The following reply will be a refutation to a critique of Orthodoxy, by the Berean Christian Bible Study Resources. It will also be a revelation of how subtle the devil introduces soul-corrupting heresies, even abusing Scripture to fit his evil purposes. It is ironic that the very Scriptures, so dear to Protestant Christians, has become the source of their downfall. Have become the source of their being taken captive in Satan's lies. For in their sincere attempts to serve God by listening to His Word, they have instead, idolized the Bible and strayed away from the truth, making themselves an easy prey for being terribly deceived.
About So Called Orthodox Christian Idolatry
Heresy Claims of Protestantism against Orthodox Christianity:
I venerate the holy icons by prostrating myself before them, by kissing them, by showing them a "relative worship" *Let us put these statements texts in the context from which they were taken and see if the author writer from the BCBSR has understood them or no.
We worship the saints, their holy relics and their icons only because He dwells in them. Thus, the creatures that are sanctified by God are venerated and worshipped because of their relation to Him and on account of Him. This has always been the teaching of the Church: "The worship of the icon is directed to the prototype." Not to venerate the saints is to deny the reality of their communion with God, the effects of Divine sanctification and the grace which works in them; it is to deny the words of the Apostle who said, "I no longer live, but Christ liveth in me." (Gal. 2:20). *
In providing the words quoted by the BCBSR with their rightful context, it appears they are not at all understood. Rather they are misinterpreted so they can be made to teach idolatry (the very thing they deny in their proper context). For there can be no mistake about the repeated warnings against an idolatrous understanding of the holy Icons.
The first quote from an Orthodox source runs: "I venerate the holy icons by prostrating myself before them, by kissing them, by showing them a "relative worship" (as the definition of the Seventh Ecumenical Council says) while confessing that only the Most Holy Trinity is to be offered adoration." However it is not quoted in full. The reference to the Seventh Ecumenical Council is left out. With this style of criticism, the BCBSR is creating a straw-man, in order to represent it as authentic Orthodoxy (which it is not, but it serves the purpose of BCBSR all the better that way), and thus, by means of misrepresenting, to debunk Orthodoxy.
The Seventh Ecumenical Council says the following concerning holy Icons: "For the more frequently they are seen by means of pictorial representation the more are those who behold them aroused to remember and desire their prototypes and to give them greeting (aspasmos) and the veneration of honour (timetike proskynesis): not indeed that true worship [latreia] which, according to our faith, is due to God alone." This is a very important point. Because there are three different words used that have three different meanings and the problem is in translation. For 'proskynesis' is translated by the latin 'adoratio' which is equalled to worship. Thus when we say we worship the Icons and the saints we are saying we are giving them 'aspasmos' and 'proskynese' not 'latreia' which is reserved for God alone.
What does the second text quoted by BCBSR really tell us than? Let us translate it in a language a Protestant would be able to understand:
We venerate the saints, their holy relics and their icons only because He dwells in them. Thus, the creatures that are sanctified by God are greeted and venerated because of their relation to Him and on account of Him. This has always been the teaching of the Church: "The veneration of the icon is directed to the prototype. "Not to venerate the saints is to deny the reality of their communion with God, the effects of Divine sanctification and the grace which works in them; it is to deny the words of the Apostle who said, "I no longer live, but Christ liveth in me." (Gal. 2:20).
Nothing in this passage suggests idolatry, once it is properly understood. All we need to do is to understand that worship is the translation of the latin adoratio, which is a translation of the Greek proskynesis, which does not refer to the worship offered to God alone (latreia), but indicates a 'relative worship'. Worship can mean different things. It can refer to an act of honouring which can only be directed to God, and it can refer to an act of honouring which is relative and not limited to God. This is where the custom of calling a judge 'Your Worship' or 'Your Honour" comes from. No-one would suggest that the man or woman referred to as such is worshipped as a deity,.. Not even with Perry Mason!
