On The Well of Questions an interesting dialogue has ensued from what began with MG's take on one of my questions about icons, Scriptural authority and the seventh council. Many people responded as a result. The first comment I will list here is one of MG's examples (a classic) offered as Scriptural indication that one should venerate icons. The next will be fromDisposableSoul who had been conversing with MG on the subject in order to gain insight. In response I will be offering an exerp from John Calvin's Institutes and leaving the whole thing open for dialogue in order to gain a better grasp on the argument.
MG says: "An example of the veneration of icons is Psalm 99. In this Psalm, instructions are given to 'Extol the Lord our God; worship at his footstool'. The word 'footstool' seems to be talking about the Ark of the covenant, given the context (99:1 speaks of God enthroned upon the cherubim) and usage of the phrase 'footstool' elsewhere (see 1 Chronicles 28:2 'I had planned to build a house of rest for the ark of the covenant of the Lord, for the footstool of our God'). The word for 'worship' is the same as the word in Exodus 20:5; it is talking about bowing down in front of things. So here we have instructions mandating that Israelites bow down before the Ark of the Covenant. Naturally an Orthodox Christian will want to transfer this Psalm into its Christ-revealing, New Testament meaning. The ark was a type of the cross of Christ, the tomb of Christ, and the Virgin Mary; so this Psalm is talking about bowing down to the cross and tomb of Christ, and the Virgin Mary, and worshiping the Christ who is within these."
DisposableSoul Responds: "Iconography is indeed a powerful expression of the Gospel, to be sure. I, however, never saw icons as anything worthy of veneration; to be respected, surely. Could it be that ‘footstool’ is indeed just a footstool?... Certainly the Sons of Israel revered the ark, but they worshiped the creator of the universe, not the gold and acacia that made the ark. To esteem wood and metal to the point of veneration seems, in my mind, to be in exact opposite of what scripture teaches."
MG draws our attention to the footstool or Ark of the Covenant and says that God commanded the Israelites to bow down in front of the Ark of the Covenant. From there he extends the whole thing to the necessity that we as believers do the same to the Virgin Mary and other signs because Christ is within these as well. DisposableSoul agrees that icons are a powerful expression of the Gospel but doubts whether the icons (or Ark) are to be venerated on the grounds of what MG brought up. He asks whether a "'footstool' is indeed just a footstool".
John Calvin says in his Institutes "The mercy seat from which God God manifested the presence of his power under the law was so constructed as to suggest that the best way to contemplate the divine is where minds are lifted above themselves with admiration. Indeed, the cherubim with wings outspread covered it; the veil shrouded it; the place itself deeply enough hidden concealed it; the veil shrouded it; the place itself deeply enough hidden concealed it [Ex. 25:17-12]. Hence it is perfectly clear that those who try to defend images of God and saints with the example of those cherubim are raving madmen" (Book 1 XI 3).
From what MG provides from Psalm 99 it doesn't seem as though there is any clear command by God to venerate the footstool (or the holy mountain) itself. The place where the footstool was contained was where God would on occassion make Himself known. It was the established place of worship after all. But do we have indication that the footstool itself was being venerated? Not in what MG provides. From what John Calvin provides it also seems the construction of the Ark itself leads us away from such a practice.
I realize there are other arguments offered in favor of the veneration of icons. I ask that comments be limited to this specific argument or extended to evidences that would help or dissuade one from accepting veneration of icons on the basis of Psalm 99 and Exodus.
Of Further Note:
One might also consider the words of Jesus in John 4:21-24
"Jesus declared, 'Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."