Thursday, December 28, 2017

On the Icons

I was asked recently why we Orthodox have so many paintings of the Saints, and how do they not fall under the condemnation of idols and graven images pronounced in the Law.  Here is my answer:

We have them for the same reason people keep paintings or (nowadays) pictures of their loved ones: to remember them.  Icons -- which is what we call the paintings, from the Greek word for "image" -- represent the one depicted, and make them present to us in a way.  The one depicted is called the Prototype.  These are not graven -- that is, sculpted -- but painted.  But let's grant for the sake of argument that it includes paintings as well, since it also says, "or any likeness."  The prohibition in the Law against images is a prohibition against false worship, not against images per se.  (There were images in the temple commanded by God.)

It is written,

Mount Sinai was altogether on a smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.  And when the voice of the trumpet sounded long, and waxed louder and louder, Moses spake, and God answered him by a voice. ... And the LORD said unto Moses, 'Go down, charge the people, lest they break through unto the LORD to gaze, and many of them perish...' ... So Moses went down unto the people, and spake to them.

 And what did He speak, by the mouth of His prophet?

I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

This is His concern: that the worship of His people be the worship of HIM, in Truth, and not according to their own imaginations.

For this reason He commands,

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God...thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain...

That is, you shall not apply this name, "the LORD thy God," to empty things of your imaginations.  (Nor to yourselves, if the name is not in you.)

As He says elsewhere, 

... the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing ...

And by Jeremiah,

Learn not the way of the heathen...For the customs of the people are vain:

Which customs?

for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.  They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.

But this is vanity, because

They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go.  Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good. ... Every man is brutish in his knowledge: every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them.  They are vanity, and the work of errors: in the time of their visitation they shall perish.

He contrasts these empty things and their impotence with the fulness and power of the Godhead, specifically as manifested in His Name:

The portion of Jacob is not like unto them: for He is the former of all things; and Israel is the rod of His inheritance: The LORD of hosts is His name.  ... Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might. ... But they are altogether brutish and foolish: the stock [that is, the wood carved as related earlier] is a doctrine of vanities.  Silver spread into plates ... and gold .. the work of the workman, and the hands of the founder: ... they are all the work of cunning men.  But the LORD is the true God, He is the living God, and an everlasting king ... at His wrath the earth shall tremble, and the nations shall not be able to abide his indignation.

And the Word of the Lord -- the Voice of the Lord -- bears and manifests the power of the Name:

When He uttereth His voice, there is a multitude of waters in the heavens, and He causeth vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; He maketh lightnings with rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of His treasuries.

 Which things all happened, when He gave the commandment:

And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet [that is, announcing the King], and the mountain smoking.

But they could not bear it, but

removed, and stood afar off.  And they said unto Moses, 'Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die.'

They couldn't bear even to hear Him, let alone see Him. How then could they think that any images they could make would even begin to be true?

And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice. ... Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure ...

And that this is the whole point of the great elemental impressions, Moses confirms,

Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that His fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not.  And [so] the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.

And what is this darkness, but the emphasis on the hidden and unrevealed nature of the one with Whom Moses spoke?  For as of yet He had not Revealed Himself; He had not unveiled; there was no Revelation of Jesus Christ at that time.  Therefore, He said to them, through Moses,

Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven.

For He had not yet descended to earth and walked among men.  Therefore He says (clarifying and reiterating what He had said before),

Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.

It is not their job to make gods, but His.  And even if they tried to do so, they couldn't because they had not seen any likeness to be made: the only things they could imagine or begin to imagine were all the creations of His hands, empty things, and not He Himself, the fulness of the Godhead.

Instead, He commands them to build an altar.  And not just any altar, but an altar of earth: foreshadowing His incarnation in the earth of Adam's flesh, and also His coming upon earth to be sacrificed.  Thus He tells them that if they will make an altar of stone, and not earth,

thou shalt not make it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.

Thus signifying His birth from the Virgin, as also the Prophet Daniel interpreted to King Nebuchadnezzar:

And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.  Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.

And to this He Himself also gave witness, when He walked among us,

I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.

Which, the evangelist tells us, He spoke of His body.

