Saturday, February 21, 2015

In His Own Image


Genesis 1:26-27: “And God said, Let us make man in our own image, after our likeness.  And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”  (Torah)

Thusly provides one explanation for the Creation of human beings.  And possibly also an explanation of the physical form of human beings – “in our image, after our likeness.”  For many people, this leads to the belief that we look like God, and thereby God looks like us.  Hence God represented as the grandfatherly human being in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.  Yes, there are three billion individual versions of human beings on this planet, so the detail can vary considerably.  But the essence of “human form” is common between us and God.  Or is it?

An “image” can also be a conceptualization in one’s mind.  In one’s “imagination.”  A visual artist imagines a painting; a musician creates a song; an architect designs a building.  Not as a “likeness” but as a realization of an image conceived in thought.  There is an intention, an intuitive mental fragment, which gives way to something real and substantial.  It moves from the hidden obscurity of the creator’s mind into a substance interpretable by one or more of our senses.

And so it may be that God’s image for us was not a reproduction of form, but an actualization of God’s imagination (image) for what we would be.  In that image was some physical form, but also Purpose, Context, and Setting for our humanness.  And part of that human context is imagination itself.  The capacity for imagination is its own gift passed on from God as part of the creation of us, our own ability to be “a creator” just as God is “the Creator.”

Why is this question of “image” even important?  Unless and until we come to see God “face-to-face,” the question is truly unanswerable  in our human lifetime.  Yet the question of whether God is of human form, a circulating electronic energy field, or is no definable form at all, can influence our expectations of, and relationship to, God.

Envisioning God as Michelangelo’s grandfatherly presence – a human God – risks seeing and understanding God as limited to the constraints of human capabilities, yet God is surely beyond the scope of human capabilities.  Conversely, God in human form can suggest that we are equivalent to God, exalting us far beyond what is warranted when it is humility that is always expected of us.  God is in each of us, and each of us is in God.  But we are not God.  We simply strive “to be as God.”

Yet if we accept the unknowable ambiguity of God’s form, and any resemblance of us to it, then that void of mystery keeps us open to, and accepting of, the infinite reality that God truly is.  “God” is a transcendent scope far beyond our imagination, part of a Universe our human minds cannot begin to understand, existing in a reality so different from the human world that we can never fully comprehend it in our human lifetime.  And so an “imageless God” keeps us always searching, never complacent, ever humble, always expansive in our search for the Truth that is God.  In Truth, we are more likely to find God when we accept God’s vast ambiguity than when we seek God’s specificity.

The early Hebrews had it right.  The God beyond naming (Yahweh) is the God beyond knowing.  It is all right if God is beyond our imagination to visualize.  It is sufficient that we are within God’s imagination of us.  And that God created us as the realized image from that imagination.

©  2015   Randy Bell      

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are a real mensch, RB. Thanks for another thought provoking commentary.