Images

People today are accustomed to images. Everything is photographed and can be instantly seen by the world at large. It is possible that I notice this a little more than some because I can’t see the images! Well, I can work out if they are of people, but must rely on the text to learn more. No problem, I’m used to it. However, it has been raising a question in my mind while I have been following the topic about old or new churches.

There are no images of god, so I would not be surprised if that is a fairly strong influence on the diminishing number of people attending church. The lack of images, leading to the query, ‘Why is that , I wonder? is probably subliminal, but will continue and eventually become more focused. I do not listen to a wide range of radio programmes, but presenters of main channels do not present any reports featuring God. They may well include comments from members of the public involved in a particular event, who might thank god for whatever the result was – only if it was good though, no blame is ever attached if the outcome was not good!
The word worship comes up only specifically in the context of news connected with items about religions, in programmes such as TFTD*, or, presumably, on the various religious broadcasting channels.

I shall be most interested to hear views and opinions about this - perhaps, in particular, the possibly/probably diminishing credibility of God.

*Thought for the day – BBC Radio 4 weekdays 7:48 a.m. approx.

I shall not be here this evening, I'm afraid, but I'll post this anyway as I'll be back tomorrow midday-ish.


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Comments

  • anoesisanoesis Shipmate
    Wow. This has the potential to lead to a really interesting discussion, I think. Certainly, pictorial representations are becoming more and more ubiquitous and undoubtedly this will affect the way people process what they take in. One difference I'd propose between taking in information via (prose) text or voice, versus pictorially, is that there may be more chance of an, I guess, emotional, reaction, to an image - possibly because it's taken in, as a whole, in an instant, and hence you get more of a knee-jerk, or even unconscious, response to it - whereas words, be they text or voice, take time to process, dampening this effect.

    I would take issue with the contention that there are no images of God, though I imagine everyone here would agree with you that there are no credible, realistic, intended-to-be-factual, images of God - but this is, in some sense, by-the-by.

    I mean, there's this

    and this

    and then there's, well, this...

    [in text - a byzantine mosaic of Christ as a stern ruler, an El Greco of Christ sorrowing, carrying his cross, and a somewhat more amateur rendering of Christ's baptism in the Jordan.]

    The point being, all of them convey meaning beyond being an obvious referent to some purported happening or some theological notion, and all of them are likely to evoke an emotional response in a viewer - the response will be different, depending on a.) beliefs, and b.) feelings about particular artistic styles. But make no mistake, despite the ban on graven images, Christianity has been using pictorial representations forever and a day.

    I think it's probably also worth noting that it's likely most worshippers have a mental 'picture' of God, and although such pictures might be influenced to some extent by existing artistic renderings, it wouldn't surprise me if those Christians who are not - for instance - white, are a bit less influenced by all the classical imagery of this vaguely metrosexual-looking caucasian dude with the beard when constructing their personal pictorial representation of God.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    God only has diminishing credibility in post-church attendimg ethnes.
  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    anoesis wrote: »
    Wow. This has the potential to lead to a really interesting discussion, I think. Certainly, pictorial representations are becoming more and more ubiquitous and undoubtedly this will affect the way people process what they take in. One difference I'd propose between taking in information via (prose) text or voice, versus pictorially, is that there may be more chance of an, I guess, emotional, reaction, to an image - possibly because it's taken in, as a whole, in an instant, and hence you get more of a knee-jerk, or even unconscious, response to it - whereas words, be they text or voice, take time to process, dampening this effect.

    I would take issue with the contention that there are no images of God, though I imagine everyone here would agree with you that there are no credible, realistic, intended-to-be-factual, images of God - but this is, in some sense, by-the-by.
    ................
    [in text - a byzantine mosaic of Christ as a stern ruler, an El Greco of Christ sorrowing, carrying his cross, and a somewhat more amateur rendering of Christ's baptism in the Jordan.]
    Thank you for the text descriptions.And I'll just mention at this point that no-one denies the existence of the person whose life and actions had a strong influence on his followers.
    The point being, all of them convey meaning beyond being an obvious referent to some purported happening or some theological notion, and all of them are likely to evoke an emotional response in a viewer - the response will be different, depending on a.) beliefs, and b.) feelings about particular artistic styles. But make no mistake, despite the ban on graven images, Christianity has been using pictorial representations forever and a day.

