Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Unity Of The One True Church

Life for the Christian used to be so much simpler. Everybody was Eastern Orthodox (except for the people who weren't). There were no significant disagreements, like when one Baptist denomination celebrates communion less often than another Baptist denomination. If we were living 1500 years ago, everybody would be like Orthodox. Take Epiphanius, the bishop of Salamis, for example:

"Moreover, I have heard that certain persons have this grievance against me: When I accompanied you to the holy place called Bethel, there to join you in celebrating the Collect, after the use of the Church, I came to a villa called Anablatha and, as I was passing, saw a lamp burning there. Asking what place it was, and learning it to be a church, I went in to pray, and found there a curtain hanging on the doors of the said church, dyed and embroidered. It bore an image either of Christ or of one of the saints; I do not rightly remember whose the image was. Seeing this, and being loth that an image of a man should be hung up in Christ's church contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures, I tore it asunder and advised the custodians of the place to use it as a winding sheet for some poor person. They, however, murmured, and said that if I made up my mind to tear it, it was only fair that I should give them another curtain in its place. As soon as I heard this, I promised that I would give one, and said that I would send it at once. Since then there has been some little delay, due to the fact that I have been seeking a curtain of the best quality to give to them instead of the former one, and thought it right to send to Cyprus for one. I have now sent the best that I could find, and I beg that you will order the presbyter of the place to take the curtain which I have sent from the hands of the Reader, and that you will afterwards give directions that curtains of the other sort--opposed as they are to our religion--shall not be hung up in any church of Christ. A man of your uprightness should be careful to remove an occasion of offence unworthy alike of the Church of Christ and of those Christians who are committed to your charge." (Jerome's Letter 51:9)

16 comments:

  1. Thank goodness the early Church recognized the authority of a General council to resolve these differences of opinion, just like there was a dispute in Acts 15, and yet the council, led by James (who was not an apostle) was able to resolve it.

    And despite Epiphanius' offence, the baptist church around the corner from me has many pictures of Christ, the apostles and his life, pulled out of some calendar, hanging on the walls in their lunch room. So I guess that idea never gained much credence.

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  2. Orthodox writes:

    "Thank goodness the early Church recognized the authority of a General council to resolve these differences of opinion, just like there was a dispute in Acts 15, and yet the council, led by James (who was not an apostle) was able to resolve it."

    First of all, you're not being consistent. Earlier, you argued that there was only one denomination in the first millennium (the behavior of men like Epiphanius suggests otherwise, and you've given us no reason to agree with your assertion), you dismissed those who disagreed with Eastern Orthodox teaching during that time as "heretics" and such (which Epiphanius wasn't), and you referred to even minor disagreements among Protestants as unacceptable (Epiphanius' disagreement with you isn't minor).

    Second, you've claimed that the veneration of images was an apostolic tradition always held by the church. You claimed that the earliest bishops accepted it. Why would an apostolic tradition always held by the church and accepted by the bishops, like Epiphanius, be opposed by Epiphanius and need to be "resolved" by a later council?

    Third, you've repeatedly claimed, including in a post you put up yesterday, that your denomination is different from others in that it's always taught the same things. But if the veneration of images wasn't being taught early on, but instead had to be "resolved" by means of something like the Second Council of Nicaea, then on what basis are we supposed to conclude that your denomination has always taught the same things?

    Fourth, your use of Acts 15 has been refuted. You left the discussion without interacting with my last response to your claims about that passage. Repeating your initial assertion, without interacting with those later responses, doesn't make sense. As we've explained to you repeatedly, we accept the events of Acts 15 on the basis of apostolic authority. Paul refers to James as an apostle (Galatians 1:19), but even if we were to reject his apostolic status, the fact would remain that the events of Acts 15 had apostolic approval. Thus, we have reason to accept Acts 15 as apostolic, whereas we have no reason to accept something like Second Nicaea, a council that approved the veneration of images, as apostolic. Telling us that James wasn't an apostle does nothing to refute our view of Acts 15, and it does nothing to establish the alleged authority of Second Nicaea.

    Fifth, where has your denomination interpreted Acts 15 for you? Or are you relying on a personal judgment about the passage?

    Notice Orthodox's ignorance of scripture. He claims that his denomination gave us the Bible, yet he knows so little about the Bible and repeatedly misrepresents it. This is the same man (assuming that he's old enough for that description) who commented, in a thread about prayers to the deceased, that he wasn't aware of any Biblical examples of a living Christian asking another living Christian for prayer. He needed me to give him an example.

    You write:

    "And despite Epiphanius' offence, the baptist church around the corner from me has many pictures of Christ, the apostles and his life, pulled out of some calendar, hanging on the walls in their lunch room. So I guess that idea never gained much credence."

    It wasn't just "Epiphanius' offense". As I documented in an earlier post you never responded to, opposition to the veneration of images is widespread among the patristic Christians of the ante-Nicene era. Even as late as the fourth century, which was a sort of transitional timeframe leading to the later popularity of the veneration of images, we still find opposition to the veneration of images in sources like the synod of Elvira, Lactantius, Eusebius of Caesarea, and Epiphanius. I cited the Eastern Orthodox patristic scholar John McGuckin affirming that there was widespread opposition to the veneration of images among the earliest patristic Christians. Just as Steve Hays has cited Eastern Orthodox scholars reaching conclusions that you reject, so have I. You frequently give us no evidence for your assertions, yet you expect us to accept the unsupported assertions of an anonymous Eastern Orthodox layman over the conclusions of Eastern Orthodox scholarship.

    And you're ignoring something else I explained to you earlier. I don't oppose the use of images. As I told you, people have held a variety of views on the subject of the veneration of images, and I hold a mediating position between the two alternatives you're suggesting. People can oppose both the use and the veneration of images, but some people only oppose their veneration, not their use, and would define improper veneration in a relatively narrow manner. Some patristic sources opposed even the use of images. Others accepted their use, but opposed some form of veneration of images. And others accepted both their use and their veneration. I, as an Evangelical, have no obligation to agree with Epiphanius' view in order to cite him against your claims.

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  3. >you dismissed those who disagreed with Eastern
    >Orthodox teaching during that time as "heretics"
    >and such (which Epiphanius wasn't), and you
    >referred to even minor disagreements among
    >Protestants as unacceptable (Epiphanius'
    >disagreement with you isn't minor).

    That's a total mischaracterization of what I said. As for the disagreements, the point is that the Church was working them out as and when they arose, as apposed to Protestants who just accumulate them, their number ever increasing.

    >Second, you've claimed that the veneration of
    >images was an apostolic tradition always held by
    >the church. You claimed that the earliest bishops
    >accepted it. Why would an apostolic tradition
    >always held by the church and accepted by the
    >bishops, like Epiphanius, be opposed by
    >Epiphanius and need to be "resolved" by a later
    >council?

    I never claimed that every bishop knows everything. Back to reductio absurdum again.

    And while I suggested that the permissibility of veneration utilizing images was apostolic, it is not necessary to Orthodoxy that his must be so. It is enough that the apostles taught a theology that inevitably leads to the conclusion that veneration using images is permissible. The apostles surely didn't teach that "God exists as three persons in one substance", yet their teaching leads us to that conclusion, and the councils confirm it.

    >But if the veneration of images wasn't being
    >taught early on, but instead had to be "resolved" >by means of something like the Second Council
    >of Nicaea, then on what basis are we supposed
    >to conclude that your denomination has always
    >taught the same things?

    So would it be your position that the earliest church was not trinitarian at all?

    >Paul refers to James as an apostle (Galatians
    >1:19)

    I suggest that Paul excludes James as being an apostle in Gal 1:19, and the correct understanding is:

    "But I saw none of the other apostles, but rather the only person I saw was James the Lord’s brother."

    "the fact would remain that the events of Acts 15 had apostolic approval".

    James rendered the final judgment, and James led up the council. There is no indication from the text that apostolic approval was the key cause of authority, that is purely your protestant traditions kicking in. It has no foundation in the text at all.

    >Fifth, where has your denomination interpreted
    >Acts 15 for you? Or are you relying on a personal
    >judgment about the passage?

    For a start, Orthodoxy holds to the authority of the general councils, who rendered their verdict using the Acts 15 formula "it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us".

    >Notice Orthodox's ignorance of scripture. He
    >claims that his denomination gave us the Bible,
    >yet he knows so little about the Bible and
    >repeatedly misrepresents it.

    More foolish ad-hominem to pad out a bankrupt and empty argument.

    >People can oppose both the use and the
    >veneration of images, but some people only
    >oppose their veneration, not their use, and
    >would define improper veneration in a relatively
    >narrow manner.

    LOL, so there's many many possible positions all the way from historical iconoclasm (rejection of all images), to veneration of images, and all manner of positions in between. Apparently you have a "narrow definition" of improper veneration.

    Wow. So here's another question where protestantism cannot agree or prove a particular position. Who is to say your "narrow definition" of improper veneration isn't just a little too narrow, or not quite narrow enough? Sola scriptura fails you again.

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  4. "And while I suggested that the permissibility of veneration utilizing images was apostolic, it is not necessary to Orthodoxy that his must be so. It is enough that the apostles taught a theology that inevitably leads to the conclusion that veneration using images is permissible. The apostles surely didn't teach that "God exists as three persons in one substance", yet their teaching leads us to that conclusion, and the councils confirm it."

    Why should we believe that image veneration is apostolic when all of the church fathers up to 3rd or 4th centuries condemned it. Also, it is worthy to note that the pagans who argued against Christianity had as one of their arguments that Christianity can't be a true religion because it has "no altars, no temples, ***no acknowledged images***".

    Also, the RC and EO attempt to derive image veneration from the Incarnation is quite a stretch (not to mention laughable)! LOL, LOL, LOL!

    "So would it be your position that the earliest church was not trinitarian at all?"

    There are all sorts of references in the church fathers to the Deity and seperate Personhood of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. On the other hand, not only are there no reference to image veneration practiced by Christians in the church fathers, there is only condemnation of such a practice.

    "James rendered the final judgment, and James led up the council. There is no indication from the text that apostolic approval was the key cause of authority, that is purely your protestant traditions kicking in. It has no foundation in the text at all."

    Orthodox, like typical RC's and EO's, is committing the "false-dilemma" fallacy: either a something is infallible in order to be authoritative or it is not authoritative at all. He gives no option of something being authoritative while not being infallible.

