Are Icons Idols? An Orthodox Response to J.I. Packer's Iconoclasm

Originally appeared at: Theoria

Are Eastern Orthodox icons of Christ idols? Reformed writer J.I. Packer [1926–2020] seemed to think so. In his popular 1973 book, Knowing God, he writes vehemently against the use of images in Christian worship by pointing to the second commandment. So, are Orthodox Christians idolaters? Or is Packer missing something? This is an Orthodox Christian response to Packer's fourth chapter of his book, "Knowing God."

J.I. Packer claims that the entire history of Christian thought proclaims that the Second Commandment categorically forbids any pictorial representation of God (Packer, Knowing God, p. 25). The bulk of Packer’s iconoclastic arguments are expounded in his fourth chapter entitled, The Only True God, and can be reduced to two major objections: 1. Images compromise God’s glory, and 2. Images give birth to false conceptions of God. Any student of history will understand that this statement relies upon a particular reading of Christian history, which finds its line through fringe gnostic heresies.

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