The question I never asked concerning icons

When I looked at Eastern Orthodoxy there were a number of questions on the tip of my tongue that I never asked.  Most likely I couldn’t formulate them and never bothered to think it through.  One of the standard iconodulic arguments is that in the Incarnation the divine nature is imaged in the Son and thus images of the Son are now justified.   Denying this, so runs the gloss, is either Nestorian or Docetic.

In response I am in debt to something Scott Clark said:  all icons of Jesus are by definition Docetic.  Docetism was the heresy that downplayed Jesus’ human nature, saying it was merely imaginary.   The problem is, though, that every iconic representation of Christ is an imagined Christ.  Admittedly, no one knows what Jesus’ human nature looked like (and here the anchoretic communions have to back off their hyper-realist ontology:  The Logos didn’t assume a Platonic, archetypal form of humanity, but, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, a human body).  Therefore, any representation of Jesus is an imagined one.

There is one other problem.  Key to any Christology is the doctrine of the enhypostasia:  natures are always in a hypostasis.  We all agree that the divine and human natures cannot be separated.   We all agree that there is only one hypostasis of Christ.   Now, the smarter iconodule will state that they are representing the person of Christ (who is truly present).   If the person of Christ is truly present, then that means his divine and human natures are truly present.  These natures can never be separated.   Therefore, is he present in all the representations?  Does this not mean there are hundreds of thousands of hypostases of Christ?


7 comments on “The question I never asked concerning icons

  1. Canadian says:

    Icons are not images of an imagined physical likeness. They are the image of deified Persons, not a pictoral likeness. This is why physical distortions in icons are intentional, bulging heads, reversed perspective on Gospel book, etc.

    There is not multiple Christ’s. He interacts with us by his energies.

    • But this “deified” Person is not separate from his human nature, so my question remains: is this an imagined human nature? Further, I am aware that the sharper EO apologists use the energies argument, but I find the essence/energy divide extremely problematic, as I note here.

      • Canadian says:

        The mental process with iconography, or even prayer for that matter, are irrelevant here as we are able to love the Lord with all our mind.
        Icons are not revealing what is imagined, but what IS. He IS incarnate. He IS a man with a deified body. He IS a divine Person in human flesh. This is absolutely the opposite of docetism.
        Are you and R. Scott Clark implying that unless we had a Kodak picture of Jesus, our iconography is docetic?

  2. Yes. We are probably implying that.

  3. It is a little silly. The “smarter iconodule will say they are representing the person of Christ” but this is kind of murky with the language. You already displayed a better understanding of Orthodox doctrines about icon reverence. His (Christ) person is not IN the icon. The icon is only an image (redundant) of the person, and no it is not an attempt at realism since this would focus our reverence in the wrong direction as you understand. The icon is a constant reminder of the hypostatic union. That union is present at the icon only when the faithful is there, as the faithful is an image/icon of the Christ, who in turn is the perfect image/icon of the father. So no, the hypostasis is not in the wood

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