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Unlike the religious traditions of Asia, Western traditions (particularly Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) are far more reluctant to embrace images in worship. This can be seen especially in the Second Commandment, which states:
“4 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: 5 thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.” (Exodus 20: 4-5)
Despite this prohibition, however, there is a persistent tradition of devotional
art and architectural decoration among these faiths from the Middle Ages to today. This seems to indicate a simultaneous attraction to and repulsion from images in worship.
In Byzantium, the tension regarding images has caused conflicts, which resulted in the period of Iconoclasm. In the Middle Ages, different monastic orders (like the Cistercians and the Benedictines) had widely disparate views on how images should be included in churches and monasteries.
In this discussion, you will explore each side of this issue in search of an explanation.
Step 1: Initial Post
First, reflect on the prohibition of images. What reasons are there for banning images in religious practice? What arguments have been presented to you throughout the explorations? Give specific examples to explain this position.
Once you have explained that position, think about the various image traditions that have challenged it. Why risk doing the forbidden?
What benefits (emotional or spiritual) do images provide that is worth the considerable risk of violating this commandment?