Renouncing Iconoclasm


I have added a new quote to the sidebar of the blog – it is from an earlier posting:

We have to renounce iconoclasm. In so doing, we inherently set ourselves against certain forces within modernity. The truth is eschatological, that is, it lies in the future, but we also believe that this eschatological reality was incarnate in Christ, the Beginning and the End, the Alpha and the Omega. We do not oppose the future in embracing the Tradition we have received. We embrace the future that is coming in Truth, rather than the false utopias of modern man’s imagination.

There is a strange spirit of iconoclasm (the Greek for “icon smashing”) and it breaks out now and again across human history. It is not just a short period in Byzantine history successfully resisted by the Orthodox but a strange manifestation of human sin that has as its driving force and hence allurement, the claim that it is defending the honor of God.

The icon smashers are as varied as certain forms of Islam or certain forms of Puritanism (and some of its Protestant successors). Some icon smashers direct their attention to pictures or statues, per se, while others turn their attention to even ideological icons such as honoring certain days and holidays. Those Christians who rail against the date of Christmas belong to this latter group of iconoclasts.

What is striking to me is that iconoclasm has almost always accompanied revolutions. I suppose those who are destroying the old and replacing with the new have a certain drive to “cleanse” things. Thus during China’s Cultural Revolution, books, pictures, older faculty members, indeed a deeply terrifying array of unpredictable things and people became the objects of the movement’s iconoclasm. As in all of these revolutions – iconoclasm kills.

In Christian history the first recorded outbreak of iconoclasm was the period that gave the phenomenon the name – during the mid-Byzantine Empire. Like later incarnations of this spirit of destruction, the icons themselves were only one thing to be destroyed – those who sought to explain and defend them became objects of destruction as well. Thus we have the martyrs of the Iconoclast Heresy.

During the Protestant Reformation iconoclasm was a frequent traveler with the general theological reform itself. Thus statues, relics, furniture – all became objects of destruction (as well as people). Some of this was state sponsored (as was the original iconoclastic period). The logic of iconoclasm, however, cannot always be confined. Thus in the Reformation the logic of reform moved from destruction of images to destruction of the state (which was itself an icon of sorts). In Germany the result was the Peasants’ Revolt, which became so dangerous to the powers that be that even Martin Luther had to denounce it and bless the state’s bloody intervention.

In England the Reform that was first put in place by the state remained unsteady for over a hundred years. Eventually, the Puritan Reform (that only took the logic of Reform to its next step) began to smash images, behead kings, outlaw bishops, outlaw holidays, outlaw dancing (they were a fun lot). For ten years England was ruled by a bloody dictatorship that was as ruthless in its iconoclasm as any regime in history.

One of the difficulties of iconoclasm is its appeal to the idea of God. Images are smashed because they are considered an affront to God. And not just images, but certain ideas are smashed (burn the books and those who wrote them). There is a “righteousness” to the cause which refuses to accept anything other than complete obedience.

I do not write about iconoclasm entirely from the outside. I’ve been there – done that. The verse of Scripture that seemed most “iconoclastic” to me was in 2 Cor. (10:3-6):

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.

Of course, the verse is referring to sinful thoughts and uses (as is not unusual in St. Paul) martial imagery. That same imagery applied to the governing of a state (or a Church) can be quite dangerous. It is useful in the spiritual life, provided it is well-directed by a mature and generous guide.

The plain truth of the matter is that God is an icon-maker. He first made man “in His own image.” And in becoming man, the man he became is described as the “image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). The same God who gave the commandment to make no graven images, also commanded the making of the Cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant, as well as the images of angels woven in the curtain of the Tabernacle. He commanded the making of the image of the serpent, lifted on a staff, that brought healing to all who looked on it (an Old Testament prefigurement of the crucified Christ).

In the better than 14 years I have known Archbishop DMITRI of Dallas (my bishop), I have heard him warn incessantly that the greatest danger in the modern world is the attack on man as the image of God. That God became man in order to unite man to God is the only sure Divine underwriting of human worth. We have value because of the image we bear.

There is a restraint that is inherently involved in offering honor. Orthodox Christian living requires that we know how to worship God with what is due to Him alone, but at the same time to know how to honor those things that are honorable without giving them what belong to God alone. It is easy to say “give honor to God alone,” but this is contrary to the Scriptures in which we are told to “give honor to whom honor is due” (Romans 13:7 and also see Romans 12:10). We cannot honor God by destroying the very images He has created (and here I include the saints who could not be what they are but by God’s grace).

There is within iconoclasm, a spirit of hate and anger. Without them destruction would not be so easy. But it is also the case that such spirits are not of God – though they are easily attributed to zeal or excused as exuberance. Iconoclasm is not the narrow way, but the wide path of destruction. It is easy to declare that all days are the same and that no days should be considered holier than others. It is easy to check out the historical pedigree of every feast of the Church and declare that some had pagan predecessors. Of course some had pagan predecessors – as did every last human being. If the Church has blessed a day and made it to be a day on which an action of Christ or an event in His life, or a saint of the Church is to be honored and remembered, then it is acting well within the Divine authority given it in Scripture (Matt. 18:18).

More importantly, we will grow more surely into the image of Christ by imitating his actions and learning to build up rather than to smash. Giving place to anger and the spirit of iconoclasm, in all its various guises, has never produced saints – but only destruction that has to eventually give way to something more sane. It is interesting that the Puritan reign in New England (as a matter of historical fact) was, by its third generation, weakening and looking for something different. The “Great Revivals” that swept through those places did not leave a lasting religious legacy other than the cults that sprang out of the “burnt-over district” in Upstate New York, and a growing secularization that sought freedom from the iconoclastic regime of its ancestors. Our modern American world is an inheritor of that secularization.

The only image that needs to be discarded is the one we have of ourselves as God. We are not Him. Worship God. Give honor to whom honor is due.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.



