Infamous Insurrections of Iconoclasmby Rit Nosotro
Change Over Time essay
Protestants are increasingly becoming much more tolerant of these images (icons) of as promoted by Catholics. Is this tolerance/acceptance a good or bad trend? Describe the reasons for the iconoclast movement during the split between Rome and Byzantium (e.g., 3D statues verses 2D mosaics) and the later Protestant reformation and their destruction of Catholic Icons. Why were so many willing to risk their life over the interpretation of what a graven image might be? How has doctrine shifted in regards to the display of a Catholic crucifix over time to Protestant aclaim for the animated crucifix of "The Passion"?
The Bible has set a clear standard as to how Christians ought to deal with idols and graven images. For example, Exodus 20: 4-5 commands, “You shall not make for yourself an image in the likeness of anything in heavens above or on the earth beneath or in the waters underneath the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them.” The Lord specifically tells His people in Deuteronomy 12 to destroy the idols and gods that were made so that they learn the correct way to worship the one true God. However, are Catholics disobeying God by their use of images and icons within the church? Have Protestants become too acceptant of such practices? Let’s take a deeper look at the use of images in the early church and how the uses of icons have changed with the passing years.
After many attempted to completely destroy statues and images or idols, Jews
and Christians came to the decision that people could make these icons; however,
they could not worship them in any way. After this idea was presented, religious
images became a worldwide art form and both Jews and Christians developed advanced
styles of sacred art and symbolic icons. Christians also came to the agreement
that while icons were permissible idols were not.
There have been three main iconoclastic persecutions that have taken place. They were with Emperor Leo III, during the Thirty Years War after the reformation, and during the Cultural Revolution that began with Chairman Mao Zedong. The question is, how were these movements similar and different? Why did different groups of people seem so set on destroying the icons?
The very first major persecution began with Emperor Leo III in the early 700s. Leo was not considered a very strong believer or Catholic and was at times suspected of having Muslim leanings. The persecution began in the mid 8th century and continued to the mid 9th century in the Byzantine Christian Church over the question whether Christians should continue to revere icons. Most simple believers revered the icons (thus they were called iconodules). But the political and religious leaders, the iconoclasts, wanted to have them smashed believing that they promoted idolatry. The major controversy began in 726 when Leo III commanded that the image of Christ be taken down from the palace gate. He also believed that the use of icons promoted idolatry. Later on in 726 and again in 730 edicts were published banishing all icons and ordering people to destroy any that were seen. He also gave a number of sermons condemning icons. After Leo’s first edict Greece revolted against Byzantine but was suppressed. Many revolts broke out in the beginning as icons were destroyed causing the Emperor to grow angrier and more stead fast in his belief that the icons promoted idolatry and more determined than ever to destroy them. The main figure that stood against Leo III was the Pope Gregory II who wrote letters to the Emperor from Italy defending icons until his death in 731. After his death the next Pope, Gregory III continued the fight. He took it a step farther holding a council and excommunicating members of the church who had broken, defiled, or took icons. When the Emperor heard of the council he sent a fleet of ships to Italy to punish the pope. But on the way there the ships ran into a storm and the entire fleet was devastated. Leo died in 741 but the persecution was continued and generally worsened by his son Constantine V. The persecution was continued until 787 where the icons that were destroyed were partially restored but with the condition that they could only be 2D and could not have any distinct facial features. The destruction of icons was formally condemned as heresy in 843.
The next major iconoclastic movement began after the Reformation during the Thirty years war. The Reformation occurred between 1450 and 1550. Two major leaders of the Reformation who also encouraged iconoclastic movements were John Calvin and Huldriech Zwingli. During the Thirty Years war iconoclastic movements smashed many Roman Catholic Icons all across Northern Europe. The Catholics made icons of saints to whom they gave reverence causing a great stir among all Protestants. One reason that the icons were such a problem is because to a catholic all forms of art had to have a spiritual, sacred aspect. To Protestants it did not. Because of this aspect many Catholics revered icons as idols. After the iconoclastic movements slowed down other catholic traditions, such as the selling of indulgences was condemned as heresy. As the iconoclastic movements have slowed down in Europe, Protestants have become much more tolerant of Catholic icons.