    Also, there were many non-apostles who were given inerrant information by the Holy Spirit (e.g. prophets in the early church). James did write an inerrant book, did he not?

    "Sola scriptura fails you again."

    Sola scriptura says that everything concerning salvation and a godly life are contained in Scripture. Scripture actually leaves many things up to freedom of the conscience (Romans 14). So, if Jason and his church don't mind pictures, fine. If another church doesn't want pictures, fine. Scripture gives freedom. However, veneration breaks the 2nd commandment.

    "Sola scriptura fails you again."

    It is humorous to note that the church fathers which he constantly appeals to in order to deny sola Scriptura actually affirm the material sufficiency, perspicuity, private reading by the laity, and formal sufficiency of Scripture.

    I love internal critiques of false religions.

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  5. Orthodox said:

    "That's a total mischaracterization of what I said."

    No, it isn't. You frequently speak out of both sides of your mouth. Here's an example of a thread in which you claimed that there was only one denomination in the first millennium, claimed that even minor disagreements among Protestants are unacceptable, and claimed that the veneration of images is an apostolic tradition always held by the church:

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/03/pre-reformation-disunity.html

    More recently, you wrote:

    "We just pass on the Teachings, and we believe the same thing we did a thousand years ago." (http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/04/do-it-yourself-orthodoxy.html)

    Again, if you're going to make such claims, then you need to address the evidence I cited and the questions I asked you. Instead of addressing them, you made a vague reference to how I supposedly had misrepresented you. I didn't misrepresent you. Will you now address the issues I raised?

    You write:

    "As for the disagreements, the point is that the Church was working them out as and when they arose, as apposed to Protestants who just accumulate them, their number ever increasing."

    I gave you documentation that the veneration of images was opposed widely and by people in prominent positions as early as the second century. Celsus, who wrote his treatise against Christianity in the second century, took note of it, as I documented in an earlier post you never responded to. If there was widespread and prominent opposition to the veneration of images as early as the second century, then why would your denomination not "work it out" at that time, when it "arose", but instead wait until centuries later? If the veneration of images was an apostolic tradition always held by the church, why would bishops, like Epiphanius, oppose it? You've given us no reason to think that it was an apostolic tradition always held by the church, and you've failed to interact with the details of the evidence to the contrary. Instead, you give us vague, insufficient dismissals like the ones quoted above.

    You write:

    "I never claimed that every bishop knows everything."

    As I've documented, we have no reason to believe that your view of images was a majority view in the earliest generations, but instead the evidence suggests the opposite. It's not as if there was just one bishop living in highly unusual circumstances who wasn't aware of this alleged apostolic tradition. Even if somebody like Epiphanius had been the only one who rejected the veneration of images, you'd still have to address why he would oppose that alleged apostolic tradition always held by the church. You're the one who has claimed that all of the Christians of the first millennium were members of your denomination. You're the one who has claimed that even minor disagreements among Protestants are unacceptable. You're the one who has claimed that the veneration of images was an apostolic tradition always held by the church. If the historical evidence suggests, instead, that there was widespread opposition to the veneration of images among the earliest Christians, as non-Protestant scholars such as Ludwig Ott and John McGuckin acknowledge, then why should we believe that your unsupported assertions are true?

    You write:

    "And while I suggested that the permissibility of veneration utilizing images was apostolic, it is not necessary to Orthodoxy that his must be so. It is enough that the apostles taught a theology that inevitably leads to the conclusion that veneration using images is permissible."

    If "the permissibility of veneration utilizing images was apostolic", and your denomination was the only one in existence during the first millennium, and your denomination taught the same things in every generation, then why was there widespread opposition to the veneration of images? Why were so many Christians, including bishops, unaware of this "permissibility" you refer to?

    And why have you changed your argument? Earlier, you claimed that the veneration of images that we see in the post-Nicene era should be interpreted as proof that the ante-Nicene Christians held the same view. You told Steve Hays, as well as other people you discussed this issue with, that the ante-Nicene Christians inherited a belief in the veneration of images from Judaism. You claimed that Clement of Alexandria's comments about wearing a ring, for example, were evidence that even ante-Nicene Christians believed in the veneration of images. You dismissed the synod of Elvira as some sort of minor exception to the rule. (You never explained why the church leaders at that synod, including bishops, ruled the way they did if they were part of your denomination.) Yet, now you tell us that you're only arguing for a "permissibility" about which the church would gradually be "led" to an understanding. As I said before, you keep speaking out of both sides of your mouth.

    Here's what the Second Council of Nicaea claimed:

    "To make our confession short, we keep unchanged all the ecclesiastical traditions handed down to us, whether in writing or verbally, one of which is the making of pictorial representations, agreeable to the history of the preaching of the Gospel, a tradition useful in many respects, but especially in this, that so the incarnation of the Word of God is shown forth as real and not merely phantastic, for these have mutual indications and without doubt have also mutual significations." (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/nicea2-dec.html)

    If one of the "unchanged traditions" was "the making of pictorial representations", then the issue isn't just a concept of permissibility. Rather, an assertion is being made about an allegedly unchanging belief and practice. You're mistaken.

    Continuing from the web page cited above, we read:

    "So we all believe, we all are so minded, we all give our consent and have signed. This is the faith of the Apostles, this is the faith of the orthodox, this is the faith which hath made firm the whole world. Believing in one God, to be celebrated in Trinity, we salute the honourable images! Those who do not so hold, let them be anathema. Those who do not thus think, let them be driven far away from the Church. For we follow the most ancient legislation of the Catholic Church. We keep the laws of the Fathers. We anathematize those who add anything to or take anything away from the Catholic Church. We anathematize the introduced novelty of the revilers of Christians. We salute the venerable images. We place under anathema those who do not do this. Anathema to them who presume to apply to the venerable images the things said in Holy Scripture about idols. Anathema to those who do not salute the holy and venerable images."

    Again, the issue isn't just "permissibility".

    You write:

    "So would it be your position that the earliest church was not trinitarian at all?"

    I don't claim that my denomination is the one true church, that there was no other denomination during the first millennium, that my denomination's teachings had never changed during that time, etc. I didn't argue that the earliest Christians inherited a highly developed Trinitarian view of God from Judaism and that people like Clement of Alexandria provide us with evidence that such a highly developed view of the Trinity was always held by the church. In other words, I don't make claims about Trinitarianism comparable to your claims about the veneration of images. You can't defend your assertions about the veneration of images by asking me to defend comparable claims about the Trinity. I haven't made comparable claims.

    You write:

    "I suggest that Paul excludes James as being an apostle in Gal 1:19, and the correct understanding is: 'But I saw none of the other apostles, but rather the only person I saw was James the Lord’s brother.'"

    Why should anybody be persuaded by what you "suggest"? I'm aware of interpretations of the passage that avoid having the passage refer to James as an apostle (I'm also aware of commentators and translations from the other perspective: Ronald Fung, Ben Witherington, etc.), but asserting that you agree with such interpretations isn't enough. You've claimed that James isn't an apostle, and you've claimed that the events of Acts 15 should be accepted without apostolic approval and as evidence for your view of ecumenical councils. Telling us that you would "suggest" another interpretation of Galatians 1 doesn't get us to your conclusions.

    You write:

    "James rendered the final judgment, and James led up the council. There is no indication from the text that apostolic approval was the key cause of authority, that is purely your protestant traditions kicking in. It has no foundation in the text at all."

    As I told you in a previous discussion that you left without interacting with what I had said, Acts 15 doesn't need to refer to apostolic primacy in order for the principle to be applicable to Acts 15. Since other passages refer to apostolic primacy (1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 2:20, etc.), it makes no sense to ignore that principle in Acts 15 just because it isn't mentioned again there. The fact that James spoke last doesn't logically lead to the conclusion that the council would be equally authoritative without apostolic approval, even if we assume that James wasn't an apostle. Where's the logical connection between James' speaking last, or even his leading the council in some manner, and the conclusion you draw from that fact?

    You write:

    "For a start, Orthodoxy holds to the authority of the general councils, who rendered their verdict using the Acts 15 formula 'it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us'."

    The ecumenical councils used a lot of terms taken from scripture. It doesn't therefore follow that Eastern Orthodoxy has taught your interpretation of every passage from which an ecumenical council uses some language. Where has Eastern Orthodoxy taught the details of your interpretation of Acts 15?

    You write:

    "Who is to say your 'narrow definition' of improper veneration isn't just a little too narrow, or not quite narrow enough? Sola scriptura fails you again."

    If scripture allows us freedom on an issue or doesn't address some aspects of it, why should we think that sola scriptura has therefore "failed"? You've told us that the Eastern Orthodox rule of faith allows you freedom on issues such as which Old Testament canon to follow. Should we conclude that "the Eastern Orthodox rule of faith fails you again"?

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  6. This thread absolutley rocks. I myself was almost taken in by EO apologetics a couple of years ago. Thankfully I was able to use Reformed apologetics against RC to some degree against Orthodoxy. However, the recent stuff that has been done on EO has firmly established the absolute absurbity of EO claims. Thank you!

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  7. Could you update your Smells and Bells (EO section) in the topical index so as to include all the articles on EO?

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  8. >Why should we believe that image veneration is
    >apostolic when all of the church fathers up to 3rd
    >or 4th centuries condemned it

    All of the church fathers? Please document exactly how many church fathers we are talking about here.

    >Also, it is worthy to note that the pagans who
    >argued against Christianity had as one of their
    >arguments that Christianity can't be a true religion
    >because it has "no altars, no temples, ***no
    >acknowledged images***".

    "The pagans" ? How many pagans? Who? Where?

    >Also, the RC and EO attempt to derive image
    >veneration from the Incarnation is quite a stretch
    >(not to mention laughable)! LOL, LOL, LOL!

    I don't see it as a stretch. Imagine Christ is alive today. You can bet people would take photos of him and cherish those photos. We know that people naturally, depending on the demonstrativeness of their culture, are quite explicit and active in the cherishing photos of their family and other cherished people. If Christ was alive today, protestants would most likely naturally become venerators of images. Are you also against venerating pictures of your family?

    >Orthodox, like typical RC's and EO's, is
    >committing the "false-dilemma" fallacy: either a
    >something is infallible in order to be
    >authoritative or it is not authoritative at all. He
    >gives no option of something being authoritative
    >while not being infallible.