    I think it's probably also worth noting that it's likely most worshippers have a mental 'picture' of God, and although such pictures might be influenced to some extent by existing artistic renderings, it wouldn't surprise me if those Christians who are not - for instance - white, are a bit less influenced by all the classical imagery of this vaguely metrosexual-looking caucasian dude with the beard when constructing their personal pictorial representation of God.
    Thank you for your very interesting post. Even when a believer in god, my mental image was of a presence only, not a face or a shape.
    We, as a species, are so lucky to have had artists right from the start, who have had the skill, the ingenuity, the drive to commit their visual ideas to some sort of surface for others to see.

  • finelinefineline Purgatory Host
    SusanDoris, when you say there are no images of God, are you meaning there is no actual photograph of a divine being who came and posed for a photograph? Because obviously there is a huge amount of artwork depicting God, in terms of how people imagine God, so plenty of images of God from that angle.

    Surely part of the concept of God is that he, as our creator, is far above our human imaginings - vaster than can be depicted in pixels on a piece of paper - so to me an actual photograph which is the definitive ‘this is what God looks like’ would kind of diminish him. So all our attempts to imagine are never the real thing - more our seeking to know him.

    I was actually asking God about this sort of thing this morning. About why it always has to be faith. Why we can’t just know, with no doubt, no uncertainty. And when I tried to imagine this scenario where there was no need for faith, I couldn’t really - because in a way, our whole lives are faith. We can never fully trust our senses, for instance (and I am especially aware of this as my sensory processing seems to be quite different from the norm), and also we never know another person fully, so how much less could we fully know a divine being who created us, and if we did, how diminishing and boring that would be.
  • Plenty of images in Catholic and Orthodox countries.

    Plenty of lively, contemporary churches go in for imagery too, albeit in the form of PowerPoint slides rather than traditional iconography.

    I'm not sure I see a direct correlation between imagery or the lack of it and the propensity of people to go to church or not.

    I've met a Romanian monk who was converted to a fairy position after he encountered an icon of the Virgin and the Christ-child in a Russian art gallery. He was an art history student at the time.

    I have no doubt that these things take place. I wouldn't expect everyone to have the same experience as he did, though.
  • Predictive text again! Faith position not 'fairy position'!

    Ha ha ha
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    A happy accident!
  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    fineline wrote: »
    SusanDoris, when you say there are no images of God, are you meaning there is no actual photograph of a divine being who came and posed for a photograph? Because obviously there is a huge amount of artwork depicting God, in terms of how people imagine God, so plenty of images of God from that angle.
    Thank you for your post. Yes, I should have made it more clear that I am thinking more in terms of no god of which to take a picture. That may sound trivial, but people nowadays almost take it for granted that in the news or in connection with anything they can find on the internet, it will be accompanyied by a picture.
    Surely part of the concept of God is that he, as our creator, is far above our human imaginings - vaster than can be depicted in pixels on a piece of paper - so to me an actual photograph which is the definitive ‘this is what God looks like’ would kind of diminish him. So all our attempts to imagine are never the real thing - more our seeking to know him.
    Yes, I see what you mean, but as far as I know there isn't anything else at all for which entirely faith is required. We cannot visually observe all the DNA, viruses, bacteria and mitochondria in our cells, but we know they are there.
    I was actually asking God about this sort of thing this morning. About why it always has to be faith. Why we can’t just know, with no doubt, no uncertainty. And when I tried to imagine this scenario where there was no need for faith, I couldn’t really - because in a way, our whole lives are faith. We can never fully trust our senses, for instance (and I am especially aware of this as my sensory processing seems to be quite different from the norm), and also we never know another person fully, so how much less could we fully know a divine being who created us, and if we did, how diminishing and boring that would be.
    Yes, there is so much that is still unknown and for which experiments and tests cannot be devised. But I think there is really only one which will for ever remain so and that is what people believe to be God; and I certainly do wonder whether the lack of any direct image may be far more influential than I, for one, had thought of until now.

