Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Saved by grace, through devotion (what?!!?!)

Well, I have just removed my last post on faith because I have realised it is terribly worded - so terribly it is really just plain wrong. I have realised that the closest word I can think of that conveys the meaning of the Greek noun 'pistis' is 'devotion'. I think this what is meant by fidelity/faithfulness = 'pistis' - it's got nothing to do with a head belief! Likewise, the verb 'pisteou' would mean 'being devoted'.

I have come to this realisation as I am writing my own verse-by-verse paraphrase of Romans. Interpreting it as devotion suddenly makes Romans make a whole lot more sense. And after having beeing thinking about it for the last hour - it makes a truck load more sense throughout the whole NT.

I don't have time to get it all down here now, it will take me days to get all this together. Sure, it sounds like heresy to say we aren't saved by 'a belief' - but I think deep down we know there has to be more to it than that. Devotion is what it's all really about. So where the bible talks of 'faith' - it means devotion. And most of the time when it talks about 'believing' it's meaning being devoted.

As I am doing my paraphrase of Romans and flicking through the rest of the NT with this in mind, everything seems to make far more sense. No longer am I saved by some airy-fairy, wishy-washy thought in my head that I doubt many Christians can understand - but rather I am saved by something I can fully understand, by being devoted to God.

There are several other Greek words for 'belief' - but no other words for devotion apart from 'pistis' and its few derivatives. Surely if the writers of the NT had meant 'belief' they would have written the words for that, like the word for 'convicton of the truth of something'. But instead they wrote 'pistis'.

I don't have time to explain all the details of this... but the thing that scares me is: why on earth has the interpretation of this word gone so wrong? I am without doubt that it has. But don't just 'believe me' =), Go and read some NT with this interpretation in mind - see for yourself how the sentences and arguments make more sense! For instance, what is devotion without actions that come from being devoted? (James) Why did Jesus say that the soldier had the greatest devotion He had seen in Jerusalem? Surely soldiers know how to be devoted! Abraham didn't have a clue about Jesus - he had not belief regarding Jesus - but he was devoted to God. I could go on and on!

So, once I fix up my last post on 'faith' I'll re-post it with hopefully a good discussion of why I think it means 'devotion', end some things it means for the Christian 'faith' (that is, devotion). I haven't worked all this out yet - but I'm learning a whole lot. It's especially interesting to see how 'devotion' does indeed complete Mosaic Law, rather than effectively throwing it out the window. Paul's writings make sense! Yeay!


17 comments:

Andrew said...

!!! If I knew how to spell deja vu I would claim it was that...

[[[I have realised that the closest word I can think of that conveys the meaning of the Greek noun 'pistis' is 'devotion'. I think this what is meant by fidelity/faithfulness = 'pistis' - it's got nothing to do with a head belief! Likewise, the verb 'pisteou' would mean 'being devoted'.]]]

That's exactly what I said/meant.

[[[I have come to this realisation as I am writing my own verse-by-verse paraphrase of Romans]]]

That's exactly when I became sure of it too.

[[[Interpreting it as devotion suddenly makes Romans make a whole lot more sense.]]]

That's exactly what I said.

[[[And after having beeing thinking about it for the last hour - it makes a truck load more sense throughout the whole NT.]]]

That's exactly what I said.

[[[I don't have time to get it all down here now, it will take me days to get all this together. Sure, it sounds like heresy to say we aren't saved by 'a belief' - but I think deep down we know there has to be more to it than that. Devotion is what it's all really about.]]]

That's exactly what I said.

[[[So where the bible talks of 'faith' - it means devotion. And most of the time when it talks about 'believing' it's meaning being devoted.]]]

That's exactly what I said.

[[[As I am doing my paraphrase of Romans and flicking through the rest of the NT with this in mind, everything seems to make far more sense.]]]

That was exactly my experience. N.T. Wright was right then in saying we should understand Romans properly and then investigate the other Pauline literature rather than the other way around... I had previously thought that was a silly suggestion on his part and that we should understand the easier stuff before attempting the harder.

Interestingly Wright doesn't deal much with the translation of pistis, he approaches the whole issue by coming from the results of recent studies on "justice"/"righteousness" and what they meant to Jews, especially the phrase "the righteousness of God"... so it's interesting I've come to the same conclusions as him, because though I did use new perspective ideas on justification as meaning "inclusion in the people of God" (or suchlike), I found that once I got pistis=faithfulness sorted it didn't really matter *what* the "righteousness of God" meant so long as it meant something very vaguely along the lines of "God's faithfulness"... and whether one bothers to understand Paul as using courtroom language in Romans and declared righteousness (as Wright thinks you should still do) seems entirely optional and inessential to me.

