Worship in the Byzantine Empire (Oxford: Clarendon, 1958).
Anastos, Milton, V., "The Ethical Theory of Images Formulated by the Iconoclasts in 754 and 815," in Dumbarton Oaks Papers Number Eight (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1954).
Bailey, Albert Edward, The Use of Art in Religious Education (New York: Abingdon, 1922).
Bevan, Edwyn, Holy Images: An Inquiry into Idolatry and Image-Worship in Ancient Paganism and in Christianity (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1940).
Blancy, Alain, "Protestantism and the Seventh Ecumenical Council," in Limouris.
Bridge, A.C., Images of God (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1960).
Bulgakov, Sergius, The Orthodox Church (Crestwood: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1988).
Calvin, John, Institutes of the Christian Religion (London: James Clarke & Co., Ltd., 1949).
Castro, Emilio and Limouris, Gennadios, "The Ecumenical Significance of Icons," in Limouris.
Cope, Gilbert, Symbolism in the Bible and the Church (London: SCM Press, 1959).
Coulton, G.G., Art and the Reformation (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1928).
Crouch, Joseph, Puritanism and Art (New York: Cassell, 1910).
Cunningham, David, Faithful Persuasion (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1991).
Dillistone, F.W., Christianity and Symbolism (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1955).
Dulles, Avery, The Craft of Theology: From Symbol to System (New York: Crossroad, 1992).
Durandus, William, Rationale Divinorum Officiorum (ET: The Symbolism of Churches and Church Ornaments, trans. Neale, John Mason and Webb, Benjamin, Leeds: T.W. Green, 1843).
Dussel, Enrique, "Christian Art of the Oppressed in Latin America," in Maldonado and Power.
Carlos Eire, Carlos,War Against the Idols: The Reformation of Worship from Erasmus to Calvin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986).
Fleming, Daniel Johnson, Christian Symbols in a World Community (New York: Friendship Press, 1940).
Florovsky, George, "Origin, Eusebius, and the Iconoclastic Controversy," Church History 1950, 77-96.
Fortino, Eleuterio, "The Role and Importance of Icons," in Limouris.
Frank, Karl Borromaeus, Fundamental Questions on Ecclesiastical Art (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1962).
Garside, Charles Jr., Zwingli and the Arts (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1966).
Goethals, Gregor T., The Electronic Golden Calf (Cambridge: Cowley Publications, 1990).
Holbrook, Clyde A., The Iconoclastic Deity (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1984).
Hulme, Frederick Edward, Symbolism in Christian Art (Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1969; London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1891).
John of Damascus, On the Divine Images, trans. David Anderson (Crestwood: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1980).
Johnson, Paul, A History of Christianity (New York: Athenaeum, 1987).
Kalokyris, Constantin, The Essence of Orthodox Iconography (Brookline: Holy Cross School of Theology, 1971).
Kalokyris, Constantin, "The Content of Eastern Iconography," in Maldonado and Power.
Kavanagh, Aidan J, "The Politics of Symbol and Art in Liturgical Expression," in Maldonado and Power.
Kitzinger, Ernst, "The Cult of Images in the Age Before Iconoclasm," in Dumbarton Oaks Papers Number Eight (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1954).
Koulomzin, Sophie, Lectures in Religious Education (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press).
Kretschmar, Georg, "The Reformation and the Theology of Images," in Limouris.
Limouris, Gannadios, ed., Icons: Windows on Eternity, Faith and Order Paper 147 (Geneva: WCC Publications, 1990).
Limouris, ed., "Icon: An Expression of Prayer and Sacrament," in Limouris.
Lindbeck, George A., The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1984).
Lossky, Vladimir, Orthodox Theology: An Introduction (Crestwood: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1989).
Maldonado, Luis and Power, David, eds., Concilium: Symbol and Art in Worship (New York: Seabury Press, 1980).
Maldonado, Luis, "Art in the Liturgy," in Maldonado and Power.
Mangrum, Bryan D., and Scavizzi, Giuseppe, A Reformation Debate: Three Treatises in Translation (Ottawa: Dovehouse Editions, 1991).
Martin, Edward James, A History of the Iconoclastic Controversy (London: SPCK, 1936).
Mascall, E.L., Theology and Images (London: A.R. Moybray & Co., Ltd., 1963).
McGrath, Alister E., The Genesis of Doctrine (Cambridge: Basil Blackwell, 1990).
Mouw, Richard, Consulting the Faithful (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994).