    If it's authoritative, you've got to follow it! If it's infallible, you've got to follow it! As far as the Christian is concerned, it makes no difference. Don't try and weasel and make something authoritative which is not an authority in your life.

    >Also, there were many non-apostles who were
    >given inerrant information by the Holy Spirit (e.g.
    >prophets in the early church). James did write an
    >inerrant book, did he not?

    Good point! Great point! Non-apostles made inerrant documents. So an objection to the authority of general councils becomes weaker and weaker.

    >Scripture actually leaves many things up to
    >freedom of the conscience (Romans 14). So, if
    >Jason and his church don't mind pictures, fine.

    Great, so Jason puts images in his church, and causes a schism within the Reformed baptists between those who agree and those who are offended. And you reckon this sola scriptura thing works??

    >However, veneration breaks the 2nd
    >commandment.

    Really. So I guess you think people like, oh say John Chrysostom was either an extremely ignorant man in not knowing what the 2nd commandment says, or else he was extremely stupid in not understanding scripture as well as someone much more learned like yourself. Which is the case? What is your position?

    >It is humorous to note that the church fathers
    >which he constantly appeals to in order to deny
    >sola Scriptura actually affirm the material
    >sufficiency, perspicuity, private reading by the
    >laity, and formal sufficiency of Scripture.

    Really. I wonder if the folks around here are up to the challenge of comparing the Church Fathers' attititude to scripture and tradtion to their own and seeing if they are more protestant or Orthodox. Or will they stay in their little ECF prooftexting cocoon?

    >I love internal critiques of false religions.

    So the church who kept the scriptures intact for you through the centuries is a "false religion". Wow.

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  9. >If there was widespread and prominent opposition
    >to the veneration of images as early as the second
    >century, then why would your denomination not
    >"work it out" at that time, when it "arose", but
    >instead wait until centuries later?

    Does this mean you conceed that the church of the 2nd century is "my denomination" ? :-)

    Why didn't they work it out then? Well they did work it out, because come a hundred years later, there is virtually no disagreement whatsoever. The fact that 400 years later someone revived an old dispute is a different issue.

    >f the veneration of images was an apostolic
    >tradition always held by the church, why would
    >bishops, like Epiphanius, oppose it?

    Probably for the same reasons that Arians opposed orthodoxy some time later. They were working from their personal interpretations and not the mind of the wider church.

    >You've given us no reason to think that it was an
    >apostolic tradition always held by the church,
    >and you've failed to interact with the details of
    >the evidence to the contrary. Instead, you give us
    >vague, insufficient dismissals like the ones
    >quoted above.

    If it's too vague for you, then I have to say a book like 2 Peter, never mentioned till the 3rd century, has had an extremely "vague" defence from yourself. But of course, you reserve the right to double standards, right? I'm Orthodox because of a need to stay consistent. Enough with the special pleading.

    >And why have you changed your argument?
    >Earlier, you claimed that the veneration of
    >images that we see in the post-Nicene era
    >should be interpreted as proof that the ante-
    >Nicene Christians held the same view. Yet, now
    >you tell us that you're only arguing for a
    >"permissibility" about which the church would
    >gradually be "led" to an understanding. As I said
    >before, you keep speaking out of both sides of
    >your mouth.

    What nonsense. Yes, I argued my position about the ancientness of the veneration of images. But it is not necessary to agree with that position to agree that Orthodoxy is true. It is also permissible to understand the church as being led into truth concerning the permissibility of icons based on the founding principles taught by the apostles. It's kind of like how Protestants have a history of understanding Sunday as the Sabbath day. Nothing in scripture says Sunday is the Sabbath, not Saturday. But protestants have long accepted the logic of making Sunday the new sabbath based on whole picture of apostolic teaching. Now the NT says nothing specifically about images, but one has to make a decision one way or the other about their permissibility.

    >If one of the "unchanged traditions" was "the
    >making of pictorial representations", then the
    >issue isn't just a concept of permissibility.

    All it says is that the people of Nicea II received a tradition of iconography, which they desired to leave unchanged. Any historian will tell you that this is a fact.

    >Anathema to those who do not salute the holy
    >and venerable images."
    >
    >Again, the issue isn't just "permissibility".

    Salute - timhtikwj, "honor". Yes, you must honor the images to be Orthodox. It will be no good if you wish to take a picture of Christ to church and stamp on it. This is not permissible. Do you wish to argue that it ought to be permissible?

    >"I suggest that Paul excludes James as being an
    >apostle in Gal 1:19, and the correct
    >understanding is: 'But I saw none of the other
    >apostles, but rather the only person I saw was
    >James the Lord’s brother.'"
    >
    >Why should anybody be persuaded by what you
    >"suggest"?

    Why should I be persuaded by your counter claim? My interpretation versus your interpretation - this is what Orthodoxy versus protestantism comes down to?

    >You've claimed that James isn't an apostle, and
    >you've claimed that the events of Acts 15 should
    >be accepted without apostolic approval and as
    >evidence for your view of ecumenical councils.

    Well I believe the historical position, and you have this new fangled denial and novel interpretation? Why is it up to me to prove you wrong? You prove me wrong.

    >Since other passages refer to apostolic primacy
    >(1 Corinthians 12:28, Ephesians 2:20, etc.), it
    >makes no sense to ignore that principle in Acts
    >15 just because it isn't mentioned again there.

    Primacy? LOL. Orthodoxy has had plenty of time discussing the issue of primacy. Primacy does not mean there is only one. Primacy simply means first, it doesn't mean there is no second or third or fourth. Primacy among equals is always the way Orthodoxy understands that idea.

    >The fact that James spoke last doesn't logically
    >lead to the conclusion that the council would be
    >equally authoritative without apostolic approval

    Of course it does. If a non-apostle can render the final judgment, then a non-apostle is speaking for an authority that is higher than the apostles - the general council. If James was lower than an apostle as you contend, then it would be like a commoner rending judgment on a discussion by emperors and kings.

    >Where has Eastern Orthodoxy taught the details
    >of your interpretation of Acts 15?

    Uh, it's pretty much the founding principle of the Orthodox Church that the Church is conciliar. I'm not sure what you are looking for. I could demonstrate that all throughout history the Church has considered the general council to be authoritative, but somehow I suspect you are aiming for some reductio absurdum argument, and aren't serious.

    >If scripture allows us freedom on an issue or
    >doesn't address some aspects of it, why should
    >we think that sola scriptura has therefore
    >"failed"? You've told us that the Eastern Orthodox
    >rule of faith allows you freedom on issues such
    >as which Old Testament canon to follow. Should
    >we conclude that "the Eastern Orthodox rule of
    >faith fails you again"?

    So by your "freedom" principle, nobody ought to be offended if I go into your church and venerate the cross, right? However if anyone is offended, now you know why your rule of faith fails, and ours has not.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Orthodox wrote:

    "Well they did work it out, because come a hundred years later, there is virtually no disagreement whatsoever. The fact that 400 years later someone revived an old dispute is a different issue."

    Again, if the veneration of images was an apostolic tradition always held by the church, and the church of the first millennium was as united as you suggested in the thread I linked to above, then why would there have been widespread opposition to the veneration of images at any point during that timeframe?

    Secondly, we see widespread opposition to the veneration of images as early as the second century. The "working out" of the issue that you refer to as occurring "a hundred years later" would therefore be in the third century. Yet, people like Origen, Lactantius, and Epiphanius continued to oppose the veneration of images in the third and fourth centuries.

    What you seem to have in mind is the support of the veneration of images among some sources of the fourth century. But other sources of the fourth century continued to oppose the practice. As I said earlier, the fourth century was something of a transitional period on this issue. How, then, can you claim that the issue was "worked out" in the fourth century? And since the fourth century is two centuries removed from the second century, not just one century removed, why should we conclude that your denomination settled the issue "when it arose"? Even if there had only been a lapse of one century, that isn't particularly fast in a context in which the belief that was being opposed allegedly was an apostolic tradition always held by the church and in a context in which your denomination supposedly is so concerned about teaching the same things at all times and everywhere. People would have been born and died in less than a century's time. Was your denomination not concerned that such people were being encouraged to accept a view of images that allegedly was the opposite of the apostolic tradition the church always held on that subject?

    Furthermore, your latest definition of what it means to "work out" an issue is different from your earlier definition. At the beginning of this thread, you wrote:

    "Thank goodness the early Church recognized the authority of a General council to resolve these differences of opinion, just like there was a dispute in Acts 15, and yet the council, led by James (who was not an apostle) was able to resolve it."

    So, where's the ecumenical council of the third century (or the fourth century, according to your erroneous calculation) that settled the issue of the veneration of images? Why was Second Nicaea needed in the eighth century if an ecumenical council had settled the matter in the third or fourth century?

    You're also changing your standards in another way. In one of our earliest discussions, you told me that a consensus of one generation can't overturn a consensus of an earlier generation. I had asked you whether we could take a poll of modern professing Christians and conclude that whatever view of the Trinity they hold is the position of the church. In order to avoid having to follow a modern consensus, you told me that such a modern consensus can't overturn a previous one. So, if we apply that same reasoning to the veneration of images, how can support for the veneration of images among some fourth century sources overturn a widespread opposition to the practice in earlier times?

    You write:

    "Probably for the same reasons that Arians opposed orthodoxy some time later. They were working from their personal interpretations and not the mind of the wider church."

    You're assuming, without evidence, the orthodoxy of your position on the veneration of images. We have many passages of scripture, in both Testaments (Isaiah 9, Romans 9, Hebrews 1, Revelation 1, etc.), that explicitly refer to the deity of Christ, the concept is taught explicitly by such early patristic sources as Ignatius of Antioch, and multiple councils were held in support of the concept in the fourth century. People like Athanasius worked within church and political circles to condemn and separate from the Arians. In contrast, your view of images is widely contradicted early on, there is no fourth century council on the subject comparable to Nicaea, and men like Epiphanius weren't treated as the Arians were treated.

    And you're once again being inconsistent. Earlier, you argued that the Christians of the first millennium were all members of your denomination, and you dismissed my documentation of disagreements among them on the basis that the disagreements were "political", were from "heretics", etc. But Epiphanius wasn't a heretic, and his disagreement with you isn't on a political matter. The same is true of other patristic sources who opposed your view of images. If people like Epiphanius were "working from their personal interpretations and not the mind of the wider church", then why should we think that they were members of your denomination? Why should we think that your beliefs represent "the mind of the wider church"? If the veneration of images was an apostolic tradition always held by the church, how could a bishop like Epiphanius be unaware of it? Why would he rely on "personal interpretation"?

