Friday, May 28, 2010

Abrogating Jesus Pictures Leads to Docetism? (Part 8)

The third argument against my position is that if we abrogate images of Jesus then this will lead to or promote docetism . Docetism is the heresy that says that Jesus never assumed a physical human nature but rather he only appeared to . It is hard to see how having or not having pictures of Jesus will promote docetism. After all, the docetic heresy proponent could affirm pictures of Jesus and they could claim that the pictures of Jesus are as he appeared to everyone, but it was only an illusion. So since a docetic and an orthodox theologian could both affirm pictures of Jesus it is hard to see how having or not having pictures of Jesus could lead to either position exclusively. Moreover, I do not see how a position can lead to docetism when there is nothing about that position which entails such a belief especially when a position clearly rejects a docetic perspective. Furthermore, if this argument were valid and sound then it would prove too much because it would entail that the incarnation and scripture jointly are not sufficient to guard against heresy . This argument implicitly attacks the doctrine of the sufficiency of scripture which is clearly taught in the word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Hence, we have good reason to doubt that the abrogation of images of Jesus position will lead to docetism.

1 comment:

  1. So, I haven't actually read the classic texts for the argument that iconoclasm leads to docetism, but I don't think this is how the argument goes. The argument is supposed to start from the premise that Scripture teaches that Christ was fully man, and end up with the conclusion that Scripture (implicitly) teaches that it is acceptable to have images of Christ. It might be something like this:

    (1) If Christ can be accurately represented in an image, then it is acceptable to make images of Christ.
    (2) Whatever is at least partly material can be accurately represented in an image.
    (3) Whatever is fully human is at least partly material.
    .: (4) Whatever is fully human can be accurately represented in an image.
    (5) But Christ is fully human.
    .: (6) Christ can be accurately represented in an image.
    .: (7) It is permissible to make images of Christ.

    Iconoclasm leads to docetism, insofar as docetism is one way of escaping this argument (specifically, the rejection of (5)). In order to reply to the argument, you need to show that you escape by a different route. (3) seems beyond doubt. In your previous posts, I think you accepted (1) but rejected (2); is that right? I thought your view was that the representation of the human nature in the absence of the divine nature was an inaccuracy in the sense relevant to (1).

    Here is an argument against that view: Christ said to Philip, "The one who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). However, only Christ's human body was visible to Philip. Therefore, seeing Christ's human body is adequate to 'seeing' (in some attenuated sense) the invisible God. But Christ's human body is representable in images.

    Some of your comments have suggested a different line of argument: God has not in fact preserved any accurate images of Christ's human body, and it would be wrong for us to just make something up. This seems like the best line of argument to me. However, note that it means that your disagreement with the EOC has to be based on historical facts rather than Biblical teaching: if the EOC's claims about an unbroken tradition of iconography reaching back to the apostles were true, then it would be acceptable to make images (though not necessarily to treat them in the way the EOC does).