Er, that reminds me Reuben why "faithfulnesss" might be a better translation than "devotion" - it's often used in the context of God's faithfulness to his promises. Faithfulness can be to promises as well as people, whereas the word devotion seem limited (in my vocab anyway) to talking about people. Though maybe, now I think about it, is pistis ever used to refer to faithfulness *to promises* or is "righteousness" used for that instead? That would be interesting to check.

[[[No longer am I saved by some airy-fairy, wishy-washy thought in my head that I doubt many Christians can understand - but rather I am saved by something I can fully understand, by being devoted to God.]]]

Yup.

[[[why on earth has the interpretation of this word gone so wrong?]]]

It's quite simple, Luther got it wrong and Protestants have been getting it wrong ever since because they've tried to read all the Bible through a doctrine of salvation by belief... anything else is evil works based salvation.

[[[But don't just 'believe me' =), Go and read some NT with this interpretation in mind - see for yourself how the sentences and arguments make more sense!]]]

I agree. All the arguments become vastly more coherent when pistis is translated consistently as faithfulness/devotion, and not with a word chosen seemingly randomly by the translators from a list of "belief", "obedience" etc. However there are occasional problems with just going and reading the NT with this interpretation in mind: some verses in most translations today can't just have "believe" replaced with "be devoted" without retranslating the entire verse.

[[[I haven't worked all this out yet - but I'm learning a whole lot. It's especially interesting to see how 'devotion' does indeed complete Mosaic Law, rather than effectively throwing it out the window. Paul's writings make sense! Yeay!]]]

Yes, after 6 years of reading, arguing and studying theology, the single best thing that ever happened in that time seems to be that I sat down 2 months ago and started to read Romans for myself while thinking about the various theories I'd read.

As I said in my first post on the subject: It wasn't even close between competing interpretations, there is only one serious contender and other interpretations don't even get off the ground properly.

incognito said...

Yes. I agree. My reading of Romans is also shattering some other stupid doctrines - like, 'original sin'... even though it's difficult to make sense of Paul's writing - it seems a very big stretch to get this doctrine out of it. The whole 'Adam's sin made everyone sinful' thing as I can see it is complete tripe. Though I have to understand the Greek a bit more to see what it's really saying, 'original sin' surely doesn't fit with his argument - because it contradicts what he says earlier in Chapters 1 and 2.

Katherine said...

Crikey. So there's two of you now. You guys are freaking me out. Not that I am averse to being freaked out, if what you say is true, being, as I am, in the middle of a ground-up reappraisal of my faith that is freaking me out more than I can perhaps describe, but which I expect to be very glad of when I finally reach the other side.

I find these ideas attractive, though of course there's too much at stake to just go with what I find attractive. I find Islam attractive, for example. Perhaps this would explain why. I'm still struggling to figure out, though, how Jesus fits into this kind of picture - in other words, what makes Christianity of this kind different from Islam or Judaism?

And if salvation is not through belief, how can we know we're saved? And does devotion/faithfulness mean primarily a heart thing or primarily an actions thing? If our heart is right but, being human, we continually fail to meet the standard, what then? Does Jesus still somehow save us from this predicament, and if so, how?

Please excuse me for throwing all these questions at you, when I would imagine you're still trying to suss things out yourself. But obviously it's difficult to grasp that a whole 500 years' worth of earnest theological study might have been plain wrong, and that the faith of so many people I love might be misapplied, not to mention my own. Or am I overestimating how much this doctrine would actually change?

Anyway, just letting you know I'm interested in your ideas and will be giving them some serious thought. If you're right, it's good news for me because my ability to 'believe' is seriously lagging at the moment, though my love towards God and my dedication to seeking His ways is not. Not that I ought to be seeking a theology that best provides for me, as opposed to being true...

God bless.
-kt

Mike said...

Hrmmmm - what does "devotion to God" ACTUALLY mean? That you read your Bible every morning? That you go to church every Sunday like a good little Christian?

When we die, is God going to be sitting up there with a scorecard - "You missed Church that week - you are DELETED!!!!"

