1/16/2008

New Poll - Imago Dei

Be sure to vote in the poll found on the side column -

What is the meaning of the Imago Dei (Image of God)?

11 comments:

Matt said...

Bob,

Why do we have to choose one for this poll?

I see it as something of a mixture of a number of these items (minus the physical form one).

-Matt

Bob Robinson said...

Matt,

Good point.

I'll change it to your top three.

Bob Robinson said...

Matt,
You'll have to vote again...
:-)

Matt said...

Thanks, Bob!

Bob Robinson said...

Matt,

Interesting that you say "minus the physical form one." Why is it that we do not see how our physical form reflects God in some way?

Plato would say that physicality is not a real representation of the divine, but Christianity is not Greek philosophy. God made us physical human beings as his image, and then became a physical human being in Jesus as the representative of God. There's something here that we are missing. I think we need to put more thought into the physicality of our created being in the image of God. I don't yet have these answers, but I'm looking into it.

Matt said...

I supposed it depends on your definition of "represents."

I agree that physicality is a good gift from a great God and that matter matters to Him. We glorify God in our bodies and the creation is groaning for its redemption into what it was supposed to be (and better!). The opposite is a kind of gnosticism that we need to guard against (and that you are rightly reacting to).

However, I think it's a Mormon-type error to think that God is/was physical Himself before the Incarnation and that being made in His image was humanity taking on physical form. I would try to keep a distinction here.

You're right that how we use our bodies images Him (or not), but I don't think it's because He Himself was physical and then mirrored that into us. That's why I wouldn't check that box (especially as one of my top 3).

-Matt

Bob Robinson said...

Matt,
Thanks for the Mormon angle. That helps. What do you make of the pre-incarnate human manifestations of God like in Genesis 32? Would this possibly indicate that God was physical before the Incarnation?

Matt said...

Bob,

Good question. I don't know how to give a short blog-comment-type answer.

Here are my musings:

Those places like Genesis 32 are very mysterious. In what way was that "man" there human? In what way was that "man" God? Elsewhere, it says that Jacob wrestled with an angel (Hos 12). In some of those occasions, the phrase, "Angel of the Lord" appears. Is that a representative of the LORD as "angel" would indicate or a theophany as some of the language would indicate?

I hesitate to make too many definitive statements about them, but I would speculate that it was God mysteriously mediating His presence and authority through a special angelic messenger who temporarily took on physical properties. [Or, are angels physical? It doesn't seem like it, even though they are created beings. They do seem to be able to become physical. What is physical exactly? ...]

All of this to say, I'm not sure I would make too much of passages like this for teaching the physicality of God--and that physicality is part of the image of God that we bear.

Looking at it another way, most of the rest of creation is physical, but that doesn't mean that it is imaging-bearing. And God's physical manifestations in the Old Testament aren't just human-like either. Burning bushes, pillars of cloud, fiery mountains, small-still-voices, aren't very human-like, but are part of how He revealed Himself in physical ways. For me, that would point to physicality as important but not part of His image.

I'm not sure where it would lead, either, if we said that God was physical (in His very nature) before the Incarnation. I guess there might be a way to skirt the Mormon errors of God being basically a glorified man (or the similar error of the Greek/Roman gods, for that matter). But there are real dangers there of bringing God down to our level instead of letting His use of our language burst our categories. The emphasis, it seems to me, should be on His being "spirit" and all of the "omni's" present, potent, etc.

For me, the Incarnation seems to change everything. In whatever ways that God had been seen in the OT (including mysterious places like Genesis 32, Exodus 24, Ezekiel 1, Isaiah 6), John asserts in chapter 1 that no one has ever seen God but that now in the enfleshment of the Son of God, God the Father has been made known. Now (and not before in this way), He has brought Himself down to our level.

I know that doesn't necessarily solve the question of physicality, but I think it speaks to it.

Thanks for listening to my ramblings...

-Matt

Bob Robinson said...

Matt,
Thanks for the excellent "ramblings!"

These passages are certainly mysterious (and therefore it would behoove us not to draw conclusions either way - whether God was physical before the incarnation or not). Thanks for working through this.

As I continue to deconstruct the imago Dei, I am re-visiting these things, wondering what we bring to these texts due to the influence of our preconceived philosophical presumptions.

I also am struck by the words in Genesis 1:27, "in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."

This parallelism seems to indicate that somehow our physical sexuality is a reflection of God's image. If God is spirit, then we God would not have genitalia. And yet, there in the text, we are told that the image is reflected in both maleness and femaleness. What does this mean? Again, I don't have this answer, but it is worth exploring!!

Matt said...

One of the principles I try to practice [makes a lot of sense to me, and I think it could be fairly easily derived from the scriptures themselves] is to interpret the unclear passages of scripture via the clear ones.

So, I agree that we can't draw a firm conclusion from the mysterious passages that could be possibly taken either way, but that the natural sense of some of the clearer, definitive, less mysterious (though still unbelievably profound) texts (John 1, for example) might be more helpful for making these kind of interpretive decisions.

Also, a pre-conceived philosophical notion that you might be holding may be that physical sexuality is what is denoted by "male" and "female."

Perhaps (and I suspect this is true) male-ness and female-ness are something internal and immaterial before they are expressed in sexual organs.

I doubt that the parallelism that you are noting is synonomous parallelism. I suspect it is step-parallelism, where something unique is added/changed in the second line.

And that second line, the male/female line is actually the third line after the repetitious "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him..." which, in my view, adds to the evidence that it is not synonomous parallelism.

Most importantly, taking your line of reasoning to its logical conclusion would seem to indicate that God, being eternally physical and passing on that physicality in image-bearing to His newly minted human creatures must have (and I hesitate to type this for fear of blasphemy) both kinds of sexual organs Himself. I think that the whole of Scripture would point away from that kind of foolish thinking.

Personally, I don't think it is worth exploring.

Bob Robinson said...

Matt,
I tend to agree with you. But I will continue to explore this. Stan Grenz has a chapter in The Social God and the Relational Self on the Imago Dei and Human Sexuality that I am looking forward to reading.