Newbigin, Lesslie, The Household of God (New York: Friendship Press, 1954).
Nocent, Adrien, "Gestures, Symbols and Words in Present-day Western Liturgy," in Maldonado and Power.
Oosthuizen, C.G., Afro-Christian Religions: Iconography of Religions 24:12 (Leiden: Brill, 1979).
Pelikan, Jaroslav, Imago Dei: The Byzantine Apologia for Icons (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990).
Quenot, Michel, The Icon: Window on the Kingdom (Crestwood: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1991).
Roberts, Alexander, and Donaldson, James, eds., The Apostolic Fathers, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus: Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994).
Schaff, Philip, and Wace, Henry, eds., The Seven Ecumenical Councils: Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, vol. 14 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994).
Stafford, Thomas Albert, Christian Symbolism in the Evangelical Churches (Nashville: Abingdon, 1942).
Takenaka, Masao and O'Grady, Ron, The Bible Through Asian Eyes (Auckland: Pace Publishing, 1991).
Thomson, J. Radford, Symbols of Christendom (London: Longman, Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1867).
Ugolnik, Anthony, The Illuminating Icon (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989).
Uspensky, Boris, The Semiotics of the Russian Icon (Lisse: The Peter de Ridder Press, 1976).
Van Huyssteen, Wentzel, Theology and the Justification of Faith (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989).
Archimandrite Vasileios of Stavronikita, Hymn of Entry: Liturgy and Life in the Orthodox Church (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1984).
Yannaras, Christos, The Freedom of Morality (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1984).
6 Lindbeck, p. 94. However, McGrath rightly criticizes Lindbeck for reading historical theology in a shallow way in order to reduce Christology to these few rules (McGrath, p. 33). This criticism is one of the reasons this analysis grounds its proposal in a thorough treatment of Church history.
7 This means that one labels a rule "ecumenical" or "local" according to one's doctrine of the Church, inevitably including and excluding communities called "Christian." Being an evangelical Protestant persuaded by Lesslie Newbigin's thesis in The Household of God, I will include Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and magisterial and radical Protestant communities in "the Church" on the basis of their common Trinitarian and Christological affirmations, despite their own ecclesiological incompatibilities. An analyst with a different ecclesiology will necessarily identify different rules as ecumenical and local!
10 This liturgical context may be practically or intellectually developed. Vasileios calls iconography "a script illegible to anyone who has not participated in the Liturgy" (Vasileios, 81). Ambrosios Giakalis stresses a different dimension of liturgical context in asserting that "the correct evaluation of icons may be made only within the context of the place of words and concepts about God in the patristic tradition." Either way, icons are only understandable from a deeply contextual perspective.
11 Eleuterio Fortino echoes Giakalis' emphasis when he says, "The icon presupposes a harmonious complex of elements (theological, aesthetic, technical and liturgical); it presupposes its own cultural world. Otherwise it remains a mute and blind image" (Fortino, p. 130). But Fortino defines that cultural world so widely that he can ask whether a given icon means the same thing in a Western liturgical context as in an Eastern one. If one moves an icon from one liturgical context to another, then rather than becoming mute and blind, "as an illustrative work it will have changed quite basically" (p. 129).
14 To be sure, crucifixes are nowhere to be found where these Christians corporately worship, but in non-liturgical contexts, non-liturgical images are generally thought safe. Zwingli backhandedly reinforced this attitude of safety when he said in the debate of 1523 that "Had the useless priests and bishops earnestly preached the Word of God as they were ordered ... it would never have come to the point where the poor layman who is unknowing of Scripture has had to learn about Christ from walls and illustrated pages." See Garside, p. 141.
16 Coulton, p. 317, shows that the overwhelming neglect of such education in the Middle Ages was one of the greatest problems surrounding the medieval European use of images. Here one of Luther's divergences from his fellow Reformers is noteworthy: while he favored the use of images in Lutheran Churches, he also often referred to them in sermons rather than leaving them on the walls to speak for themselves.
17 Kalokyris, p. 98. Kalokyris does not see a tension between the sacramental nature of icons and their need to change over time. Failure to adapt leads to mere "copying" of images and formalism that causes Orthodox art to decline rather than rejuvenate. This presents problems: Is a mere copy of an icon sacramentally inferior to the original? Does an icon which can no longer be understood still issue uncreated light? Or does the presence of God in the image depend in part on the psychologies of its observers?