    You write:

    "If it's too vague for you, then I have to say a book like 2 Peter, never mentioned till the 3rd century, has had an extremely 'vague' defence from yourself. But of course, you reserve the right to double standards, right? I'm Orthodox because of a need to stay consistent. Enough with the special pleading."

    I don't make claims about 2 Peter comparable to your claims about the veneration of images. I don't claim that all Christians of the first millennium were members of my denomination, that the one denomination everybody belonged to never changes its teachings, that the canonicity of 2 Peter was one of those teachings, etc. It's not a "double standard" for me to expect different levels of evidence for different claims.

    You write:

    "Yes, I argued my position about the ancientness of the veneration of images. But it is not necessary to agree with that position to agree that Orthodoxy is true."

    In other words, it's "not necessary" for an Eastern Orthodox to take your position on this issue. This tells us two things. It tells us that you're once again allowing Eastern Orthodox to disagree with each other in an area in which you would criticize Protestants for doing the same. And it tells us that some Eastern Orthodox hold a different position than you do. But we're not having a discussion with those other Eastern Orthodox. We're having a discussion with you.

    You write:

    "It's kind of like how Protestants have a history of understanding Sunday as the Sabbath day. Nothing in scripture says Sunday is the Sabbath, not Saturday. But protestants have long accepted the logic of making Sunday the new sabbath based on whole picture of apostolic teaching."

    I don't hold the position that Sunday is the Sabbath. And I don't make claims about Sabbath beliefs comparable to your claims about your denomination's teachings. You keep drawing false comparisons.

    You write:

    "All it says is that the people of Nicea II received a tradition of iconography, which they desired to leave unchanged."

    No, that's not all that Second Nicaea said. The council also claims that the tradition in question is apostolic, that it was always held, that the church never changes in such things. If you want to argue that the people at Second Nicaea didn't want to change the tradition, but that they weren't thereby claiming that it hadn't been changed earlier, then what would such a fact say about your claim that your denomination's teachings never change? If the view of the veneration of images could change in one generation, but the people at Second Nicaea didn't want it to change again thereafter, then what value is there in having a tradition that remains the same sometimes, but not always?

    You write:

    "Yes, you must honor the images to be Orthodox. It will be no good if you wish to take a picture of Christ to church and stamp on it. This is not permissible. Do you wish to argue that it ought to be permissible?"

    Your arguments keep changing, but earlier you said that the issue was whether it's permissible to venerate images. I documented the fact that the Second Council of Nicaea does more than just claim that the practice is permissible. You now acknowledge that "you must honor the images". That's not just an issue of permissibility. Somebody like Epiphanius isn't just permitted to venerate images if he wants to. Rather, here's what Second Nicaea says about people like Epiphanius if they behave as he did:

    "Those who do not so hold, let them be anathema. Those who do not thus think, let them be driven far away from the Church. For we follow the most ancient legislation of the Catholic Church. We keep the laws of the Fathers. We anathematize those who add anything to or take anything away from the Catholic Church. We anathematize the introduced novelty of the revilers of Christians. We salute the venerable images. We place under anathema those who do not do this. Anathema to them who presume to apply to the venerable images the things said in Holy Scripture about idols. Anathema to those who do not salute the holy and venerable images." (http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/nicea2-dec.html)

    And you haven't proven that "saluting" images only means something like not trampling them under foot. There was more involved in the historical context of Nicaea than just refraining from damaging images. As the historian Philip Schaff notes:

    "The decree was fortified by a few Scripture passages about the Cherubim (Ex. 25:17–22; Ezek. 41:1, 15, 19; Heb. 9:1–5), and a large number of patristic testimonies, genuine and forged, and alleged miracles performed by images. A presbyter testified that he was cured from a severe sickness by a picture of Christ....At the request of one of the Roman delegates, an image was brought into the assembly, and reverently kissed by all....Then follows an anathema upon other distinguished iconoclasts, and all who do not confess that Christ’s humanity has a circumscribed form, who do not greet the images, who reject the ecclesiastical traditions, written or unwritten" (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc4.i.x.xi.html)

    If they were kissing an image and condemning those who don't "greet" images, then they weren't just thinking about refraining from doing damage to images. They had more in mind than that. Your suggestion that "saluting" images is just a reference to not doing something like trampling them is erroneous. If they command that images be saluted, then they aren't just saying that it's "permissible" to salute them.

    You write:

    "Why should I be persuaded by your counter claim? My interpretation versus your interpretation - this is what Orthodoxy versus protestantism comes down to?"

    Yes, we all rely on historical judgments. You didn't know that? If you disapprove of it, then why did you present your own interpretations of Acts 15, Galatians 1, etc.?

    And I didn't just present my interpretation. I cited some examples of scholars who disagree with your interpretation of Galatians 1. I also explained that it isn't enough for you to argue for your interpretation of that passage. Even if we accepted that interpretation, your conclusions about Acts 15 and ecumenical councils wouldn't follow.

    You write:

    "Well I believe the historical position, and you have this new fangled denial and novel interpretation?"

    You've never documented that your view is "the historical position".

    You write:

    "Primacy simply means first, it doesn't mean there is no second or third or fourth. Primacy among equals is always the way Orthodoxy understands that idea."

    As I explained to you before, Protestants don't deny that there are other authorities in the Christian life, such as church leaders, parents, and government officials. But there's a hierarchy within that authority structure (Acts 4:19). If a fourth century bishop or twenty-first century council, for example, contradicts an apostle, we're to follow the apostle. No Protestant denies that James would have had some authority even if he hadn't been an apostle. But your claim that non-apostles are "equals" to the apostles in terms of authority is erroneous. You aren't just disagreeing with Protestants on this issue. You're also disagreeing with the many patristic sources who also said that they and other non-apostles had less authority than the apostles. The fact that James participated in the events of Acts 15 doesn't prove that non-apostles have authority equal to that of the apostles, much less does it prove that your denomination's hierarchy has such authority.

    You write:

    "If a non-apostle can render the final judgment, then a non-apostle is speaking for an authority that is higher than the apostles - the general council. If James was lower than an apostle as you contend, then it would be like a commoner rending judgment on a discussion by emperors and kings."

    First of all, you haven't proven that James wasn't an apostle. Second, there's a difference between "rendering the final judgment" chronologically and doing so authoritatively. The fact that James spoke last among those whose speaking is mentioned doesn't prove that he had equal or greater authority than the people who spoke before him. And your comparison to "commoners" with "emperors and kings" is misleading, since there are many people between those positions. James was an elder, not just a layman. Even if we assume that he wasn't an apostle, he did have a position of authority in the most prominent of the early churches.

    As I told you before (you keep ignoring what you're told), we see the apostles working with people of lesser authority in other contexts. Paul sometimes writes his letters, which are scripture, in the name of another person as well or in the name of multiple other people (1 Corinthians 1:1, etc.). Does it therefore follow that all of these people had as much authority as Paul, and that all letters written by such people in future generations would be scripture? You would reject your reasoning about Acts 15 if we applied it in such other circumstances. You're being selective without justification for that selectivity. You claim that the authority of a council of apostles, elders, and "the whole church" (Acts 15:22) can be transferred to later councils that don't involve apostles and define "the whole church" differently. You keep asserting that the transfer is valid, but you never justify it, and you don't make a comparable transfer in similar contexts, such as 1 Corinthians 1:1. If Paul can work with his "brother" Sosthenes without Sosthenes' being an apostle and without future writings of "brothers" being considered just as authoritative as Paul's letters, then Paul can work with James without James thereby being considered a non-apostle with equal authority as the apostles and without your ecumenical councils thereby having as much authority as Acts 15.

    You write:

    "Uh, it's pretty much the founding principle of the Orthodox Church that the Church is conciliar. I'm not sure what you are looking for."

    Eastern Orthodoxy can believe that "the Church is conciliar" without doing so on the basis of your reading of Acts 15. Again, I'm asking you for documentation that Eastern Orthodoxy has interpreted the details of Acts 15 in the manner you have. Or is it your personal interpretation, sort of like the personal interpretations of Epiphanius regarding the veneration of images?

    You write:

    "So by your 'freedom' principle, nobody ought to be offended if I go into your church and venerate the cross, right? However if anyone is offended, now you know why your rule of faith fails, and ours has not."

    Once again, we see your ignorance of scripture. Sometimes people are allowed freedom on matters that would offend some people (Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8). If freedom is to be considered unacceptable if that freedom might offend some people, then what about the disagreements that exist among Eastern Orthodox? Those disagreements offend some people, as the disputes among Eastern Orthodox demonstrate. Steve Hays has documented some examples. Apparently, then, your rule of faith "fails" by your own standards.

    And, as is so often the case, your latest standards are different from your earlier ones. Previously, you objected to allowing freedom on some issues on the basis that we therefore wouldn't know which position is correct. When I explained that Eastern Orthodox also allow freedom on some issues, you changed your argument to the one quoted above.

    ReplyDelete
  11. >Again, if the veneration of images was an apostolic
    >tradition always held by the church, and the church
    >of the first millennium was as united as you
    >suggested in the thread I linked to above, then why
    >would there have been widespread opposition to
    >the veneration of images at any point during that
    >timeframe?

    Why would there be Arians if the bible so clearly teaches the full deity of Christ? The question is foolish, as if the Church must reach some standard of empirical perfection before you will believe in it, but by the same standard of judgment the bible fails.

    >Secondly, we see widespread opposition to the
    >veneration of images as early as the second
    >century.

    You're overreaching. One or two quotations does not prove anything is "widespread". And any quote that actually opposes it shows that it actually existed.

    >Yet, people like Origen, Lactantius, and
    >Epiphanius continued to oppose the veneration
    >of images in the third and fourth centuries.

    Big whoop, a handful of people oppose it, and a great cloud of witnesses support it.

    >As I said earlier, the fourth century was
    >something of a transitional period on this issue.

    So you claim, but the hand full of quotations is not sufficient data for you to draw that conclusion.

    >And since the fourth century is two centuries
    >removed from the second century, not just one
    >century removed, why should we conclude that
    >your denomination settled the issue "when it
    >arose"?

    You assume that two or three or four voices of opposition represents a level of disent that is of any consequence.

