The Proper Introduction of Icon

Introducing the use of sacred image to the contemporary churches must be done in a very careful manner. The 20th century was full of the rediscovery of icons. This is largely because the technique of removing paint that had previously covered them was developed.196 There is a danger that fascination with sacred images may simply be an interest in novelty. The Orthodox are concerned that the use of sacred images and the icons themselves are not trivialized. In fact, the popularity of ancient icons in the west today is considered blasphemous, a distortion of their purpose.197 Giakalis declares “…no one apart from the believer has any right to put up icons of holy persons and the events of sacred history.” It is quite possible that he might amend this statement to exclude non-Orthodox believers. A trendy use of icons, more for art or decoration outside of true religion, is profane. Icons are not “art” or “mementos”.198

196 Lazarev, 1997, p. 11.
197 Coniaris, 1982, p. 171.
198 Giakalis, 1994, p. 62-63.

Developing and maintaining an understanding of the sacred is essential for the journey into the appropriate use of image in Evangelicalism. Ouspensky’s exhortation to avoid Images that might “arouse shameful pleasures” (prohibited by the Quinisext council) is a good start.199 However, it is extremely difficult to identify these universally. What might arouse one person (man) might not arouse another. It may even be, as is common in North American culture, that the withholding of the image arouses. Also, it may not be the fault of the image but of the viewer. Nudity in art is a potential example of this. Or dancing. Icons depicting the narrative of the Song of Songs are difficult to find. Yet this is part of life, the scripture and a healthy incarnational theology.