Arguments from Scripture:
Compare this to Luke 4:8 Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'"
Obviously Jesus is referring to absolute worship here. The Orthodox agree completely. But Jesus is not speaking out against the relative worship offered to Saints and holy Icons. The texts therefore says nothing against holy Icons and their veneration, nor the veneration of the saints.
Concerning the worship of "holy relics", in John 3 Jesus made reference to the serpent on the rod which Moses had made in accordance with God's command in Number 21:8,9 as symbolic of his coming death on the cross. Yet rather than bow down and worship it, Hezekiah "broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it." 2Kings 18:4 And it is written of his action "He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD."Again the Orthodox agree to Scripture here. However, the first thing that should arouse our interest is the fact that God commanded Moses to put up a bronze snake in the first place,.. And even more remarkable that looking at it in faith would grant one healing.
Concerning the worship of heavenly beings, the apostle John himself was corrected twice on this matter:
Rev 19:9,10 Then the angel said to me, "Write: 'Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God." At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God!
Rev 22:8,9 I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!"The failure to understand Orthodox doctrine borders on misleading here. It is assumed that 'worship' is understood in the Protestant way only and that there can be no other shift of meaning. As was clearly expressed above, worship can mean different things. It can either refer to latreia or proskynese. It will be better to translate proskynese henceforth as veneration, and latreia as worship.
And Peter also gave the same instruction:As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. "Stand up," he said, "I am only a man myself." Acts 10:24,25So if you're thinking of worshipping fellow servants of Christ whether they be angels or human, the Bible commands "DO NOT DO IT!", regardless of what Orthodox Christianity teaches. Though in the plain language expressed above the Orthodox themselves say that they do worship such things, yet when pressed on the matter they may say that they didn't really mean it.
Now we can see the essential difference between the honour given to God and the honour given to saints, angels and holy Icons. Only God is worshipped, saints, relics, holy Icons, angles are venerated, never worshipped. BCBSR is fighting a straw-man here. It is not addressing Orthodox Christianity, merely its own misconception of it.
Words mean things. "For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." Matthew 12:37 But they may say that they mean that though they bow down and kiss the symbol, yet they worship God to which the symbol belongs, essentially worshipping God through the symbol. They may argue for example that Peter perceived that Cornelius was intent upon worshipping Peter rather than God. And so also for the other cases. But notice that the Bible makes no distinction between the action and the intent. For the Bible reckons the very action to be worship not of God but of the object and thus forbidden regardless how "holy" the object. Though they may lack the revelation of the fact, the Orthodox are actually practicing idolatry. Or to use their own reason in which they equate "honor" with such actions, the Bible also commands to "honor" secular authorities. Would they then advocate bowing down and "worshipping" Caesar, since he is a minster of God according to Romans 13? Nor are there any examples in the New Testament of Christians worshipping icons as the Orthodox practice.The intention of the Orthodox Christians never was and never will be to worship an Icon. It is and will always be to venerate them. The argument is obviously in error, because it is once again addressing a straw-man rather than Orthodox theology.
Bowing down for a king or an emperor is not a problem. But worshipping him as God (giving him absolute worship) is not possible. This is what Christians refused, and still do.
Bowing down is an expression of veneration, not necessarily of worship: 2 Kg. 1, 13; 1 Kg. 2, 15; Dan. 2, 46; Num. 22, 31; Gen. 19, 1; Jdg. 13, 18-21; 1 Chr. 16-18; Dan. 10, 9-15. Bowing down and veneration are quite acceptable expressions and actions according to the Scriptures precisely as the Orthodox Church teaches and practices.
The fact, that the veneration of holy Icons is not detailed in Scripture means little, because it is detailed in Tradition. Only those who have fallen prey to the error of 'sola scriptura' (a tradition of men among Protestants) would see a problem here. Therefore if BCBSR sees a problem here, the problem is not in Orthodoxy, the problem is its own erratic doctrine of 'sola scriptura' (which btw. is not even Scriptural!).
