I know I seem myopic on this point, and I don’t want to just “beat up” on Eastern Orthodoxy (though they have no problem with the ubiquitous calling Protestants heretics). I focus on rebutting Eastern Orthodoxy because so much of it is actually true. Take their triadology, for instance. While it dead-ends in many ways, it is still valuable and essential reading. The Platonic background is beautiful. I cannot agree with the Platonic metaphysics of Gregory of Nyssa and Company, but who can deny its utter beauty?
I understand when Reformed people first read the Filioque and immediately think that Rome screwed the world over. It’s hard to avoid that conclusion. Politically speaking, Byzantium has a case. I disagree with Eastern Orthodoxy’s reading of ek monou Patrou. But I understand why they hold to it. I think the whole debate is flawed and both sides read the terms in the same problematic.
Their Platonic metaphysics is simply beautiful. When I listen to Matt Johnson lecture on Nyssa, Eurigena, and Logos-theology, I am simply in awe. However, beautiful though it might be, it simply cannot mesh 100% with Scripture. Eschatology and Federalism offer a better ontology.
Eschatology is the locus of a federal ontology. It is an announcement of the good news from afar off (Isaiah 52:7ff). Participation (realist?) ontologies, by contrast, struggle with the concept of good news. Horton writes, “It is unclear how the gospel as good news would figure into his [John Milbank, but also any Dionysian construction–OA] account of redemption, since ‘news’ implies an extrinsic annoucnement of something new, something that does not simply derive from the nature of things (169). What he means is that those who who hold to participationist ontologies–chain of being–see a continuum between God and man. Any saving that happens to man happens within that continuum. The announcement of good news, by contrast, comes from without. To borrow Horton’s delightful phrase, a federal ontology is meeting a stranger, whereas a participationist ontology is overcoming estrangement.
Critiques of icons aside, I understand why people would prefer the Eastern view of iconography over the Western statuesque view. I was never tempted to venerate Roman statues. They were simply ugly. Still, I have to wonder: are we not literally playing with fire? Indeed, Yahweh is the voice from the fire (Dt 4). Yahweh brought fire and death to Jerusalem and Samaria for syncretistic religion. I have no problem with iconographic representations of saints, provided people aren’t talking with the dead or kissing the image.