  • whateverwhatever Shipmate
    Do you have an image of democracy which isn't a metonym or metaphor? There are pictures of people voting, ballot boxes, parliaments and so on but I've never seen a picture of democracy as such (or indeed science, music, logic or folk dancing). We get symbols of democracy, examples of democracies, books about it but not the thing itself.

    Some thing are socially constructed or (depending on your point of view) socially discovered. There is no way to express them 'in themselves' as an image.
  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    Plenty of images in Catholic and Orthodox countries.

    Plenty of lively, contemporary churches go in for imagery too, albeit in the form of PowerPoint slides rather than traditional iconography.

    I'm not sure I see a direct correlation between imagery or the lack of it and the propensity of people to go to church or not.

    I've met a Romanian monk who was converted to a fairy position after he encountered an icon of the Virgin and the Christ-child in a Russian art gallery. He was an art history student at the time.

    I have no doubt that these things take place. I wouldn't expect everyone to have the same experience as he did, though.
    thank you for your post. Would you agree, though, that whatever his change of life or attitude was, it took place in his head and was his interpretation of the emotions he felt?
    I remember a children's book called 'The Kitchen Madonna' which had some photographs of beautiful iconography.
  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    whatever wrote: »
    Do you have an image of democracy which isn't a metonym or metaphor? There are pictures of people voting, ballot boxes, parliaments and so on but I've never seen a picture of democracy as such (or indeed science, music, logic or folk dancing). We get symbols of democracy, examples of democracies, books about it but not the thing itself.

    Some thing are socially constructed or (depending on your point of view) socially discovered. There is no way to express them 'in themselves' as an image.
    Thank you. I do not agree that the analogy works. We know that we, as humans, initiated and control - well, more or less! - the method of government we call democracy. We know where the word came from and the many ups and downs the method has gone through. Those who believe there is something called God do not believe they can control or alter it. They did, it is true, initiate the rules, beliefs and procedures which are associated with the apparent need to please it, but have no idea whether this is actually effective or not. Would you agree?



  • Of course it took place in his head. Where else would it take place? His big toe? His backside?

    The Greek word 'metanoia' means a 'change of mind's as far as I'm aware.

    How else do we process things other than in our minds?

    The 'heart', our emotions and so on are connected with our heads.

    You seem to be suggesting that theists make little room for thought processes and reason when it comes to issues of faith.

    I'm not suggesting that some kind of magic 'faith-beam' emanated from the icon like a laser beam in a sci-fi movie and caused his conversion.

    That doesn't obviate it.

    Nobody's expecting to see photos or images of God because we live in a very visual age. People do go for experiential accounts though and I think that can drive a tendency to embellish or beef up some people's 'testimonies' and personal stories.
  • finelinefineline Purgatory Host
    I agree, SusanDoris, that other things have evidence using our senses. But to what extent are the senses reliable, and do they take precedence over other ways of knowing?

    I tend to see the senses as quite unreliable - this was another thing I was thinking about this morning. If I’d seen God as an actual tangible being, would I believe it afterwards, or would anyone? If there was a photo, I don’t think that would convince people - easy to say it had been photoshopped, or that it simply isn’t God. What/who is God after all - how could the vast concept/being we call God be reliably pinned by humans to a photo?

    And then what sort of knowledge do we seek of God - merely a proof of his existence, or an understanding of who he is and how he relates to us? I am seeking the latter. When it comes down to it, I have no real proof that I exist either - what is existence, after all? Not wanting to be overly philosophical, but our understanding is limited to inside our heads - or what we perceive to be our heads - and our heads are mortal and flawed, which we can even see from our own limited perspective.
  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    Of course it took place in his head. Where else would it take place? His big toe? His backside?

    The Greek word 'metanoia' means a 'change of mind's as far as I'm aware.

    How else do we process things other than in our minds?

    The 'heart', our emotions and so on are connected with our heads.

    You seem to be suggesting that theists make little room for thought processes and reason when it comes to issues of faith.

