Friday, June 09, 2006

A Dialectical Defense of Iconography

Since nothing especially important is on my mind at the moment, and since I will have wasted my time creating this blog if I do not begin to post some ideas, the following is a recent reflection on the possibility of a dialectical refutation of the charge of idolatry sometimes made again the Byzantine icon of Christ.

It seems that the genus ‘idol’ (taken in the literal sense of an artistic expression of deity which necessarily falsifies what it represents rather than in the analogously moral sense of any object of inordinate desire) can be divided into two species: (1) a true image of a false god or (2) a false image of the true God. The categories ‘false of image of a false god’ and ‘true image of the true God’ are inadequate for the reasons that the former is unintelligible and the latter would - by definition - not be an idol.

The sacred image of the God Jesus Christ fits neither of these two definitions. With respect to the first, it cannot be held that the sacred image of Christ is an image of a false god. This would be a denial of his divinity. With respect to the second, it cannot be held that the sacred image of Christ is a false image of the true God. This would be a denial of his humanity. Christ, according to orthodox belief, is fully human. Consequently, his human nature is as imitable as our own. Art can express the true form of God the Son in his humanity without falsifying it. The only definition that can be given to the icon of Christ is that of a true image of the true God.

Is seems therefore, on the basis of this observation, that there is neither a specific nor a general common definition of idol and icon.

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