Now His body is more than just the flesh born of Mary, but also the Church, comprised of those who are themselves born again, with the circumcision made without hands, for He Himself is

the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth ... and He is the head of the body, the Church: Who is the Beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all He might have the preeminence.  For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things to Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.  And you, that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy [i.e. Saints] and unblameable and unreproveable in His sight.
For in Him dwelleth the fulness of the Godhead bodily.  And ye are complete in Him, which is the head of all principality and power: in Whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with Him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with Him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised Him from the dead.

And so the saying, "I will build another temple, made without hands", which He spoke of His body, signified by unhewn stones, is fulfilled in His rising from the dead, raising those who are in Him by baptism, having received the promise of the circumcision of their hearts, made without hands, the operation of God,

To Whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.
Thus far the stone, but let us return to the earth for a moment.  He says of the altars of earth that they are to make,

and [thou] shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen

Now what do we have to do with these: burnt offerings, and peace offerings, sheep, and oxen?  Nothing.

For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect.  ... Wherefore when He cometh into the world, He saith, 'Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, "Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God."' Above when He said, 'Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; then said He, 'Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.'  He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.  By the which will we are sanctified [that is, made Saintsthrough the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 

This, then, is what it means, "Make an altar of earth, and offer on it your sacrifices":

By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.

For then it was said,

Go unto the people, and sanctify them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes


thou shalt cleanse the altar, when thou hast made an atonement for it, and thou shalt anoint it, to sanctify it 

But now,

Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts

For He wishes to record His Name in this altar made of earth, whereon, by Him whose love is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, the oil of gladness, which is given unto us, and by whom we are anointed, and by which we are made the temple of God, for:

Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

And again,

What?  Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 

And finally,

Him that overcometh [note: this is the Church Militant] will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.

Wait a minute?  Weren't we talking about images?  And bowing down to them?  How did we get on altars and names and Saints?

Why do we bless images of the Saints, and why are we blessed by them?  Why do we bow down to them?  Why do we offer incense to them?  Why do we sing hymns of high praise to them?

Because in all these things, we are not offering to the Saints, but to the Image and Likeness of God, now seen.  We praise His mighty acts in them, now manifest, for

He is holy in all His works.

Now, we

Praise God in His Saints, praise Him in the firm foundation of His power.

Because He has said,

Ye are gods.

That is,

To them gave He power to become the sons of God.

Now, therefore,

Before the gods I will sing praise unto thee.  I will worship [that is, bow down] toward thy holy temple.

In them, we bless His Holy Name, which He has recorded upon them, are blessed by them as well, for in the middle of all this talk of images and altars and earth and stone, He gave us this most precious of promises:

in all places where I record my Name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee.

So no, we do not make images of falsehood, nor bow down to them and worship the vanities of the nations.  Rather, we record and remember the images that He has created, altars of earth upon which we offer our sacrifices of praise to God continually, the fruit of our lips giving praise to His Name, images of the Image of God, which we have now seen, whose coming in the flesh we hereby confess, and Whom, together with His Father Who is from everlasting and His All-Holy and Life-giving Spirit, we praise, and worship, and glorify, unto the ages of ages.  Amen.

Monday, November 20, 2017

"The Bible Says", and Other Terrible Sayings

Often, in the Protestant milieu, one hears such things as, "The Bible says ... ", followed by their pet heresy or denial of the Truth.

This is patent silliness.  The Bible doesn't "say" anything.  It just sits there on the desk.  Opened or closed?  Doesn't matter, although in many cases it is closed anyway!

The Bible does not speak, but the reader.

The Bible itself (I mean the book with pages that sits on your desk) is but impressions of ink on paper.

It is the reader that speaks, or the one who gives the interpretation also, not the Bible itself.

One might object, of course, to my blatant pedantry.  Why am I being so silly?

When colloquial understanding is in accord with Truth, one need not dig deeper and examine the usage.  But when it is turned against the Truth, as this kind of statement often is, precision of language is paramount.

Here's why it's a big deal.

I saw this sentiment asserted recently in this form:
We, as Christians, should never be dogmatic where the Bible is silent. ... There sure would be a lot less drama.
To which I replied,
There would also be a lot less dogma.
The response came back,
Wouldn’t that be a good thing? 
This is the end of that saying: the reduction of dogma to the "bare essentials".

