Early on, the question arose: where does worshipping what an image is suppose to evoke end and worshipping the image itself begin? As the earliest Christian art blossomed in the decoration of religious locales, the earliest concerns regarding the idolatry these images might invoke sprouted like weeds. The matter came to a head in the year 726 when the Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, Leo III, ordered the destruction of a mosaic figure of Christ over his palace gate in Constantinople, replacing it with a simple cross. Four years later he issued a similar decree forbidding the use of icons of Christ or the saints in worship services. Art, rather than inspiring worship, was creating dissention.
Today we owe a certain debt of gratitude to a man known only as John of Damascus. Using an rationale based on classical Greek thought, and applying Platonic idealism to Christian principles, he argued the premise that appreciating visible beauty was a necessary step in the appreciation of God. Thus, a good picture could guide the worshipper toward God, but as a path, not as an end itself. Thanks to this man's defense of figurative art through the use of Platonic logic, Christian art was permitted to develop with a firm, religious and philosophical base.