45 responses to “Renouncing Iconoclasm”

  1. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    “Our modern American world is the inheritors of that secularization” The iconoclasm continues in its most destructive form ever with the attempt to destroy the only image left…humanity. Abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, animal “rights”, cyberization, even global warming fanaticism partakes of the the anti-human iconoclasm that is the fruit of defective theology.

    But is not iconoclasm inherent in Satan’s original hatred of us?

  2. fatherstephen Avatar

    I would agree. When I think about it in the manner offered in this post, it is obvious to me that iconoclasm is not merely an historic phenomenon that Orthodoxy once dealt with, but is perennial, transcending cultures. It is a state of the heart – and a cold one at that – though it is frequently associated with religious justifications. It strikes me as interesting that abortion, euthanasia, and now homosexuality and other topics you mention are all deeply rooted in certain parts of the modern American Church, and are held as religious tenets. But as you have said, it is ultimately the destruction of man as the image of God that binds them together. It is little wonder that my Archbishop is constant in his warnings about the attack on the imago Dei.

  3. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    It is easy for me to look at such phenomenon as being external to me or the result of “western” mistakes. Clearly neither of those perceptions is entirely true.

    I recall a post of yours many moons ago in which you mentioned that you once (at least) in an absent minded state gave reverance to your wife as you would an icon. I thought then that such an act is equally as appropriate as the reverance we give to God through icons of wood and paint. Isn’t that what the kiss of peace really is?

  4. Gina Avatar

    I’m struck by the busybody quality of iconoclasm. The Reformation iconoclasts were especially concerned with those images that had been “abused,” prayed before; nowadays you will often hear assertions that those venerating icons are committing idolatry. How is one to know that outside of being able to judge the worshipper’s heart?

  5. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Gina, what a great way to put it, “busybody”. I really like that. I actually find quite a bit of the iconoclastic spirit in the ecumencial movement and their desire to reduce the expression of faith to the “essentials” so that we can all agree.

    I have recently learned that even the teachings of John Calvin have been essential to some on their road to salvation. A prospect which I would never have entertained prior to some of the posts I have read here.

    Perhaps iconoclasm is just idolatry in camoflage?

  6. […] Smashing icon is more common than we imagine. […]

  7. AR Avatar

    Father Stephen, this is something that I feel I understand deeply. I have often described myself as someone to whom temptation usually comes in religious guise. This license to destroy in the name of purity is the one that most chilled me when I discovered it in myself. Now I refuse to join with image-breakers in their deeds, receiving the anger instead of dishing it out, and find it far preferrable.

    Michael Bauman, if it’s me you are referring to I should clarify that I never did read John Calvin. My teacher was Edwards. You must understand that if one is coming from present-day evangelicalism, Reformation theology is an older form of Christianity with more substance. The wave of young people going back to Reformed religion is in itself an anti-iconoclastic impulse – ironic to be sure but very real. We are afraid of the velocity of the dissolution of society around us and we are starting to regret our forefathers’ haste to constantly tear down and start over. None of us could stumble on Orthodoxy and simply say, “Oh, how true. I think I’ll do this.” We have to retrace the steps our forefathers took. Most of us get stuck at the wall of Catholicism because we can’t accept the authoritarianism involved in allegiance to the papacy or because we were raised with a terrible prejudice against it. That’s where Orthodoxy comes in…if you can find it and if you have the courage to go back far enough.

    There, now you’ve been told a little of someone else’s story but remember that you’ll never know the whole.

  8. Matt Avatar

    AR: What you have described pretty much sums up my own conversion to Orthodoxy. I began as an Evangelical, moved back to the Reformation, and then, ironically, I think, partly through the influence of certain “ancient-future” sectors of the “emerging church” movement I moved back to the early Fathers. Although, based on my given name, I took St. Matthew the Evangelist as my name-saint, I believe St. Athanasius had a great deal to do with my finding the Church.

    Gina: “…nowadays you will often hear assertions that those venerating icons are committing idolatry. How is one to know that outside of being able to judge the worshipper’s heart?”

    The argument that I’ve been given is that the Commandment says, not to make graven images, and not to “bow down to them or worship them.” Therefore, the very act of bowing to an icon is a violation of the Commandment. This argument, of course, outright ignores any concept of a distinction between veneration and adoration, and it does so intentionally because it focuses on the action. “The Bible says, ‘don’t bow down’ and you’re bowing down; my argument is rock-solid.”

  9. fatherstephen Avatar


    I think you’re right on target. The 7th council made clear the distinction between veneration and worship – a theological distinction based both on Scripture and the Church’s received experience. Those who refuse to accept this council, are setting themselves against the Tradition and choosing some other way of determining truth, that will be inherently flawed. I think in some ways, the 7th council is the absolute make or break between Orthodoxy and everything else.

  10. Canadian Avatar

    AR said:
    “We are afraid of the velocity of the dissolution of society around us and we are starting to regret our forefathers’ haste to constantly tear down and start over.”

    For 23 years, I have been trying to sort through evangelicalism to find out what is true, biblical and apostolic but all you do is pick what you think is best from the smorgasbord of theology and find a table where folks are eating most of the same stuff. Then you call it a church or denomination. This is exhausting and frustrating. Reformation theology provided some stable footing but what ironically happened for me is that the temporary stability provided a vantage point to peer into history to see more clearly what came before.

    As far as bowing and praying to an image…..God instructed the Israelites in exile to “bow and pray toward the temple”.

  11. JimN Avatar

    Father Stephen,

    I really appreciate this post! It addresses issues I have personally been dealing with, especially the disposition of my own heart. It reminds me of something F. Scott Fitzgerald said:

    “My generation of radicals and breakers-down never found anything to take the place of the old virtues of work and courage and the old graces of courtesy and politeness.”

    Your formulation, “Worship God. Give honor to whom honor is due” is very helpful to me.