The danger when you say that faith based solely on works is you fall into the trap of the Jehova's Witnesses. Trying to "earn" salvation. What happens to God's grace here?

God sees what goes on in our hearts. At the same time he also sees our actions. Faith without works is meaningless, just as works without faith is meaningless. You have to find a balance.

I don't profess to know nearly as much about the new testament as you guys, but I hope that you can see where I am coming from. Maybe some of your further enlightened posts will clear this up for me :)

Mike said...

Hrmmmm - what does "devotion to God" ACTUALLY mean? That you read your Bible every morning? That you go to church every Sunday like a good little Christian?

When we die, is God going to be sitting up there with a scorecard - "You missed Church that week - you are DELETED!!!!"

The danger when you say that faith based solely on works is you fall into the trap of the Jehova's Witnesses. Trying to "earn" salvation. What happens to God's grace here?

God sees what goes on in our hearts. At the same time he also sees our actions. Faith without works is meaningless, just as works without faith is meaningless. You have to find a balance.

I don't profess to know nearly as much about the new testament as you guys, but I hope that you can see where I am coming from. Maybe some of your further enlightened posts will clear this up for me :)

Andrew said...

Reubz:

[[[The whole 'Adam's sin made everyone sinful' thing as I can see it is complete tripe.]]]

The Greek Father's notion of "the original sin" was "Adam's sin". They thought his sin brought death into the world, that we were mortal as we are born of a mortal, and that we were more likely to sin because of our environment: ie the presence of sin and death in our environment. ie they say the sin in humanity as being a result of nuture rather than nature (like the Protestants claim). Their interpretation of Romans 5 was thus that sin spread to all because of death, not vice versa. Does that work better in your opinion?


Katherine,

I don't know the answers to all your questions, I doubt Reuben does either. All we know is "this is what Paul says in Romans", if you are prepared to wait a year we might be able to agree upon what the rest of the NT says and then answer the rest of your questions.

[[[And if salvation is not through belief, how can we know we're saved?]]]

The conviction of the spirit within you? There are no things you can do and then tick off and say "I'm now saved", so I guess you can't know absolutely you're saved. See Philippians 3: Paul seems to think the importance lies in pressing on in our life toward God and not resting on our laurels in the belief with have already attained the goal.

[warning the following will explode most reader's brains...]
I have reflected on this in the past, and I think that: The goal lies in acheiving a state of growth, ie not in being in a fixed state of "having acheived salvation" but being in a process of continous growth in godliness, "running the race toward the heavenly calling" to use Paul's type of language. So long as anyone is in the state of participating in the process of becoming more like Christ, all is well. It's an interesting concept of perfection achieved by the process of becoming perfect... in a sense the person becoming Christ-like is already Christ-like due to their desire and attempt to become Christ-like, yet in another way is not Christ-like yet because they are in the process of becoming Christ-like.
Unfortunately this concept is hard to describe because we have no word in english for dynamic states: the word "state" implying the object in that state is static and unchanging, but change is an inherent property of life and what sets us apart from non-life, so hence perfection in living things is not an achieved state because that would no longer be life but rather a way of life, constant change. In a hymn we say God is "ever changing from glory to glory", that captures the idea of living perfection remanifesting itself... so the way I see it, so long as we are changing toward perfection we are in the state of being perfect.


[[[And does devotion/faithfulness mean primarily a heart thing or primarily an actions thing?]]]

They are inseperable. But I suppose the heart is primary because the actions flow from the heart.

[[[If our heart is right but, being human, we continually fail to meet the standard, what then?]]]

There is no standard we need to meet. If we did every good action in the world, ended world hunger, healed all the sick, never did wrong etc, that wouldn't earn us salvation by us having met some standard. Read 1 Cor 13: if you did all that and had no love, it would be worthless. The whole idea that there is a "perfect standard" which would give us salvation if only we can reach it is just a protestant misunderstanding of Paul. God has given us guidlines for the type of action he expects from us, which we don't reach, but it we did reach them we would not earn salvation by it.

[[[Does Jesus still somehow save us from this predicament, and if so, how?]]]

Which predicament? If we are not failing to meet a standard, Jesus can't be saving us from *that* predicament. Paul seems to say that Jesus rescues us from the power that sin and death have over us.

