Icons and Anglicanism

In light of the recent appearance of Metropolitan Jonah at the ACNA Assembly, it may be worth re-posting this paper, "Images in the Church of England." One of the primary ideas recovered during the Reformation was to reject idolatry, something that is often ignored today. The paper quotes John Donne, who wrote:

God, we see, was the first that made images, and he was the first that forbade them. He made them for imitation; He forbade in danger of adoration. For – qualis dementiae est id colere, quod melius est – what a drowsiness, what a laziness, what a cowardliness of the soul is it, to worship that which does but represent a better thing than itself. Worship belongs to the best. Know thou thy distance and thy period, how far to go and where to stop. Dishonor not God by an image in worshiping it, and yet benefit thyself in following it. There is no more danger out of a picture than out of a history, if thou intend no more in either than example.

Further, Archbishop Wake wrote:

Were the benefits of images never so great, yet you know this is neither that which we dispute with you, nor for which they are set up in your churches. Your Trent Synod expressly defines that due veneration is to be paid to them. Your catechism says that they are to be had not only for instruction but for worship. And this is the point in controversy betwixt us. We retain pictures, and sometimes even images too in our churches for ornament, and (if there be such uses to be made of them) for all the other benefits you have now been mentioning. Only we deny that any service is to be paid to them; or any solemn prayers to be made at their consecration, for any divine virtues, or indeed for any virtues at all, to proceed from them.

This is the historic position of the Anglican Communion: images are good, but they are not to be "venerated" or prayed to / through. In light of I John 5.21, the leadership of ACNA should reconsider rushing into dialog with the Orthodox. We can be co-belligerents on issues of morality in our nation, but we must not unite with them in areas where the Reformation reclaimed Scriptural truths.

3 thoughts on “Icons and Anglicanism”

  1. Good counsel. John Frame would agree:

    “I also wish that RA had done more to correct the “fear of idolatry,” to which it attributes some of the church’s suspicion of imagination and art. The prohibition of idolatry is not merely “Jewish.” It comes from the second of the Ten Commandments and many other passages of Scripture accepted by Jews and Christians alike. The New Testament also condemns idolatry in strong terms (Acts 17:16, 1 Cor. 5:11, 6:9, 10:7, etc.) So this issue is not merely a Jewish concern. But we should correct common misunderstandings of the biblical texts. The first sentence of the second commandment, “you shall not make for yourself a carved image,” appears to exclude any art work whatsoever. But that interpretation is unlikely, for no other passage in Scripture disparages art as such, and God expressly commissioned art for the tabernacle and temple. Rather, we should take that sentence together with what comes later, so that the commandment tells us not to make art objects for the purpose of bowing down to them—i.e., as objects of worship. So the commandment does not forbid art, nor the use of art in a worship area, nor even representations of God, for that matter. Art can be idolatrous, when it replaces God in our affections. But Scripture does not justify any general suspicion of art among Christians.”


  2. Excellent post. I keep an icon of Christ in my office as a simple reminder of Who is in charge and for Whom I ultimately labor and answer to. But nothing more.

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