    I wonder, though, as Christians who are supposed to owe our allegiance to God over the world, don’t we still need to be vigilant over idolatrous influences we might encounter? Put another way, when does attachment or adherence to something of the world become idolatry?

    For example, patriotism is beautiful and healthy, but what about the “My country right or wrong” doctrine? Isn’t this a direct challenge to the allegiance we owe to God? In other words (while avoiding specific examples which people might reasonably disagree about) wouldn’t it be a kind of idolatry to support the policies of a government which might be in direct contradiction with the Gospel, by using the My Country argument?

    A couple of other examples: What if someone professed an absolute faith in the power and purpose of the state to achieve social justice? Many Christians would see that as idolatrous. Also, what about Ron Paul’s “absolute faith in free markets and less government?” (, I mean, you can’t get any clearer than having an absolute faith in something other than God! What would Archbishop Dmitri say to people who place concerns of profit over needs of people, and justify it with free market thinking?

    Could certain social conventions of both the left and the right be considered idolatrous? Isn’t there also a valid Christian argument against supporting social conventions for their own sake, that social conventions which are unjust or dehumanizing (i.e. “an attack on man as the image of God”) are often followed out of a desire for respectability or conformity, and may ultimately be man-made anyway?

    It seems like there are a lot of gray areas. I think what you’re saying is, as in all things Orthodox, a pure heart is what counts. Self-examination is essential.

  12. fatherstephen Avatar


    Well said. I think we have to be quite vigilant about such idolatries. The state has claimed much for itself in the modern world – far more than was every the case in the past. It’s one thing to believe your Pharoah is a god, it’s another thing to think that your government can make you live like a god.

    There are gray area. Where St. Paul actually says, “honor to whom honor is due,” is in the context of prayer for the Emperor, though it applies far more generally. To give proper honor to the state is correct. Knowing what proper honor is – that’s difficult.

  13. MuleChewingBriars Avatar

    Orthodoxy does mean “proper glory”, does it not, Father? It doesn’t mean correct doctrine, although it implies that. It doesn’t primarily mean “correct worship”, although it does imply that. Above all else, the concept of giving everything and everyone the due and proper honor and dignity appeals to me far more than correctness of ideology and practice, although that cannot but follow.

  14. Matt Avatar

    Father: I suppose that’d be why the 7th Ecumenical Council (I guess, technically, the return of the icons) is celebrated as “The Triumph of Orthodoxy.” 😉 Though, admittedly, I still don’t really understand why that is. I mean, the phrase almost sounds like it’s saying, “After the 7th Council, nothing else really happened,” though, certainly, the Church has had to combat heresies since?

    Canadian: Your comment brought to mind a thought regarding the current trend towards Reformed theology in many Evangelical circles (that I’ve run in, at least). Perhaps the trend is a result of modern (or, ‘post-modern’, whatever) people seeking a ground of stability in the shifting sands of Evangelicalism.

    Then again, it could be an anti-iconoclast movement, realizing the dangers of iconoclasm and returning to tradition. Or, it could be just another form of iconoclasm: smashing the Evangelical-Revivalist icons. Or, even more oddly, perhaps iconoclasm has, itself, become an icon of sorts, and therefore the next step of iconoclasm is to smash iconoclasm itself. Maybe it doesn’t make sense, but, then again…the French Revolution…

  15. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Matt, your comment illustrates the ultimate end of the iconoclastic impluse–nothingess–nihilism. Unfortunately, iconoclasm runs deeply in the American psyche. The Puritans, the Non-Conformists, the Transcendetalists all were iconoclasts.

    As Fr. Stephen noted periods of intense iconoclasm often occur at times of revolution and other civil/cultural unrest. Iconoclasm is rebellion.

  16. fatherstephen Avatar

    Technically, the “Triumph of Orthodoxy” represents not the 7th Council, but the final implementation of the Council’s decision and the return of the icons to the Churches.

    You are correct, the Church has always continued to deal with heresies, though after the 7th Council, they have generally been dealt with by local councils, then generally accepted through the rest of the Church, which was largely the pattern prior to the 1st Ecumenical Council.

    The 14th century councils on the Palamite Controversy are probably among the most significant. They were local, but have an acceptance that gives them the force of an Ecumenical Council within Orthodoxy.

    In the 20th Century, the Moscow Synod condemned the heresy of Sophiology, which caused Sergius Bulgakov in Paris to renounce his teachings on the subject.

    There have been local condemnations of “ecumenism” by the Synod of the ROCOR, that, I suppose, will have to undergo some process of general acceptance, which I would fully expect. The ecumenical movement of the mid-20th century quickly lost its focus and became a bureaucracy unto itself and a great scandal in Christianity. The energy in present day Orthodoxy is all moving in the direction of complete withdrawal from the Wordl Council of Churches, etc. At least as I see the winds blow. Such actions would tend to ratify ROCOR’s actions.

  17. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Matt, think of the Synodikon of Orthodoxy that is proclaimed from the altar on the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy:

    “As the prophets beheld, as the Apostles have taught, as the Church has received, as the teachers have dogmatized, as the Universe has agreed, as Grace has shown forth, as Truth has revealed, as falsehood has been dissolved, as Wisdom has presented, as Christ awarded, thus we declare, thus we assert, thus we preach, Christ our true God, and honor His Saints in words, in writings, in thoughts, in sacrifices, in churches, in Holy icons, on the one hand worshipping and reverencing Christ as God and Lord; and on the other hand, honoring the true servants of the same Lord of all and accordingly offering them vereration. This is the Faith of the Apostles, this is the Faith of the Fathers, this is the Faith of the Orthodox, this is the Faith which has established the Universe. Who is so great a God as our God? Thou our God Who alone doest wonders!”

    One of the hardest things I had to adjust to coming into the Church was the fact that time in the Church is not linear. Thus the Synodikon is/was not just a statement of the finite work of one particular Council, or the expression of joy at one particular event or moment in time, like with icons themselves, we are ushered into the Kingdom, still in the world but not of it. Surrounded by time yet no longer bound by it. Linear time is simply a measure of decay and death.

