Icons and the Emerging Church: A Response to an Anabaptist
I've been having some interesting discussions the past few weeks with this anabaptist, as well as this anabaptist. Both consider themselves part of the Emerging church movement that has gotten so much cyber-ink in recent months in the blogosphere.
This post is part of the continued dialogue. Check out this post (and the great comments) and then take a peek at this response to get yourself up to speed....
When we say Orthodoxy is a "living" faith, one of the things we mean is that, like the human body, every part of it is ontologically connected to every other. In other words Icons are not *just* "windows to heaven" (although they are that). They are not *merely* tools to create "multi-sensory worship" (although they do function in that way).
More importantly they are the visual representation of our theology. They explain our soteriology. They illumine and deepen our ecclesiology. They show the richness of our Christology.
This history of the use of Icons in the Christian Church is intricately woven into the history of the Church as a whole. Thus icons (or any part of Orthodoxy) can only be *fully* understood or used in that context from which it was birthed. In other words, for us, Truth is a package deal.
This is what we mean by holism; there is no single part of the Orthodox life, either in corporate worship, or otherwise, that is not organically connected to all others. In fact to compartmentalize the Faith at all, betrays its inner �perichoresis.� (Gr. for "mutual indwelling).
So, for a group of well-meaning, sincere people who (although in many cases through no explicit fault of their own) base their theology on a scholastic philosophical system at odds with historic Christianity; who do not accept the ancient church's teaching on or experience of soteriology; who do not believe in the historic manifestation of the Church, and (in some instances) have a *radically* different Christology....then the use of these holy things by them is a totally different thing and can't be considered equally normative.
Now, does this mean that people outside of the Church can't derive benefits from using icons? Of course not! [read the last three words again!] I've said before and I'll continue to say it because it needs to be said over and over again: the interest in "the smells and bells" of Orthodoxy in the Protestant world is something to rejoice about! Much fruit has (and will continue to) come from this search.
But our point is that even more fruit will come when those who find themselves interested in and "experimenting" with Orthodoxy realize the holistic nature of this Ancient Faith and decide to embrace it, and not just the few parts that first appealed to them.