Protestantism Begot Modern Iconoclasm

by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  September 6, 2017   

Since Vatican II, many churches have been stripped of physical expressions of Catholic faith

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Various Church leaders speak as if the 500th anniversary of the Reformation is a cause for joy. The scenes of churches stripped of their sacred statues, altars, tabernacles, altar railings and stained glass windows speak otherwise. The wave of modern iconoclasm, which has for the past 50 years swept the Church of Her sacred art, architecture and physical expressions of worship, is rooted in Protestantism.

Concerning the "prototype of all modern forms of iconoclasm," one historian wrote:

Sixteenth-century Geneva witnessed one of the most devastating waves of religious image-breaking in history. Incited by a group of charismatic theologians — among them John Calvin himself — mobs raged against objects associated with miracles, magic and the supernatural, destroying some of the city's most precious pieces of Christian art.

The historian noted that Geneva wasn't an isolated case:

In Basel in 1529, widespread iconoclastic riots destroyed virtually all the material tokens of traditional Catholic worship and devotion in the cathedral and the city's leading churches. ... This movement was directed against any and all Catholic material symbols — against stained glass windows, statues of the Virgin and saints, holy medals and tokens.

Modern-day iconoclasm goes much deeper than falsely assuming statues somehow represent false gods and are therefore idolatrous. It's actually rooted in the heresy of Manichaeism or dualism, whereby material being is thought to be evil. It's closely related to the heresy of Gnosticism, which teaches: "Matter was said to be hostile to spirit, and the universe was held to be a deprivation of the Deity."

Protestant reformers accepted such concepts of the body and material being in general. Martin Luther taught that man was but "dung covered over by snow," and Calvin preached that man is totally depraved.

Following Vatican II, the Church was affected more deeply by these errors, stemming from the Reformation. This resulted in statues being removed from churches along with stained glass windows. Incense, bells and Gregorian chant went by the wayside. Altars, altar railings and tabernacles were removed. Folding of hands, kneeling and receiving Holy Communion on the tongue were denigrated. Even morality has been affected. Sexual sins no longer seem to matter to one's eternal welfare, as they're merely something done with the body and therefore don't represent the "spiritual" person.

Watch the panel discuss the attack on expressions of Catholic faith in The Download—Modern Iconoclasm.


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