21 Durandus distinguished sharply between images' adoration and their educational value. He considered images valuable for instructing both illiterate and literate, because people are more affected by images than by words. Yet he still thought illiterates are able to benefit more. Durandus, p. 53. Zwingli and Calvin, conversely, developed psychologies of the image which held that images could mislead both literate and illiterate believers. See Eire, p. 217, and Calvin's Institutes (I.11.9).
24 Compared to the Orthodox, the Catholic Church has been marked by a reluctance to follow a strongly sacramental view of images, preferring instead to honor Augustine's and Gregory the Great's stress on images' educational and evocative value. The Caroline Books also reflect such a view. See Bevan, p. 147. E.J. Martin sees an essential difference between East and West in that in the West "there was something like an official decision, supported by popular opinion, that pictures were means of instruction and not objects of devotion" (Martin, p. 227). And Protestants who have made room for images in worship have done so on grounds of their effectiveness in education and evocation. A good example is Thomas Stafford, an American evangelical Protestant in the 1940s: "Employed for the stimulation of faith and reverence, their function is elevating in effect" (Stafford, p. 31).
25 Gilbert Cope characterizes typology as the "essence" of medieval icon theology. This may be expressed in terms of pairing Old Testament images with corresponding New Testament ones, a technique abundant at Chartres and still popular at the time the Sistine chapel was painted; or it may move from a fable, astrological sign, or legend to a medieval theological locus (Cope, p. 58). The ambiguity inherent in typology is one of the reasons Catholics have been less confidant than Orthodox about the communicative properties of icons.
27 Characteristic is Zwingli's notion of the Abgott which is always misperceived in the image (see Eire, p. 83-84). Uspensky calls eighth-century and Reformation Iconoclasm a result of "different understandings of the semiotic nature of the icon." Uspensky, p. 10. Orthodox iconology usually stresses the distortive nature of any style except Byzantine (see Vasileios, p. 88-89), while Reformed iconology stresses the distortive nature of all styles; the two positions are thus surprisingly similar.
28 Christian images had the power to conceal as well as the power to reveal. Frederick Hulme, a historian and iconodule, finds an exclusivist dynamic in early Christian uses of images which is reminiscent of the gnostics: "the early Christians employed symbols that, though full of significance to themselves, conveyed no meaning to the heathen around them" (Hulme, p. 2). A common feature of the Reformation critique of images was that clergy exploited the ambiguity of relics and images for their own material gain. (See especially Eire, p. 95.)
29 For instance, Zwingli emphasized God's preference for the word over the image in ancient Israel, in which would likely have been vast illiteracy (Eire, 114). Karlstadt contended that images are of little value educationally even when they are correctly perceived: "Even a crucifix, he says, focuses a man's attention on how Christ was killed, not on why. Little is learned about salvation from a crucifix" (Eire, 60). Karlstadt overapplied this observation to all images, but his critique remains possibly valid for a given image or group of images.
30 Orthodox iconologists have usually claimed universality for some form of Byzantine style and for the practices widespread in the Eastern Church at the time of the Iconoclastic Controversy, which derive analogously from Eastern Roman customs of saluting the Emperor's image, lighting an oil lamp before it, and venerating it as it processed down city streets (see Kitzinger, pp. 91, 96, 121-3). Other traditions are entitled to ask how much of the Orthodox conviction is cultural prejudice, and how many of these practices should really apply to the Orthodox Church, let alone the Church universal. The topic attracts further attention below in a section on Orthodox local rules.
31 F.W. Dillistone's view that modernity has involved "the loss of symbolism in general" is a relevant challenge to the ability of images to communicate (Dillistone, 286). The pace of change and the deteriorating homogeneity of communities have undermined the presuppositions built into most theologies of images. By the time a symbolic form has had the chance to establish itself, it is obsolete (291). This can happen even in the slowest moving of societies, as Coulton shows with regard to Catholic symbolism in and after the thirteenth century. The problem was not Catholicism's complete failure to transmit traditions of symbolism, but that Catholicism accumulated so many traditions, many of them conflicting, that the entire enterprise sank under its own weight (Coulton, pp. 272-316).
32 Uspensky, for instance, sees the linguistic content of icons operative at several levels: phonological, grammatical, semantic, and so on. These levels may not necessarily complement each other: for instance, a rendering of Mary as tiny at her presentation of the Temple might be taken to represent her relative unimportance. All levels must be considered in any "exhaustive analysis" of a particular image (pp. 12, 25). Uspensky finds this tension manageable enough, but for the Reformers the discord was too vast to correct.
