Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Made By God

One of the central doctrines of the Christian faith is the concept of "Imago Dei" - Made in the Image of God, or more precisely, "made in the likeness of God".  While different faith traditions have taken different positions on this central faith tenant, (eg: Catholicism and Protestantism have dueled it out over the years as to the precise meaning of this doctrine.  Roman Catholics have historically made a distinction between certain supernatural gifts of Adam, in addition to his natural human ones), this doctrine, boiled down to it's most reduced form is the concept that when God created human beings, he "made them (women and men), in God's own image."  God put a little bit of Himself into each human being when he made them.

Two weeks ago, my wife Star and I had the amazing experience of having a brand new baby girl - Sheena Skye Baird.  And in so doing, my understanding of Imago Dei (in addition to many other thousands of things) has changed forever.  You see, I used to always think of Imago Dei from the standpoint of humans.  That is, "wow, it's it so nice that God decided to put a bit of himself into humans when he made them."  And, "God must have thought a lot of His creation to give us God's own features."  Being the father of a new little baby, however, I am beginning to understand this doctrine in a different way.  I am seeing it from the side of the creator - so to speak.

When I look at Sheena's eyes and eyebrows, I say to myself, "Wow, how wonderful (and strange) those are my eyes and eyebrows."  When I look at Sheena's tiny hands and her distinct arches on her feet I say, "Gosh, those are really a lot like my own hands, and those are the same arches I have on my feet."  In short, my daughter looks a lot like me (it's not her fault, of course, but it's the way the DNA seems to have worked out).  And I must say, as egotistical as it may sound, that it is deeply gratifying to see aspects of my own being reflected in someone else.  In a sense, it fills me with joy to see another little being made in my own image - Sheena made from my own IMAGO DEI.  It fact, it may be one of the greatest joys I have ever felt to see the congruity between my own life and the life of another tiny little human being.

So, this is what I wonder.  Does God take a similar degree of joy from seeing congruity between Himself and His creation?  Does God take a similar deep gratification in the idea that the beings that He created, and continues to create, are likenesses of Himself?  Does God look down from the proverbial heavens and say, "Wow, those are my hands, and those are my feet" on those little creatures down there.  More to the point (since we do not believe God still exhibits anthropomorphic features), does God look down from the heavens and say, "Incredible, that person down there has the same heart for poor people, sick people, uneducated people, lost people as I do."  "Fantastic, that being down there has the same generosity I do when it comes to giving the things of life away."  Does it give God joy to see His own image reflected in humanity?

And is the reverse of this possible as well?  Does God look down from the heavens sometimes and say,  "Gosh, look at those beings down there who's hearts do not look like mine at all.  How disappointing."  Does God cast His gaze upon humanity sometimes and say,  "Wow, look at those humans down there who's minds do not look at all like my mind.  Why are they filling their minds with such unGodly ideas?"  And does this disparity between humanity and God grieve God's heart to the point of breaking?  Does the distance that we create between our core selves and God's core self cause God to feel deeply sad about the whole endeavor of creation itself?

And did God, in human form, come down from the heavens to become an Image of Himself, and image of us, and live with us, and die like us, and come back to life again for us, to retrieve that part of Himself which was forever lost because of things that we, his human creation have done to separate ourselves from the love of God?

Of course he did!

All For Now,

1 comment:

  1. I love your thoughts Graham. I haven't met you yet but I'm a member of First Pres and I am thrilled that you are writing from the perspective of a Father. Jesus came to tell us we all have a Father and so much of our theology seems to be more about an abstract omni-being than that of a father—one who adores his (and since Elohim's image is not clearly seen unless there is both male and female dare I say 'her') children.

    My struggle with the reformed tradition in which I sit is that it seems to lose this identity of Father/Parent... does a truly loving parent ever not see beauty in their child? Even if my child ended up in prison would I not find something to delight in them about? If not, I'm afraid the problem would be with me not my child. We can certainly be far gone but does a loving parent ever quit hoping, pursuing, etc.? And why does Elohim pursue us? Or course because they are love, but also because they see beauty...as Athanasius would say our triune God could not release the beauty and be good and loving still.

    Being a father helps us think about the good. Do you look at your child and see primarily a bad child? Or do you assume beauty is at the core of your child? You clearly see beauty. I'm assuming you fall in love all over again every time you think of or look at your child. As I texted my kids the other day 'I smile when I think of you.' If we being broken human parents do this how much more must our heavenly Father!

    We may have been taught we are 'totally depraved' and had the sinner aspect of life emphasized in the reformed tradition, but I ran into a struggle with this when I first held my beautiful daughter, and each child thereafter. There is too much good in my children (as CS Lewis states).

    So my big question is this and I spoke with a former pastor about this on multiple occasions. Why do we seem to emphasize the 'sin' aspect of humanity in our worship? We do so at First Pres every time have a confession of sin but not a confession of dignity or beauty. The implied message is very clear. And why would the world want to come to a Father who seems mainly concerned about their sin and brokenness and not their beauty? I would only want to run into the arms of a Father who adored me, brokenness and all. Many of us know about our brokenness, I for one was not taught about my beauty. This ultimately makes attaching to Elohim impossible. You adoring your child reflects the triune dance in a way often not seen in reformed church settings. Jesus keeps trying to tell us about a Father. I am so glad you are one!