Let us consider when Satan made the proposal to Jesus, "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." To which Jesus responded, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" Matt 4:9,10 But here is the Orthodox interpretation as an Orthodox priest, who wishes to remain anonymous, explained it to me:Veneration can only be given if it is ultimately directed to God. Satan, as the enemy of God and our souls, cannot be venerated because venerating him does not direct this veneration to God. 'Wondrous is God in His saints', Scripture says in Psalm 68, 36. This is mistranslated into Wondrous is God in His sanctuary,.. by Protestants. Why? Because it would confirm the Orthodox point of view. For another Psalm says: 'Praise ye God in His saints (Psalm 150, 1).' Which is again mistranslated as 'sanctuary'. The Psalm clearly calls on us to praise (venerate) the saints, in relation to God, on account of Him. The relative veneration is given to the saints, and by this we are pleasing and obeying God, ultimately we are venerating Him."Thou shalt venerate the Lord thy God, and him alone shalt you serve," says simply that veneration is to be given to God, but does not add the word "only;" for veneration is an ambiguous term; but it goes on to say "thou shalt serve ([Gk:] latreuseis) him only, for to God alone do we render latria.They trivialize the word "worship" here as if Jesus were saying, "There are many things which I can worship, like graven images and icons and the Virgin Mary, and also God, but the important thing is that I'm supposed to serve God only." This appears to be the manner in which the Orthodox elite interpret the text so as to get around what it says so as to justify their practice of idolatry. But to the rest of us ordinary Christians it is quite clear that Jesus is speaking in response to Satan's proposition. Satan speaks nothing about serving him. Satan is talking about bowing down and worshipping. (Or if the Orthodox would like to be consistent in their interpretation, simply venerating him). That was the main issue that Jesus was responding to. His logic is that bowing down and worshipping Satan is contrary to the Bible because its says that we're only supposed to worship God.
Now when Jesus says we must venerate and serve the Lord our God only, He obviously builds upon OT Scripture. The venerating of God in His saints is included. The reason Satan cannot be venerated is that we cannot venerate God in him, because he is the enemy of God and of our souls.
But now let's replace Satan with some religious elite type from the Orthodox church who let's say is trying to deify themselves, just as one of their own says "God became man so that man might become God", and calls themselves by elitist religious titles and wearing religous garb, what if they were to make the same proposition to Joe Christian as Satan made to Jesus? Isn't that what they are proposing, if not of themselves, then the "veneration" (as they call it) of graven images, icons, or of historic religious figures other than the Lord? Yet if Joe Christian were to respond as Jesus did it seems that the Orthodox elite would nullify such an objection by calling into question the interpretation of the verse, even though by his application Jesus clearly showed his interpretation of the verse. Thank God Jesus didn't have to face the Orthodox elite in the desert. He might not have made it out!These few sentences of BCBSR contain several errors. First of all elitarianism is alien to the nature of Orthodoxy (if it occurs it is unnatural).
Secondly, deification is a Scriptural doctrine. The very quote from Patristic sources 'God became man so that man might become God' clearly proves this. St. Peter in his second Epistle 1, 4 says that we are to become partakers of the Divine Nature. Thus deification is a Scriptural as well as a Traditional doctrine. The protest of the Protestants against this, is not only untraditional it is unscriptural too.
Thirdly, no-one can deify him or herself. It is God who in His mercy
grants us the gift of becoming partakers of His Nature. We will always
be dependent on Him, we will never be Gods by nature, we will be Gods by
participation, by grace. Like Psalm 82 says.
Fourth, the reason why Satan cannot be venerated is completely neglected and the verse is completely misunderstood.
Thus the argument is again directed at a straw-man, and fails to address Orthodox theology. Thank God Jesus wasn't a Protestant, who while idolizing Scripture, completely misunderstood and misinterpreted it. It is the Protestant bibliolatry that is largely responsible for this heretical Protestant position. Thank God Jesus is Orthodox!