[[[But obviously it's difficult to grasp that a whole 500 years' worth of earnest theological study might have been plain wrong]]]

I suppose so, but if you think the Protestants were right then you have to think the Greeks and Latins were wrong... so if you think the last 500 years of Christian mainstream theology was right then you've got to already believe that the first 1000 years of Christian mainstream theology was wrong. At most one of the three groups with different theologies can be right...

[[[and that the faith of so many people I love might be misapplied, not to mention my own. Or am I overestimating how much this doctrine would actually change?]]]

Well it depends how much emphasis you have put of doctrines that not all Christians have believed. If your faith is in Jesus Christ as Lord and God the Father, then I see no problem. If you hold the Nicene creed as your statement of faith then I see no problem. But if you have been repeating "saved by belief alone not good works" to yourself every day, or have been memorising Protestant gospel presentations especially the black book, or have been reading protestant (non New Perspective) commentaries a lot, then you could notice a lot of difference.

If you want to know how much difference there could be then read Kallitos/Timothy Ware's The Orthodox Way (it's in the uni library), that should give you a good idea of the furtherest your thinking might ever need to be changed - it's a nice short CS Lewis like book too.


Mike,

[[["You missed Church that week - you are DELETED!!!!"]]]

That reminds me of the Strongbad email... "BAALETED" ;)

[[[The danger when you say that faith based solely on works]]]

I think it's our hearts that are important, God judges our hearts. The heart will inevitably manifest itself in action though, so the Bible often speaks of God judging our actions (Mat 25, Rom 2 etc) even though He really judges the heart, ie he looks at "whether we are good people" (to use a somewhat amusing phrase) rather than "whether we have done lots of good actions".

incognito said...

Katherine,

I think Romans answers all your questions - that seems to me the point of it... that it's not about just doing good and not sinning, but about being devoted to God. Although we still occasionally still sin, our hearts long to obey Him and belong to Him. We do not belong to God because we do good and don't sin, we do good and don't sin because we belong to God.

I'm almost ready with the first 6 chapters of Romans - I think you'll find it making a little more sense. It does to me anyway. Of course, my paraphrase could be wrong, but then, all I'm doing is writing what I think it says rather than a word-for-word literal translation.

incognito said...

Mike, Paul clearly equates devotion to God with the devotion a soldier would have to the king back in the 1st century. To me, 'faith' means devotion/loyalty/allegiance/commitment/faithfulness
/belonging.

Our good deeds do not make us devoted, our devotion makes us do good deeds. It is our devotion that gives us God's approval - that makes us belong to Him. Some people are more devoted than others - but I think there is a big gulf between those who are devoted to God to any extent and those who are not devoted to God (or even against Him).

In fact, Paul makes it clear that we are either devoted to God or devoted to sin - we serve either God as our king, giving him our devotion/allegiance etc, or we serve sin as our king, giving it our devotion/allegiance etc.

So Katherine - we know we are saved if we are devoted to God and not sin. Devotion is a heart-thing - literally 'giving one's heart to'. It does have elements of trust and 'faith' - but primarily it is about a heart-felt desire to obey and serve. I think most people who think they are Christians have this devotion to God, and so I don't think we need to worry too much.

So, to conclude. It seems thus far from my study of Romans that we are not accepted because of our works, but rather if we commit ourselves to God and not to sin. It is also clear from Paul that Jesus is very important - but I'm not sure how yet. It is obvious that he thinks people are saved exactly the same way now as they have always been saved - through devotion to God...

Andrew said...

"It is also clear from Paul that Jesus is very important - but I'm not sure how yet. It is obvious that he thinks people are saved exactly the same way now as they have always been saved - through devotion to God"

Yup.

michelle said...

Katherine, hon, maybe you DO think too much, and you need to take a leaf out of my book - Romans 10v9 That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved - then simply believe that you are saved, as it is written?
Sometimes if you think it over too much you worry that maybe you arent saved, or you need to do more...
Im not really in the same league as Andrew and Reubs, but hopefully that advice helps :P

aside from that, nice comment, Mike :)
And nice take on faith, Reuben :)

Katherine said...

[laughs at self] Yeah you're probably right Michelle. I guess, though, in asking about how we can be sure we're saved, I'm not so much doubting my own salvation as trying to tease out the implications of this idea. So no need to worry mate. Thanks for caring. (not meant to sound as cheesy as it does) :)

And now I won't bother you all with my questions again till I've had a go at nutting them out myself. Had a good look at Romans today, since I've got some spare time at the moment; making some progress. Perhaps I'll take Andrew's advice and get back to you in a year or so ;)

Sweet dreams to all.

