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 Son is God
   Jesus Christ is God!    
Jesus Christ Pantocrator, Mt. Sinai
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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.” (John 4:24).

  • “Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.” (Luke 24:39).

The Beatific Vision

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).

Ye are Gods

 "I said, Ye are gods."

Legal Defense A Fortieri
Polytheism Weak Link
Elohim Family Portrait
God's Hands Mighty Ones
Theoi Church Fathers
Magistrates Zeus and Hera

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 years; the
strongest minds accepted it or pretended to accept it. . ." (Andrew D. White, A History of the Warfare of Science and Theology, p. 55).

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 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. So did an unconverted Jew like Philo Judaeus: "Now the expression 'breathed into' is equivalent to 'inspired,' or 'gave life to' things inanimate: for let us take care that we are never filled with such absurdity as to think that God employs the organs of the mouth or nostrils for the purpose of breathing into anything; for God is not ony devoid of peculiar qualities, but he is likewise not of the form of man, and the use of these words shows some more secret mystery of nature. . ." (Philo Judaeus, Allegorical Interpretation, Book I, Chapter XIII, Section 36, Kindle location 1171). Philo taught the incorporeality of God and also the divine simplicity: "And this happens by reason of its resemblance to the Creator and Father of the universe; for the divine nature, being unmingled, uncombined with any thing else, and most completely destitute of parts, has been to the whole world the cause of mixture, and combination, and of an infinite variety of parts. . ." (Philo Judaeus, Who si the Heir of Divine Things? Chapter XLVIII).

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.

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Vasily Polenov, On the Road