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iconoclasm, iconophilia, Othello, Catholicism


In his book War Against the Idols, Carlos Eire argues that iconoclastic resistance to the Medieval Catholic Church began with the gentle scolding of Erasmus and ended as the "shibboleth" of radical Calvinism. The use of images in religious instruction and practice was one of the major points of dispute between Protestant reformers and Catholic counter-reformers. Iconoclasm was certainly not confined to radical Calvinism; Anglican reformers, especially those who had spent time in continental Europe as exiles (like John Jewel, Bishop of Salisbury), quickly raised the issue in their country, which had its own unique history of religious reform. The discussions of image and idolatry in Calvin and Jewel represent particular theories of the image that derive from but also revise ancient Platonic theories of the image. Reformation iconoclasm brings up issues of ontology (who or what is God?), epistemology (by what means are we to know him? Can he be represented to human senses?), and ethics (how does knowledge of God translate into moral action?). Protestant iconoclasts tend to emphasize the epistemological worth (or rather, worthlessness) of religious imagery, while the Catholic iconophiles emphasize the positive moral effects to be derived from the use of images in religious instruction.