Now, I understand that "dogma" here is not being used in the technical sense, but it is being used in the general sense of "authoritative teaching" -- that is, teaching not as the scribes and Pharisees, who would say, "regarding this verse, this rabbi says that, but this other one teaches this other thing", "line upon line, precept upon precept", by which they would fall down and go backward, but rather teaching according to the Truth, as the prophets.  (Thus saith the Lord!)  Not, that is, by striving about the law with vain jangling in profane and vain babblings, ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth, increasing unto more ungodliness, but rather with authority, unto the salvation of the souls of the hearers.

The maker of this statement says, essentially, that such authority is not available to the Christian teacher; unless the thing on which he speaks is written in the Scripture, it cannot be taught authoritatively.

The difficulty is, interpretation is, by definition, not written in the Scripture.  So this one, and also all who hold the doctrine of Sola Scriptura (which is what this is, in "popular" format) deny the possibility, whether they realize it or not, of authoritative interpretation, and reduce the Great Church to the rabbinical synagogue.

If the reader speaks the words of the Bible only, and the sense is not given, nor the hearers caused to understand (Neh 8:8; Acts 8:30, 31), he is as one that speaks words into the air only, and therefore as a barbarian to the hearers (for they know not the meaning of the voice), and there is no profit.

"So likewise ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood", Paul says, "how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air."

And lest one might say, "But by this he means the Scriptures, precisely!", Peter answers against such an one, saying that in both the writings of the beloved brother Paul, _as well as in all the other scriptures(!)_, there are many things "hard to be understood", which many who are unlearned (that is -- those who have heard, but have not learned the proper understanding, which by the way is not written or else the writings would not be hard to understand) and unstable wrest to their own destruction, "understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm."

Note carefully how, Peter, the prince of the Apostles and first confessor of the true faith, upon whose faithful confession Christ builds His Church, says that the Scriptures themselves are in many places "hard to be understood", and not "easy to be understood".

So the one who utters only that which is in Scripture, "never being dogmatic where the Bible is silent", is often as one that speaks in an unknown tongue, and as a barbarian to the hearer, and even to himself in many cases.

Nay rather, authoritative teaching (i.e. dogma) beyond what is written is thoroughly necessary, for the edifying of the body, unless what is spoken be of no profit. Thus the Apostle says not, "say only the words of Scripture", but rather, "hold the things which you have been taught, whether by word, OR our epistle."

And in another place, "the rest I will set in order when I come."  That is to say, "I have not written everything you need for life and salvation, but only what is sufficient to get you started back in the right direction until I arrive to complete your instruction."

And in yet another place, he says, "hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. ... and the things which thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also."  Note carefully that he does not say, "hold fast the things which I write unto you only", but, "the things which you heard of me among many witnesses" -- that is, not only what was written, but the rest which he had set in order when he came, as he said previously, and which he says elsewhere that he taught in all the churches of God.

For Timothy, he says (to whom he wrote, above), had fully known his doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, etc.

Now, that we might not discount the greatness and primary importance of this, and rely only our own sight and understanding of what we read, he reminds him and acknowledges that he (Timothy) has known the holy scriptures from his youth.  But he does not begin there, nor end there.

Rather, he founds Timothy's assurance and faith, by which, he says, the Scriptures are able to make him wise unto salvation, not the other way around, as though his assurance and faith would come from his wisdom in the Scriptures! ... Rather, I began to say, he founds Timothy's assurance and faith firmly on something else entirely.

His assurance of faith, he says, lies not in the mere fact of his having heard, read, or even thoroughly memorized the words of Scripture, but rather is firmly rooted in his knowledge of those from whom he learned his _understanding_, viz: "knowing OF WHOM thou hast learned", and in his continuance in what he learned from them.

All scripture is indeed given by inspiration of God, and is truly "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto good works."

But it is not thus profitable unless the interpretation is given, and given rightly divided.

Yet the interpretation is not always (or even commonly) written elsewhere, but received, dogmatically and traditionally (i.e. from faithful men who were taught by faithful men), from the Apostles, who received it from Christ Himself, with the Spirit.

So let the spiritual ones who hold the faith and life and doctrine of the Apostles teach such authoritatively, in the Spirit, with the understanding, even if it is only five words at a time.

And do not forbid them from so speaking by some pretense of being faithful to the Scriptures!  Such limitation is not faithfulness at all, but diabolical confusion and darkening.