  18. David Avatar

    For me iconoclasm was really about fear. I feared the power of beauty and the love of “things”. Beauty is in itself a most incorruptible account of God’s nature. But beauty can be used as a horrible tool of manipulation.

    Hans Urs von Balthasar (a non-Orthodox) gave me the hope to believe in beauty’s wedding to truth. From there it was a short jump to letting my heart love the Creator Incarnate.

    It’s easy to fear God’s power. Fear beauty’s power. Fear is easier than love. but perfect love drives out all fear.

  19. Ioannis Edward M Freeman Avatar

    Iconoclasm reduces all noetic functions to bio-chemical and neuronic architectural pathways, such that a common mistake is to consider that the mind and the brain are the same. If neuro-imaging techniques to link emotion to neuroanatomy hold any truth, the truth is that the link is seldom questioned by scholars. It is as if what I can sense with my eyes exposes something that exists and the existence of this something is known because I can see it, and that anything seen does not require a theory to understand it. Such crass phenomenalism is synonymous with iconoclasm. Crass phenomenalism further drives a wedge between so-called modern science and relational faith such as an Orthodox Christian experiences in eating and drinking the Holy Meal. Last week I was in the GrossMuenster in Zurich where the iconoclasts raped and pillaged (speaking of anger, Father Stephen) to purify their faith in the 16th-century. Indeed, the faith was purified of anything but sentimentality and moralism, which held a community of Christians together, in true ecclesial coercive ways, with “ortho-thinking” and not “ortho-sensing.” The human senses became considered banal or the final word on everything, and the iconoclasts stripped the walls bare. A chill went down my spine again when viewing the denuded skin of church walls that had been chemically-cleansed and rid of the “holy.” The chill left me when I remembered the simple words, “Take and eat, this is my body.” I pray that we Orthodox might one day, too, become free of monophystism, but persistent false teachers concerning ascesis still try to hold us captive to an entirely transcendent God. Yet, there’s some good news floating about during the Nativity: the Word really did become flesh, and humanity has been raised into God. Thank God.

  20. luciasclay Avatar


    The Holy Icons are, frankly, the biggest stumbling block for me. As you may recall I’m coming from the evangelical nondenom protestant ( and occasionally a Baptist ).

    My wife, having read into the subject, has firmly declared herself an iconoclast. I am wrestling with the issue myself and have not settled it.

    I would ask what was the tradition handed down from the beginning. It seems that in the 7th council both sides made an appeal to the tradition of the church from the beginning.

    One thing I find interesting is the Coptic Church used icons for a long time, then had to deal with the iconoclasts itself. Then after the same time period it returned them in full as well. Since the Copts were not in communion with the Orthodox this is significant. It suggests the iconoclasts were not a movement within the Catholic ( in its historic sense of east + west combined ) church. Rather it was a movement outside the Church and impacting all seperate aspects of the church at once.

    I understand the idea that Luke was the first iconographer with his painting of Mary. I understand the idea of images in the catacombs. But I don’t really know much more than that about the role of icons in the church of the first few centuries.

    For me the key will be to understand, and accept, that the icons have been part of the faith from the beginning and not a later novel teaching that became accepted. Even if it was an early but not universally practiced thing would be ok.

    If you have time, Where can I go to get a well detailed examination of the role of icons in the church from the beginning through the 7th council ?

    Regards and Thanks,


  21. fatherstephen Avatar

    Ouspensky’s The Theology of the Icon is the most comprehensive.

    Images are already defended in St. Basil the Great. I suppose if one is to reject veneration of icons as a development from outside Christianity, then you’d have to reject the Trinity, etc. Arius used Scripture, too. But St. Basil recognizes this as an Apostolic Tradition, and also has some to say theologically on the matter.

    Iconoclasm is largely unknown until the 7th century. There is no evidence of an early Christianity without icons.

    Indeed, the excavations at Dura Europa of a Synogogue, contemporary to early Christianity, show that synogogues were not without images, contrary to what most modern Protestants would imagine about 1st century Judaism.

    St. John of Damascus’ On the Holy Images is about as straightforward a defense as I know of and certainly recommend him.

    But if someone is going to be an iconoclast, then they need to get rid of all their images, including the family portrait (if one would actually want to be consistent on the wrong interpretation of the 2nd commandment).

    It’s odd that the God who spoke to Moses and gave the commandments, also gave directions for images (Cherubim, etc.) for the Tabernacle.

    As for the veneration of icons – it is necessary to understand worship and why veneration is quite another thing.

    Look at Ouspensky if you get the chance.

  22. luciasclay Avatar


    Thanks for the Oespensky info. I will look into it.

    And yes, your point of having to also reject Trinity etc. if one goes down that road is completely valid. But its even worse than that as you’d also have to reevaluate the canon of scripture as well for the same reasons. Its not a road anyone should go down.

    I have been inoculated against truth by heresy and its not so simple to reverse the vaccine.

  23. ecollage Avatar

    This was a nice interview you gave on the Archbishop when he fell asleep on Agios Phanarious.

  24. Brian Avatar

    Did you delete my comment? If so please tell me so and I will move on.

  25. Brian Avatar

    Is God an Iconoklast?

    God made man in his image. When man is worshiped God destroyed that man. Thus God destroyed his icon?

    God sent Hezekiah to deal with the sacred relic that God commanded Moses to make. the snake on the pole. the people where “honoring” it with incense and bowing and kissing. Thus The Holy Spirit says that Hezekiah did right in the eyes of the Lord and destroyed this relic.