The most recent iconoclast movement has been in China against Buddha and his icons, traditions, and cultures. Buddhism was not even introduced into China until the Han dynasty, the fifth Chinese dynasty. During that dynasty it came up from India on the Silk Road. Since then there have been many dynasties for Buddhism including Manchu, Early Wei, Sui, Teng, Shu, Wu and Chin. Some, which were, East and West Han, Song, and Ming, depended on the emperor was ruling at that time. And some that were only against including, Sung, Tang, and the five dynasties that included Liang, Tang, Jin, Han, and Zhou. During the many Chinese dynasties Buddhism had its ups and downs until Chairman Mao Zedong. Mao Zedong was a communists who, most of the time anyway saw religion as an opium for the people. Mao knew that the best way to completely eradicate a religion and traditions is to start with the countries youth. He began to target the youth of China. The first major sign that he was succeeding was the Cultural Revolution, or youth revolt, that began In Tiananmen Square on May 4, 1919. Soon after that youth began marching all across the country destroying Buddha idols, temples, and any sign of old religions and traditions. It was during this time period that the Red Guard was formed. They were Mao’s personal guard and followers. They served him wholeheartedly to the point that they became known as the lost generation. Because of their service to Mao they lost everything, their youthful ideas, self-identity, place in society, direction in life, opportunities for a decent education and career. Some even lost their chance for marriage and families. Others, because they were stationed in forts across the country lost time and homes. After Mao’s death the movement began to slow. As the Chinese people got farther away from Mao they began to have a greater appreciation for culture and traditions. Iconoclast movements became fewer and fewer though some still take place.
During these three Iconoclastic time periods, Emperor Leo III, the Thirty Years War, and Mao there is one main similarity. That similarity is that a group of people have tried to completely destroy signs, icons, and traditions of a certain religion and past. The differences lie in the actual points in history, the people, and the reason. With Emperor Leo and the Thirty Years War it was because they believed that it promoted idolatry. With Mao it was because he believed that there was no such thing as religion. What will be the next reason? What will be the next instance?
Another point in which Protestants and Catholics disagree is in Jesus’ death on the cross. Catholics generally portray the cross as a brutal crucifixion scene, whereas Protestants display an empty cross. Each church has varying beliefs on the Lord’s death and second coming and this is why they display the cross differently. Catholics present the crucifix as in this way because they believe Christ continually suffers for our sins (transubstantiation of the actual blood and body of Christ consumed at each communion.) and the cross is a reminder of His terrible death on the cross for the atonement of our sins. Protestants display an empty cross as a symbol that Christ died for our sins and rose again; therefore, He is no longer on the cross paying for our sins because His death paid the price in full. The elements of the communion table are only symbolic reminders.
Today, sacred art forms are still revered by many and used as religious icons in churches. Many Catholics would say that icons are aids in furthering their walks with God because they bring them into a fuller understanding of what God did on the cross. Some say that the movie, “The Passion” served as an animated crucifix for heightened meditation. Although a crucifiction scene, animated or stationary icon, are not meant or made to be worshipped; they can often be seen as idols because of confusion.
1. What two years did Emperor Leo III send out his edicts?
a. 721 and 735
b. 698 and 756
c. 726 and 730
2. After what major event did the Thirty Years began?
a. The Renaissance
b. The Revolutionary War
c. The Reformation
d. The signing of the Magna Carta
3. What was Mao?
a. A communist
b. A Marxist/Leninist
c. A Muslim
d. A Confucius
4. What did the Red Guards come to be known as?
a. The Chinese Guard
b. The Lost Generation
c. Mao’s Puppets
d. The Iconoclast Generation
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Date: Fri, 17 Dec 2004 07:27:38 -0800
From: The Berean Call <email@example.com>
Subject: TBC Today : Bogus Beliefs
Reformed Protestants No Longer See Images as Idolatrous
(UNDATED) As an evangelical preacher, the Rev. Bruce Marcey belongs to a sermon-centered spiritual tradition that took root nearly 500 years ago with the Bible, the pulpit and the elimination of all distractions -- including art.
Imagine how shocked his forebears might be to see what Marcey does with visual images each week at Warehouse 242, the loft-style church in Charlotte, N.C., where he serves as lead pastor. In his view, no worship service is complete until the congregation has pondered not just the Word proclaimed but also the Word illustrated through a homegrown photograph, painting or film clip.
"We believe the Reformers missed something big," says Marcey, a doctoral candidate in visual rhetoric at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va. "When we limit the gospel message to the written and spoken text, we short-circuit it. We truncate it ... The soul is moved by more things than the word" (MacDonald, Religion News Service, December 9, 2004).
[TBC: To the contrary, images limit our concept of God and are expressly forbidden throughout Scripture. God certainly had His reasons. But in only one practical sense, our portrayals of Jesus are shaped by our culture. The invisible God is accultural, which makes Him instantly applicable to every culture. And, according to the scriptures, "faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).
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