True, God is able to make even the rocks to speak, if we should be silent, and to make of them children of Abraham.  But though He is able, He has has not called the rocks to the building, but has called us to be living stones, building our most holy faith on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, a building unto God in the Spirit, having received from Him an understanding.  Let those who build on the foundation be careful that they add the gold, and silver, and precious stones of the Apostolic Tradition, and not the wood, hay, and stubble of uncertain words and opinions, no matter how well studied.

Friday, July 28, 2017

On the Traditionalist/Perennialist School

At one point, I studied, absorbed, and even kind of believed the teachings of an early 20th century philosophy known as Perennialism, or The Traditionalist School.  (The two are not the same, but they are interrelated, and for the purposes of this post, we will treat them the same.

The basic tenet is that all of the major religious traditions, at their best, lead to or impart knowledge of the Transcendent, commonly known as "God", even if they disagree with each other, they do so because God set it up that way.

Well the funny thing about the Traditionalist school is that it furthermore posits that to actually acquire the knowledge of that transcendent reality from the major traditions, you have to PICK ONE.  You can't smorgasboard or cherry-pick or try to learn from all of them, but you have to pick one, enter into it, and forget the rest.

Well, someone asked me if this is compatible with Christianity or not (Christianity is considered by that school as one of the major Traditions it speaks of).  I said, "Well, as far as being compatible with Christianity, 'pick one' totally is, as long as you pick Christianity. 🙂"  I continued:

As for the general idea of all the major religion traditions at their best being oriented toward the one transcendent reality/God, yes and no.  Christianity does have the idea of the "spermatikos Logos" -- the seed of the Word.  That is, that although God gave the oracles directly to the Jews, He nevertheless planted eternity, and a thirst for the Word, and even some hints in the right direction, among the nations as well, and that the heathen philosophers did their best with this, resulting in Buddhism & Taoism in the East, Aristotelianism & Platonism in the West, etc.

However, where we differ is that while the Traditionalist school teaches that you can come to knowledge of the transcendent through any of those traditions (pick one), Christianity teaches that these were and are (even including Judaism) planted and formed by God to effect the incarnation of that transcendence, that is, so that the transcendent could transcend itself, and draw creation into itself.  The philosophies of the heathen were the pinnacle of what man could achieve in his created limitedness.  To rise to the transcendent, the transcendent had to condescend to lead us upward.  None of those could accomplish that, or pull Him down (For "'Who has ascended into the heaves?', that is, to bring down Christ.")  But the Logos Himself could, and did.  Once the Logos became incarnate, the call went forth to leave the paths of (relative) ignorance, and limitedness, and unite ourselves to Him, and He, then would bring us to the Father.  The other traditions are useless, except insofar as they bring us to Him; but once we are brought to Him, we must "leave our nets" -- that is, the systems of our philosophy, by which we try to catch the substance of our lives -- "and follow me".  "So they left all, and followed Him."

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

On the Electoral College: The Last Vestiges of the Old Republic

I encountered the following on Facebook.
Make everyone's vote count equally. Eliminate the Electoral College. Do you agree?

The answer I gave is as follows, reblogged here for those who won't see it there:

No, I do not.

I actually propose restoring the electoral college to it's original glory, first by removing the state-by-state requirements that have cropped up requiring all electors from a State to vote according to the popular vote in that State, and secondly by requiring the national vote to be for the electors in each State (as far as the People can appoint them -- some would be appointed by the Legislatures, of course), and NOT for the Presidency.

This would cause the national vote to work as intended originally -- a Republic, not a Democracy.

I also, of course, advocate for the repeal of the 16th and 17th Amendments -- again, to restore the Republic to functioning AS a Republic.

Of course, I'm also of the mind that the South was right when they claimed a right to secede, and that the very fact that the North prosecuted a war to bring them back into the fold fundamentally changed us from a Constitutionally limited Union of the several States (i.e. where the powers of each sovereign State is delegated to the Federal Government provisionally upon said Government's strict adherence to the limits and provisions of the Constitution by which said powers were delegated) to a Nation with semi-autonomous administrative districts (i.e. the sovereignty is the Nation's, and is delegated down to the States for administration of the Federal Will).