    >Furthermore, your latest definition of what it
    >means to "work out" an issue is different from
    >your earlier definition. At the beginning of this
    >thread, you wrote:

    ????

    I never said that general councils are the only way that problems are resolved. Often those in the wrong just fade away.

    >So, if we apply that same reasoning to the
    >veneration of images, how can support for the
    >veneration of images among some fourth
    >century sources overturn a widespread
    >opposition to the practice in earlier times?

    Because there was no widespread opposition. A handful of voices in the catholic church does not constitute widespread opposition. Yes you can pull out your favourite hobby horse quotes that are opposed to images in the period, but the archeological evidence shows conclusively that these voices of opposition were in the minority.

    >multiple councils were held in support of the
    >concept in the fourth century. People like
    >Athanasius worked within church and political
    >circles to condemn and separate from the Arians.
    >In contrast, your view of images is widely
    >contradicted early on,

    All your favourite voices in these councils in favour of the trinity were also in favour of veneration of images. You mention Athanasius. I get the feeling that Athanasius is kind of hero (dare I say "saint") in protestant circles. He ie readily quoted on the trinity, and venerated due to his heroic opposition to the Arians. He is frequently referred to as the first to list the NT canon. But he also supported veneration of images. Now how consistent is it of you to be talking approvingly of these fourth century people in fourth century councils, who apparently were in a false church, judging by the vitriolic attitude you have towards those who are Orthodox.

    >I don't make claims about 2 Peter comparable to
    >your claims about the veneration of images. I
    >don't claim that all Christians of the first
    >millennium were members of my denomination,
    >that the one denomination everybody belonged
    >to never changes its teachings, that the
    >canonicity of 2 Peter was one of those teachings,
    >etc.

    More avoidance of the issues. The point is, they didn't know in the 3rd century if 2 Peter was apostolic. By the 4th century, most thought it was, but many didn't. By perhaps the 5th, all accepted it. Either you trust the mind of the 4th and 5th century Church, or you do not. If you do, you know if 2 Peter is scripture. If you don't, then you have no idea, and you can't rightfully stand up in church and preach from that book lest you be teaching heresy.

    >In other words, it's "not necessary" for an Eastern
    >Orthodox to take your position on this issue.
    >This tells us two things. It tells us that you're
    >once again allowing Eastern Orthodox to
    >disagree with each other in an area in which you
    >would criticize Protestants for doing the same.

    Nonsense. The fine details of history is not a dogma. Not everything is a dogma. This whole you are the same as me stuff isn't washing because you know full well you won't join a Presbyterian church because of doctrine.

    >I don't hold the position that Sunday is the
    >Sabbath.

    Right, because the jelly like amoeba that is protestantism, isn't the same as it was a hundred years ago.

    >No, that's not all that Second Nicaea said. The
    >council also claims that the tradition in question
    >is apostolic, that it was always held, that the
    >church never changes in such things.

    It doesn't say that.

    >If you want to argue that the people at Second
    >Nicaea didn't want to change the tradition, but
    >that they weren't thereby claiming that it hadn't
    >been changed earlier, then what would such a
    >fact say about your claim that your
    >denomination's teachings never change?

    The dogmas never change. The outpouring and expression of those truths can change.

    >If the view of the veneration of images could
    >change in one generation, but the people at
    >Second Nicaea didn't want it to change again
    >thereafter, then what value is there in having a
    >tradition that remains the same sometimes, but
    >not always?

    I never said that the view on veneration of images could change. What I said was, it is possible to be Orthodox and subscribe to the understanding that the unchanging teachings of the apostles can be applied in a later period to a question that was hitherto unresolved in an earlier period.

    >Your arguments keep changing, but earlier you
    >said that the issue was whether it's permissible
    >to venerate images. I documented the fact that
    >the Second Council of Nicaea does more than
    >just claim that the practice is permissible. You
    >now acknowledge that "you must honor the
    >images". That's not just an issue of
    >permissibility. Somebody like Epiphanius isn't
    >just permitted to venerate images if he wants to.

    Well, you're confusing honoring images with venerating images. Admittedly the difference is not much, but Nicea never makes veneration mandatory, only honoring. That means you can't dishonor the images, you can't stamp on an image of Christ. But you are not required to actively venerate the image. Of course, in an Orthodox mind, it makes little difference anyway. If you don't want to stamp on an image of Christ, you must venerate the image. Do you want to stamp on an image of Christ?

    >There was more involved in the historical context
    >of Nicaea than just refraining from damaging
    >images.

    The historical context is not part of the dogmatic formula of the general council.

    >Your suggestion that "saluting" images is just a
    >reference to not doing something like trampling
    >them is erroneous. If they command that images
    >be saluted, then they aren't just saying that it's
    >"permissible" to salute them.

    Look up the Greek. It isn't the word for veneration. Yes the council says that the images are venerable, but it doesn't make veneration mandatory, it makes honoring the images mandatory. Yes, you must honor them and not dishonor them. What is your stance, do you want to honor or dishonor them? Make it plain what your position is.

    >You've never documented that your view is "the
    >historical position".

    I don't know how anyone can claim to be a student of the history of the church and not realise that the general councils claimed the very highest authority just like Acts 15 did. And if they claimed the authority Acts 15 did, how do YOU think they interpreted Acts 15? It doesn't take a genius to figure out.

    "What God has spoken by the council of Nice, abides forever." - Athanasius

    "The Lord Jesus Christ, whom he has blasphemed, determines through this most holy council." - Council of Ephesus.

    "irretractabilis consensus" - Pope Leo on Chalcedon.

    >If a fourth century bishop or twenty-first century
    >council, for example, contradicts an apostle,
    >we're to follow the apostle.

    So do we.

    >First of all, you haven't proven that James wasn't
    >an apostle.

    There is other evidence that seems to exclude James as an apostle: 1 Cor 9:5 and 15:7.

    >No Protestant denies that James would have had
    >some authority even if he hadn't been an apostle.

    The authority he exercised was to pronounce judgment on the apostles.

    >But your claim that non-apostles are "equals" to
    >the apostles in terms of authority is erroneous.

    So I guess you wouldn't have done what Paul did and rebuked Peter? That's a shame, because you would have let Peter wallow in sin.

    What gave Paul the right to rebuke Peter is not that he was an apostle, but rather that Peter was at variance with the faith of the Church. A general council is simply a way of codifying the faith of the church. The faith of the church trumps an individual apostle. No apostle was willing to bring judgment on the Acts 15 issue. Rather they gathered the elders first in council before judging, and it wasn't an apostle that sealed the deal.

    >You're also disagreeing with the many patristic
    >sources who also said that they and other non-
    >apostles had less authority than the apostles.

    Individual bishops had less authority than an apostle. General councils of the Church have more authority.

    >Those disagreements offend some people, as the
    >disputes among Eastern Orthodox demonstrate.
    >Steve Hays has documented some examples.

    What Hays has documented has nothing to do with the faith.

    >Previously, you objected to allowing freedom on
    >some issues on the basis that we therefore
    >wouldn't know which position is correct. When I
    >explained that Eastern Orthodox also allow
    >freedom on some issues, you changed your
    >argument to the one quoted above.

    It won't wash, because Orthodox truely accept any of our differing practices. The same can't be said of Protestants and the issues they disagree on.

    ReplyDelete
  12. And I'm sure that doesn't have any effect on the "unity" you have.

    What if Protestants started "accepting" each other's differences?

    ReplyDelete
  13. Orthodox writes:

    "Why would there be Arians if the bible so clearly teaches the full deity of Christ? The question is foolish, as if the Church must reach some standard of empirical perfection before you will believe in it, but by the same standard of judgment the bible fails."

    You're comparing a book to a denomination. You don't recognize the relevant differences?

    If there was one worldwide denomination that every Christian belonged to, and that denomination possessed and was venerating images and was teaching people to do so, then how would somebody like Epiphanius not realize that he should be venerating images? Was he not Eastern Orthodox? Did his teachers tell him about other apostolic traditions, but repeatedly failed to mention the veneration of images? Why didn't the denomination he belonged to, supposedly your denomination, discipline him? As you told us before, your denomination is supposed to settle these issues when they arise, particularly through ecumenical councils. But there was no such settling of the issue in response to any of the earliest opponents of the veneration of images.

    Advocates of an infallible church frequently tell us about the advantages that such a system of authority would have in principle over following an infallible book as our rule of faith. Yet, when your allegedly infallible church fails to produce the results we would expect, you compare it to the Bible, as if we shouldn't expect it to do any more than the Bible does in instructing people, disciplining them, etc.

    You write:

    "One or two quotations does not prove anything is 'widespread'."

    I provided more than "one or two quotations". And the non-Protestant scholars I cited, including the Eastern Orthodox patristic scholar John McGuckin, refer to more than "one or two quotations". In an earlier discussion, you told me that you couldn't find the material I had written on early patristic opposition to the veneration of images. I gave you a link to the relevant article, but you didn't respond. Have you even read my material on the subject? If you have read it, why would you erroneously claim that I only provide "one or two quotations"?

    You write:

    "And any quote that actually opposes it shows that it actually existed."

    If the veneration of images existed among pagans or heretics, for example, then how does that support your position? And why would something have to exist in practice in order for it to be opposed? Why can't a source oppose something in principle without first encountering it in practice?

    You write:

    "I never said that general councils are the only way that problems are resolved."

    Your first post in this thread opens with an appeal to ecumenical councils. You wrote:

    "Thank goodness the early Church recognized the authority of a General council to resolve these differences of opinion, just like there was a dispute in Acts 15, and yet the council, led by James (who was not an apostle) was able to resolve it."

    Why would you appeal to an ecumenical council to settle "these differences" if "these differences" were settled in some other way instead? Are you saying that the issue was settled in one way at one time, then needed to be settled again at an ecumenical council centuries later? If the later ecumenical council was needed, then why should we think that what happened earlier "resolved" the matter? If, instead, it was "resolved" in the eighth century ecumenical council, then why should we believe your claim that your denomination settles these issues when they arise? There was opposition to the veneration of images long before the eighth century. Why didn't your denomination "resolve" the issue before then?

    You write:

    "Yes you can pull out your favourite hobby horse quotes that are opposed to images in the period, but the archeological evidence shows conclusively that these voices of opposition were in the minority."

