185 Ugolnik, 1989, p. 66.
186 Zibawi, 1993, p. 53.

The contemporary evangelical church exists in a visual age. Protestants need a proper visual theology that is incarnational. “Thus, in a world replete with the images that shower down upon us from billboards, pour from the television screen, adorn our cities and public parks, and inhabit our entire interior landscape, the religious image has little power of itself to claim its own dominion over the imagination.”187 Effective ministry will require the appropriate use of symbol. Leadership in this area is important in order to avoid trivialization of the symbolic. In North American culture, religious images are often more fashion statements than true icons, though they sometimes use historical content and appear icon-like. At best they are merely reminders.188 This leadership is essential because “When the church confines its territory to the heavenly realm alone, it surrenders the material world totally to the secular powers.”189 We have definitely seen the triumph of the secular in the area of symbol during modernity.

The Possibility of Veneration In The Evangelical Church

Much of the reasoning around the Seventh Ecumenical Council was that veneration already existed in the church. The issue was not whether veneration was a problem but where its practice was appropriate. There were many inappropriate examples that leaned to worship of icons (inappropriate adoration) or superstition. In some cases, problems such as adding flecks of icon paint to the communion wine for luck were happening.190 However, there were appropriate examples as well. The premise of the reasoning of the Seventh Council was that veneration of icons was very close to other kinds of veneration that was present in the church of the 9th century, and therefore, no great leap.

187 Ugolnik, 1989, p. 57.
188 An example of this would be the gold crosses adorning music award show guests or WWJD araphernalia that is common among younger people.
189 Ugolnik, 1989, p. 58.
190 Clendenin, 1994, p. 83.

At first glance, however, it seems this argument is irrelevant for the Evangelical church of today. Most would suggest that veneration does not occur in any context in contemporary evangelicalism. But there are appearances of veneration, even though they would not be considered veneration and certainly admission would be unlikely. Some possible examples of veneration would include the Bible itself. The Evangelical emphasis on the inerrancy of the Bible that permeated the 20th century often appeared like bibliolatry. Specific acts of veneration were not formally required or observed, but the treatment of certain bibles or even versions of bibles was definitely similar to veneration. L’Engle suggests that the Bible is one of our greatest icons and potentially, one of our greatest idols. “The greater an icon is, the more dangerously easy it is for us to turn it into an idol.” “When the Bible becomes a thing in itself, rather than the word of God, it becomes an idol.”191 In any case, the appearance of veneration has often been present. Morgan suggests that Protestants interact with pictures of Christ much in the same way that Catholics do.192 It is debatable whether this exemplifies veneration or merely sentimentalism, but it is definitely interaction beyond the merely cerebral. Morgan refers to a study done by Emile Durkheim who argued, “…social thought can make us see things in the light that suits it”. We see Christ in the picture because we want to.193