Kelly said...

Romans totally renewed my whole understanding of my relationship with God too. A possible answer to the question "what does it mean to be devoted to God?" in the context of salvation through faithfulness/devotion: belief/devoted/faith could also be viewed in the light of giving yourself up to God, totally. Giving yourself up to God initially does result in being "sealed" by the Holy Spirit, you have been marked out for salvation (which is only possible through the cleansing of Jesus' sacrifice hence where Jesus comes in -- Abraham didn't have the Holy Spirit abiding in him). But the presence of the Holy Spirit means you are also *being* saved, transformed, continually treading deeper paths of devotion. What I mean is that devotion is not works based in that it relies on the Holy Spirit through groanings that we cannot understand, leading us deeper into God, working out our salvation with fear and trembling. I definitely agree it's not a once off saved now I'm here thing. I think it's more like a series of continual acts of devotion to God, where he gives us an opportunity to surrender and then we can devote ourselves through that. So in terms of Abraham, he was able to be devoted to God through the opportunities God presented to him. For us, the first step is often devoting our lives to God through "accepting Christ",and hence being sealed by the Holy Spirit, yet this is just the first in many steps. God says "can you give this to me as well?" and we devote that to him, and so on through our walk with God.

I know I haven't done any serious quoting here, but as I remember concepts much easier than specifics, this is just the working out in my life of what I read in Romans, especially culminiating in Romans chapter 8 which emphasises to me the huge part the Holy Spirit plays in our working out our salvation through faith and devotion; and Romans 12.1 "Present your selves to God as a living sacrifice for this is your spiritual worship".

So I agree that Katherine probably shouldn't worry about being saved or not in that sense, since she has the seal of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1.13-14); yet she can also be aware that this salvation is also worked out "because those who are led by the Spirit are sons of God" Romans 8.14. So just having the Spirit isn't enough, but letting yourself be led by the Spirit, submitted to God, is the continuance of that salvation.

Hmm, not sure if I've expressed myself clearly here. I think when you post a comment it's never as eloquent as when you take time on your own post...

Kelly said...

Romans totally renewed my whole understanding of my relationship with God too. A possible answer to the question "what does it mean to be devoted to God?" in the context of salvation through faithfulness/devotion: belief/devoted/faith could also be viewed in the light of giving yourself up to God, totally. Giving yourself up to God initially does result in being "sealed" by the Holy Spirit, you have been marked out for salvation (which is only possible through the cleansing of Jesus' sacrifice hence where Jesus comes in -- Abraham didn't have the Holy Spirit abiding in him). But the presence of the Holy Spirit means you are also *being* saved, transformed, continually treading deeper paths of devotion. What I mean is that devotion is not works based in that it relies on the Holy Spirit through groanings that we cannot understand, leading us deeper into God, working out our salvation with fear and trembling. I definitely agree it's not a once off saved now I'm here thing. I think it's more like a series of continual acts of devotion to God, where he gives us an opportunity to surrender and then we can devote ourselves through that. So in terms of Abraham, he was able to be devoted to God through the opportunities God presented to him. For us, the first step is often devoting our lives to God through "accepting Christ",and hence being sealed by the Holy Spirit, yet this is just the first in many steps. God says "can you give this to me as well?" and we devote that to him, and so on through our walk with God.

I know I haven't done any serious quoting here, but as I remember concepts much easier than specifics, this is just the working out in my life of what I read in Romans, especially culminiating in Romans chapter 8 which emphasises to me the huge part the Holy Spirit plays in our working out our salvation through faith and devotion; and Romans 12.1 "Present your selves to God as a living sacrifice for this is your spiritual worship".

So I agree that Katherine probably shouldn't worry about being saved or not in that sense, since she has the seal of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1.13-14); yet she can also be aware that this salvation is also worked out "because those who are led by the Spirit are sons of God" Romans 8.14. So just having the Spirit isn't enough, but letting yourself be led by the Spirit, submitted to God, is the continuance of that salvation.

Hmm, not sure if I've expressed myself clearly here. I think when you post a comment it's never as eloquent as when you take time on your own post...

Nathan said...

It seems my RSS reader isn't detecting your updates. Have you turned off you atom feed?

Anyhow, Yay for devotion, and good post.

(someone may have said this, but) Possibly the reason belief is overemphasized is a reaction to roman catholicism?

