Notes for a ppr on Image (Idol) Worship (1)

Origins of Idolatry:

(1) In the Brahmanas (Vedas) one finds anthropomorphic description of beings that can be described as gods.

Ad (1):
(A1) Against this, one could argue that the Brahmanas do not really make up a part of the Vedas (Dayananda Saraswati). The Brahmanas were after all added later on to the 4 basic and original texts of the Vedas (= Rg, Sama, Yajur, and Atharva) (Hamilton).

(A2) Against this one could also argue that what is really found in the Vedas are abstractions (e.g. Agni and Varuna are abstractions not deities) (A.A. Macdonell), hyperbole (Kane), poetry, metaphors, lacking in proper grounds for reading such as images referring to deities (Banerjea), etc.

Three comments:
1) Not only will you find a lack of descriptions of image worship, you wont find temples mentioned either.
2) The Indologist, Max Muller affirmed as much.
3) Dayananda Saraswati & Ram Mohan Roy were actually onto something.

So then if these folks are onto something, where then did image worship come from?
~ One answer is that it came from the cultures which the Aryan tribes invaded and took over.
~ Another answer is cultural degradation.
~ A third answer is that it came from other religions such as Buddhism or Jainism.

A Problem on the Horizon:
~ Saraswati will argue that God’s having omni-X properties mitigated against God taking on any finite forms or being manifested in finite forms (e.g. avatars).
~ e.g. An omnipresent God or being could not be locally located.
~ How does this affect our understanding of the Incarnation…

All or Nothing Reasoning – Which is right?
(1) God is formless.
(2) Therefore we should not give god a form and worship that form.
(2′) Therefore we should go for it and worship God in any form whatsoever.

*Note – This bears similarity to a couple of controversial principles in Xtn thought.
(1) Hooker’s Principle: If the Bible has not explicitly forbidden X in worship, then you may go ahead and do X in worship. E.g. So if the Bible has not forbidden the use of Xylophones during worship, you may go ahead and use them.
(2) The Regulative Principle: Unless the Bible explicitly says “Do X”, we ought not to do X. E.g. Unless the Bible says use Xylophones explicitly, you must not use Xylophones during worship.

A Via Media is the proper answer. The Bible may not forbid swinging from chandeliers during worship, however that does not mean you can do so. Likewise, the Bible does not explicitly say “Thou shalt play the Triangle during worship”. This does not mean that you cannot play the triangle during worship.