33 Uspensky notes that Iconoclasts did not question "the subjective-associative significance of icons." What they rejected was the "ontological connection with their archetypes" -- the existence of what they conveyed (p. 9). Without this ontological tie, education becomes misinformation and worship becomes idolatry.
36 Yannaras comments that "Western religious painting does not aspire to transcend the time-bound and ephemeral character of the individual entity as a phenomenon" (p. 253). To him, Western imagery is historicist and phenomenological.
38 Coulton, p. 293. Similar was Pius XI's defense of the "objective content" of proper Church art at the opening of the new Vatican gallery in 1932. He was fighting against the subjectivism of some of the would-be sacred art of the day. See Frank, pp. 55-56.
41 Kalokyris finds the image contrary to the understanding that Christ was raised "by divine power and authority" while the tomb was still closed. At first this looks more like intrasystematic inconsistency than extrasystematic inadequacy. But Kalokyris' argument suggests that both the critical-historical and the theological references of such an image are compromised, and both refer outside the witnessing community. The intrasystematic consistency of such an image within Roman Catholicism, or even within the broader Church, is not the real issue. See Kalokyris, p. 16.
42 This was a crucifix with its arms raised vertically, taken to symbolize limited atonement. As with images of the angel at the tomb, it was the extrasystematic adequacy of the doctrine symbolized that was the issue, not the symbolism itself. See Frank, p. 72. It is interesting that portrayals like these are banned universally rather than regionally. This is a departure from Catholicism's usual appreciation for the contextual nature of symbolism.
45 This is true of Aquinas, who thought "the same reverence should be paid to the image of Christ, as to Christ Himself. Since therefore Christ ought to be worshipped with the adoration of latria it follows that His image should be worshipped with the adoration of latria." See Coulton, p. 374, quoting Summa Theologica III Q26 A3.
46 Kitzinger sees this thinking as a direct and early consequence of the quasi-sacramentalist argument for images, for an image which conveys the real presence of God is justifiable irrespective of the character of its observers (p. 139).
48 Can such a distinction between worship and other aspects of the life of the Church be maintained? One might draw it between the liturgy proper and "the liturgy after the liturgy," or (better) between contexts of first-order and second-order reflection on God, or between "second-person" and "third-person" reference to God.
49 However, where the Swiss Reformers were zealous about curtailing abuses, the Tridentine language was extremely cautious, referring to abuses tentatively ("if perchance some have strayed ... it were better to teach such a one..."). By distinguishing between educational and devotional roles and following Aquinas' reasoning, Trent was able neatly to remove the theoretical possibility that idolatry could occur with an image (NPNF-II 14:552-554).
51 Said Zwingli, "We have had two great Charleses: the one in the Great Minster, which was venerated like other idols, and for that reason was taken out; the other, in one of the Church towers, which no one venerates, and that one was left standing, and has caused no annoyance at all." However, he indicated that should the statue come to be a cause for idolatry, it too should be taken away. See Garside, p. 150.
52 Pelikan (pp. 138-139) sees the practice of distinguishing between latria and dulia as rooted in Roman social life. Augustine used it to distinguish between people's duty to God and their duty to worldly authorities such as masters or emperor. It was spiritualized and Byzantinized when applied to the context of images.
54 See Eire, pp. 20-21. As result of this confusion, "popular piety sunk far below the level proposed by the theologians. The image and the prototype often became indistinguishable in the mind of the supplicant."
57 See Goethals, p. 30, which recounts a letter of Bernard's to William, Abbot of St. Thierry, describing images as "curious carvings and paintings which attract the worshipper's gaze and hinder his attention."
58 Some observers characterize this as a struggle between Jewish Christianity and Hellenism. But Florovsky (p. 96) describes it as a debate between Hellenisms that was carried over into Christianity along Antiochian versus Alexandrian lines. He finds the source of Iconoclastic thought in Origin's Alexandrian stress on the relative unimportance of the material world to the spiritual, which Eusebius picked up and applied to images.
59 Apparently the same debates occurred in pagan Greek society on the nature of images as occurred in the Iconoclast debate (see Bevan, p. 21). Kitzinger (pp. 124-5) argues that image worship in the Church caught on when "writers [like St. Simeon the Younger] began to defend the worship of images of Christ and the Virgin -- and to denounce lack of respect towards such images -- by arguing a fortiori from the laws and customs governing the worship of the portrait of the basileus." The Christian image became "analogous" to the imperial image. The transition was aided by the fact that the Emperor was now a Christian (p. 91). Alexander (p. 220) finds a later parallel development in the Iconodules' use of Aristotelian categories to show that "what affects the equivocal or relative term (the image) will also affect the correlative (Christ)."
