Friday, June 09, 2006

Are Western Christians Iconodules? Part II


John Calvin in the Institutes of the Christian Religion Bk. 1, chp. 11 refutes the use of sacred images without making reference to the main patristic argument put forward for their defense by St. John Damascene. He shows no awareness of the argument from the incarnation of the divine image of God the Father (Colossians 1:15). Does this reflect the absence of such an argument in the published Romanist controversial literature of the time? Calvin attacks specifically the pedagogical rational for the use of sacred images. If such a powerful critic of late medieval Catholicism leaves out a refutation of the principle patristic argument for the sacred image, is it reasonable to assume that a theology of images of this type did not exist in the Western tradition up to that time? Or more generally, was the christological foundation for iconography even a part of Western consciousness up to the time of the Reformation?

8 comments:

dmartin said...

If this is true, then one has to wonder if Calvinists of our day has the ecclesiastical mindset to rethink this issue. If Calvin purposely or inadvertantly did not respond, the one cannot take his criticisms as seriously. But he was dealing with arguments in a time when the Fathers were adherred to and Tradition was seen as infallible (to a certain extent anyway), so it was tougher to overcome that thought. Today, it is easy enough for a Calvinist to simply blow off the argument and not care about Tradition or Church Fathers.

Thomas said...

D. Martin - I wonder what awareness there is among the Reformed of the ancient Christological reason for the icon. I have not run across it in their literature. Is there a Reformed refutation of it?

jbrim said...

thomas - I can't speak to the whole Reformed tradition but many modern Calvinists are aware of and accept the logic of St John. Yet only to a point. They will say while it is ok to create an image, under no circumstances is that image to be venerated in any way. It is merely and image and to venerate it amounts to idolatry.

Thomas said...

jbrim - Hey! Good to hear from you. The Orthodox sometimes take exception to St. Thomas' view of the worship of the image (“Whether the image of Christ should be adored with the adoration of "latria"?”, ST III,.q.25,a.3). The Reformed objection might then differ depending upon whose iconology they are refuting.

jbrim said...

thomas - Good to hear from you too.

You may well be right about that. However, I wonder...IMHO...if the Reformed, in general, even have the motivation to care about such a distinction?

I hope my comment is not too uncharitable. It has just been my experience that the Reformed simply do not look beyond their own tradition for answers.

jbrim said...

And when Calvinists DO look beyond the Reformed tradition, they find the Apostolic Tradition and end up converting to one or another of the Apostolic Churches.

lexorandi2 said...

Hey, looks like I stumbled into a meeting of the ex-Calvinist club! ;-)

Hope y'all are doing okay. Tom, keep up the good work. I'll be checking in from time to time.

Blessings,
Dr. D

Thomas said...

lexorandi2 - Thanks. You have inspired me to write a blog on "What I like about John Calvin". As a Thomist, I can't help admiring the unity and order of his thought, even if it suffers from certain diseases in late medieval philosophy.