Lutherans are not iconoclasts. That should not be a shock to anyone but it might be to the folks who are accustomed to churches devoid of art -- even a crucifix. Lutherans have a history with art and beauty in service to the Gospel that does not merely relate to ancient history and to churches in Europe. That said, it cannot be substantiated today by the view of many toward art within the House of the Lord.
No less than the premier theologian of the LCMS, Francis Pieper, insisted that the Gospel is such a means of grace in every form in which it reams men, whether it be preached or printed or expressed as formal absolution or pictured in symbols or types or pondered in the heart... (Vol. 3 of Christian Dogmatics, p. 106). Pieper breaks no new ground here but speaks with Luther. by a crucifix or some picture... Luther often recalls that in the Papacy many, when in the throes of death, were reminded of Christ's substitutionary satisfaction by means of a crucifix held before their eyes and thus died a blessed death. This was not an isolated statement of Luther but represented more than four references.
This is not art for beauty's sake but the art in service to the Gospel that communicates what it signs -- the sacrificial suffering and death of Christ that pays for all our sin and the comfort of this Gospel to those who most need to hear its consoling and gracious goodness -- even when it is spoken to the eye in the form of art or image.
At the second council of Nicea in 787, the use of images was the subject of much discussion. One side were the iconoclasts, that is, those who were against the use of images altogether. They rejected the use of images in the churches or homes of the baptized. They rejected pictures of Jesus or the saints. The opposing side, well represented by St. John of Damascus, insisted that icons of Jesus, Mary, the Angels, and the Saints, not only could but ought to be displayed in churches and homes. The icon could receive veneration (in distinction from worship which was for God alone); the veneration of the icon or crucifix was not toward the picture or image to what it represented. While the Reformed are the modern day counterparts of the “iconoclast” position (most radically represented in the Amish, for example), Lutherans adopted the Damascene position (within limits) and Lutheran churches were repositories of great works of art that spoke the faith in form without words. Think here of the great altar pieces of Germany and of Reformation artists such as Martin Schongauer (c.1440-91), Matthias Grunewald (1470-1528), Albrecht Durer (1471-1528), Albrecht Altdorfer (1480-1538), Hans Baldung Grien (1484-1545), among others.
But just as Lutherans produced the finest musicians and music in service to the Word (think Pachelbel, Buxtehude, Walther, Bach, etc.) and found Lutherans no longer had the musical instrumentals or the musicians to play this music or the choirs to sing it, so modern day Lutherans have found the average church building in stark contrast to the richly adorned and beautiful artistic expressions of the past. We are only now recovering our appreciation for the visual and musical arts and it is not uncommon to find longtime Lutheran folk bristling at the idea of a crucifix or statuary or an orchestra or elaborate musical settings (such as Bach's cantatas) for a typical parish and a typical Sunday. Lutheranism is not iconoclastic but sometimes Lutherans, ignorant of their own faith and history, sound like iconoclasts.