In effect, when the North overrode, by force, a hithertofore undelegated Power of the Sovereign States -- namely, the power of secession itself; that is, the voluntary nature of the delegation of ANY Power from it's own Sovereignty -- said Sovereignty was overcome and relocated (along with all its attendant Powers, not only the one under contention) so as no longer to flow from the People, through the States, to the Nation, but rather to originate with the Nation and flow, according as IT (not they) see fit, down to the States, and to the People, respectively.

Previously, the Sovereign Powers of the People were only to be parceled out in small amounts, both through the various States (Senate) and from the People themselves (House), to the Federal Government according to what the People saw as advantageous to better secure and increase their general welfare, they themselves retaining what Powers were not explicitly delegated to either their respective States or, as mentioned, through and with them to the Federal government, as their own natural Rights under God, without limitation.

But with the prosecution of War to forcibly override any Sovereign decision, not previously delegated, the Sovereignty as a whole was torn from the People, and from their States, respectively, and re-located in the Nation itself. This is especially true insofar as the particular Power torn was the ability to withhold a Power from delegation in the first place, or to retrieve it when desired. This Power is the Keeper of the Gate of Sovereignty, and the Gate itself. If it is torn away, the Castle lies open and defenseless, ripe for the plunder of all its Treasures, namely, every other Power -- indeed, the Sovereignty itself.

Which plunder the North effected. The Republic died when the North fired the first shot on Fort Sumter.

Under this new situation, "rights" -- although they could hardly be called that any more -- now originate, not with God, nor with the People, but with the Federal Government, to be parceled out to the States and the People, respectively (note the reversal of order), according to the Will of the Nation's governing body/bodies, who have become largely unaccountable to their supposed "constituents" -- now rendered as Subjects, although euphemistically still called "Citizens" and kept peaceable (and pliable) by the largess of their new Sovereign, mostly by the granting (where convenient) of "democratic" "rights" and "voice" in the (newly re-labeled) "democracy".

Most of the Amendments to the Constitution since the Civil War (including the aforementioned 16th and 17th) have been only to bring the Constitution's structure into line with this new reality. And the Supreme Court has been using the new Amendments (particularly the 14th) as a crowbar to enforce this new reality ever since, to the destruction of everything the Citizens of the Republic held dear: namely, the Individual and, as the first and fullest recipient of delegated Sovereignty, the Family.

If you love the Republic, if you love the older Order, where you delegate your sovereign Powers, received from your Creator, in a limited and voluntarily fashion, and in respectively decreasing quantity, to your family first, then to your city, then to your county, then to your State, and finally to the Federation -- that is, if you love America as it was founded -- then no, the Electoral College should not be eliminated, but strengthened.

However, I think we are far past the point of restoring the Republic to its former glory. Next step: Empire. (All Democracies end in Empire. Although there may be Destruction first, if we can't make the transition well.)

Ben Franklin said of the new Government that it was "a Republic, if you can keep it." Well, Mr. Franklin, sadly, we did not keep it. It did not even last 100 years, although the myth of it is only now, some 150 years or so after the mortal wound was struck, rattling out its final sighs.

So perhaps the Electoral College should be eliminated. Perhaps we should finally put a stake in the myth of the Republic, and get on with the business of Empire.

While we're at it, we may as well get rid of the Congress also, since the Courts have been brought under the power of the Executive already, as has the Military, having been recently purged of all loyalty to the People.

"The regional governors will now have direct control over their territories."

"But how will the Emperor maintain Control, without the Bureaucracy?"

"Fear will keep the local systems in line. Fear of this battle station."

Friday, August 12, 2016

Scott Adams' brainwashing indicators "in the wild"...

If you are not familiar with Scott Adams' How To Identify the Brainwashed, in which he goes over the "tells" that a brainwashed person will display when discussing a topic, you should be.

One of the tells listed is "OMG", followed by either sarcasm or no argument at all.

Well, in a debate last night, I saw this in action first-hand, and it was interesting to see exactly how accurate Mr. Adams' article was:

Earlier in the debate (here is the full debate, for reference), I had been using variations on Mr. Adams' techniques for How To Un-Hypnotize a Rabid Anti-Trumper, so it doesn't surprise me that I got a result he has encountered, but it was still thrilling to see it "in the wild".

And of course, my interlocutor immediately took it as a personal insult that I would point this out to him, in spite of the fact that we are all brainwashed in one way or another.

I guess I hit a nerve?

