This project begins with a brief overview of the theology and use of icon in the Orthodox Church. Aspects of the icon that will be considered include: the understanding of Tradition in the Orthodox Church; origins of the use of icons; the development of the theology of icons; the iconoclastic controversies and the defense of icons; an understanding of veneration; image as authoritatively equal to Word; and some themes, examples and practical use of icons. Following this overview will be a brief critique of Orthodox doctrine and use of the icon. This critique will be primarily helpful toward the third section of the project, which will be to draw potential applications for the use of symbol in the evangelical church today. In fact, the evangelical church already uses symbol, but often without a great deal of thought. This study is significant in that the thoughtful use of symbol, and potentially, some kind of use of icon, is essential for effective ministry during the postmodern era. This project will seek to develop a healthy theology of the use of image in worship that can be applied to an evangelical context.
The final section of this project will be a compilation of the previous study into a presentation suitable for the seminary classroom. It is intended that this material will become part of a course in worship and the arts. This material will relate specifically to the historical use of symbol in the Orthodox Church and potential applications for today’s evangelical church leaders.
Through the process of this work, there has been fairly close consultation with a number of people. This contact has been for the purpose of evaluation of both the content and the possibilities of presentation in a classroom context. The individuals consulted are listed in the bibliography of this paper. Their input is reflected often in the project, however, in light of the informal nature of many of the discussions, much of their input has settled to the subconscious level and is not referenced. It would be ideal to have students evaluate this material after this course was actually taught, but this will not happen during the time allotted for the project.
In the Orthodox Church, tradition is highly valued as the work of God over long periods of time to guide and direct the church. In this sense, tradition is the continuity of the experience of the community and the leading of the Holy Spirit in that continuity. Ouspensky suggests that: “Tradition is the power of the historical community to understand and know the truth. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in time.”1 In Orthodox tradition, this experience is intrinsically woven with the content of the Scriptures and the painting or writing of icons. This sense of community is profoundly different from western individualism. In the west, Tradition used to mean a rich heritage of community practice. Now, however, it often means simply an old way of doing things. In fact, our understanding of the idea of tradition has lost much of its identity. “Tradition is one of those terms which, through being too rich in meanings, runs the risk of finally having none.”2
Tradition, in the Orthodox Church, in many senses has equal authority to the scripture. This understanding is important in an overview of the use of Icon. Icon painters were required to adhere to tradition, both of icon painting itself as well as of the church in general.3 This is consistent with the idea that Scripture itself was written according to Tradition.
1 Leonid Ouspensky. Theology of the Icon: Volumes 1 & 2. (Crestwood: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1992), p. 136.
2 Leonid Ouspensky & Vladimir Lossky. The Meaning of Icons. (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s
Seminary Press, 1983), p. 11.
3 Ouspensky, p. 296
There are many references in Scripture to things that were passed on verbally but not written down. (II Thess 2:15 – things passed on by mouth and letter, I Cor 11:2 – urged to maintain traditions passed on to them).4 This understanding of the idea of tradition permeates the content and technique of the making of icons as well as the ways they are to be treated. In the Orthodox Church, remaining the same is valued over change. While there has been change during the 2000 years of the church, it has come over long periods of time and has been validated widely by consensus of church leadership and adherence to the content of previously established tradition.
- Icons in Worship, a study by D. Dirksen – II: A Brief Critique of The Orthodox Theology of Icons
- Order of Septuagint Psalms and the Masoretic
- Opening the New Testament
- Schmemann, Orthodoxy is the Church of Byzantium
- Adluri on Parmenides and the Transcendence
- The problem of Theodicy again
- Economic growth needs Science, Technology, Will to Power, and Masses
- Learning Greek without reason!
- The Bible and the Fathers in Orthodoxy
- Salvation and Culture