Mike said...

Roman Catholicism is another whole kettle of fish.

Some of the stuff they believe I wholeheartedly agree with.. Some of the others though..... Whoa.

Just some of the ones I have difficulty understanding are:

The veneration of Mary
Adoration
Praying to saints
The concept of saints
The blessing of animals
The rosary - mindless repetition?
The stations of the cross
The use of religious iconography to the point where to new believers it gets confusing - and you get indigenous people in little villages venerating Saints above Jesus.

Perhaps some posts from our resident theological experts will help discuss these topics in greater depth.

Kelly said...

i second that!

Andrew said...

Well Mike, I'm afraid I don't know much about practices that are specifically Roman Catholic. You'd probably know more than me about the Rosary for example. So I'll just deal with ones I know something about.

MARY:
God had all the women in history to choose from, He choose Mary, that says something in itself. A Christian work (the Protoevangelism of James) written in the second century says this was because of her especially great dedication to God. Luke records her as a faithful servant of the Lord. When the angel came to her, she declared she was the Lord's obedient servant and fully ready to obey. Do you think if she had said "God, no I'm not ready for this" God would have forced it upon her anyway? I doubt it, if she had not agreed, she would not be the mother of Jesus. As Irenaeus in the 2nd century put it: "Since sin entered the world through the disobedience of one women, it was fitting that the saviour entered the world through the obedience of one women." He borrows Paul's 1st/2nd Adam/Christ idea and applies it also to Mary, the 2nd Eve.
In the gospels someone suggests to Jesus that Mary is blessed because she is his mother, and he replies that a person is blessed because of their faithfulness (implicitly referring back to Mary's faithfulness).
After the angel leaves, Mary is reported to keep the words in her heart, dwelling on them - a type of action referred to elsewhere as praiseworthy.
In Acts when the holy spirit comes, Mary is with the group.
Mary is also a bridge figure between the Old and New Testaments. She is the last faithful follower of God before Christ and among the first faithful in the new Christian community.

In summary, Mary's actions show her to be a very faithful and dedicated woman from which we may reasonably conclude that if any human is praiseworthy in God's eyes, Mary is. Thus where Adam can be seen as the archetypal bad human, Mary can be seen as the archetypal good human. (Christ doesn't really count due to the fact that he God as well as human) And if we believe that humanity will be glorified, then there is no reason why the veneration of such people isn't reasonable just as we venerate God in His glory. The veneration of Mary thus serves as an archetypal veneration of renewed and glorified humanity.

PRAYER TO SAINTS:
According to the Bible, even the gates of the world of the dead will not prevail against the church, and death's power over believers has been destroyed. We regularly ask other (living) Christian to pray for us, so thus there seems no reason not to ask dead Christians to pray for us also.
I figure this practice is fairly harmless if it doesn't actually work - it's really up to God whether He passes our requests along to the people we're asking, or whether He takes them as prayers to himself. Contrary to what a few fundies would have people think, this is definitely not the banned "communication with the dead" because no one is trying to get the dead to communicate with them.

THE CONCEPT OF SAINTS
Saints serve two purposes:
1. As role models, and as such I think can be extremely useful. For example as a kid I thought "there is no one in the world today, neither on TV nor in the papers who I would really like to be like, who inspires me or who I would aspire to be like, I feel I could do better than any of them if I wanted." But now I know what some of these Christians did and how they lived, they are a constant source of inspiration and challenge for me. Gregory Nazianzus (~380) is probably my favourite one.
2. In terms of prayer to the saints as discussed above, they are simply Christians whom the Church judges definitely have God's favour/are a good example if anyone does/is and hence are definitely worth asking for prayer requests.

RELIGIOUS ICONOGRAPHY
Well this issue has come up a couple of times in Church history. Yes there is potential for abuse, but it's generally been felt that the baby shouldn't be tossed out with the bathwater and, as such, icons should be kept. Certainly, when I survey the stark white walls of protestant churches, I am extremely greatful for the occaisional wall hanging illustrating a scene from the gospels and I really have to think we are doing ourselves a serious disfavour in this regard. There is a reason movies are more interesting and more engrossing than radio. I have to think people could potentially worship better if they had significant viusal stimuli as well as musical ones. Presumably the purpose of incense where it is used is to provide smell-stimuli as well. It is fairly clear to me that environment has a big role to play in our ability to focus on God and worship him.