Sunday, July 17, 2016

I'm Getting Too Old For This S***

The older I get, the less patience I have when it comes to theological discussions, at least online.

I was recently reminded of this. For some odd reason, I was under the impression that a particular forum I'm part of online was a Christian group, and so I was participating in the various discussions with a basic understanding that we were all at least working from the same fundamental worldview.

However, in one particular discussion, one of the moderators jumped into remind everyone (particularly me) that this was NOT a Christian group per se.

Upon this revelation, I realized that I really don't care to participate in the group anymore. (This sort of surprised me as somewhat uncharacteristic of me.)

I wrote up a private reply for the moderator, but I don't think I'm going to send it to him, considering that it might be a little "too much". Nevertheless, in the writing I gained a little insight into my newfound curmudgeonliness:


I was unaware that the "Theology [the rest redacted]" group was not Christian in it's basic premise.

Theology is the study of God; God is in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself. Ergo, theology is the study of Christ; any other study is the study of false gods, to which I have nothing to add, nor reason to add it.

Christ is He for Whom, by Whom, through Whom, and to Whom all things are and were created and in Whom they consist; any discussion of things divine by necessity must be oriented in Him or be found utterly empty.

I was under the impression that I was in dialogue with people who at least hold these basic tenets. Thank you for disabusing me of that notion. I am busy enough as it is (as can be told from the long delays between my postings); I do not wish to waste time in inane discussions about whatever novelties can be thought up next and called "theology".


In short, I'm getting too old for this s***. Believe in Christ or don't. I'd say I don't care, but I do. I care very much. So allow me to amend myself: "Believe in Christ or don't"? No, scratch that. Believe in Christ. Period. Obey the Gospel. (Ain't nobody got time for this "or don't" stuff.) Get into Christ and stay there; you can't do better theology than that!

Friday, July 1, 2016

On icons vs. idols


Icons, images, idols.  Do you know the difference?

Many today do not know the differences among these three words, and so they either avoid such things, or fall into idolatry.  Let me give a brief explanation of the history and meanings of these three words.


WARNING: What you are about to read may alter the way you think in ways you cannot reverse and cannot ignore.  If you'd rather just not know, close the page now.  Proceed with caution.



There is a whole long discussion that can be had over how the human mind is a pattern recognition engine, and how this allows for symbols to be.  There is another whole long discussion about what symbols are in the first place.  But I will skip both of those and simply say that an image is fundamentally a composition of components such that they form a recognizable pattern.  An image is always an pattern evocative of some other pattern, whether assembled with intent (as in a building, or some such), or by "nature" (as in a human being, a tree, or whatever).

(NB: Since an image is a pattern evocative of some other pattern, the word may be freely applied to non-material things -- that is, thoughts and ideas.  As such, it becomes a synonym for "metaphor".  But it is the material sense with which we are primarily concerned here.)

The pattern being evoked is called the "prototype".  Images may vary with regards to the completeness or exactness of their reproduction, ranging from incredibly exact and thorough ("concrete") to only passing or esoteric similarity ("abstract").  This flexibility allows for imagery to be used to evoke multiple patterns simultaneously, particularly towards the abstract end of the spectrum.

Furthermore, images need not merely bring to mind patterns that have already been seen by that particular viewer, but may also be used to instruct the mind (to one degree or another) as to new patterns.

Also, images may be patterns of other images -- that is, patterns of patterns of patterns, such that the prototype may be several iterations removed from the image being viewed.  This does not diminish the reality of the prototypical presence, although it may obscure it to one degree or another.


Humanity has in its nature a certain inclination to worship -- that is, to ascribe worth.  We have various ways of showing this, most of which are gestures of submission: i.e. bowing down, by lifting hands, etc.  This is a collective memory of our communion with God, and an affirmation of the fact of our ultimate reliance on His power and care.  We do this in reaction to things we see, whether with our heart (spiritual apprehension), or our mind (imagination -- soul), or our eyes (physical sight).

Being made not only of spirit, or even of spirit and soul, but also of body, as one unified nature -- what each part does is mirrored and effective towards and in the others to one extent or another -- we use such gestures as living images showing forth the pattern of our inner disposition.  Or rather, this would be totally true if we had not fallen into disunity by sin, becoming capable of displaying patterns outwardly that do not mirror the inner prototype of the condition of our spirits -- that is, of lying.

