I am a evangelical Christian who lives in a literate society in a post-Johannes Gutenberg world. We don’t learn as much from pictures and symbols as we do from books. In some Christian traditions like Orthodoxy and Catholicism icons remain very important, but I have never been part of these traditions. In fact, as a youth I was a Pentecostal which is very much a “Spirit” branch of Christianity. There were no paintings of saints in our sanctuary. At best, we had a stained glass window. I don’t know that we were iconoclast, but we didn’t have any room for praying to saints or honoring icons in our understanding of our religion.
Over the years I’ve tried to rethink this, but I remain closer to where I was back then than I do to Christians who find value in icons or even see icons as essential aspects of worship.
One figure who did not receive much attention in our Greek Fathers class at Western Seminary was John of Damascus. This is because he was the final person and you know how things go, schedules are always a bit behind. I suspect few of us were exceptionally excited about him since he seems to have made few unique contributions that evangelicals would find valuable. He developed liturgy a bit, he expounded on received orthodoxy and defended it, but his biggest contribution was a defense of icons.
I confess: I didn’t give much time to understanding him. What am I missing by ignoring John of Damascus? What is it that I should know about icons?
See my other posts wherein I prepare for my Th.M. oral defense:
If you’d like to discuss Origen of Alexandria and Irenaeus of Lyons, go here.
If you’d like to discuss Athanasius of Alexandria, go here.
If you’d like to discuss Basil the Great, go here.
If you’d like to discuss Gregory of Nazianzus, go here.
If you’d like to discuss Gregory of Nyssa, go here.
If you’d like to discuss John Chrysostom, go here.
If you’d like to discuss Cyril of Alexandria, go here.
If you’d like to discuss Maximus the Confessor, go here.
John of Damascus expounded on the doctrine of perichoresis (the intricacies and oneness of the Trinity).
Thank you for the lead. I will look for something on that.
Scroll down to chapter 8, the next to the last paragraph of that chapter in which John of Damascus references John 14:111.
Many thanks. Your commentaries about Damascenus and others are excellent. I like them very much.
John of Damascus was interesant also to study the relations between the Christian Arabs and the Muslims in the seventh cenury and in the Middle East.
Also he write something interesant about Philosophy.
I think I remember some things about his role in the region as Islam continued to move west.
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