Friday, August 31, 2012

Need Proof that Lutherans are Iconoclasts?

Give this a listen. 

Now, I don't know how mainstream or accepted Pr. Curtis' viewpoint is on the subject of the depiction of images and their use in the liturgical life of the church, but considering that this program aired on a station that is aligned with the LCMS, I'm sure it has some official imprimatur.  Essentially, Pr. Curtis disagrees with the way that iconoclasm arose and was implemented throughout mainly the confines of the Eastern Roman Empire (i.e. Byzantine Empire), but agrees with their overall intent.  Images can be worshipped and since they can be abused and misused, they must, therefore, be removed or only used as pictures of art for strictly education purposes, but never used as devotional objects for a deeper spiritual relationship with the Lord.  This is really quite fascinating since the Lutheran Confessions subscribe to the canons of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, because (quia) they agree with the Scriptures not insofar (quatenus) as they agree with the Scriptures.

This is nothing more than gnostic dualism, a total disregard for the material world as something evil and that the body, the flesh have no role in repentance or in our salvation.  Of the five senses, Lutherans only will allow one in worship:  that of hearing which comes from an overreaching interpretation of the passages in the Gospels that faith comes from hearing.  Given the propensity of Lutherans to define everything in strict categories, I'm sure that some Lutheran theologians have wanted to insert the German word allein after those passages as Luther did with Romans 3:28.

This just proves that as much as the LCMS is trying to reassert some degree of its confessionalism, it is picking and choosing from its tradition.  Quite unfortunate.


  1. Chris,

    First, where do you find the Lutheran Confessions saying ANYTHING about the seven ecumenical councils? I'm not aware of it.

    Second, the position in the West has classically been to interpret the 7th Ecumenical in line with St. Gregory the Great's words about images:

    For indeed it had been reported to us that, inflamed with inconsiderate zeal, thou hadst broken images of saints, as though under the plea that they ought not to be adored8 . And indeed in that thou forbadest them to be adored, we altogether praise thee; but we blame thee for having broken them. Say, brother, what priest has ever been heard of as doing what thou hast done? If nothing else, should not even this thought have restrained thee, so as not to despise other brethren, supposing thyself only to be holy and wise? For to adore a picture is one thing, but to learn through the story of a picture what is to be adored is another. For what writing presents to readers, this a picture presents to the unlearned who behold, since in it even the ignorant see what they ought to follow; in it the illiterate read. Hence, and chiefly to the nations9 , a picture is instead of reading. And this ought to have been attended to especially by thee who livest among the nations, lest, while inflamed inconsiderately by a right zeal, thou shouldest breed offence to savage minds. And, seeing that antiquity has not without reason admitted the histories of saints to be painted in venerable places, if thou hadst seasoned zeal with discretion, thou mightest undoubtedly have obtained what thou wert aiming at, and not scattered the collected flock, but rather gathered together a scattered one; that so the deserved renown of a shepherd might have distinguished thee, instead of the blame of being a scatterer lying upon thee. But from having acted inconsiderately on the impulse of thy feelings thou art said to have so offended thy children that the greatest part of them have suspended themselves from thy communion. When, then, wilt thou bring wandering sheep to the Lord's fold, not being able to retain those thou hast? Henceforth we exhort thee that thou study even now to be careful, and restrain thyself from this presumption, and make haste, with fatherly sweetness, with all endeavour, with all earnestness, to recall to thyself the minds of those whom thou findest to be disjoined from thee.

    For the dispersed children of the Church must be called together, and it must he shewn then by testimonies of sacred Scripture that it is not lawful for anything made with hands to be adored, since it is written, Thou shalt adore the Lord thy God, and him only shalt serve (Luke iv. 8). And then, with regard to the pictorial representations which bad been made for the edification of an unlearned people in order that, though ignorant of letters, they might by turning their eyes to the story itself learn what had been done, it must be added that, because thou hadst seen these come to be adored, thou hadst been so moved as to order them to be broken. And it must be said to them, If for this instruction for which images were anciently made you wish to have them in the church, I permit them by all means both to be made and to be had. And explain to them that it was not the sight itself of the story which the picture was hanging to attest that displeased thee, but the adoration which had been improperly paid to the pictures. And with such words appease thou their minds; recall them to agreement with thee And if any one should wish to make images, by no means prohibit him, but by all means forbid the adoration of images. But let thy Fraternity carefully admonish them that from the sight of the event portrayed they should catch the ardour of compunction, and bow themselves down in adoration of the One Almighty Holy Trinity. Book XI, Epistle 1 – NPNF.

    Obviously Lutherans retained the practice of adorning their churches and their homes with images, a fact I'm sure you are aware of. How you can then depict them as iconclasts is something I do not understand.

    1. Fr. Will,

      While still in the LCMS, I went to a catechism class to brush up on my faith (to find out that what I believed in was in conflict with Lutheranism) and when the subject of the councils came up, my priest, Fr. Hauser (I'm not sure if he is still attached to Lamb of God Lutheran Church in Papillion, NE; he was in the reserves and was activated), said that Lutherans accepted all seven councils because (quia) they agree with Scripture. I probably should have pressed further by asking for the reference, but that is what I was taught and Fr. Hauser was not any person who would like to me. You'd like him, Fr. WIll; he's a confessinalist in your stripe.

      To your third point (I'll address the second momentarily), did you listen to Pr. Curtis' program? He agreed with the intent of the iconoclasts though he disagreed with how the policy was implemented. He was definitely in the iconoclast camp, citing Chemnitz along the way. Your argument is with him, not with me. Don't kill the messenger. Also, most Lutheran churches are so devoid of images (even crucifixes are in great short supply) and more resemble concert halls that I sometimes wondered growing up in the church if Lutherans in this country had any artistic aesthetic at all. At the same time, to insist on icons' value as strictly pedagogical is not consistent with their historical use. You can't argue with history even though you and others like St. Pope Gregory the Great and Martin Chemnitz may insist otherwise.

      To the second point, the use of our images in the spiritual life of the Orthodox and even in the western churches before the schism is well attested and and an ancient practice. The iconoclasts were and are heretics. We do not worship images. We worship God and honour His Saints. Just because people like you CANNOT tell the difference between worship and veneration with our use of icons is not the standard by which we determine our lex orandi, lex credendi. I can quote the fathers too (especially as the Orthodox is the Church of the Fathers) and i refer to you, once again, St. Basil the Great:the honour given to the image is transferred to its prototype. I also refer to you to my patron saint, John Damascenos: I do not worship matter; I worship the Creator of matter who became matter for my sake, who willed to take His abode in matter; who worked out my salvation through matter. Never will I cease honouring the matter which wrought my salvation. I honour it, but not as God.

      I notice that you did not address the issue of Lutherans being gnostics when it comes to the faith. If all five of the senses cannot be used in worship of the God who is Thenanthropos, then it was surely a mistake for him to become man. Man is more than just intellect or a pair of ears. The Lutheran insistence is on making everything on the faith dependent solely on hearing and on text. The excising of art from Lutheran churches for any spiritual purpose, especially in this country, is the influence of Calvinism. That has yet to be addressed across the board in the LCMS. Again, if the LCMS wants to return to its Confessional roots, then it cannot be pickers and choosers.