The ever-present danger of intellectual formalism is its capacity to woo me to comfortably tolerate a cold reductionism of saving religion to signs and symbols. In an icon-driven society we can stealthily become “icon-worshipers” rather than a people who are preeminently relational in our religion. We can discover the value of form and practice as paramount to and the equivalent of walking with God as His imitators. We imitate a practice rather than God. Putting to death the deeds of the flesh can become a mission of dealing out retribution to those who disagree with me over my icon. (An icon sure sounds similar to an idol.) Jesus said it simply and concisely to the Formalists of His day, “You search the Scriptures, and it is these that testify of Me, but you will not come to Me that you may have life.” My Bible can be my idol or icon I substitute for my God.
If my good habits, my disciplined duties and even zealous religious practices are not enhancing my entry into the close proximity of His actual light and presence, to the end of a required and desired change of my heart and essence, then I need to abandon the form that hinders and simply start over. I must come to Christ for life. I must do that every day. That is not once-for-all… “I die daily.”
My religion when functioning near the Biblical norm is intensely personal and obligatory to a supremely worthy and intrusive God who demands my good through His nonnegotiable Lordship of even the most insignificant details of my life. (If the hairs of my head are numbered… what can possibly be insignificant to this God?) Furthermore, His dominion of my life is perfectly reasonable to me and my supreme desire lived our in response to His call to be His disciple. Discipleship requires a ransack of the old to know true life as a new creation. We don’t buy nor sell “cheap grace.” (Bonhoeffer)
The Lord Jesus Christ is not an icon. He is my Friend by faith who loved me and actually gave Himself up for me, and He bids me do the same for Him. There is and must be a mystical aspect of my walk with God as He, the unseen God, governs my all by His Spirit, and I see Him do it as He speaks to me in the Way. That sounds pretty mystical to me yet I perceive it to be more real and enduring than all I see, for it touches eternity.
“Knowledge makes arrogant; love edifies.”
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”
So God offers His shadow as my shelter. That’s beyond an icon to a Biblical theophany I pursue as worthy.