    I'm not suggesting that some kind of magic 'faith-beam' emanated from the icon like a laser beam in a sci-fi movie and caused his conversion.

    That doesn't obviate it.

    Nobody's expecting to see photos or images of God because we live in a very visual age. People do go for experiential accounts though and I think that can drive a tendency to embellish or beef up some people's 'testimonies' and personal stories.
    Okay, so the icon was a material object which triggered a series of thoughts and responses. At a guesshow much would you say the change was made because there was a belief that God was inspiring it, I wonder?
  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    fineline wrote: »
    I agree, SusanDoris, that other things have evidence using our senses. But to what extent are the senses reliable, and do they take precedence over other ways of knowing?

    I tend to see the senses as quite unreliable - this was another thing I was thinking about this morning. If I’d seen God as an actual tangible being, would I believe it afterwards, or would anyone? If there was a photo, I don’t think that would convince people - easy to say it had been photoshopped, or that it simply isn’t God. What/who is God after all - how could the vast concept/being we call God be reliably pinned by humans to a photo?
    It could not, of course. It would perhaps cause increasing doubt?
    And then what sort of knowledge do we seek of God - merely a proof of his existence, or an understanding of who he is and how he relates to us? I am seeking the latter. When it comes down to it, I have no real proof that I exist either - what is existence, after all? Not wanting to be overly philosophical, but our understanding is limited to inside our heads - or what we perceive to be our heads - and our heads are mortal and flawed, which we can even see from our own limited perspective.
    I agree that our senses are not as reliable as we'd like to think they are. The work that has shown our unconscious makes our decisions a split second ahead of our awareness is one such piece of knowledge which should, with luck, help us to be more thoughtful, but probably will not be influential enough!

    I have to shut down now - back tomorrow.

  • Raptor EyeRaptor Eye Shipmate
    The opposite to what you say in the op may be the truth, Susan Doris. Many people do hold images of God in their imaginations which they formed when they were children, and which are not helpful to us as adults. In fact, we need to jettison false images of God before we can come to know who God really is. The true image of God is that of love.
  • whateverwhatever Shipmate
    I think, SusanDoris, you are changing the goal posts. Your OP was about whether, in an image oriented world, people might stop going to church because there were no images of God. I'm pointing out that many things cannot be represented by a visual image except in the very restricted sense of examples, symbol, metaphors or metonyms etc. Perhaps 'love' will vanish because we have no image of the thing itself, just examples of loving acts.
    SusanDoris wrote: »
    They did, it is true, initiate the rules, beliefs and procedures which are associated with the apparent need to please it, but have no idea whether this is actually effective or not.

    What has this got to do with your OP?
  • ThunderBunkThunderBunk Shipmate
    edited August 5
    I'm not sure whether this is contributing or hijacking, but I'm gooing to say it anyway. I believe that the phenomenon SusanDoris is talking about is actually part of a pernicious double trend in churches, especially protestant churches, in the West at the moment. It is closely linked with the epidemic of anxiety which I see at work nearly everywhere, which is forcing the engagement with God further and further into the head and out of the body and the senses. Even those western non-Roman churches that do engage with images do so reify the process to the point where it has little or no connection with their ordinary practice and thus, to my mind, has very limited opportunity to influence the way they fundamental imagine and feel God and their faith. This is where I feel that the sacraments can be used as analogies, i.e. non-literal ways of understanding and feeding our relationship with God. Images of aspects of God, including icons, can be used to focus and develop/nourish our relationship with God and to elicit reactions which stories and teaching can't access or set off. To my mind, faith needs to be embodied to be attractive to many people. The flight into the individual head, which I see as being greatly promoted by many non-liturgical styles of worship, works directly against this, because there isn't the engagement with the world outside the individual that is required to see God in that world. I believe that this is why these churches are growing: they have an attractive self-confidence, and draw a large proportion of those who could ever be attracted to them. The silent droves they drive away are, indeed, silent. Those droves are made up of people who could be attracted by a confident, sensitive use of images and of other incarnated forms of engagement with the Divine.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    edited August 5
    There are plenty of things and experiences that cannot be photographed. That hardly makes them less real. This just sounds like another way of saying the existence of God cannot be proven, therefore why believe in God?

