My word-based faith may need to adopt a more sacramental approach to seeing and believing. Signs and symbols enhance Catholic and Orthodox worship. Candles, colors, and vestments (costumes) play important parts in Lutheran and Episcopalian liturgy. Sacramental churches are teaching sermon-centered Protestants how to worship with their eyes wide open. In the Orthodox Church, icons serve as “windows to heaven,” collapsing the time-space continuum, simultaneously dignifying the material world and transporting the icon viewer to a transcendent realm. Some may resist the postmodern recovery of a more visual faith. It calls up ancient controversies regarding icons. While most of the debate rages over prohibitions against graven images, much of the anxiety regarding images involves sexuality, how depictions of the body affect our body.
The idol that today’s iconoclasts may need to smash is the fear of images. In A Grief Observed, C. S. Lewis wrestles with his tendency to turn God into an idol. He writes, “Images of the Holy easily become holy images—sacrosanct. My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast. Could we not almost say that this shattering is one of the marks of His presence? The Incarnation is the supreme example; it leaves all previous ideas of the Messiah in ruins. . . . The same thing happens in our private prayers. All reality is iconoclastic.” God can be counted on to smash whatever we’ve made too sacred. Perhaps our fear of images will come tumbling down amid our efforts to forge a postmodern faith.
Craig Detweiler in Robert K. Johnston, ed.
Reframing Theology and Film: New Focus for an Emerging Discipline
(Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007), pg. 32.