    You can have an image just as God had the temple made, but you cannot give to it what is due god. you cannot even pray, kneel, bow, burn incense in the presence of any saint or angle. As the angel told John in revelation the Greek word for these actions is proskenisi. Icon or in your presence these things are for god only.

    there is one mediator Jesus who is the icon of God who can be worshiped who is to be prayed to. He is the one hight priest. to pray to any other is forbidden. No just because it robs God but because it robbs you too. Just as God forbade them to eat the fruit primarily because of what it would do to them!! You cannot understand this if you are not willing to give it up. Give it up temporarily like Abe offered his son. make it an experament.

  26. Brian Avatar

    You make valid points. I know my post is late….

    I agree God is the first Icon maker. I agree that we give honor to whom honor is due, but don’t forget we give to God that which is due only to God.

    The danger of Icons is treating them as Israel did the Golden Calf. As long as we are not doing that we are fine.

    Take for example the snake on the pole God commanded Moses to make. Years later the people were burring incense to it and Hezekiah destroyed it. The Holy Spirit makes it a point to say that he did right in the eyes of God when he destroyed this relic!!!

    He was an Iconoklast directed and guided by God to do so!.

    “He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done …He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. “ 2 Kings 18

    I live in Greece on the news they will parade the icon down the street. This is no different than ancient Greece parading their idols down the street. Or am I wrong? well what shocked me is that the news title was that they proskenisi the icon. When we read in Revelation that John was overwhelmed and he then proskenisied the angel the angel exhorts him to not do that to him or ANY of Gods servants. That he should prosekenis God and God only.

    Give to Cesar that which is Cesar’s but give to God that which is Gods. The Romans worshiped Cesar and Jesus is clearly saying “yes honor Cesar and pay taxs but worship is for God and God alone!”

    God said in the Old testament by the prophet my glory I will not share with an Icon.

    As Israel played the harlot with the snake on the pole so too Orthodox Christians play the harlot with Icons and Saints Jesus said to thyiatry “they commit sexual immorality and eat meat sacrificed to idols” The Old testament shows us that when anyone serves an image they are playing the harlot it is spiritual sexual immorality. Eating meat to idols is accepting teachings of this sort. The meat and mild of the word are what we are to eat. Jesus is the word of God not the bible That is we are to learn from him and him alone.

    A woman told me it is like this the Saint is closer to God and so we pray to the Saint. Well King Saul said in his heart the same thing and so he went to a witch to speak to Samuel to be his mediator. Samuel showed up and rebuked him for having done this.

    So I asked her “so you are saying that the saint is a mediator for you?” She replied yes. I then showed her that the Holy Spirit is specific to say there is only one mediator between men and God and that is the MAN Christ Jesus. She then tried to tell me the bible contradicts itself. I said this is good in a way you then agree that is says there is ONE mediator and that we are NOT to proskenis. I then asked her to show me some contradictions if she was willing.

    The Anti-Christ will come and claim to be God. He will perform miracles to encourage our believe of his logic. He will have Icons made of himself that those who do not proskenisi his image the image by a wonder will strike them dead. This is no different that modern North Korea they have statues and paintings of their leader if you do not “honor” either the painting or the statue…… If you proskenisi Icons already you are prepared (brain washed) to fall for this strong delusion that the Antichrist will bring.

    From the old testament:.

    “Take careful heed to yourselves, for
    you saw no form when the LORD spoke
    to you at Horeb out of the midst of the
    fire, lest you act corruptly and make for
    yourselves a Icon..”

    “I am the LORD, that is My name; And
    My glory I will not give to another, Nor
    My praise to Icons.”

    God himself is an Iconklast!!! Look at Herod. Herod a man made in Gods image. Herod is an icon as you make this very point. When Herod was worshiped and declared a God because he did not rebuke them or stop them Jesus struck him and worms came up and devoured him – the Holy Spirit tells us in the book of Acts – Thus God destroyed this icon he had made and so I am logical in saying that God is an Iconklast.

    But why destroy Herod and not Cesar for the same sin? Well Herod had been given much and to whom much is given much is expected he had the witness of John the Baptist whom he beheaded. He had the witness of Jesus himself.

    And then sometimes God just does not make sense to me and this is why he is my God I am not as smart as him. Jesus said that had the wonders been done in Sodom that had been done in some cities of Israel Sodom would have repented. So why didn’t he send someone to spare Sodom like he spared Nineveh?

    God is looking for just one man a man to stand in the gap. This man must go through a long and difficult training (boot camp). A man who stands in the gap is a watchman.

    An Icon that has been proskenisied must be destroyed. Just as it pleased God when Hezekiah destroyed the snake on the pole that God had commanded Moses to make! Yes you could have Icons of saints but once they are proskenisied they need to be destroyed – just as the golden calf had to be destroyed. Perhaps it is better to have none. God says he did not appear in a form to Israel because he knew they could not handle it they would end up proskenising them!

    An orthodox man asked me why I don’t proskenis the icons I showed him the verse in Revelation and he agreed that we should not Angels due to having examined this verse but was not so sure about Saints – the hardest thing to get ride of is a tradition. I asked him then that since he agrees that at the lest we should not proskenisi the angels then the churches where they do proskenisis the icon of the angels shouldn’t they be destroyed? He could not answer.

    There are prayers made to and icons prokenisied of Micheal the Angel.


  27. jrj1701 Avatar

    Brian I cannot believe in your interpretation, for it spits in the face of the martyrs,and denies the working of the Holy Spirit within the Church. I believe that it is very rude of you to troll an Orthodox blog, especially during Holy Week. I pointed out to you before that you’re being hypocritical, may I strongly suggest that you remove the beam from your eye before trying to remove the mote from everybody else’s eye.

  28. fatherstephen Avatar

    I’m not sure if you are actually interested in conversation or in just posting a Protestant rant. Since you’ve reposted your note, I assume you perhaps wanted conversation.

    Your examples of encounters with Orthodox lay persons could be multiplied here in the US with examples of uneducated Protestants (they’re everywhere). Their distortions are also problematic.