    As for images of God, many of us believe that such images are all around us—that humanity was created in the image of God, and that in other people we encounter the Divine.
  • RussRuss Shipmate
    fineline wrote: »
    SusanDoris, when you say there are no images of God, are you meaning there is no actual photograph of a divine being who came and posed for a photograph? Because obviously there is a huge amount of artwork depicting God, in terms of how people imagine God, so plenty of images of God from that angle.

    Yes. Seems to me that this is specifically about photography (which in one sense purports to show objective reality rather than what is in the mind of the artist).

    And also about the increasing ability of television news to find someone with a cameraphone (or CCTV footage) that provides a visual image of whatever significant event has just occurred.

    Seeing is believing...
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Raptor Eye wrote: »
    The opposite to what you say in the op may be the truth, Susan Doris. Many people do hold images of God in their imaginations which they formed when they were children, and which are not helpful to us as adults. In fact, we need to jettison false images of God before we can come to know who God really is. The true image of God is that of love.
    What's that?
  • LeoLeo Shipmate
    I've met a Romanian monk who was converted to a fairy position

    ????????????
  • I did explain the typo, Leo. Predictive text.

    In answer to SusanDoris's question about the Romanian monk.

    I have no idea. Ask the monk. I'm not even sure it's a question that can be answered. What was the change that took place? Beforehand, he did not believe. Afterwards, he did.

    Of course there will have been a whole load of things going on, residual Orthodoxy from his nominally Orthodox childhood, some kind of Slavic / tribal identification with that particular style of art and subject matter etc etc etc.

    I don't see how any of those cultural and contextual aspects minimise or 'explain away' his experience. If, as Thunderbunk reminds us, God is incarnational then it's reasonable to expect Him to use 'means', be it sacraments, iconography, preaching, the scriptures, nature, other people ...

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Without actually breaking a bruised reed of course. Those things would 'convert' one in a thousand people whether He was real or not.
  • Martin54 wrote: »
    Without actually breaking a bruised reed of course. Those things would 'convert' one in a thousand people whether He was real or not.

    I believe that's what is called the leap of faith. I'm all for testing, as it were - for using heart, soul, mind and strength to exclude idols - but ultimately, faith is not knowledge. Faith requires assent that is always half a step ahead of what is known, and no amount of data from whatever source can entirely replace that extra half-step. It's a problem, especially for anyone who feels like their faithfulness has previously been abused, but the need is still there.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    Luckily I find that no amount of empirical rationality and loss of spurious items of faith, idols, has left me atheist. Fully bereft of God. Well not 99.99% of the time.
  • anoesisanoesis Shipmate
    Martin54 wrote: »
    Luckily I find that no amount of empirical rationality and loss of spurious items of faith, idols, has left me atheist. Fully bereft of God. Well not 99.99% of the time.

    Not that it has anything to do with the discussion at hand, but this is a wonderfully succinct description of what is my own experience...
  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    As mentioned at the start, I have had a very pleasant evening and mrnng catching up with good friends from Australia. I see there are some very interesting posts to respond to.
    Raptor Eye wrote: »
    The opposite to what you say in the op may be the truth, Susan Doris. Many people do hold images of God in their imaginations which they formed when they were children, and which are not helpful to us as adults. In fact, we need to jettison false images of God before we can come to know who God really is. The true image of God is that of love.
    Thank you - that sounds like a positive way of thinking about a God - as love without an image.

  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    whatever wrote: »
    I think, SusanDoris, you are changing the goal posts. Your OP was about whether, in an image oriented world, people might stop going to church because there were no images of God. I'm pointing out that many things cannot be represented by a visual image except in the very restricted sense of examples, symbol, metaphors or metonyms etc. Perhaps 'love' will vanish because we have no image of the thing itself, just examples of loving acts.
    When I wrote the OP, I did not have any particular goal posts in mind! I thought it would make a start to an interesting discussion, which need not follow a rigid path. As for love ever disappearing, I disagree. Whatever the combination of chemicals etc that produces in humans the emotionn we label love will not, and cannot, vanish because it is a trait that appears to have contributed considerably to the altruism humans exhibit.
    SusanDoris wrote: »
    They did, it is true, initiate the rules, beliefs and procedures which are associated with the apparent need to please it, but have no idea whether this is actually effective or not.

