Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith: Naive assumptions about New World Christians

Published: Monday, May 9 2011 3:00 a.m. MDT

“Archaeologists can only reconstruct religion from artifacts and preserved art. Iconography is the study of religious art and symbols of a people. Is there an exclusive Christian iconography? Would Christian iconography in the New World resemble that found in the Old World? The best way to understand the answer to this question is to examine the iconographic history of Israel and early Christianity. Both Israel and early Christianity were very comfortable borrowing and incorporating iconography from their neighbors, even when that iconography was part of their neighbor’s religion ...

"Both early Christians and at least the Hellenistic Jews accepted iconographic elements from surrounding cultures and incorporated them into their own art. Their iconography was not particularly unique; rather, it reflected the area and the time. … Saying that archaeologists cannot find evidence of Christianity in the New World simply demonstrates a simplistic assumption about what ought to be found.”

There are actually some very interesting correlations with some early American iconography and what we find in the Book of Mormon (to be discussed later), but if we approach the problem with preconceived expectations based on naive assumptions, it shouldn’t be any wonder if we don’t find what we are looking for.

Michael R. Ash is on the management team for FAIR (the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research FAIRLDS.org) and is the author of "Shaken Faith Syndrome: Strengthening One's Testimony In the Face of Criticism and Doubt" (ShakenFaithSyndrome.com) and "Of Faith and Reason: 80 Evidences Supporting the Prophet Joseph Smith" (OfFaithandReason.com). Michael's column, "Challenging Issues, Keeping the Faith," appears Mondays on MormonTimes.com.

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