In Defense of Icons

(This is a “starter” for a future post and not complete)

If we can speak of God in words, we can use icons. For are not both merely instruments that point beyond themselves? When spoken or written, words convey a meaning. We do not, upon reading or hearing, visualize the symbols, but that which the symbol points to. If I say horse, you do not think “H-O-R-S-E” but rather, ponder the concept of a horse. The icon, likewise, is a symbol that points to that which it represents. No more do I worship the Crucifix before me than I worship the sentence “Christ died for my sins.” The point of each is to convey a truth for me to reflect upon.

I cannot see how it is reasonable to arbitrarily call one symbol idolatrous and another permissible. Either we can present to the mind “material” for reflection (be it in words or in pictures) or we cannot. Either we can have an image (and words are for the purpose of creating an image in the mind of the one who hears or reads them) or we cannot. Either we should look upon icons and crucifixes and images that lead us to ponder God, or we should be absolutely silent and never think of these things at all.

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