60 Bevan outlines both approaches. Cynics often parodied Greek attitudes towards images, and Horace wrote in his Satires, "Once I was a fig-tree, good-for-nothing wood, when the craftsman, after hesitating a while whether to make me a stool or a Priapus, decided for the god." This sentiment is remarkably parallel to that of Isaiah 44 (Bevan, pp. 21, 65). Yet Christian images first came from Syria, and Bevan notes that Syrians and Egyptians held to similar but less articulate notions "that somehow the god felt what you did to the idol" and that as one praised or harmed the image, so did the effect pass to the prototype (pp. 29, 27). In this case, the origin of correspondence theory of images would lie in magic, not Plato. Recently Richard Mouw has emphasized the parallels between biblical Christianity and popular beliefs in magic which have always been a feature of human culture, and images may present an excellent case-study for Christian resistance of, transformation of, and capitulation to culture (Mouw, pp. 43-48).
61 The concern is the very occasion for Gregory the Great's letter, which was the Church's most authoritative early guidance on the matter. It remains a crucial concern in the Caroline Books and in both the Lutheran and Reformed wings of the Reformation.
62 The Caroline Books find images legitimate as reminders for the past and Church decorations, but not as channels to their prototypes, and warn that images are "apt to be a snare for the ignorant." See Martin, p. 235.
64 Says Charles Garside, "The popular, vernacular religious literature of the time was devoted almost exclusively to Mary and the saints. ... And the little books of instruction for the pastoral clergy, the so-called Summa Rudium or Summa Praeceptorium, underscored the doctrine that veneration of the saints was ultimately one with adoration of God, and consistently stressed the importance of their intercessory activity" (p. 90).
68 Bernard's attitude is already noted elsewhere; and according to Kretschmar (p. 78), "In many towns it was the friars of [the Cistercian and mendicant] orders who were the agents of the gospel preaching of the 1520s with which the reforming upheaval began."
69 There was enough reason for the Reformers to do so. Garside (pp. 175-6) outlines the increasing stress on the senses in the centuries before the Reformation: Altars became larger, more and more elaborately decorated with crosses and candles, vestments became more intricate, and the host came to be adored toward 1200 and, not long after, paraded through the streets at the Feast of Corpus Christi. Prayers before relics were thought to be more effective than prayers alone (p. 92). Wainwright resists the countervailing gnostic tendency among modern evangelicals to deprecate the material in worship ("Senses of the Word," in For Our Salvation: Two Approaches to the Work of Christ (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997), 3-96.
70 According to Eire, "The central theme of the Enchidirion is the interiorization and spiritualization of religion, and the development of a more intimate relationship between the individual soul and God" (p. 33).
72 See Eire, p. 84 with respect to Zwingli's thought here, and p. 201 (citing Institutes II.8.17 and I.11.2) with respect to Calvin's. At the same time, Eire admits (pp. 78, 227) that for all their continuity, Zwingli and Calvin fall more clearly in this stream than in the stream of Karlstadt.
73 See Institutes I.5.15: "For no sooner do we, from a survey of the world, obtain some slight knowledge of Deity, than we pass by the true God, and set up in his stead the dream and phantom of our own brain...."
76 This is true regardless of whether other rules, like the primacy of Scripture, theoretically qualify them, as long as the local rules determine the group's institutional character and keep them from participating in the broader Church.
78 The quasi-sacramental role of images was apparently first elaborated along Christian lines by Philostorgius, tentatively, in 400-450. See Kitzinger, p. 137. Kitzinger labels Orthodox doctrine the "analogical function of images" (p. 138).
80 The line separating icons from the sacraments is crossed by theologians like Sergius Bulgakov and Emilio Castro. Bulgakov has stated that "[t]hanks to the blessing of the icon of Christ, there comes about a mysterious meeting of the believer with Christ." Such a view, according to E.L. Mascall, "goes far beyond" the findings of Nicea II (Mascall, p. 43). Castro believes "sacramental" is the right word to use to describe icons, even if the Church has never declared them to be so (Limouris, p. 5).
81 Giakalis speaks of "divine energy" in the icon, and Vasileios describes an "uncreated light that knows no evening, like the grace and gift of the Holy Spirit, ... shed from within the icon itself, from the faces of the saints and transfigured creation" (Vasileios, 85).