We also, however, through this same fall into sin, became incredibly blind, especially in our spirit, and began to ascribe worth where none was found -- or rather, in excess of what was found -- since we could no longer see the True Worthy One .

The sight of God -- the only one worthy of ultimate worship (Greek, latreia) -- was and is a spiritual sight, seen in the faculties of the heart (not the fleshy bit of muscle, but an aspect of the spirit), and not in the mind or in the eye.  ("Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.")
But we lost our internal sight of the uncreated, and so began to make images that we thought accorded with the patterns of things we had seen.  Or that we wished to see.  
We began to make images of things created, to try to find in them the image of the uncreated, the sight of which we had lost, that we might see it again.

These images were false, but some had more easy remembrance of that Sight than others, and thus we began, in the darkness of our blindness, to forget their Creator and ascribe worth to the images per se instead.  Those images are called idols, from the Greek work eidolon, which derives from eidos: "to see" or "sight", and the worship offered to them is gross idolatry (eidolon + latreia).

The demons had a role in shaping this.  Desiring the worship of God for themselves, they showed us themselves as the Angels of Light that they once were (2 Cor. 11:14, 15), and we saw in this pattern (or cheap imitation of it) glimmers of the ancient Sight, and our darkened minds were quickly drawn to them.  We made images of them, and worshiped these images, worshiping in them the demons. (1 Cor. 10:19, 20)

At some point, of course, humans not being complete idiots, and having the witness of their conscience against them, the idolaters realized that giving worship to wood and stone and created things per se was not all that bright -- that the pattern was not it's prototype.  And so they began to offer their worship to the prototypes of their patterns -- what they imagined to be the True God.  There being many different patterns presented, however, they called them gods -- plural. (Gal. 4:8)

Now, it does us well to observe that the idea -- that the worship and honor given to an image passes through to its prototype -- is a valid one, considering that both are but patterns in our minds.

But the pagan worship was still directed to the wrong objects, since the prototypes themselves were created things, and demons.  This is not so much "gross" idolatry as "sophisticated" idolatry (my own distinction), because it is based on a correct principle, but directly wrongly.

The True God, being uncreated and completely separate from His Creation, was not able to be depicted at all, and so no image could bear worship to Him, as He had no prototype to pattern after, no form to be imaged.  "
And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice."  On this basis He gave a prohibition to His chosen people:
Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, the likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: and lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven.
Yet not all images were forbidden to be formed by them.  He commanded that they put images of the seraphim in the tabernacle, and pomegranates on the robes of the priests, etc.  But they were not to offer worship to them, nor to consider them divine, lest they be idolaters.


Ikon is the Greek word for "image".  It means nothing more than that.  Just as anything in the created world can be imaged, anything can be depicted in an icon, because an icon is an image.  The two are synonyms.

How, then, did the word come to denote religious images?  And why does the Church use them in her worship, making their use even a point of doctrine?  Has the Church fallen into idolatry?  Or has paganism overcome the Church?  Is an icon an idol?

Since all icons are images, and all images are icons (in the mundane sense), then yes, it is possible for an icon to be an idol, since it is possible for an image to be an idol, and all icons are images.  (NB: Conversely, and importantly, it is possible for an icon not to be an idol as well, for the same reason.)  There are two aspects to this determination: subject and viewer.

If the prototype (the subject) is not the True God, and the viewer is offering to its prototype the worship (latreia) that is due to the True God alone, then yes, the icon is an idol, and the viewer an idolater.  (Even if the prototype is the True God, but the viewer is offering the worship to the icon itself per se, and not as passing through to the prototype, then this also is idolatry, although I would call it, to be more precise, iconolatry, since what is seen is not the point of differentiation in this case so much as what is worshiped.)

"Idol", as we have seen (pun intended), is derivative of "to see", and is a class of icon/image that is used in an attempt to "see" the deity, and offer worship to it through them, but failing because this was impossible, seeing as (again, pun intended) the deity could not be depicted, having no form or shape or similitude in created things.

But what if that changed?  What if God took on a form?  Could we rightly depict that form, and offer worship to Him through it?


And the Gospel, the Good News, tells us that He did exactly that: that God truly became Man and dwelt among us, and "we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."  The Gospel teaches that this was not a mere apparition, a false form, but a true unification of two natures -- God and Man -- into one Person, the Man Christ Jesus.

