Rushdoony Confused

As I have continued to peruse R. J. Rushdoony’s The Foundations of Social Order: Studies in the Creeds and Councils of the Early Church, I find that I have less and less in common with some of his theological ideas.

As I suggested I would do, I read the chapter on Iconodulism. He starts off my rejecting monasticism. What the Fathers saw as asceticism, Rushdoony sees as neoplatonism. Then he says is veers from monism to semi-Manachaeanism. Even though monasticism far pre-dates the Council of Chalcedon, he sees it as opposed to Chalcedonian theology. He is stuck on the false premise that monastics see in themselves the potential to partake of the essence of God rather than in His energies.

He admits that the iconoclastic emperors were Monophysite heretics and those who restored the icons were orthodox. But since the emperors and the state could be venerated by the use of pictures and symbols (just as it is today), he says the iconodules implicitly confused the two natures of Christ. Then he flip-flops and acknowledges the validity of the concilliar decree,

If the Incarnation is real, it can be portrayed; an unreal incarnation, one that is “merely phantastic,” cannot be depicted. Put in modern terms a true and real Christ can be photographed; a mythical one cannot. The second point is equally valid. Honor paid to the portrait is honor paid to the one portrayed.

Surely that wouldn’t sit well will some of his Truly Reformed brethren who see the Jesus film (and I would assume The Passion of the Christ) as a violation of the Second Commandment.

I can’t help but get the impression, especially as I have now read this chapter several times, that he knows where he wants to go with his point, so he stretches and bends things to get him there. He has a presupposition against iconodulism and he is looking to find the justification for his views. Thus he finishes the chapter by going back and attacking asceticism and particularly the hesychasm of St Gregory Palamas, who he never mentions by name, but rather refers approvingly to the opposition of Barlaam of Calabria.

This is despite the fact the iconoclast controversy pre-dates the hesychasm controversy by 550 years.

Rushdoony can never say anything more against the veneration of icons than that somehow it is tainted by association.


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