82 The Neoplatonic mystic Pseudo-Dionysius saw "the physical and intelligible worlds as superimposed hierarchies. `The essences and orders which are above us ... are incorporeal and their hierarchy is of the intellect and transcends our world. Our human hierarchy, on the contrary, we see filled with the multiplicity of visible symbols, through which we are led up hierarchically and according to our capacity to the unified deification, to God and divine virtue. They, as is meet to them, comprehend as pure intellects. We, however, are led up, as far as possible, through visible images to contemplation of the divine'" (Kitzinger, pp. 137-8, emphasis mine, quoting De Ecclesiastica Hierarchia, I.2 (Patrilogia Graecae 3 col. 373 AB)). According to Kitzinger, Pseudo-Dionysius' "concepts and terms were promptly seized upon by clerics [like Hypatius of Ephesus, who quoted him and applied his thought to the question of images in the Church] anxious to provide a theoretical foundation for the increasingly conspicuous role accorded to images in the life of the Church."
83 This is a common pattern in Orthodox systematic theologies: see, for instance, the moves Vladimir Lossky makes in Orthodox Theology: An Introduction. Vasileios moves from the perichorêsis of the Trinitarian persons to worshipper's participation in the events of salvation portrayed in an icon (pp. 82-83). John of Damascus set the standard for the application of Christological dogma to the question of images in On the Divine Images, moving directly from the Old Testament prohibitions on image-making to the effect of the Incarnation on material representations of God, then to the relationship between the persons of the Trinity, then to the practice of image-making, all within the first substantive paragraph of his first apology (Apology I, paragraph 4, pp. 15-16).
85 My own bibliology argues for a similar analogy between the natures of Christ and the divine humanity of Holy Scripture, and draws in part on Orthodox iconology for support. See Telford Work, Living and Active: The Christian Vision of Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, forthcoming), chapter 1.
87 Pelikan finds that "the principle of a correlation between the icon and the iconized evidently was not only a Christian teaching, but belonged to what must be labeled the `natural theology' of the fourth-century Greek fathers" (Pelikan, p. 66).
88 According to Bevan (p. 103), Buddhism was aniconic for 500 years until Greek artists created a type to represent the Buddha. The similar catacomb images of Diaspora Jews indicates Hellenistic influence on Jewish culture too.
90 Kalokyris offers an excellent example of this analogy. He contrasts Western styles, which he sees seeking to appreciate God's glory in the natural world, with Byzantine style, which depicts the eschatologically transformed and spiritual world which the Church takes on faith to be reality. See Kalokyris, p. 10.
91 According to Yannaras, iconographic style evolved from the Greek roots of Roman art in the first centuries of the Christian era. Its usefulness derived from its ability to abstract individuality in order "to reduce the concrete object to a direct vision of its `reason,' inner principle or essence," and to relate such concrete objects "to their rational unity which, for the Greek, is more real than the incidental impression they create.... Byzantine iconography is an organic continuation of the Greek vision and interpretation of the world through artistic representation." At the same time, Yannaras emphasizes the way Orthodoxy transformed and transcended the style. See Yannaras, p. 255-256. P.A. Florenskij independently offers a very similar analysis, calling the language of the Fathers "that of ancient Hellenism" and drawing on Platonic anamnesis as a central motif of Orthodox icon theology. (Uspensky, p. 21)
92 Uspensky is one who calls the language of Russian iconography canonical (Uspensky, pp. 7-8). This common view makes Orthodox iconologists particularly keen to denounce Western influences in iconography, and they find some that Westerners would never even notice. For instance, Christos Yannaras, a Greek theologian, finds "impressionism" creeping into Russian Orthodoxy: "One may observe ... a peculiar and probably typically Russian mentality in interpreting icons, as impressionistic as Russian iconography itself. ... The Greek icon (or `Byzantine,' as we say today) displays a strenuous resistance to any intellectual approach. This is probably why the particular interest recently shown by Westerners in Orthodox iconography is confined almost entirely to Russian icons, ignoring their Greek prototypes." Yannaras finds the source of these un-Orthodox influences in the West; he speaks of "Russian theology in the European diaspora" and objects to, among others, the approach of Uspensky and Lossky in The Meaning of Icons (Yannaras, p. 252). Some Orthodox believers in the West are no kinder to icons which exhibit Western influences: Michel Quenot complains about the Renaissance damage to Eastern iconography -- even while featuring illustrations of icons from Monk Gregory Kroug, whose icons seem to be profoundly influenced by Western images in stained glass! See Quenot, pp. 162-163, and especially the illustrations in Quenot, pp. 64, 129, 141, and 152.
