Icons - FAQ
Question: "The Bible tells us not to create images and have graven images. Why does the Orthodox Churches have paintings or icons? Aren’t these a form of idolatry?"
Answer: You’ve asked a good question that many non-Orthodox often wonder about when they first enter an Orthodox Church. For that matter, I’ve also found that many Orthodox have similar questions and concerns. Here’s some information that I hope will help you obtain a different perspective of the iconography that adorn Orthodox Churches. Write me again if you have additional question. Better yet. Consult a local Orthodox priest.
Icons serve to facilitate worship for Orthodox Christians. When we venerate an icon, we do not worship the image. That's idolatry. Instead, we show our respect and love for the image. For example, at the risk of oversimplifying the role that icons play in an Orthodox Christian's religious and spiritual development let me offer the following rather crude comparison. I suspect you display photos of loved ones in your work space or in your homes. Why? Don’t these photos function as vivid reminders of those whom you love? Don’t they help facilitate emotional connected between us and those whom we love? Don’t they remind us that we are part of something bigger than ourselves – a family?
In a similar manner, icons function to remind Orthodox Christians of the love that God has for us. They help facilitate connection between us and God. Holy images like those of the Resurrection, Crucifixion and Nativity of Christ, along with images of the Mother of God and saints remind us that God loves us and we are part of a body of believers which reaches back thousands of years.