146 Calian, 1968, p. 131.
147 Coniaris, 1982, p. 175.
148 Ouspensky, 1992, p. 178.
149 Limouris, 1990, p. 100.
The implication is that the physical (material) has less importance than the spiritual. It seems that this violates the idea of kenosis and the redeeming of creation. To relegate all human desire to the evils of the flesh seems in contradiction to the idea of the possibility of the redemption of creation. It seems highly possible that this reflects a problem of the acceptance of the physical as good. In light of many of the defenses of icons in the first millennium, this seems like a contradiction. The primary defense for icons includes the belief in the actual, physical incarnation of Christ. A reasonable conclusion from this is that the physical Christ had healthy, appropriate, physical desires and pleasures. Certainly we see examples of this in the Gospels. In fact, Christ participated in the joys of eating and drinking to the point that he was accused of being a glutton and drunkard (Matt. 11:19). Therefore, it seems unfair to portray Christ and others in icons as being free from such wholesome physical desires and pleasures. Impassionate portrayals of Christ and others seem to downplay the humanity of Christ. This singular emphasis on transfiguration seems somewhat unbalanced.
When we consider the theme of “other worldliness” in icons, it sometimes appears more like Nirvana than the Kingdom of God. The idea that the subjects of icons have “left this world” as purported by Zibawi (“In this solemn calmness, the whole being is listening to God.”150) contributes to this almost anti-world sentiment. It is almost as if listening to God means complete detachment from the physical, created world. This appears in contradiction to incarnational theology. A theology that accepts the incarnation of Christ as real and physical, must also accept the possibility of interaction with God, without departure from the physical world.
150 Zibawi, 1993, p. 54-55.
Orthodoxy And The Other Arts
It seems that the Orthodox so strongly advocate a certain specific kind of art yet neglect the possibility of any other kinds of art for the church. Music is very limited in the Orthodox Church. Sculpture is virtually forbidden and dance and other physical art is unheard of. This appears contradictory in light of the strong theology of visual, two-dimensional art. The reasoning in defense of icon could and should be used in the context of the defense of the other arts as well.
The Dangers of Veneration as Idolatry
It is acknowledged by many Orthodox theologians that there is a significant danger that veneration degenerates into idolatry. In fact, Ouspensky admits that “…there were ways of venerating sacred images which could be mistaken for blasphemy.”151 While this does not negate the potential of the use of images in worship, it does raise some questions. How can the pitfalls of idolatry be avoided? How can the distinctions between veneration and adoration, as discussed earlier, be maintained? And what safeguards can be set in place to protect the church against this error? It is unclear that these questions are addressed regularly in the Orthodox Church.