95 Anthony Ugolnik, a professor of literature in Pennsylvania and a Ukrainian Orthodox priest, lives in both worlds. He describes the chasm that separates Orthodox and Protestant Christianity in cultural-linguistic terms. (And without mentioning Lindbeck!) This linguistic analysis leads Ugolnik to see that "On one level, Eastern and Western Christians experience God's presence in different ways. ... The act of understanding [images] in the West has tended to be bound within the context of the book." Augustine set this precedent in the way he was converted to Christianity: "When Augustine took up that book and opened it to Romans 13:13, he created a primary epistemological model, a blueprint for understanding. In the Western encounter with the Word of God, Christians relate to a text." Protestantism has largely followed this Augustinian model, and "imagines the Word as embodied within a text, a book, a bible. This is a cultural inheritance" (Ugolnik, pp. 46-50). He contrasts this mindset with the Orthodox view of the Book "as if it were itself an image begetting images." Whereas Protestants concentrate on the message itself, Ugolnik sees the Orthodox "embrace the ... context within which this utterance is proclaimed." Thus all the senses become involved and the liturgy becomes the ultimate context of the Word (pp. 51-52).
99 Compare Durandus' words: "[W]e worship not images, nor account them to be god, nor put any hope of salvation in them: for that were idolatry. Yet we adore [veneramur] them for the memory and remembrance of things long agone. ... `The form is neither God nor man, which here thou dost behold; He very God and man, of whom thou by that form art told'" (Durandus, pp. 53-54). Later he explicitly quotes Gregory's dictum (p. 56).
100 See Martin, p. 238, quoting the Caroline Books: "Pagan license is not a foundation for Christian practice. The Apostle does not say, Be ye imitators of the Emperor, but Be ye imitators of me as I am of Christ."
101 Nicea II was a council that people in the West tended to regard as de jure law but ignore anyway -- the Catholic equivalent of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments in the American Bill of Rights. Georg Kretschmar says, "As to canon law, in the Crusades it was acknowledged that there were seven Ecumenical Councils of the ancient Church, but the seventh was the very one that played no part at all. Even at the Council for union with the Eastern Churches in Florence 1439-1445, the Roman Church in 1442 imposed on the Copts only the recognition of six holy and universal Synods; no mention is made of sacred images" (Limouris, p. 77). Uspensky too recognizes that Nicea II did not settle the question of images in the Church.
102 Bevan (pp. 153-5) believes one effect of Nicea II on the West was that Catholicism could neither properly accommodate nor free itself from the Greek doctrines, and the result was a compromised theology that led to the medieval abuses.
103 Iconoclasts and iconodules alike supported the cults of saints, martyrs' relics, and the Virgin Mary. Constantine V, however, denied "the concept of images as sacred objects, the concept of sainthood and the efficacy of the Saints' intercession." See Alexander, p. 49. Constantine's attitudes cannot be taken as representative of the Iconoclasts.
105 One can trace Erasmian and biblicistic influence in Zwingli's attitude toward the invocation of saints. In Eire's opinion, Erasmus' "The Complaint of Jesus" concentrated at "the fact that within the structure of popular piety it was invariably to the saints rather than to Christ that the people turned in their prayers. The one true mediator had become lost in a welter of substitutes." This poem had an enormous and lasting influence on Zwingli; he recalled its impact nine years after first reading it. It pointed him to looking in Scripture for instances of the intercession of the saints; he found none. This was one reason for Zwingli's eventual rejection of Gregory's distinction between veneration and adoration. See Eire, pp. 93-95.
106 Cecil M. Robeck argues that the idea of the intercession of the saints was first inspired by Perpetua's dream on the eve of her martyrdom. See his Prophecy in Carthage: Perpetua, Tertullian, and Cyprian, (Cleveland, Ohio: Pilgrim Press, 1992).
108 Protestants should take note: On this score, relying on the prayers of the Theotokos and relying on those of one's pastor or prayer group partners might both be detrimental. Of course, the converse may be true: Relying solely on direct communication with Jesus can ironically weaken the pneumatic bonds that link Christians into the Body of Christ.