    Proskynesis in formal Orthodox language has come to me “relative honor” – the honor given to honorable things. A flag, a saint, an icon, a holy object. This is contrasted with latreia – the worship due to God alone. It is quite clear within Orthodoxy what the difference is.

    In America, the Protestants have successfully gotten rid of Tradition. They have replaced it with Sodom and Gomorrah and every form of abomination. Orthodoxy has preserved the faith for 2000 years. I would encourage you to read some Christian history, listen less to American Protestants and ponder in your heart the possibility that you’re mistaken.

    Perhaps read St. John of Damascus (who wrote in the 700’s) and his defense of the icons. He is one of the greatest of the Church fathers.

  29. Karen Avatar

    Dear Father, recently in another comments thread you posted on the development of the Orthodox understanding and use of the term “proskynesis” in its theology of the Icon with a quote from St. John of Damascus. I thought it was very helpful, but I don’t remember under which post that comment was. Perhaps you will recall it. It might also be helpful to Brian.

  30. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Brian, as to the questions you asked some Orthodox: I am knowledgeable in the faith for a simple lay person, but if I were approached by someone with the attitude you demonstrate in your posts, I would likely not answer either or answer in a manner that was designed simply to get the person to go away. God forgive me.

    While we should be ready at any time to give an answer for our hope in gentleness and love, that does not mean we should be able and ready to “defend” our faith at the drop of the hat. Our faith needs no defense. I have no desire to simply contend with someone in an abstract way about such intimate and personal matters. Questions can be asked in humility or in attack and arrogance. Silence and a simple God Bless you is the appropriate response to those asked in arrogance.

    We practice our faith sometimes well and deeply, sometimes with less vigor. Our hope is in the Holy Trinity, the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord, God and Savior, Jesus Christ, the guiding of the Holy Spirit and the great and glorious second coming for which we stand as One Church in many persons (a great cloud of witnesses) watching, praying, worshipping, giving alms, and here on earth repenting and fasting not as someone who has been abandoned by our Lord who has gone to a far off country but in the knowledge that “God is with us” and “I will be with you to the end of the age…”

    Part of our hope is our knowledge that life goes on and that we are part of that life here and now with our fathers and mothers among the saints and all of the departed. The crux of that life is Jesus Christ.

    When I venerate an icon I am giving honor to Jesus Christ for the work of holiness he dose in the people depicted, I am thanking Him and the saint for their love and sacrifice, I am entreating the saint to pray with me in my petition to our Lord (where two or more are gathered…).

    I thank you for giving me the opportunity to testify in my hope especially during Holy Week. My hope for you is that you really want an answer, so I have given one based upon my hope in and love for our Lord Jesus Christ to whom is due all glory, honor and majesty.

    Have a blessed Easter and may Christ our Lord rise in your heart.

  31. Brian Avatar

    To: jrj1701

    I am trolling?

    so you get to point out something in my eye, but I cannot point out something in someones eye…???

    Have you read the context??”and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

  32. Brian Avatar

    To: fatherstephen

    I am interested in conversation. i don’t believe i have ranted. Do you think I have?

    I agree with you that we should honor and not latria. But to proskenisi is to latriea. Go look at the modern Greek orthodox bible or the Ancient Greek original orthodox bible. Twice in revelation the angel exhorts John NOT to do that. the word there is Proskenisi in both the ancient and the modern.

    Since you afirm that you do do that should you therefore not listen to the exhortation of the angel as sent by Christ himself that these things are for God and God only?

    And what do you think of the logic that God himself is an Iconoklast. He sent Hezekiah to destroy the snake on the Pole and at times he destroys his own Icons men who have become evil???

  33. Brian Avatar

    To:Michael Bauman

    I don’t see the attitude you speak of. I will ask some others to read what i wrote. People who do not agree with you and who do not agree with me on these matters so that I can obtain unbiased reproof.

    I will be honest though and tell you that I presume this is an excuse, this is an attempt to villify me because of the context.

    Again I will ask others for – in a multitude of council…

    Yet for you I give these quotes:

    “By resenting or resisting reproof when admonished by others, by calling it censoriousness and denunciation, caviling at the manner and spirit of reproof, instead of exclaiming with David when reproved by Nathan–“I have sinned against the Lord.” This is one of the ways in which I have observed that ministers are exceedingly apt to sear their own conscience. You may have observed that they are particularly apt, at least some of them to resist and resent reproof, and sear their own conscience in a most alarming manner, while they are not ashamed to manifest a spirit under reproof which they would not hesitate severely to rebuke in any body else.”

    As to your form of speach I will keep in mind that “Smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a clay pot. People may cover their hatred with pleasant words, but they’re deceiving you. They pretend to be kind, but don’t believe them. Their hearts are full of many evils.
    While their hatred may be concealed by trickery, their wrongdoing will be exposed in public.”

  34. Brian Avatar


    I don’t have internet and often I have chronic fatigue and so do not go on-line daily.

    Second I am not protestant and I have read church history. I hope I am open to correction by way of reason. As to this being holy week…. be ready in season and out of season try not to have so many convenient excuses to help a man see his errors.

  35. Brian Avatar

    Here is an interlinear where you can see that John fell down to worship the angel and the greek word is prosenisi. the Angel exhort him not to worhisp him or any of God servants but God alone.

    It seems logical to me that prayer, incense, kissing, kneeling to an image or an angel or a saint that even appears to you is forbidden. our Heavenly Father had Hezekiah destroy the snake on the pole because they burned incense to it.

    The hardest thing to learn is to unlearn something. Just because it may have been done for year does not mean it is right.

    There was a tribe that pulled the teath of their young out of necesity. When the cure came along they didn’t stop pulling the teeth. When suggested that they no longer needed to pull teeth they were offended that someone would speak against their tradition.