    I've already explained why your appeal to "archeological evidence" is erroneous. Again, the use of images isn't the same as the veneration of images. And how do you know the identity and orthodoxy of the people who used the images in question? You dismiss the testimony of bishops like Eusebius of Caesarea and Epiphanius, yet you appeal to "archeological evidence" from lesser known sources who probably were all or almost all of lower rank in the church, and you can't demonstrate that any of them venerated images as Eastern Orthodoxy does.

    Furthermore, why do you appeal to "archeological evidence", yet criticize other people for appealing to historical evidence in other contexts? You don't seem to have much concern for consistency. On the one hand, you criticize Protestants for appealing to the probabilities of historical research. On the other hand, you appeal to historical research whenever you think it will lead to your desired conclusion.

    You write:

    "I never said that the view on veneration of images could change. What I said was, it is possible to be Orthodox and subscribe to the understanding that the unchanging teachings of the apostles can be applied in a later period to a question that was hitherto unresolved in an earlier period."

    If Eastern Orthodoxy always taught the veneration of images, then how could the veneration of images be "unresolved in an earlier period"? And I stand by what I said and cited from Second Nicaea and Philip Schaff. The council did claim that it was repeating an apostolic tradition always held by the church. And, as Schaff explains, the council wasn't just saying that it's "permissible" to venerate images, and it wasn't just telling people not to be disrespectful toward images. You've made a series of misleading claims on this subject, and you aren't doing much to interact with the contrary evidence I've presented.

    You write:

    "The historical context is not part of the dogmatic formula of the general council."

    But the historical context tells us what issues were on the minds of the people involved and indicates how the terminology in question was being used. The fact that you're trying to distance Second Nicaea from its context ought to indicate to the readers how implausible your position is.

    You write:

    "Well, you're confusing honoring images with venerating images. Admittedly the difference is not much, but Nicea never makes veneration mandatory, only honoring."

    I don't trust your undocumented assertions about the language. You've given us no reason to accept your definition of "honoring". You keep making assertions without any evidence.

    Furthermore, the issue isn't just what's "mandatory". Even if Second Nicaea hadn't made anything mandatory, what it considers permissible or appropriate could still contradict what previous sources considered permissible, appropriate, etc.

    Regarding one of the terms used by the council, Philip Schaff writes:

    "The term Gr. ajpasmov" embraces salutation and kiss, the proskunesis, bowing the knee, and other demonstrations of reverence" (note 545 at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc4.txt)

    Notice that canon 7 of Nicaea refers to the "ungodliness" of removing images from a church:

    "Accordingly upon the heels of the heresy of the traducers of the Christians, there followed close other ungodliness. For as they took out of the churches the presence of the venerable images, so likewise they cast aside other customs which we must now revive and maintain in accordance with the written and unwritten law. We decree therefore that relics shall be placed with the accustomed service in as many of the sacred temples as have been consecrated without the relics of the Martyrs. And if any bishop from this time forward is found consecrating a temple without holy relics, he shall be deposed, as a transgressor of the ecclesiastical traditions." (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3819.htm)

    Here's what the bishop Theodosius said at Second Nicaea:

    "Let them who do not venerate the holy and venerable images be anathema! Anathema to those who blaspheme against the honourable and venerable images! To those who dare to attack and blaspheme the venerable images and call them idols, anathema! To the calumniators of Christianity, that is to say the Iconoclasts, anathema! To those who do not diligently teach all the Christ-loving people to venerate and salute the venerable and sacred and honourable images of all the Saints who pleased God in their several generations, anathema! To those who have a doubtful mind and do not confess with their whole hearts that they venerate the sacred images, anathema!" (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3819.htm)

    Notice, also, that the council (quoted below) uses multiple terms to refer to veneration, not just one term, and it refers to how churches should put up images. Contrary to what you're claiming, the issue the council was addressing wasn't just whether it's "permissible" to venerate images after centuries of doctrinal development. Rather, the council was claiming that churches are to be expected to venerate images, and the council claimed that such veneration was an apostolic tradition:

    "We, therefore, following the royal pathway and the divinely inspired authority of our Holy Fathers and the traditions of the Catholic Church (for, as we all know, the Holy Spirit indwells her), define with all certitude and accuracy that just as the figure of the precious and life-giving Cross, so also the venerable and holy images, as well in painting and mosaic as of other fit materials, should be set forth in the holy churches of God, and on the sacred vessels and on the vestments and on hangings and in pictures both in houses and by the wayside, to wit, the figure of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, of our spotless Lady, the Mother of God, of the honourable Angels, of all Saints and of all pious people. For by so much more frequently as they are seen in artistic representation, by so much more readily are men lifted up to the memory of their prototypes, and to a longing after them; and to these should be given due salutation and honourable reverence...Those, therefore who dare to think or teach otherwise, or as wicked heretics to spurn the traditions of the Church and to invent some novelty, or else to reject some of those things which the Church has received (e.g., the Book of the Gospels, or the image of the cross, or the pictorial icons, or the holy reliques of a martyr), or evilly and sharply to devise anything subversive of the lawful traditions of the Catholic Church or to turn to common uses the sacred vessels or the venerable monasteries, if they be Bishops or Clerics, we command that they be deposed; if religious or laics, that they be cut off from communion....So we all believe, we all are so minded, we all give our consent and have signed. This is the faith of the Apostles, this is the faith of the orthodox, this is the faith which has made firm the whole world. Believing in one God, to be celebrated in Trinity, we salute the honourable images! Those who do not so hold, let them be anathema. Those who do not thus think, let them be driven far away from the Church. For we follow the most ancient legislation of the Catholic Church. We keep the laws of the Fathers. We anathematize those who add anything to or take anything away from the Catholic Church. We anathematize the introduced novelty of the revilers of Christians. We salute the venerable images. We place under anathema those who do not do this." (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3819.htm)

    And later:

    "We have also decreed that the brave deeds of the Saints be pourtrayed on tablets and on the walls, and upon the sacred vessels and vestments, as has been the custom of the holy Catholic Church of God from ancient times; which custom was regarded as having the force of law in the teaching both of those holy leaders who lived in the first ages of the Church, and also of their successors our reverend Fathers. We have likewise decreed that these images are to be reverenced (προσκυνεῖν ), that is, salutations are to be offered to them. The reason for using the word is, that it has a two-fold signification. For κυνεῖν in the old Greek tongue signifies both 'to salute' and 'to kiss.'" (http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/3819.htm)

    You write:

    "I don't know how anyone can claim to be a student of the history of the church and not realise that the general councils claimed the very highest authority just like Acts 15 did. And if they claimed the authority Acts 15 did, how do YOU think they interpreted Acts 15? It doesn't take a genius to figure out."

    Acts 15 isn't the only place where authority is claimed. The fact that later councils claimed authority doesn't prove that they did so based on your interpretation of Acts 15. I shouldn't need to explain these things to you. Again, tell us where Eastern Orthodoxy has interpreted the details of Acts 15 as you do. The fact that councils claim authority doesn't prove that they do so based on the details of your view of Acts 15.

    You write:

    "There is other evidence that seems to exclude James as an apostle: 1 Cor 9:5 and 15:7."

    Using your same bad reasoning, both of those passages would prove that Peter wasn't an apostle either. 1 Corinthians 9:5 and 15:5 single out Peter, just as they single out the brothers of Jesus or James in particular. You still aren't giving us any reason to accept your conclusion about James. Even if we accepted your conclusion on that issue, we'd still have no reason to accept your interpretation of Acts 15 or your transfer of Acts 15's significance to later councils.

    You write:

    "The authority he exercised was to pronounce judgment on the apostles."

    Where does the passage tell us that? And where has Eastern Orthodoxy told you that Acts 15 has James "pronouncing judgment on the apostles"? Be sure to tell us where your denomination has given you interpretations of these passages every time you make an appeal to a Biblical interpretation.

    You write:

    "What gave Paul the right to rebuke Peter is not that he was an apostle, but rather that Peter was at variance with the faith of the Church."

    Here we have another example of your ignorance of scripture. Paul doesn't appeal to "the faith of the church". Rather, he appeals to Peter's inconsistency with "the gospel" (Galatians 2:14), which he received directly from Christ, not "through the agency of man" (Galatians 1:1, 1:12). Besides, even in other passages where Paul does refer to the church in various contexts, that church isn't Eastern Orthodoxy.

    You write:

    "No apostle was willing to bring judgment on the Acts 15 issue. Rather they gathered the elders first in council before judging, and it wasn't an apostle that sealed the deal."

    As I've explained to you before, the events of Acts 15 occur once in the apostolic era. There are far more times when an apostle judges an issue on his own or with others outside of a council. Paul repeatedly refers to how his preaching is the word of God (1 Thessalonians 2:13), how his writings are to be accepted as God's commandments (1 Corinthians 14:37), etc. The suggestion that the apostles wouldn't judge an issue without doing what they did in Acts 15 is absurd. Even if they had relied on the pattern of Acts 15 to settle every issue, it wouldn't follow that post-apostolic councils are as authoritative as apostolic councils. You keep piling one false assumption on top of another.

    You write:

    "Individual bishops had less authority than an apostle. General councils of the Church have more authority."

    That's an assertion, not an argument.

    You write:

    "It won't wash, because Orthodox truely accept any of our differing practices. The same can't be said of Protestants and the issues they disagree on."

    What you seem to be saying is that Eastern Orthodox remain within the same denomination, whereas Protestants don't. Thus, Eastern Orthodox can disagree with each other, as long as they remain within the same denomination. As I've said before, you keep assuming that there's to be only one denomination, that unity is to be defined denominationally. It's an assumption you've never justified.

    ReplyDelete
  14. >You're comparing a book to a denomination. You
    >don't recognize the relevant differences?

    I'm comparing a book to the Church. "Denomination" is entirely anachronisitic.

    >If there was one worldwide denomination that every
    >Christian belonged to, and that denomination
    >possessed and was venerating images and was
    >teaching people to do so, then how would
    >somebody like Epiphanius not realize that he
    >should be venerating images?

    Because the world is a big place. And not everybody knows everything. Your question is like asking how 2 Peter could be authentic when nobody mentions it till the 3rd century.

    >Did his teachers tell him about other apostolic
    >traditions, but repeatedly failed to mention the
    >veneration of images?

    Nobody claims that every individual gets perfectly passed on the Traditions. Your problem is analogous to someone disputing the authenticity of the canon because some church father had a different list.

