1. Concerning the "Church"
Is the "Church" a corporate body of believers or is it an institution?
If it's an institution, then is it the institution referred to as "The Orthodox Church"?
Or if it's a corporate body of believers, then what are the essential beliefs which define whether one is or is not a believer? And who defines those beliefs?
2. Concerning Scripture
Related to this last question is whether scripture is equivalent to the human traditions generated by the religious elite of the institutional church known as The Orthodox Church, and indeed whether the Bible itself should be viewed a just one part of that tradition, or whether the Bible should be uniquely viewed as God-breathed, distinct from such human traditions.
3. Concerning Icons versus Allegorical Illustrations
Should the worship of icons be equated with the Bible's use of allegorical illustrations in its teaching of spiritual truths?
Now let me ask you this. If Biblical truth should be defined by the orthodox tradition, then how could what Jesus said concerning the traditions of the orthodox elite be true? Consider for example the following:
Mark 7:5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, "Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with ‘unclean’ hands?"So God by His sovereignty allowed elders in authority to develop human traditions, just as the Orthodox claim to have human traditions associated with their religion. Traditions while not in the Bible, claim to be scriptural applications of the Bible. But notice Jesus' response.
Mark 7:8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men."How can that be if whatever traditions such elders develop should themselves be consider scripture?
Mark 7:9 And he said to them: "You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!
Mark 7:13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that."
In this dialog Jesus indicates that human traditions, though they be applications derived from scripture, are not to be presumed scripture or even necessarily scriptural. (Contrary to the presumptions of Orthodox Theology)
So also there are a number of other aspects one could point out concerning the similarity of the orthodox of Jesus' day and the orthodox in the Christian community today.
To the orthodox of his day Jesus was contemptable, kind of like the way evangelicals like myself would be viewed by the religious elite of the Orthodox Church today. Jesus was like a Protestant of his day, subject to persecution by the hyper-institutionalized religious community.
And while considering this analogy, in view of the fact that the Orthodox Jewish community rejected Jesus as Christ, expecting a different Christ, it is interesting to consider whether Orthodox Christianity of today believes in a slightly different Christ than the Biblical Christ of whom Bible believers have put their faith in. After all the Orthodox today use similar arguments for rejecting Biblical theology as do Catholics and as do Orthodox Jews today, namely that the understanding of "Christ" and indeed all spiritual truth is a function not of one's personal examination of what the Bible says, but rather the dictates of the religious elite of particular institutional religious organizations. What else would explain the fact that orthodox such as Gregg here reckons that Protestants don't have Christ, as he says, "But even today Jesus knocks at the door of the Protestant heart asking to be invited in, wherefore hope remains."
Well Gregg, as you yourself had brought up this distinction, maybe I haven't invited the "Orthodox" version of Jesus into my heart, nor do I intend to. No rather I've invited the Biblical Jesus into my heart, as I can say also of my brethren in the Lord.
The Orthodox denying that they worship icons (even when they themselves literally say that they worship icons) is like homosexual Christians denying that their practice of homosexuality is unbiblical or like Bill Clinton denying that oral sex is sex.
Gregg makes the statement that "Denying the Icon implies denial of all the Icon stands for, which is in effect a denial of the very essence of Christianity itself." But what does he mean by that? Is it that if one refuses to bow down and worship icons, that such a person is denying the very essence of "Orthodox" Christianity, because the essence of "Orthodox" Christianity are the icons themselves? If that's the case then we are at an impasse, because we Biblical Christians are not going to be bowing down and worshipping icons.
But we do not deny the use of Biblical imagery in the instruction of spiritual truth. The Bible makes use of allegorical illustrations in teaching truths. Jesus uses such illustrations abundantly. But those are not the same as icons, as even Gregg admits. For concerning icons Gregg quotes his orthodox source saying, "They are not even regarded as means of visual instruction." For just as pagans may worship their version of God through idols, so the orthodox claim to worship God through their worship of icons.
It's instructive to consider Gregg's point concerning the incarnation of Christ. God, the Word, became a man. To worship the man Jesus Christ is to worship God. Jesus is God's icon in a sense. And that is true. I agree. But the Orthodox then go on to worship icons in the place of Jesus. There's only the whims of their own religous elite to prevent them from worshipping just about anything. They could say that there are aspects of trees that are in the image of God, so lets bow down and worship trees. And by worshipping trees we're worshipping God through the trees. (In fact wasn't the cross made from trees, and don't they bow down to the cross?)
But let me give an example from the Bible, which in fact I given previously concerning this issue, but it's worth repeating.
In John 3 in instructing Nicodemus concerning the necessity of the atonement for salvation to be available, Jesus speaks of an event in the wilderness of Numbers 21:4-9 in which the Israelites had sinned and God sent snakes to kill them. Repenting itself was not sufficient, rather God has Moses erect a bronze serpent and put it on a rod. Healing was then contingent upon looking at the bronze serpent. Jesus uses that as an allegorical illustration of his own atoning work on the cross. But what is the application. I would like the orthodox application to another event concerning that same bronze snake, namely what happened in 2 Kings 18:4 In which Hezekiah "broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)" So they even gave a name to it and treated it like an idol, much as the orthodox do icons. What if this bronze snake existed today. What if it was discovered by an orthodox Christian? I would have little doubt they would make an icon of it, bow down and worship it just as the Israelites did.
Jesus did not advocate the worship of such objects. Jesus used Biblical imagery to teach spiritual truths. Biblical Christians view the Bible as primarily instructive. Consider how the New Testament authors, including of course Jesus Himself, make use of allegory in teaching. Consider how they allegorize Old Testament events and propositional truths to derive New Testament applications. For example Paul says, "it is written in the law of Moses, 'You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.' Is it for the oxen that God cares, or does he say it assuredly for our sake? Yes, it was written for our sake, because he who plows ought to plow in hope, and he who threshes in hope should partake of his hope." He uses this allegory to give instruction concerning Christian ministers getting paid for their services. I don't sense that he wants Christians to make an icon of this and bow down and worship the icon. Do you? Read the New Testament and then try to tell me that it's not the meaning which is relevant, not the teaching, but the symbols. This proposition of Orthodox Christianity is simply bogus.
I don't think I would necessarily write this off as his ignorance concerning the distinction between Protestant theology and gnosticism. A gnostic may deny that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. Protestants don't deny that Jesus came in the flesh. And we boldly stand by the Bible and proclaim that as Christians our physical body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, 1Cor 6:19, and therefore we avoid sexual immorality, just as the context of 1Cor 6 indicates. While a gnostic may justify sexual immorality as insiginificant to God as it involves the flesh. And as for his allusion to the Jesus Seminar being a fruit of Protestantism again there is no more correlation than gnosticism being a fruit of Jesus' teachings. Why the red herrings?
He calls upon an orthodox author to say “We confess and proclaim our salvation in word and images” writes Leonid Ouspensky (‘Theology of the Icon’, vol. I, p. 152), as if Evangelicals like myself don't confess our salvation in word and images. If you print out my web site I've written about 3000 pages of information confessing and proclaiming Biblical truths and applications. Don't I also make uses of imagery? Consider my page on Becoming a Christian. Read it and then tell me I don't uses words and images to express and proclaim salvation.
But of course he knows that. Therefore what he really is referring to by "images" is the worship of Orthodox icons and "words" are the words of his post-Biblical Orthodox elite. The Orthodox obsess over images, icons, ceremony, rituals, clothes, titles, human traditions, which Evangelicals obsess over the meaning of the Bible, its ideas, its applications. We worship Christ of the Bible - ALONE. Not icons.