    What has this got to do with your OP?
    I think that my OP can be reasonably flexible!

  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    I'm not sure whether this is contributing or hijacking, but I'm gooing to say it anyway. I believe that the phenomenon SusanDoris is talking about is actually part of a pernicious double trend in churches, especially protestant churches, in the West at the moment. It is closely linked with the epidemic of anxiety which I see at work nearly everywhere, which is forcing the engagement with God further and further into the head and out of the body and the senses. Even those western non-Roman churches that do engage with images do so reify the process to the point where it has little or no connection with their ordinary practice and thus, to my mind, has very limited opportunity to influence the way they fundamental imagine and feel God and their faith. This is where I feel that the sacraments can be used as analogies, i.e. non-literal ways of understanding and feeding our relationship with God. Images of aspects of God, including icons, can be used to focus and develop/nourish our relationship with God and to elicit reactions which stories and teaching can't access or set off. To my mind, faith needs to be embodied to be attractive to many people. The flight into the individual head, which I see as being greatly promoted by many non-liturgical styles of worship, works directly against this, because there isn't the engagement with the world outside the individual that is required to see God in that world. I believe that this is why these churches are growing: they have an attractive self-confidence, and draw a large proportion of those who could ever be attracted to them. The silent droves they drive away are, indeed, silent. Those droves are made up of people who could be attracted by a confident, sensitive use of images and of other incarnated forms of engagement with the Divine.
    That is very interesting and I certainly wouldn't think of it as hijacking! You talk of God being sort of forced back into the head. I think that is where the idea originated anyway.

  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    Nick Tamen wrote: »
    There are plenty of things and experiences that cannot be photographed. That hardly makes them less real. This just sounds like another way of saying the existence of God cannot be proven, therefore why believe in God?
    Yes, but qualified by the understanding that science never claims 100% proof either.
    As for images of God, many of us believe that such images are all around us—that humanity was created in the image of God, and that in other people we encounter the Divine.
    I think the difficulty - if one can call it that - is that words such as 'divine' carry such a large amount of associated faith beliefs

  • How would you explain the rise of Islam in the West, or its continued flourishing among those who have brought it to the West with them?
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    It doesn't do images!
  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    Russ wrote:Seeing is believing...
    I messed up the quotes - apologies.
    Yes, and that is becoming more taken for granted, with the understanding that photos can be tinkered with. There are innumerable images of people behaving in many ways and some may say they do so because of what their God says or wants. It could be said - and sometimes is by members of the older generation - that too rely on many pictures dulls the imagination! I do not agree,. Perhaps what is needed is better awareness of how to discriminate and select?
  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    edited August 6
    How would you explain the rise of Islam in the West, or its continued flourishing among those who have brought it to the West with them?
    I do not know, but perhaps it is the patriarchal society, fear, suppression of freedom? I would not attempt to argue the question, but considering the subject of this thread, maybe it has something to do with the prohibition of a variety of images, specifically that of God.

    ETA have now seen Martin's post.
  • GwaiGwai Purgatory Host
    I certainly don't think most of Islam has anything to do with fear and suppression of freedom. I mean I don't think I'd let Saudi Arabia or Indonesia define Islam anymore than I'd let Mao define atheism.
  • The thing is, though, however we cut it, religious observance in Western Europe has been in decline for a long time, long before the internet, long before photography, long before images became more readily available to a mass audience.

    So, no, the decline of religious observance has diddly-squat to do with our living in a more visual culture than our forebears.

    On the Islamic thing, one of the drivers for the Iconoclasm of the 8th century was the fact that the victorious Muslims didn't use images in worship, so some Byzantines put two and together and thought, 'Aha! The Muslims are defeating our armies and they don't have religious images ... it must be because we're not obeying one of the Commandments and God is angry with us ...'