    >But there was no such settling of the issue in
    >response to any of the earliest opponents of the
    >veneration of images.

    But it was settled. Just because it wasn't settled in your timeframe is no more significant than somebody accusing the canon of being wrong because nobody got it right until Athanasius in the 4th century. If the canon list is right, wouldn't everyone have known it?

    >Advocates of an infallible church frequently tell
    >us about the advantages that such a system of
    >authority would have in principle over following
    >an infallible book as our rule of faith. Yet, when
    >your allegedly infallible church fails to produce
    >the results we would expect, you compare it to
    >the Bible, as if we shouldn't expect it to do any
    >more than the Bible does in instructing people,
    >disciplining them, etc.

    But you don't even have an "infallible book" without "our system". To have an infallible book you need a system that can tell you what the infallible book is. So you're comparing a non-existant situation: having an infallible book in a vacuum, with a real situation: having a Church which is the pillar and foundation of the truth.

    And if you are unhappy with the timeframe it takes to do things with the speed you would have it done, I am unhappy with your rule of faith which can't go into effect until the 5th century until you have a settled canon.

    >I provided more than "one or two quotations".

    I do not recall it. If you say you did I believe you, but I can't remember it.

    >If the later ecumenical council was needed, then
    >why should we think that what happened earlier
    >"resolved" the matter?

    It's like the Arian controveresy. When a significant disturbance comes upon the Church, what was already known is more carefully codified for the edification of the faithful. Do you want to claim that the trinity didn't exist before Nicea? Do you want to claim that Nicea wasn't useful in teaching the trinitarian faith? What is your point?

    >I've already explained why your appeal to
    >"archeological evidence" is erroneous. Again, the
    >use of images isn't the same as the veneration of
    >images.

    Yes but you've also got your hobby horse quotations about the mere existance of images. When I counter those with archeology you shift your argument to veneration. Of course we can't archeologically investigate veneration. But if the hobby horse image quotes fall under the weight of archeology, why should I put much stock in your anti-veneration quotes? The fact is, the written evidence from the early era is too sparse to draw too many conclusions.

    >And how do you know the identity and
    >orthodoxy of the people who used the images in
    >question? You dismiss the testimony of bishops
    >like Eusebius of Caesarea and Epiphanius, yet
    >you appeal to "archeological evidence" from
    >lesser known sources who probably were all or
    >almost all of lower rank in the church, and you
    >can't demonstrate that any of them venerated
    >images as Eastern Orthodoxy does.

    The archeological situation is overwheming for images. You want me to overturn that with Eusebius? Who was pretty much an Arian? Why would I do that?

    And again, whilst historical investigation is of undoubted value, at the end of the day we peer into the dim past with considerable difficulty. You cannot see through to the 2nd let alone 1st century to tell what was going on with 2 Peter back then. You rely on what we rely on: the mind of the Church.

    >Furthermore, why do you appeal to
    >"archeological evidence", yet criticize other
    >people for appealing to historical evidence in
    >other contexts?

    There's nothing wrong with looking at historical evidence, but you've got to realise the limitations of it. There is no historical record of what the full canon of the pre-Christian Jews consisted of. None, nada, zip. All there is are inferences drawn from one later source or another, none of which happen to agree.

    >If Eastern Orthodoxy always taught the
    >veneration of images, then how could the
    >veneration of images be "unresolved in an earlier
    >period"?

    As I said, and I wish you'd pay closer attention, while my position would be that the apostles taught veneration of images, it is quite fine to be Orthodox and have a different historical viewpoint, that this question was resolved at a later time by reference to the apostolic teaching, just like the trinitarian formula was.

    >The council did claim that it was repeating an
    >apostolic tradition always held by the church.

    I'm happy with that view, but the canons do fall somewhat short of presenting that exact view.

    >the council wasn't just saying that it's
    >"permissible" to venerate images, and it wasn't
    >just telling people not to be disrespectful toward
    >images.

    It falls short of saying that any particular person must venerate the images.

    >"The historical context is not part of the
    >dogmatic formula of the general council."
    >
    >But the historical context tells us what issues
    >were on the minds of the people involved and
    >indicates how the terminology in question was
    >being used. The fact that you're trying to
    >distance Second Nicaea from its context ought to
    >indicate to the readers how implausible your
    >position is.

    I'm not trying to distance Nicea II from its context at all. I'm just pointing out to you that the dogmatic decree falls short of mandating that every Christian must give veneration. You can whine and whimper and quote protestant scholars till you're blue in the face, but it doesn't change the facts.

    >I don't trust your undocumented assertions
    >about the language. You've given us no reason to
    >accept your definition of "honoring". You keep
    >making assertions without any evidence.

    Then don't believe me. Go invest some money in a Greek lexicon, go read the canons in Greek, and come back with something substantive.

    >Philip Schaff writes:
    >
    >"The term Gr. ajpasmov" embraces salutation
    >and kiss, the proskunesis, bowing the knee, and
    >other demonstrations of reverence" (note 545 at
    >http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc4.txt)

    The canons fall short of mandating all Christians to ajpasmov.

    >Notice that canon 7 of Nicaea refers to the
    >"ungodliness" of removing images from a
    >church:

    Breaking with the Holy Tradition is indeed ungodliness.

    >Here's what the bishop Theodosius said at >Second Nicaea:

    The bishop may say whatever he likes, but the dogmatic decree falls just short of dogmatizing his viewpoint.

    >Notice, also, that the council (quoted below) uses
    >multiple terms to refer to veneration

    I'm aware of what terms are used.

    >it refers to how churches should put up images

    Uh huh, just like they have been from the beginning, as archeology shows. Just like the Jews did, as archeology shows.

    >The fact that later councils claimed authority
    >doesn't prove that they did so based on your
    >interpretation of Acts 15.

    If you're so dull that you can't see that since the general councils claimed the same authority as the Jerusalem council, they render judgment with the same formula, yet you can't guess how they would have interpreted Acts 15, then I can't help you.

    >And where has Eastern Orthodoxy told you that
    >Acts 15 has James "pronouncing judgment on
    >the apostles"?

    That's what the Fathers comment on the verse. "Neither John nor the other apostles say anything; they kept silence, for James was invested with the chief rule" - Chrysostom, On the Acts of the Apostles

    >Here we have another example of your ignorance
    >of scripture. Paul doesn't appeal to "the faith of
    >the church". Rather, he appeals to Peter's
    >inconsistency with "the gospel" (Galatians 2:14)

    The faith of the church and the Gospel are synonymous. The Church is the pillar and foundation for the truth of the gospel.

    > which he received directly from Christ, not
    >"through the agency of man" (Galatians 1:1, >1:12).

    Which is irrelevant here. Anyone could have rebuked Peter based on the faith of the church. You didn't have to be an apostle. You didn't have to have received the gospel directly from Christ. You didn't have to have received it from the New Testament (which didn't exist).

    >Besides, even in other passages where Paul does
    >refer to the church in various contexts, that
    >church isn't Eastern Orthodoxy.

    Really? Care to prove that one?

    >The suggestion that the apostles wouldn't judge
    >an issue without doing what they did in Acts 15
    >is absurd.

    Again with the mischaracterizations. I never said the apostles would judge nothing, I said they weren't willing to judge the Acts 15 issue.

    >Even if they had relied on the pattern of Acts 15
    >to settle every issue, it wouldn't follow that post-
    >apostolic councils are as authoritative as
    >apostolic councils.

    You assume without proof that there are two categories of councils: apostolic and non-apostolic.

    And if post-apostlic general councils are not authoritative, you offer nothing in its place but the immediate shattering of the church into a thousand denominations. If you think that's what is supposed to happen, you've got major problems.

    >"Individual bishops had less authority than an
    >apostle. General councils of the Church have
    >more authority."
    >
    >That's an assertion, not an argument.

    No, it's a fact. No apostle was willing to solve the acts 15 issue by himself. Clearly the council was above the individuals.

    >What you seem to be saying is that Eastern
    >Orthodox remain within the same denomination,
    >whereas Protestants don't. Thus, Eastern
    >Orthodox can disagree with each other, as long
    >as they remain within the same denomination. As
    >I've said before, you keep assuming that there's
    >to be only one denomination, that unity is to be
    >defined denominationally. It's an assumption
    >you've never justified.

    "Denomination" is of course an anachronism.

    It is important to be in the One church. How do I know if you are in One Church? Because when I move to another location I will never choose one congregation over another one for doctrinal reasons. That's called unity. In your mind protestant churches are divided into 1st class, 2nd class, 3rd class and even lower based on their doctrines. You're only happy to hear the teachings of your favoured denomination. Other denominations to varying decrees you find annoying because they preach things you don't believe.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Orthodox said:

    "I'm comparing a book to the Church. 'Denomination' is entirely anachronisitic."

    I don't recall your ever showing much concern for whether other churches want to be called "denominations". You've called them that without getting their approval. And you're the one who called Eastern Orthodoxy a denomination before I did. Here's what you wrote in your first post that I responded to:

    "It may be an unfair exaggeration to say there are 30,000 unique denominations, as is sometimes quoted. Still, there ARE thousands, which is considerably more than 1 that existed a thousand years ago." (http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/03/garden-hose-table-talk.html)

    If you can call Eastern Orthodoxy a denomination, why can't I?

    You write:

    "Because the world is a big place. And not everybody knows everything."

    You aren't addressing the problems with that argument that I mentioned earlier. I explained why somebody like Epiphanius would be unlikely to not know of an apostolic tradition always held by the church, especially if that apostolic tradition was continually displaying itself by means of the presence and veneration of images in churches around the world. And why were Epiphanius' contemporaries so ignorant or careless as to repeatedly fail to correct him or discipline him? Telling us that "the world is a big place" doesn't sufficiently address such issues.

    And in an earlier thread (http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/03/in-another-thread-orthodox-wrote.html), you told us that it would be "silliness" to not trust whatever an individual Eastern Orthodox tells us about the beliefs of Eastern Orthodoxy. But if "the world is a big place", and we thus can't trust what a bishop like Epiphanius tells us about the faith, then why should we trust what an anonymous Eastern Orthodox layman tells us about it?

    You write:

    "Your question is like asking how 2 Peter could be authentic when nobody mentions it till the 3rd century."

    You've been corrected on that false comparison and your false claims about 2 Peter in other threads. You keep ignoring what you've been told.