So when an Orthodox priests says you should bow down and venerate religious trinkets, statues, graven images, icons, or even saints of the past, just respond as Jesus did, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"Or if one wishes to obey God rather than the traditions of men such as the 'sola scriptura' tradition and other Protestant traditions, such as the denial of veneration to the saints, Icons, relics etc. One could also choose to obey God and His commands and do as the priest just said.
Just to reiterate, Jesus' response here is key in understanding God's perspective on the correlation between worship and veneration.Not precisely. Jesus response is certainly a key, but not the key as interpreted by the BCBSR. It is in fact the key to understand the meaning and dynamics of veneration and worship.
As I explained before, Satan is God's enemy (though not His opposite,
to God there can be no opposite, that would be the dualism of Yin Yang
philosophy), and as such is incapable of glorifying God. 'Wondrous is God
is His saints', the Psalm says. Therefore it is possible, nay a command,
that we 'praise God in His saints' like another Psalm says. Satan is the
opposite of a saint, and God is not wondrous in him, and it is not possible
to praise God in him.
When Jesus says to Satan; Thou shalt venerate the Lord thy God, and Him alone shalt thou serve, He is affirming the Orthodox position. Not speaking out against it. Praising God in Satan is impossible and Jesus therefore refuses. The choice the devil presented to Him, was not at all a choice. It was an impossibility. This response tells us that we cannot praise God in Satan, and it tells us we are allowed to worship 'only' God.
Satan asks him to fall down ("pipto" in Greek) and "proskuneo" him, which is to worship.No it is to venerate, worship in the absolute sense is latreia.
Jesus reponds not with a literal quote of the Bible, but of his interpretation of Deut 6:13 which is that we are to "proskuneo" the Lord God and "latreuo" him only. "Proskuneo" is to worship in form, such as bowing down, and in the King James of the 60 times it is used it is always translated "worship" .As I have explained before, many passages in Scripture contain the bowing down as a form of veneration, not implying worship. And even though the King James is a reasonable translation, it must be used carefully. It would be better to have access to an Orthodox translation of the Septuagint, but that is not (yet) available. The King James is something of a next best thing, but it must be used with great caution due to its Protestant biased overtones. For this bias has mislead the translators on several occasions, and one who is not conscious of this, might become the victim of this error in translation being deceived thereby.
"Latreuo" is to worship through service. But Satan doesn't mention the word "latreuo". Therefore the only way to interpret Jesus' response to be relevant to the context is to understand him to mean "Proskuneo" the Lord your God only, and "Latreuo" Him only. As such, many things which the Orthodox label as "veneration" is in fact worship and is contrary to Jesus' teachings.Much is being assumed in these words, none of it is proven, or made likely. Proskenese does not necessarily refer to worship. It is a form of honouring someone or something, which does not imply worship. However, latreia does not have this spectrum of meaning. It can be applied to absolute worship only, and is therefore reserved for God alone.
The essence of this reply, however, is not that we cannot venerate the holy Icons, or the saints, but that not only is it wrong to worship Satan, it is also impossible to venerate God in him. This is what Jesus is saying. He is saying that there is nothing worthy of praise, that there is nothing worthy of veneration, in Satan. Because Satan has turned against God, and is the enemy of all that is good, holy, and worthy of praise. Jesus is not only affirming the commandment against idolatry, He is also commanding us not to try and venerate God in Satan. Jesus is telling us, that even though Satan's temptations and suggestions might seem good and true, they are nevertheless to be rejected. For nothing comes out of him. We are to keep as great a distance from him as possible, and be very careful not to be tricked by even the subtlest of his lies,.. One of which is to deny the meaning and veneration of the saints and the holy Icons. It is ironic that in attempting to steer away from the devil's tricks, Protestantism has fallen prey to several of them. Thinking to follow the truth (and they are quite sincere in this, there is no conscious evil in our Protestant brothers and sisters) they have embraced a lie, and are trampling the truth under their feet, unknowingly rejecting the truth. Even fighting against the truth in God's name, much like St. Paul did before his blindness was revealed to him, and fell from his eyes.