Renewed in the Image
- “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;
let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the
air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing
that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the
image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” (Genesis 1:26-27).
When we are born again, we are recreated, in the same image in which we were originally formed:
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17).
"But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our
Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the
world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor
uncircumcision, but a new creature." (Galatians 6:14-15).
We are renewed in the same image in which we were created: "Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put
on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew,
circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all." (Colossians 3:9-10).
Now, which man is renewed in the image of God: the inward man or the outward man? The inward man!: "Therefore we do not lose heart.
Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day." (2 Corinthians 4:16). Thus
we know it was the inward man who was created in the image of God in the first place, not the outward man. It's our minds and spirits
which are made in the image of God, an image which has grown tarnished and dim through sin, and is polished up and renewed in Christian rebirth.
Dissenters like Joseph Smith, Finis Dake, and the Kabbalists, point to
the many Bible references to God's hands and feet. They omit reference to His wings:
"The LORD recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of
the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust." (Ruth 2:12).
"Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy
wings..." (Psalm 17:8).
"How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children
of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings." (Psalm 36:7).
Human beings do not have wings, so even if these authors insist upon taking
all language about God corporeally, the 'image' must mean something other
than physical resemblance. Better watch out for that rock with wings!:
"The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth
over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God." (2 Samuel 23:3).
The renewal looked for in Christian rebirth is a renewal of the mind, not of the body: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will
of God.." (Romans 12:2). Many can testify, from personal experience,
to the reality of the new birth: "...and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:23). While there are many who can testify to having been "renewed in the spirit of your mind," has anyone experienced a change in physical conformation upon being born again? The restored image is from heaven, not of earth.
- “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
- “Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as
you see I have.” (Luke 24:39).
Bodies have an inside and an outside. Any point in the universe can be identified as being within, or without,
the body's circumscribed limit. A 'figure' is that which is bounded: "figure. . .The form of anything as expressed
by the outline or contour. . ." (Webster's International). What is outside God?:
- "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there." (Psalm 139:7-8).
- "Can you search out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limits
of the Almighty? They are higher than heaven—what can you do? Deeper than
Sheol—what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and broader
than the sea." (Job 11:7-9).
The History of Corporeality
It is often stated by detractors of Christianity that
Christians believe, and have always believed, precisely what Finis
Dake and Joseph Smith sought to inculcate, namely that God is an
exalted man seated above the heavenly vault, as physical, tangible
and corporeal as you or I. Andrew D. White triumphantly points out
that this is just exactly what is conceded by Michelangelo's work on
the Sistine Chapel:
"In the midst of the expanse of heaven the Almighty Father —
the first person of the Trinity — in human form, august and venerable,
attended by angels and upborne by mighty winds, sweeps over the abyss,
and, moving through successive compartments of the great vault,
accomplishes the work of the creative days. With a simple gesture he
divides the light from the darkness, rears on high the solid firmament,
gathers together beneath it the seas, or summons into existence the sun,
moon, and planets, and sets them circling about the earth.
"In this sublime work culminated the thought of thousands of
strongest minds accepted it or pretended to accept it. . ."
(Andrew D. White, A History of the Warfare of Science and Theology, p.
Notice that this author assumes the portrait was taken by viewers
as a snapshot from life. This similarly-minded author assumes likewise:
"What, then, is that sacred, that revealed science, declared
by the Fathers to be the sum of all knowledge? It likened all phenomena,
natural and spiritual, to human acts. It saw in the Almighty, the
Eternal, only a gigantic man." (History of the Conflict Between Religion
and Science, John William Draper, p. 67).
It is especially ironic to attribute this viewpoint to Augustine,
who was entrapped by the Manichaean sect in his youth, because they
accused the orthodox of this very thing! Yet we are told the church
'fathers' held to an "anthropomorphic" conception of God: "Above all,
I abstain from commenting on the Patristic conceptions of the
Almighty; they are too anthropomorphic, and wanting in sublimity."
(John William Draper, History of the Conflict Between Religion and
Science, p. 69). The reality is that Christians, and Jews like Philo Judaeus, have always understood God
to be in His essence incorporeal. They found John 4:24 in their Bibles too
and did not make a habit of confuting it.
It is not impossible to find dissenters however. Moses Maimonides devotes much of
his Guide for the Perplexed to arguing in favor of God's incorporeality,
against people he describes as "ignorant," including women (thanks) and
children. But some of these dissenters were literate, and thought that
they were interpreting the Bible: "The circumstance which caused men to
believe in the existence of divine attributes is similar to that which
caused others to believe in the corporeality of God. The latter have not
arrived at that belief by speculation, but by following the literal sense
of certain passages in the Bible." (Moses Maimonides, The Guide for the
Perplexed, p. 89). Who were they? Kabbalists? There is an elaborate, and
grotesque, field of Kabbalistic study called the Shi'ur Komah whose blasphemies
I will omit to mention. He is willing to go
to alarming lengths to confute them, even endorsing the translation of Onkelos, who dealt with Bible expressions like God's hands, feet, and
eyes, simply by deleting them and substituting other, blander and more
abstract phraseology. It is better to deal with this language, not by expunging it, but
by understanding it to mean what it possibly could mean in connection
with the incorporeal God, who became incarnate.
It certainly is correct that God, as to His nature, is incorporeal. As Maimonides points out in his 13 Principles, if God were a corporeal being,— an exalted man,—
then he could be placed on a continuum of comparison with created
beings, but He is incomparable: "As the prophet (ibid., 40:18-25) said: "Who is comparable to the Almighty...?" For if He had a body, He could be compared to other bodies."
(Moses Maimonides, 13 Principles of Faith). A corporeal God is a composite
God, comprised of parts: "By anyone's reckoning, material things have
parts — not only parts of the sort evident to our senses (the
wood, plastic, or metal parts that make up a piece of furniture, the body
parts of an animal, and so forth), but microscopic parts like molecules,
atoms, and subatomic particles." (Five Proofs of the Existence of God, Edward Feser,
p. 199). Whether the divisibility of a corporeal god is understood as the
geometric division to which extension is by definition susceptible, or
composition by the universal material stuff of fermions and bosons, or
the definitional union of form with matter, a god who is a material being
is not simple. The God of classical theism is simple. What is
comprised of parts is in principle dissoluble. If putting the parts
together gives us 'god,' then taking them apart undoes 'god.' A
put-together God if not the God who cannot not exist.
Islam had seen a similar controversy, when the Caliph al-Ma'mun
adopted Ptolemaic astronomy and set out to measure the circumference of
the earth, using the ancient methods. Some people protested that the
earth was flat: the Koran said so! Some Muslims objected to the
adoption of Greek philosophy. The Jews of Spain, suffering persecution
from Visigothic Christians, had welcomed the Arab conquerors, and
relations between the two groups remained close. Moses Maimonides was a
solid fan of Aristotle, as Thomas Aquinas later would be; he must have been
aware of, and sympathetic to, the Muslim Aristotelians and their travails.
Perhaps this controversy had spilled over from Islam. Possibly the uncertainty of the unlettered Arabian
prophet on this point sparked much of the trouble.