    Korea Airlines had the highest rate of crashes for any airline. When it was suggested by the manufacturer that the cause is due to their overly respecting their elders they were offended. it is hard to hear. Due to this respect when a co-pilot would see something that a captain did not see he dared not give him correction which resulted in crashed and lives lost. Being assertive is not disrespectful. After all we are to exhort older men as fathers.

  36. jrj1701 Avatar

    Brian I have not been graced with good wisdom, though I struggle to get there, I ain’t there yet. I tend to react instead of patiently observing the situation. Yet I will not go into the comment thread of an article that expresses a point of view different from mine and state my point of view, especially in emotional terms. I believe this to be rude and of the devil. It is one thing to ask a question, to seek clarification, yet to argue a point emotionally only clouds the truth. I see this in your comments, e.g. “this is an attempt to villify me because of the context.” When you are conveying a POV and consider an opposing POV as an attempt to villify you that is a good indication that you have invested your emotions into your POV. That ain’t reasonable debate, that is arguing. In my foolishness I have responded to your emotional comments with the advice to remove the beam from your eye before trying to remove the mote in other’s eye, fore you may discover that the mote in your brother’s eye ain’t nothing more than a reflection of the beam in your eye. And to be honest the beam in your eye hit the beam in my eye and I still haven’t learned how to not react to that pain. May God help your in your struggle.

  37. Karen Avatar

    Brian, I hope you will consider the counsel of Fr. Stephen and do some study of how this issue was handled and understood by the Fathers of the Church in council (St. John of Damascus, etc.). Your “Sola Scriptura” approach is not the classical Christian (nor truly the biblical) one to settling these kinds of questions.

  38. Brian Avatar

    To assume I am protestant – it is not wise to judge so rashly! Protestants don’t like me either especially when I show them that they worship the bible.

    I have tried to speak with orthodox priest.

    One simply said “that is half of it” I asked him about Jesus telling us not to call anyone father. So I asked if he could tell me the other half. He walked away.

    Some time later I ran into him on the ferry boat I said to him a very polite Greek greeting I spoke in plural and said “Hello Mr. Peter” he looked at me with disgust and with a sharp tone told me “it is father peter!” and walked away. I think this is why Jesus told us not to call them father this man is arrogant and rude. He doesn’t act like a father but wants to honor of a father.

    Another priest I sat down with at his parish and he said some things so I asked him if he could show me in the scripture and he looked at the scriptures as if he had never seen them before. Then a man who does the maintenance at the church whispered to me “he never really read it through”. So I find that so called priest are problematic as well.

    I will be surprised if I am answered about the verses in Revelation another priest I tried to ask about it flat our ran away. Avoided me and the topic. No body has ever given a logical answer. Probably because there isn’t one. They don’t want the truth they want their delusion to be their truth.

    They say “how wrong of you to do this during holy week, how wrong of you when you know my medical condition, you don’t know what I am going through, I am nursing a baby…” so many excuses I wish they were just honest and said I don’t want to talk about it instead of vilifying.

    No body really wants God they want to offer what they want to offer God like Cain they bring their vegetables and are offended that he does not appreciate them because they worked so hard at it. Yet God sends another to tell them and so they say God did not send them they are ranting, trolling, arrogant and ignorant. Today Gods messengers are killed by slander by reviling.

    Foolishness. I cannot find any honest people.

    When you falsely call it trolling, ranting, or arrogance without properly examining and thus judging you are hating and he who hates his fellow man who he has seen how can he love God whom he has not seen. They are like Cain they are murderers.

    Gee at the least give the guy and chance to explain or change his mind. Bro are you trolling? Bro it seem like a rant because… or is it that the facts are a stubborn thing and interfere with your belief and thus make you feel uncomfortable and rather than examine it you jump to reviling? Scripture is clear a reviler will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    To assume I am protestant – it is not wise to judge so rashly! Protestants don’t like me either especially when I show them that they worship the bible.

    If anyone would like to chat with me my e-mail is email hidden; JavaScript is required

  39. Brian Avatar

    to say that I am being emotional and argumentative when I point out that you may have vilified me is a bit hypocritical.

    when they didn’t want to hear what Stephen said they plugged their ears and yelled like little children. They said that Jesus did miracles by the Devil. they vilified Jesus didn’t they?

    I see that I am not welcome. Confident people don’t get so upset and don’t pass rash judgments they are willing to reason with someone and explain why they believe what they believe.

    It is simple the Angel said not to prokenisi any of Gods servants but to proskenisi God alone. I did not expect you to receive this (yet there is that chance that someone could show me I am not seeing clearly and help me). When we have something we believe and proof comes against this belief and we are not open minded we quench when we hear it. MRIs have shown that we squeeze our own brains and the blood does not flow we litteraly are not able to reason.

    No body offered an answer. They only complained about the question, they only sought to deflect…..and vilify.

    Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

    sad…. I was honestly hoping for an explanation.

    Your behavior is not like Christ but like the devil. Ask yourself who are you like and this is your father.

  40. Brian Avatar

    to: Karen

    I will look at those links. I am not Sola Scriptura at all. It would have been good for you to ask.

    I believe in three proofs.

    sing/wonder – that is God giving his witness.

    Scripture alone is a danger thus we have man interpretations.
    Logic alone is the same issue plus it can contradict scripture
    Wonders alone are a danger the magicians of eqypt were able to duplicate every miracle of Moses. In pagan religions their idols bleed, weep, heal, etc. and they use these miracle as proof!

  41. jrj1701 Avatar

    Brian I invite you to communicate with me privately in a forum that our words will not disturb the peace of those that are seeking affirmation and clarification of the meaning of Orthodox worship. I apologize to you publicly if you believe that I am persecuting you personally and passing judgement upon you. Relatively speaking all I see is a name tagged to a comment expressing a POV in a manner I disagree with, so in my foolishness I responded to that, that doesn’t rationalize my actions, I keep forgetting that there might be another struggling person that is seeking His Truth attached to that comment.

