Thursday, September 08, 2005

The Image of God

In the Old Testament, there exists a strident prohibition against making images of our God. It’s something that He doesn’t really play around about. In the familiar story where Aaron makes a golden calf for Israel when Moses is up on the mountain, the text indicates that they were using the calf to worship YHWH, the one true God. It wasn’t that they were using an idol to worship another god, it was that they were using an image to worship the one true God. The consequences were severe.
For a long time I’ve wondered why this is: why is God so opposed to us making images to represent him? Partially I suppose that it may have to do with the fact that virtually all pagan gods were worshiped with images and this served as a distinction. But, I think it goes much deeper than that. In the beginning, God created man in His image. This is not just to say that “we look like Him”, or as a theologian I recently read suggested, that things like our “logic” are a reflection of the mind of God, but rather is an indication of our primary vocation. As the people of God, we are called to bear and “be” his Image to the world. We are not to craft images to represent God simply because that is our role…to be the images that represent God. If we were to create representative external images, we would lose the sense of our own calling. We gather together in worship, partly because, in community, we are imaging the Living God to each other. Right now, in the wake of the hurricane, in places where hope is gone and God seems absent, our role is to be there…to be present…to bear the image of the Living God. This does not necessarily mean that each of us needs to individually go and be geographically present. As a community…as the people of God, we need to figure out ways to bear God’s image into those places…the image of God the Provider…the image of God the Protector…the image of God, the Giver of Hope and Life and Everything Good. If we are content to let anything other than the people of God bear these images for us, simply put, we are guilty of idolatry in it’s most insidious form.


bigsip said...

Good thoughts, Adam. Titus 3:14 says: "Let our people also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they may not be unfruitful." I hope we all bear good fruit in our works during this disaster. I think another reason God abhors images is the fact that he is not flesh, but spirit. One specific way in which He made us in His image is the fact that He gave us immortal souls. God also breathed life into man, giving him a spirit. The light we shine comes from the soul and spirit God gave to us. As a community of believers working together, that light shines all the brighter.

jazztheo said...


You are aptly named after the first one of us to bear the imago dei!

From my little corner of the world the body of Christ seems to be bearing the image well. What are you seeing?

Tony said...

What an incredible calling we have--to be the image of God to the world around us. And not simply when disasters strike (although it is certainly needed during such times), but in everyday life. In fact, I suggest that it is in "everyday life" that we should be most concerned with portraying the image in which we're all made. It's interesting that I am so willing to jump on the bandwagon of providing much-needed aid to displaced hurricane victims, but where's my zeal for helping the displaced souls that struggle for survival in this world every day. Do we see their struggle? Do we rally ourselves to give aid? Or do we allow the veil to be pulled over our eyes once again, desensitized to their plight?

Matt Wilson said...

Adam great post. I about to ditto what Tony said.

I was at Eckards (drug store) a few days ago and a man came up to me and asked if I could pay for his bus fare into Philly. I usually just say no but the verse "I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink..." and I began to think of the struggles around me. I helped this man out and he said this to me: "Thank you for doing this. My wife is in the hospital in Philly and my car broke down. I have been standing here for 5 hours and your the first to help me out. People just don't know what it feels like to be in serious need". WOW! what a statement. As I thought on my life when have I been in need to a great extant...not really ever. So I don't know what it feels to be totally helpness and totally in need of the mercy of others. It's a scary thing to think about but that's why I think we are called to be amoung the world. My hope is that we will show compassion, mercy, the actions of our calling in every situations not just in times of tragedy (when it might be needed the most). There is need all around us! Great thoughts Adam.