    Which seems like a leap of logic not dissimilar to the one SusanDoris makes in the OP. People aren't going to church. It must be because they don't have photographic evidence for their beliefs ...

  • There are no images of god, so I would not be surprised if that is a fairly strong influence on the diminishing number of people attending church. The lack of images, leading to the query, ‘Why is that , I wonder? is probably subliminal, but will continue and eventually become more focused. I do not listen to a wide range of radio programmes, but presenters of main channels do not present any reports featuring God. They may well include comments from members of the public involved in a particular event, who might thank god for whatever the result was – only if it was good though, no blame is ever attached if the outcome was not good!

    Actually CofE services before the Oxford Movement were fairly minimal, in terms of iconography excepting the stained glass windows of cathedrals and historic high churches.

    The Protestant faith has insisted on minimal imagery precisely because of the potential for people to think that any particular image literally represents God. God remains, beyond imagery, because God is supremely beyond our comprehension, and it is us that we are to be images of Him, not He to be an image of us.

    The true image of God, for us Christians is Jesus Christ, in his loving compassion, his way of obedience to the Father, and in his ministry to others. For a Christian, one cannot think of God, without reference to his Incarnation on earth in the person of Jesus Christ.
  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    Gwai wrote: »
    I certainly don't think most of Islam has anything to do with fear and suppression of freedom. I mean I don't think I'd let Saudi Arabia or Indonesia define Islam anymore than I'd let Mao define atheism.
    Thank you. Yes, I hadn't thought of that!
    The thing is, though, however we cut it, religious observance in Western Europe has been in decline for a long time, long before the internet, long before photography, long before images became more readily available to a mass audience.

    So, no, the decline of religious observance has diddly-squat to do with our living in a more visual culture than our forebears.
    Yes, but I think - and am fairly confident that - there has not been time for an assessment of how images, and their lack, have affected the decline.
    There are no images of god, so I would not be surprised if that is a fairly strong influence on the diminishing number of people attending church. The lack of images, leading to the query, ‘Why is that , I wonder? is probably subliminal, but will continue and eventually become more focused. I do not listen to a wide range of radio programmes, but presenters of main channels do not present any reports featuring God. They may well include comments from members of the public involved in a particular event, who might thank god for whatever the result was – only if it was good though, no blame is ever attached if the outcome was not good!

    Actually CofE services before the Oxford Movement were fairly minimal, in terms of iconography excepting the stained glass windows of cathedrals and historic high churches.

    The Protestant faith has insisted on minimal imagery precisely because of the potential for people to think that any particular image literally represents God. God remains, beyond imagery, because God is supremely beyond our comprehension, and it is us that we are to be images of Him, not He to be an image of us. .
    The true image of God, for us Christians is Jesus Christ, in his loving compassion, his way of obedience to the Father, and in his ministry to others. For a Christian, one cannot think of God, without reference to his Incarnation on earth in the person of Jesus Christ.
    Thank you for your thoughts. May I just ask, though, if you occasionally wonder what an image of God would be like? Probably a daft question

  • Unless we are going to suggest that the decline set in at the Reformation - as some RCs would certainly do - then I can't see that there is any correlation between a lack or decline of images and religious observance in the UK.

    The CofE only started using religious imagery comparatively recently - other than some stained glass etc that survived Puritan iconoclasm and Victorian restoration.

    The non-conformists have only started using religious imagery of any kind more recently than that ...

    I really can't see the correlation between a lack of imagery and the decline of religious observance unless one were to argue that the Reformation was the start of a slippery slope away from religious belief and affiliation.

  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    I'd have to agree with the RCs. But the liberation was worth it.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    Hebrews 11

    Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. ...

    What I have learned is that if you assume there is a God, you will find God everywhere. But if you assume there is no god, you will not see god even if god is standing right in front of you.
  • Martin54Martin54 Shipmate
    The latter is the only reasonable assumption. But He still stands.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    I'm sorry if this is a tangent, but it seems to me that the problem with many religions in the West that are in decline is not the lack of images but the lack of a narrative that really grabs the attention.

