Thursday, October 22, 2015

610 CE - Religion in decline - Images and Innovations

This is the continuation of a multi-post article. You can read the first part here and the previous part here. This is also part of a longer series called "The Koran from a Christian Perspective." You can find other posts in this series here.
One of the contentions in the church during the time that Islam was growing had to do with the use of images in worship. One group held that images in worship were beneficial to the common folk, especially the illiterate, by being able to convey a message without words. Schaff describes the stance of those who favored images in the church. "Images are a pictorial Bible, and speak to the eye even more eloquently than the word speaks to the ear. They are of special value to the common people who cannot read the Holy Scriptures. The honors of the living originals in heaven were gradually transferred to their wooden pictures on earth; the pictures were reverently kissed and surrounded by
the pagan rites of genuflexion, luminaries, and incense; and prayers were thought to be more effective if said before them." (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume IV, Section 100. The Worship of Images. Literature. Different Theories)

The opponents to images were called iconoclasts and "image-breakers." The iconoclasts "appealed first and last to the second commandment in the decalogue in its strict sense as understood by the Jews and the primitive Christians. It was considerably strengthened by the successes of the Mohammedans who, like the Jews, charged the Christians with the great sin of idolatry, and conquered the cities of Syria, Palestine, and Egypt in spite of the sacred images which were relied on for protection and miraculous interposition." (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume IV, Section 100. The Worship of Images. Literature. Different Theories)

The battle over images lead to several church councils, some which affirmed their use and others which rejected them. Schaff records the decision of one such council. "Bishop after bishop, even those who had been members of the Synod of 754, renounced his iconoclastic opinions, and large numbers exclaimed together: 'We all have sinned, we all have erred, we all beg forgiveness'...  At the request of one of the Roman delegates, an image was brought into the assembly, and reverently kissed by all. At the conclusion, the assembled bishops exclaimed unanimously: 'Thus we believe. This is the doctrine of the apostles. Anathema upon all who do not adhere to it, who do not salute the images, who call them idols, and who charge the Christians with idolatry. Long life to the emperors! Eternal memory to the new Constantine and the new Helena! God protect their reign! Anathema upon all heretics! Anathema especially upon Theodosius, the false bishop of Ephesus, as also upon Sisinnius and Basilius! The Holy Trinity has rejected their doctrines.'" (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Volume IV, Section 102. The Restoration of Image-Worship by the Seventh Oecumenical Council, 787)

Muhammad wrote of those who altered the scriptures and call their additions and subtractions "the Word of God." "And there is a sect of them twist [torture the scriptures with] their tongues with the Book, that you may suppose it part of the Book the Scriptures], yet it is not part of the Book [Scriptures]; and they say, 'It is from God,' yet it is not from God, and they speak falsehood against God, and that wittingly [and they know they do so]." (Koran 3:72) When the council of 787 declared, "This is the doctrine of the apostles" they declared that their view of images were consistent with, and even thought by, the apostles. However, there is no historical evidence, no recorded record or teaching, that can support the belief that the apostles, or their disciples, ever taught the reverence of images as those who claimed they did at the council. They had, in effect, added to the scriptures a new doctrine; a doctrine that was in no way apostolic. Doctrine is not the Word of God simply because we say it is. It is the Word of God because it was spoken by God. Muhammad understood this and condemned the church for her non-apostolic innovations.

More to come...
David Robison

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