111 The Orthodox traditions certainly seem to qualify as circular. Bulgakov (p. 119) links relics, icons, and the cult of the saints, especially that of the Virgin Mary, and these are already linked to Holy Tradition. The semper reformandum principle is an even more circular ecclesiological rule. To critique it is to illegitimate Reformed Christianity itself. Here it is easy to see the resemblances between the Reformed doctrine of tradition and modern liberalism (see "Liberalism Transformed into a Tradition," in Alasdair MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality? [Notre Dame, IN: Notre Dame, 1988], 326ff).
Lindbeck sees all traditions being ultimately circular, but some are larger circles than others, and some are more able to expand or contract (dropping or adding rules and re-forging links) in order to preserve themselves in the face of challenges.
112 Luther's early works are critical of lavish church decorations, and called material objects of worship "mere shadows and tokens of reality." They "obscure the correct worship, with their glitter." See Eire, pp. 67-68.
113 After his split with Karlstadt, Luther viewed externals with indifference, regarding Christians as free to have them or not. He thought religious artworks were "neither here nor there, neither evil nor good." Luther saw Karlstadt's prohibitions on images as just as restrictive of the freedom of a Christian as were the rules of the Papacy, and even as a form of works-righteousness. See Eire, p. 68.
114 See Eire, p. 36. Reformed theology later developed a superficially similar attitude, gaining confidence in the power of right religion to resist the distortions of divine images. Where the two ended up differing was that Reformed Christianity maintained its distrust in images and advocated that sovereigns remove their churches' images, while Lutheranism put supreme confidence in the power of grace to keep Christians from falling into temptation even when surrounded by images. See Garside, p. 120.
115 "For Luther, the spirit and the flesh were never disjointed. In his devotions, he was `aided by the sight of the crucifix, the sound of the anthems, and the partaking of the body of Christ upon the altar.'" Goethals, p. 48, quoting Roland Bainton's Christendom: A Short History of Christianity and Its Impact on Western Civilization 2:25.
118 The role Neoplatonism played both in the Patristic Church and in the Reformation is striking. Kalokyris' characterization of Byzantine style as serving "the need to subordinate the material element to the spiritual, our lower nature to the higher" (Kalokyris, p. 17), would sound foreign to few Protestant ears.
119 The view that Iconoclasm was an imperial policy without public support is simplistic. Kitzinger shows that incidents of Iconoclasm rose before the outbreak of official Iconoclasm in Byzantium under Leo III. Scholars are increasingly inclined to consider Iconoclasm an internal Church phenomenon rather than being something imposed from without. "Instead of assuming a simple alteration of anti-iconic and pro-iconic periods," he says (p. 85), "it is necessary to think more in terms of a continuing conflict, which finally erupted...." Orthodox clerics like Julian of Atramytion, who opposed sculpture for fear of breaking the Second Commandment, and Serenus, to whom Gregory wrote, are examples of orthodox, aniconic Christians with legitimate concerns.
120 Bevan, p. 87. Instead, Clement believed that "[t]he term Cherub must be a symbolical way of referring to the rational soul; there is no creature in heaven with a shape capable of being sensibly perceived such as a Cherub would be, literally understood."
121 Kitzinger, pp. 92-93. Also noteworthy is the nature of the reversal that took place between the third and seventh centuries when Christians took over pagan arguments for images -- after image use had already become widespread -- and adopted formerly anti-Jewish arguments for use against Iconoclasts (Alexander, p. 33). This twist supports the arguments for a struggle between "Semitic" and "Hellenistic" Christianity. Cf. Florovsky, p. 92, who portrays the struggle as between Iconodules-as-"historic Christians" and Iconoclasts-as-Origenist-Platonists relatively uninterested in the significance of history. In other words, Antioch -- near the birthplace of Christian images -- versus Alexandria.
127 For Calvin's psychology of images, see Eire, p. 217 and Institutes I.11.9. See also Eire, p. 197. Calvin's locating the problem in the human mind made quasi-sacramental arguments largely irrelevant. Being classically trained, he was aware that pagans had discussed the same correspondence theories among themselves before the rise of Christianity (Institutes I.11.9).
128 One could find a biblical basis for some form of universal epistemological problem in passages like Romans 1:20-22, but it is unlikely that the problem would match the situation of Reformation-era Catholicism. Calvin lived in a society that could no longer distinguish between image and prototype, if it ever could.
129 Dillistone (pp. 286-7) describes a Protestantism where "[t]ime-symbols and verbal symbols have been recognized as necessary, but nature-symbols and human-symbols have been regarded as either irrelevant or dangerous." Some of this may be warranted by the close connection in Scripture between God and Word compared to the connection between God and created order. Even so, Protestantism seems excessively shy of symbolic means of communication.