    People want something to believe in and often the same old thing just sounds tired to modern ears. Christianity is competing with Star Wars, and it seems for a lot of people the ideals of being a Jedi Knight make more sense than being a Christian.

    The stories just aren't good enough. Too many holes in the plot, too old fashioned, not asking interesting enough questions and so on.
  • I'm not so sure it isn't to do with increasing stupidity and inflexible literalism. Images were once read in the same way books are read, but we've lost the language. I went to see a Book of Hours last week in which every single painted flower and bird had a meaning that would have been immediately obvious to most of those who viewed it. In the days it was produced most people would probably have some idea of what was being hinted at; today most people have no idea what is being hinted at. I don't believe that we are a society or culture of the image; in fact, I would argue that we are incredibly impoverished in this whole area and still very much a people of the word. And even as people of the word we are impoverished - most of us can't write with any flourish or style but instead rely heavily on a standardized text on a computer. We are the age of Times Roman only. If that isn't impoverishment, I don't know what is.
  • There is a difference between analogy and image. Of course, there are depictions of God as Father, Shepherd, King in scripture. But God is literally not a father, or a shepherd or a king, these are depictions that at best approximate what God is like.

    Again, the only image of God, we have is the person Jesus Christ, from the Christian point of view. Now that isn't to say that God is a 30 year old Rabbi, rather, Jesus reveals to Christians the character of God, that of loving compassion.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    Again, the only image of God, we have is the person Jesus Christ, from the Christian point of view.
    Jesus is the best, fullest image we have of God. But unless Genesis been excluded from the Christian point of view, he is not the only image. All humans are created in the image of God.

  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    Unless we are going to suggest that the decline set in at the Reformation - as some RCs would certainly do - then I can't see that there is any correlation between a lack or decline of images and religious observance in the UK.

    The CofE only started using religious imagery comparatively recently - other than some stained glass etc that survived Puritan iconoclasm and Victorian restoration.

    The non-conformists have only started using religious imagery of any kind more recently than that ...

    I really can't see the correlation between a lack of imagery and the decline of religious observance unless one were to argue that the Reformation was the start of a slippery slope away from religious belief and affiliation.
    I don't think a comparison can be made with past use of imagery, because the way that images - picturesof everything constantly being viewed by everybody - is being used today is quite different and is perhaps changing the way people think about them. I don't know about that last point since I am not among the viewers of all those pictures.


  • SusanDorisSusanDoris Shipmate
    I'm not so sure it isn't to do with increasing stupidity and inflexible literalism. Images were once read in the same way books are read, but we've lost the language. I went to see a Book of Hours last week in which every single painted flower and bird had a meaning that would have been immediately obvious to most of those who viewed it. In the days it was produced most people would probably have some idea of what was being hinted at; today most people have no idea what is being hinted at. I don't believe that we are a society or culture of the image; in fact, I would argue that we are incredibly impoverished in this whole area and still very much a people of the word. And even as people of the word we are impoverished - most of us can't write with any flourish or style but instead rely heavily on a standardized text on a computer. We are the age of Times Roman only. If that isn't impoverishment, I don't know what is.
    The skills evident in the Book of Hours of artistry And meaning are not used these days, true, but the knowledge about them is on record and can be studied by those, of whom I think there will always be some, and carried forward by both word and record. The rest of us know that the information is available if we want to look it up. As far as writing is concerned, it surely is true that more people are reading and communicating more text more than ever, since it is more easily readable than handwriting! This is a great pity in one way, but maybe the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?



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  • finelinefineline Purgatory Host
    It occurs to me that in tandem with our increased use of images, we also have an increased awarenesss of how images can be tampered with - and indeed, with photoshop and similar, an increased ability to tamper with photographs. Also, image memes are often deliberately mislabelled to make a political point (such as ‘This is the House of Commons when such and such was being discussed’). So although we have an increase of images, we have an increased distrust in them to ‘prove’ anything. So if anything, if we happened to have photos of God, this is a time more than any time when they would be pulled apart and declared to be fake.
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