It can properly said that the one who sees Him sees the Father, because He has united the two natures in Himself.  (He is called the image of God -- the icon, that is, of God.)  He is True God of True God, and yet dwells among us as one of us.

Therefore, since He took upon Himself a form, and appeared to us in the flesh, while remaining true God, we may rightly offer worship to the Father through Him who is the icon of the Father.  And we may depict His form as well, and offer worship to Him through such depictions, and through Him to the Father.

Such images are called "icons" in the religious sense.

But what of those images that are not strictly of Him?  Why do we offer to them the same signs of submission (bowing, kissing, etc.) that we offer to Him through His own images?

Just as I said, above, that the worshiper may become an idolater by offering the worship to the image per se, rather than the prototype through it, so also he may become an idolater by offering the latreia -- that is, the ultimate worship, due to God alone -- to depicted subjects that are not Him.

That being said, however, the worshiper may yet offer a lesser worship -- that is, not the ultimate worship due to God alone, attributing true and ultimate worthiness, but rather only attributing worth commensurate to the degree to which the subject has been made holy by the True and Ultimate Worthy One working and dwelling in him, or her, or (in the case of events and objects) it.

This lesser worship is sharply differentiated in English by the term "veneration", from the Latin venerare, meaning, "to regard with reverence and respect".  That is, to honor.  In Greek, the word is doulia.

(NB: This distinction is relatively new in English, but it has been there in Greek all along.  In English, we still have an echo of the dual use of the word "worship" to cover both senses in the phrase "your worship", attributed as a title for certain dignitaries.  Additionally, prostrations, kissing, and other such submissive gestures may be used to convey both latreia and doulia, together or seperately, and were commonly used on all levels in ancient times, although not so much recently in Western culture.  When it comes to these, context is key.)

This lesser worship is offered only within the context of and with reference toward and from the Ultimate Worthy One, for it is He who makes anyone honorable, and it is He Who works in them both to will and to do of His good pleasure.  It is He in them -- for the Saint is the Image of Christ, as Christ is the Image of the Father -- to whom we offer worship at all, and "God is glorified in His saints". The Saint is the image of the Image, and the icon of a Saint is an image of an image of the Image of the Father.

That is why we do not venerate just any old image.  To be worthy of veneration, the image must depict one of those who are themselves sanctified by the All-Holy Spirit.  It is never the icon itself that is worthy of veneration, but the prototype of whom it is an image.

Nor are even these prototypes, in themselves, worthy (excepting our Lord Himself, of course), but only insofar as the Spirit has made them Holy with His Holiness, making them images of the Prototype, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thus we "praise God in His sanctuary" -- i.e. that place which is sanctified by His presence -- giving honor to whom honor is due.


In ancient times, the pagans argued (correctly) that the worship directed to the image is passed on to its prototype.  But their defense of themselves by this truth fell flat: the prototypes they worshiped were not the True God, but demons.
This same truth, however, not only protects the Christian veneration of icons from being idolatry, but forms one of the strongest witnesses of the truth and shape of the Incarnation: that God became fully Man and dwelt among us while remaining fully God, completely, inseperably (but unconfusedly) uniting the two in His own Person.

The Incarnation is the absolute cause of our ability to worship His Person via His image, directly, and not in types and shadows.  By doing so we confess without any qualification that what is depicted is His whole Person, although His flesh is the only visible portion, the only portion able to be depicted.  The eye of faith, seeing Him in the flesh, sees the whole Person, acknowledges and confesses the indivisible and unconfused union of the two natures, and thus offers worship to the whole Godhead, which dwells bodily in Him.  (Col. 2:9)

This dichotomy between pagan idolatry and Christian worship, ushered in by the Incarnation, is so vibrant that once one grasps it one cannot thereafter deny it and remain in the Truth.  For whoever has seen the Son has seen the Father (John 14:9); His Word is Truth.  And the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and rests in the Son, He also sends into our hearts crying, "Abba, Father!".

Thus, when we see the Son, whether face to face or in painted depiction, the Holy Spirit "shines in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" and we prostrate ourselves with believing Thomas, kiss Him, and cry, "My Lord and my God!", truly worshiping the Father in Spirit and in Truth, to Whom be all glory, honor, and worship, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.  Amen!