    You write:

    "Nobody claims that every individual gets perfectly passed on the Traditions."

    Yet, as I've documented above, you told us in another thread that it would be "silliness" to distrust what an individual Eastern Orthodox tells us about what Eastern Orthodoxy believes. If you now want to argue that we can't trust individuals like Epiphanius (and can't trust other church fathers, Eastern Orthodox scholars, etc.), then why should we trust your claims about what Eastern Orthodoxy believes? Where do we go to verify the content of Eastern Orthodox Tradition? For example, where can we go to see Eastern Orthodoxy interpreting passages like Ezekiel 11 and Acts 15 the way you do? How do we know that your interpretation is correct?

    You write:

    "But it was settled. Just because it wasn't settled in your timeframe is no more significant than somebody accusing the canon of being wrong because nobody got it right until Athanasius in the 4th century. If the canon list is right, wouldn't everyone have known it?"

    No, I don't claim that there was one worldwide denomination that every Christian belonged to, which taught the same things in every generation. I haven't been criticizing minor disagreements among Protestants as unacceptable. If you're going to make the claims you make about your denomination, and you're going to claim that even minor disagreements among Protestants are unacceptable, then you're going to be held accountable to such standards. I don't maintain those standards, so I'm not accountable to them.

    Earlier, you told us that different Eastern Orthodox hold different views about the history of their beliefs. You acknowledged that you had argued that even the earlier patristic Christians practiced the veneration of images, in contrast to what other Eastern Orthodox believe about those earlier patristic Christians. If you're going to claim that even the earlier patristic Christians accepted the veneration of images, then why would the issue need to be "settled" if it was already agreed upon? And where did that "settling" take place? You referred to something happening in the next century. Since we see opposition to the veneration of images as early as the second century, then what happened in the third century to settle the matter? You keep trying to avoid addressing these issues. You just make vague references to how things were settled, but you don't give us sufficient detail.

    You write:

    "But you don't even have an 'infallible book' without 'our system'. To have an infallible book you need a system that can tell you what the infallible book is."

    Eastern Orthodox don't agree with each other about the canon, so you can't claim that a settled canon can only be found by means of Eastern Orthodoxy. I, Steve Hays, David King, and others have addressed how we can arrive at a canon without your belief system. The pre-Christian Jews didn't need your denomination to tell them that books like Genesis and Isaiah are scripture, and we don't need your denomination to tell us that books like Romans and Revelation are scripture.

    You write:

    "And if you are unhappy with the timeframe it takes to do things with the speed you would have it done, I am unhappy with your rule of faith which can't go into effect until the 5th century until you have a settled canon."

    If person X in the first century is confident that 2 Peter was written by Peter, why would he have to wait until more people agree with him on the subject in the fifth century before the canonicity of 2 Peter "goes into effect"? Besides, as I keep telling you, and you keep ignoring it, I don't make claims about my canon comparable to the claims you've made about the Eastern Orthodox rule of faith. I haven't claimed that every Christian of the first millennium was a member of my denomination, that the canonicity of 2 Peter was always taught by that denomination, etc.

    You write:

    "It's like the Arian controveresy. When a significant disturbance comes upon the Church, what was already known is more carefully codified for the edification of the faithful."

    As I explained before, the Christians of the fourth century and earlier centuries didn't respond to the widespread opposition to the veneration of images in the manner in which they responded to Arianism. They didn't view opposition to the veneration of images as they viewed the Arian heresy.

    You write:

    "Yes but you've also got your hobby horse quotations about the mere existance of images. When I counter those with archeology you shift your argument to veneration."

    What "hobby horse quotations"? As you've acknowledged above, you don't even have a reliable memory of what I did and didn't quote. I never denied that there was some use of images in the ante-Nicene era. For you to keep acting as if arguing for early use of images is a refutation of my position is unreasonable.

    You write:

    "The fact is, the written evidence from the early era is too sparse to draw too many conclusions."

    Then why do you keep making assertions about the early era? Why do you claim that Ezekiel 11, Acts 15, Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus, etc. agree with you, yet you claim that "the written evidence from the early era is too sparse" when we cite examples of these sources contradicting you?

    We have thousands of pages of literature from the ante-Nicene Christians. We have multiple sources commenting on how the early Christians viewed the veneration of images. You just don't like what they say.

    You write:

    "As I said, and I wish you'd pay closer attention, while my position would be that the apostles taught veneration of images, it is quite fine to be Orthodox and have a different historical viewpoint, that this question was resolved at a later time by reference to the apostolic teaching, just like the trinitarian formula was."

    You're the one who needs to "pay closer attention". I've already addressed your argument. As I told you earlier, we're not writing responses to other Eastern Orthodox. We're writing responses to you. You need to defend your own beliefs rather than telling us that other Eastern Orthodox hold another view, as if that fact relieves you of defending your position.

    You write:

    "It falls short of saying that any particular person must venerate the images."

    Second Nicaea refers to what churches should do and condemns anybody who opposes its view of image veneration. The council doesn't need to single out "any particular person" in order to be addressing what churches and individuals believe and do with regard to images.

    You write:

    "Uh huh, just like they have been from the beginning, as archeology shows. Just like the Jews did, as archeology shows."

    As I told you before, a variety of views existed in the early centuries. Some sources approved of the use of images, which isn't the same as the veneration of images, but some sources even opposed the use of them. You can't assume that everybody approved the use of images just because some did, much less can you conclude that everybody approved of the veneration of images just because we know that some use of images occurred. The Second Council of Nicaea doesn't allow for the sort of variety of views we find among the early patristic Christians. Second Nicaea does not represent what Christians always held, despite the council's claims to the contrary.

    You write:

    "If you're so dull that you can't see that since the general councils claimed the same authority as the Jerusalem council, they render judgment with the same formula, yet you can't guess how they would have interpreted Acts 15, then I can't help you."

    Again, people can believe that some entity, such as a council, has authority similar to what we see in Acts 15 without agreeing with the details of your interpretation of Acts 15. You keep making a logical connection where there is none. I'm not the one who's "dull" on this issue.

    You write:

    "That's what the Fathers comment on the verse. 'Neither John nor the other apostles say anything; they kept silence, for James was invested with the chief rule' - Chrysostom, On the Acts of the Apostles"

    You keep criticizing me for supposedly not citing enough fathers on issues like the veneration of images, yet you give us one quote on Acts 15, a quote you don't even fully document, nor do you even attempt to show that the father in question defined "chief rule" as you do. As I explained earlier, we can view James as leading the events of Acts 15 without concluding that he was a non-apostle with authority equal to the apostles. You keep making assumptions that you don't justify.

    What you're citing is in Homily 33 of Chrysostom's Homilies On Acts. At the beginning of the homily, Chrysostom explains:

    "This James was bishop, as they say, and therefore he speaks last, and herein is fulfilled that saying, 'In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.' But observe the discretion shown by him also, in making his argument good from the prophets, both new and old. For he had no acts of his own to declare, as Peter had and Paul. And indeed it is wisely ordered that this (the active) part is assigned to those, as not intended to be locally fixed in Jerusalem, whereas James here, who performs the part of teacher, is no way responsible for what has been done, while however he is not divided from them in opinion."

    In his comments on Galatians 1, in the first homily of his Commentary On Galatians, Chrysostom repeatedly refers to James as an apostle, such as in his comments on Galatians 1:19. If you're going to assume that Chrysostom speaks for all of Eastern Orthodoxy when you think he agrees with you, then should we make the same assumption when Chrysostom disagrees with you? What about when he refers to Mary's sins, as I documented in another thread (http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2007/03/interpreting-church-fathers.html)? Was Chrysostom speaking for Eastern Orthodoxy?

    You write:

    "I never said the apostles would judge nothing, I said they weren't willing to judge the Acts 15 issue."

    If they judged so many other issues without anything like Acts 15 occurring, then why should we think that the one occurrence of the Acts 15 events represents how disputes are to be settled in later church history?

    You write:

    "You assume without proof that there are two categories of councils: apostolic and non-apostolic."

    I don't just assume that the apostles are the highest rank in the church. I've documented it, and the church fathers repeatedly affirmed it. A council attended by and approved by apostles has apostolic authority. A council held hundreds of years after the apostles have died isn't in the same category.

    You write:

    "No apostle was willing to solve the acts 15 issue by himself. Clearly the council was above the individuals."

    Should we assume that, in the many other cases in which the apostles addressed an issue without holding a council, "the apostles were unwilling to solve the issue with a council"? And how does the willingness to use a council prove that councils are "above the individuals"? Why does Paul, in 1 Corinthians 12:28, for example, refer to apostles as the highest rank in the church rather than ecumenical councils?

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  16. Epiphanius of Salamis, Doctor of Iconoclasm? Deconstruction of a Myth

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    Epiphanius of Salamis, Doctor of Iconoclasm? Deconstruction of a Myth represents a thorough examination of the dispute over the authenticity of five relevant texts of St. Epiphanius between iconoclasts and iconophiles in the 8th/9th century and between modern scholars in the 20th century: i) The postscript of a Letter of Epiphanius to John of Jerusalem; ii) The treatise of Epiphanius ... against those who make images of Christ, the Mother of God, the Angels and the Prophets; iii) The Dogmatic Letter; iv) The Letter to Epiphanius to the Emperor Theodosius; and v) The Will of Epiphanius addressed to the members of his Church. Following a brief introduction to Epiphanius' history, literary works, theology and the dispute over the alleged iconoclastic texts (ch.1), the author provides: an English translation of the above five documents (ch. 2); an analysis of the "Byzantine Controversy," which focuses on the arguments (against authenticity) of St. John Damascene, of the Seventh Ecumenical Council of Nicaea (787), of St. Nicephorus of Constantinople and of St. Theodore the Studite (ch.3); an analysis of the modern controversy focusing especially on the debate between Karl Holl (for authenticity) and George Ostrogorsky (against authenticity), including the reactions of several scholars (ch. 4); and, finally, a critical evaluation of the arguments for authenticity, which concludes that such arguments "are sufficient to justify their rejection." Fr. Bigham has convincingly argued that Epiphanius's so-called iconophobia, a notion that is present in the popular imagination and in scholarly works for nearly a century, is only a myth ... and, therefore, "the Christian tradition has been and remains fundamentally and essentially iconophile." This reexamination and reevaluation of the critical studies of the recent past is an excellent example of a post-modern criticism of criticism.

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