  42. fatherstephen Avatar


    Glad to hear you’re not a Protestant, but you’re acting like one – reading the Bible without an Orthodox teacher, misunderstanding it, then appointing yourself to go around and correct others. This is the spirit of Protestantism and is just spiritual pride.

    But, you asked for correction, and here it is.

    You misunderstand proskynesis. The word is used two ways in the Scriptures. It can mean the honor (worship) due to God alone, which in technical theology is signified by the word latreia. And it can mean the honor given to a friend or someone in a position of honor. For example (and there are many others) Abraham gave proskynesis before the “people of the Land” when he bought the plot from Ephron for his burial place in Gen. 23:12.

    This is a list of where the word occurs in the Old Testament (LXX)

    Gen. 18:2; 19:1; 22:5; 23:7, 12; 24:16, 48, 52; 27:29;
    33:3, 6 f., 9 f.; 42:6; 43:28; 47:31; 48:12; 49:8; Exod.
    4:31; 11:8; 12:27; ; 18:7; 20:5; 23:24; 24:1; 32:8; 33:10;
    34:8, 14; Lev.26:1; Num. 22:31; 25:2; Deut. 4:19; 5:9;
    8:19; 11:16; 17:3; 26:10; 29:25(26); 30:17; Jos. 23:7,
    16; Jdg. 2:12, 17, 19; 7:15; Ruth 2:10; 1 Sam. 1: 3, 19;
    2:36; 15:25, 30 f.; 20:41; ; 24:9; 25:23, 41; 28:14; 2
    Sam. 1: 2; 9:6, 8; 12:20; 14:4, 22, 33; 15:5, 32; 16:4;
    18:21, 28; 24:20; 1 Ki. 1:16, 23, 31, 47, 53; 9:6, 9; 16:31
    ; 22:54; 2 Ki. 2:15; 4:37; 5:18; 17:16,35 f.; 18:22; 19:37;
    21:3, 21; 1 Chr. 16:29; 21:21; 29:20; 2 Chr. 7:3, 19, 22;
    20:18; 24:17; 25:14; 29:28 ff.; 32:12; 33:3; Ezr. 9:47;
    Neh. 8:6; 9:3, 6; Job 1:20; Pss.5:7; 22(21):27, 29;
    29(28):3; 45(44):12; 66(65):4; 72(71):i1; 81(80):9;
    86(85):9; 95(94):6; 96(95):9; 99(98):5, 9; 106(105):19;
    132(131):7; 138(137):2; Mic. 5:13; Zeph. 1:5; 2:11 ;
    Zech. 14:16; Isa. 2:8, 20; 27:13; 37:38; 44:15, 17;
    45:14; 46:6; 49:7, 23; 66:23; Jer. 1:16; 8:2; 13:10;
    16:11; 22:9; 25:6; 26(33):2; Ezek. 8:16; 46:2 f., 9.;
    Dan. 2:46; 3:5 ff., 10 ff., 14, 18, 28[95]; cf. also Isa.
    44:15, 17, 19. Dan. 6:27(26) Est. 3:2, 5 ; I Ki. 19:18; Ps.
    97(96):7 ; Deut. 6:13; 10:20; 32:43; Jdg. 2:2; 6:19; 1 Ki.
    2:13; Tob. 5:13; Jud. 5:8; 6:18; 8:18; 10:8, 23; 13:17;
    14:7; 16:18; Est. 4:17; 8:13; Ep.Jer. 5 f.; Dan. 6:28(27);
    Bel 3, 23; 1 Macc. 4:55; 4 Macc. 5:12.

    In Rev. you misuse the verse. Yes, St. John gave proskynesis to the angel mistakenly. Abraham gave proskynesis to the angels in Genesis 18 and was not rebuked, because it was the Lord in angelic form.
    But St. John was no idolater. He would not even consider giving worship to any but God alone. He was mistaken when he saw the angel and the angel corrected him, letting him know that he was but an angel.

    The difference between proskynesis as worship and proskynesis as honor is in the mind and heart, the intention of the believer. Orthodox believers know (or should know) that worship is due only to God, and that honor to other honorable ones.

    But you have misunderstood the word and sought to be a teacher of others! And doubtless caused some confusion in their minds and disturbed their relationship with God.

    You should mind your own soul and learn rightly. Find a wise priest and study. Give up this private pursuit and self-appointed teaching position.

    I will not argue this further here. If you can take correction, fine. If not, then the conversation is over. And you despised the reasoning of Holy Week – a week of solemn obligations for Orthodox Christians, when a priest is busy from dawn to dark and beyond. You have importuned me and I have answered. But if you wish to learn, then learn meekness and respect first.

    An arrogant heart can learn nothing from God.

  43. Brian Avatar


    I would respectfully ask that you use another name on this forum (perhaps “Brian ____”). I’m sure Fr. Stephen knows you are not the same Brian as I who have followed this blog for many years, but others may not. Thank you for your consideration.

  44. PJ Avatar


    You write, “I have tried to speak with orthodox priest. One simply said “that is half of it” I asked him about Jesus telling us not to call anyone father. So I asked if he could tell me the other half. He walked away. Some time later I ran into him on the ferry boat I said to him a very polite Greek greeting I spoke in plural and said “Hello Mr. Peter” he looked at me with disgust and with a sharp tone told me “it is father peter!” and walked away. I think this is why Jesus told us not to call them father this man is arrogant and rude. He doesn’t act like a father but wants to honor of a father.”

    Jesus also instructs us to call no man “master.” You do realize that “mister” is just another form of that very word, right? Also, a strict reading of Matthew 23 would mean that we couldn’t even call our male parents “father,” or any variation thereof. Nor could we call specialists or instructors “professor” or “doctor,” both of which are synonyms for “master” and “teacher.” Furthermore, the Apostle Paul calls himself a father to his spiritual children, and the Apostle John addresses the elders of his church as “fathers.” Food for thought.

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